The Origins Of Greek Tragedy - Dance And Theatre
( Originally Published 1935 )[an error occurred while processing this directive]
The myths of Egyptian Osiris and Grecian Dionysos are strikingly alike, though definitely independent, and the structure of ritual and ceremonial at-tending each cult are similar expressions of the mimic death and revival of earth's vegetation. Dionysos did not become the god of Greece's great period of tragedy until many generations had fused their contributions of diverse local myths and practices into a single godhead. Dionysos himself was a relatively late semi-oriental importation into Greek legend, but once he becomes entirely atticized he will contain all the previous indigenous characteristics. To know Dionysos in a complete form enables us later to retrace our steps to the foundations of those tragic games of which he was the patron.
There are numerous theories as to his origin. Some find him already among the Chaldees, a tribe of Akkadians descended from an Aryan race of Hindu-Brahmans. The Chaldees were astrologers in Babylon and their nomad tribes brought the concept of Bacchos-Dionysos west from India. The name Dionysos can be read as God-from-Nysa, a mountainous region between Egypt and Phoenicia, known also as the Sinai of Moses. Osiris was also said to have been raised in Nysa. Later, heretical Christians will say Christ's secret name is Bacchos; his body and blood, like the Greek vine-god's, is bread and wine. In the play of Euripides, Dionysos came to Thebes, had known all Asia and was the son of Zeus and Semele, a mortal maiden. The god was seized from his mother's womb, hidden in his father's thigh until he was safe to issue, which he did, being thus twice-born. He was later torn limb from limb, and the pomegranate sprang from his spattered blood, as anemones from gored Adonis. He descended into hell, was resurrected and became divine. In the Cretan myth he is the bastard of Zeus (like Osiris, of the sun). Going abroad, Zeus ceded his throne to the youthful Dionysos, but knowing that Juno, his wife, hated the boy, he entrusted him to the care of guards. These, by her aid, lured him with mirrors into ambush, where her satellites, the Titans, cut him limb from limb, boiled his body with herbs and ate it. His sister had saved his heart and showed it to returning Zeus, who slew the Titans, and made an image for the heart, enclosing it in a shrine.
Under the name of Zagreus he is `the-horned' He is also a goat; on occasion a bull. As Bromios, he is clamor-king, the-thunderer. In early epochs (Homer takes little notice of him except to speak of his hailing from Thrace) he has a black beard, is long-haired, and in one hand holds the thyrsus-branch, a spring-sign. His ever-greening crown shows him master not only of grapes, but of all green plants. A huge phallos is often carried before him proclaiming his generative gifts. Later Bacchos becomes younger and younger, ending up in Hellenistic times as an androgynous, beardless boy. His wild rites seemed at first excessive to the Greeks, but once introduced, spread like wildfire.
It was once widely believed that tragedy was the exclusive invention of Dorian Greeks, and their choral odes, entirely in praise of Dionysos, a vegetation and survival god, were the immediate ancestors of AEschylos. But it has subsequently been shown that in a more exact sense, tragedy sprang from totemistic homage paid to local dead tribal chiefs all over Greece, and these chiefs, later forgotten as individual identities, had their myths and rites preempted for social, political and religious convenience under the name of the new god, Dionysos. We remember the magic powers held by totems of animal and human progenitors, and how in order to secure peace, prosperity or new life, propitiatory dance-games are offered the old-dead with the new-dead. So it was with hero-tombs in many sections of Greece, whose local protectors would be eventually confused with the universal name of Bacchos-Dionysos.
One of the most interesting as well as oldest of ritualistic hymns which were the ancestors of Greek dance-drama has been found at Palaikastro, on the island of Crete, and is quoted and explained in Jane Harrison's `Themis.' It is a song of the Kouretes, young men just come to maturity, whose legendary ancestors were the nursery-guards of infant Dionysos. First, he is invoked by titles of `wet-and-gleaming.' He is wished for; he is expected. He is hailed as Kouros, the `young man' at the head of his daimones or companions. Here we have already a hero and his chorus whom we shall later recognize as Bacchos with troupes of Maenads and satyrs. The god when young needs an escort. When mature, he is free to wander alone. After the introductory invocation there is a statement of the myth: the babe, taken from his mother is tended by the Kouretes, who dance over him an armed protective dance. Then the child is hidden, killed, dismembered by Titans; finally, reappears, revitalized. Here we have elements of drama we remember from Abydos: the contest (here an armed dance); the mimic death; the reappearance as god. The sword-dance of the Kouretes will be found again as the Spartan and Roman pyrrhic, in mediaeval tournaments, in the Morris-Dances of England. The swords, whether sharp steel or dull wood, are always summer against winter; night against day; life against death.
