“The Joy of Dance” (Terpsichore): Dance and Gymnastics, constituent elements of education in the Classical era


Nikitaras, N., KAMPERIDOU, I. R. E. N. E., & Skordilis, E. (2008). “The Joy of Dance” (Terpsichore): Dance and Gymnastics, constituent elements of education in the Classical era. Italian Journal of Sport Sciences. Università degli Studi di L’Aquila, Scienze Motorie. Copy at http://www.tinyurl.com/hkz28p9


This study focuses on the importance of Dance— and its relationship to music, poetry and gymnastics— as a means and an element of education in the historical context of the classical period (5th-4th centuries B.C.) Certainly Greek literature and archaeological finds provide a rich source for the study of dance as a social and

cultural phenomenon (Plato, Aristotle, Xenophon, Demosthenes, Herodotus, et al.). As a socio-cultural expression it reflected all personal, private, group, religious, and public emotions, in other words all joys, grief and major events in the daily life of the people and the state. Dance was considered a divine inspiration in which women, men and children participated The festivals in each Greek city were regarded as “the most humane and kindly institutions in their lifeand the gods, were worshipped at these festivals “not in sadness, but with joy”(Mahaffy, 1879:79). During the era of Pericles, renowned figures, such as Sophocles, Epaminondas, Aeschylus and Aristophanes danced in front of audiences. ‘Professionalization’, namely dance masters/instructors enjoyed the highest esteem, professional dancers excelled, and the state encouraged, or rather financially supported the public to attend the theatre. In contrast to the gender exclusion in the palaistras where adolescent males exercised and received dance lessons, as well as the non-participation of women in athletic competitions— with the exception of Sparta— women in the 5th and 4th centuries B.C. participated in the dance process and were allowed to join in the dance processions to honor the gods, goddesses, deities, local or deceased heroes, athletic heroes, etc.


Keywords: dance as a socio-cultural expression, education of mind and soma (body), “the joy of dance” (Terpsichore), gender and dance, “free citizens with useful bodies” (Plato), professionalization, dance professionals.