Anastenária (1*)- Greece

*1st Generation dance. A dance that developed in a traditional way – not ‘taught’ by a teacher or choreographer, but ‘learned’ by observing and imitating others in your “village”, where the village’s few dances were the only dances anyone knew. It usually is ‘generic’ – the dance pattern is fairly simple and not tied to any particular piece of music. The dance phrase may or may not match any musical phrase, but the music’s rhythm must be suitable for performing the footwork. This dance may have many variations, but they’re performed at the whim or inspiration of the leader or (sometimes) any other dancer so long as it doesn’t interfere with the flow of neighboring dancers. For more, click here, here, and here.

See also Fire-Walkers – Greece & Bulgaria under CULTURE>Special Occasions

See also Nestinarstvo under DANCE>3b.1st GENERATION DANCES

Dances are associated with the Anastenaria fire-walking festival are commonly held on the feast of Saints Constantine and Helena, May 21 (Western calendar) or June 3 (Orthodox calendar.)  Anastenária is from the the Greek verb anastenázo ‘to sigh,’ for the utterances made by dancers.  Only about 5 villages in Greek Macedonia enact this ritual, and all of them are inhabited by descendants of Greeks expelled from Strandja, the easternmost part of Bulgaria and European Turkey, during the early 1900’s (see Strandja, under CULTURE>Ethnicity).  In one of these Greek villages ‘the rite is best preserved, but only practiced in a closed initiated society where outsiders aren’t admitted, and it was this protectionism that saved Greek anastenaria in its authentic form.’*  Today, several Greek villages stage fire-walking ceremonies, where tourists are invited to watch shortened enactments of parts of the festivities, staged by performing troupes.

Although dance is only a small part of the ritual, there are 3 separate melodies, each with its own footwork.  Various instructors have released notes on parts of the ceremony – usually the first processional dance that takes participants from the chapel containing icons to and around the ritual fire.

The ceremony is also known as Aghias Elenis, or Saint Helen, after the patron saint of the day of celebration.  An associated dance is Syrtós Aghias Elenis, shown here

For more information on this dance, see

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