,

Siganos – a traditional Greek dance from Crete

Do you like Greek dances? As you may know, every region in Greece has different dances, music and rhythms. The dances of Crete also belong to a special category. The main instrument in most of the Cretan music is the “lyra”, and usually, the rhythm of the dances is fast and the steps are rather difficult. But there is an exception: a slower dance called “siganos”.

How do we dance the Siganos?
Siganos, as the name implies, is a slow dance (σιγανός<σιγά = slowly). The dancers dance in a circle and they put their hands on each other’s shoulders.
The dance consists of six or eight steps, depending on the area in Crete. For example, in Rethymnon it is danced with eight steps while in Heraklion it is danced with six. So depending on the music, you can dance it with 6 or 8 steps.
Generally, it is an easy dance and for somebody that does not know Greek dance at all, it can be learned quickly. That’s why it is also characterized as a tourist dance.

The story of the dance
We do not know much about the origin. However, according to a story, in the Ottoman Empire, the “aghas” (officials in the Ottoman Empire) used to invite Cretans to their homes. They threw a small fruit on the floor, and whoever stepped on it, slipped. They were asking women to dance, so when they slipped on the fruit and fell, the “aghas” could look under their lifted skirts.
The Cretans tried to change this situation and asked the musicians to compose music for a “walking” dance, with a stronghold so that their women would not lose their balance. And that is how the “Siganos” was born! 😊
When you see people dancing in Crete, the dance often starts with a siganos, so at a slow pace, but when the rhythm of the music becomes faster and the mood goes up, the dance then becomes a “pentozali” – a difficult and fast dance.
Below you can see a video where Cretans start dancing the siganos, but they end (from minute 2.40) with a pentozali. Listen to the music and enjoy the dance!

Also at Omilo we dance! Below you can see Omilo students learning the “siganos” steps for the first time, after their Greek lessons on the island of Lefkada.

Traditional Cretan music is played with traditional instruments, many times the Cretan Lyra (which you can see on this video on the left) and the Laouto (on the right).