The rites and myths of Zagreus-Dionysos take on a familiar significance if we see in this adolescent god, a corn- or year-divinity. The Kouroi are young men already initiated into tribal practice, who steal youths from their mothers to teach them communal secrets. They pretend they shall suffer death in order to harden them, then restore them as full-grown members of the tribe. Pantomimic dancing is at the root of all mysteries and it is very important to comprehend the protagonists, the sufferers, or competitors in these mysteries not as `religious figures' or `spiritual types' but as residuals of social customs. These Kouroi are not sophisticated literary abstractions, but primitive realities. The whole body of religious belief in early forms is social and collective. Primitive faiths are not individualistic. The ritual dance-act, a functional, simple, useful action, is earlier than any theological idea of divinity.
Aristotle himself asserted that Greek tragedy arose from the Dithyrambos, the ritual spring song of birth, or rebirth, or of the twice-born. The weak baby Dionysos, snatched from his mother, Semele, was tested in fire and cleansed in water to strengthen and reanimate him. The father-(mother)-god cries out. The babe is born anew from its father. This birth is not a real birth, but a mimic birth, and the type of all mimetic rites. At spring fertility festivals, the Dithyramb, supposedly imported from Phrygia, was chanted, de-scribing the nativity and adventures of Dionysos; how the Maenads, or wild-women, nursed the holy child until it was old enough for full-grown men to take it away for rearing. The song was accompanied by a flute and by expressive mimetic gesture. A company of people, singing the Dithyramb, rejoicing in phallos-bearing processions, were a Komos. Hence, the word comedy. Each band had usually one leader who declaimed monologues, and soon dialogues with his companions, and here we have choros and chorosleader. The rite, or thing (understood as sacred thing) that was done is termed Dromenon. The collective presented utterance had become a collective representation. From the magic of doing what was wanted to be done, from the sacrifices to the year that it should be fruitful, the puberty rites of primitive tribes, the propitiation of totem tombs, we have no longer mere ritual but artificed drama.
Tension, the root, name-essence of dance, finds its relief in an expression arising from exciting movement. Its relaxation is both physical and psycho-logical. This violent dance, this essential doing is the source of drama. The highest emotional tension is best induced by doing together a thing felt socially. Indians derive great communal strength from all-night dances. Dromena are not merely things done, however intensely or collectively, but things repeatedly done, prophetically done, enacted, represented, in commemoration or in anticipation.
At the end of the seventh century, or the beginning of the sixth, Aristotle tells us that a poet, Arion, imposed order on the Dithyramb, fixed as choros at fifty, established in addition to the single stanza or strophe, the antistrophe; displaced the sober Dorian mode with a more passionate Phrygian, combining pipe and strings. Verses were spoken between the singing. The Dithyramb was not inspired by a single bard, but was the choral-dance song of a company. Masks, a common governing rhythm, exciting words, color, are all used to intensify the collective emotion. The feeling thus communally generated is far stronger than any individual emotion. The group's emotional enthusiasm and nervous physical discharge are a seed-bed for the invention of myth, the bacillus-culture of godhead. Gods emerge from their uttered, formulated, exteriorized desire as definite personifications, Osiris, Dionysos or Christ.
Yet no matter how electric group emotion may be, it can never create a personality without some nucleus of mythical fact, or without the agency of a leader. The choros always has a leader, a spokesman, or chief-dancer. The choros makes him its proxy, and then withdraws, at least from the actual responsibility of command. Its attitude gradually becomes thoughtful, though respectful. The collective tension is broken. The choros is now an audience, at first sympathetic; later, critical. In this slow process of separation, from a religious point of view the choros becomes worshipers of that god it has created, and from a theatrical point of view, they are the spectators of a play. At this strategic point we have the first definite vision of a frame which will encompass theatrical dancing as understood in our own contemporary meaning.
The Dithyramb gradually split into two chief artistic forms, the first purely choral, later known as the Dithyrambic, for which Lasus, born ca. 543, established contests where the odes of Simonides and Pindar were sung by cyclical choirs to the accompaniment of a flute. The other, a dramatic form, comprised tragedy (tragedeos, or sacrificial goat-song); and comedy, or chant of a reveling company. Satyrs, the original goat-footed companions of Thracian Bacchos, were superseded by ordinary farmers in the choros of Dionysos Dithyrambos, the twice-born. The Dorian arrangement of strict statement and response was abandoned, and the newer, looser metric permitted a growth of rhetorical speech, interesting in its own right.
One can derive some idea of the nature of the dances performed at these early celebrations, from the Askolia (askos, wine-skin). This amusement, more a game than a dance, was customary for the second day of the Rural Dionysia. Naked boys hopped on one leg upon a full-filled wine bladder which had been greased. Considerable skill was necessary to enable them to keep their balance, and crowds would surround them, laughing at their comic postures. But there are poetic fragments which mention their gracefulness and elegance.
At the beginning of the sixth century, Thespis, described by Aristotle as 'a dancer,' was born in Icaria, a center of the Dionysian cult. By `dancer,' we understand he probably taught the bacchic choros. He is traditionally con-ceded to have introduced theatrical tragedy, as we think of it, into Athens. His theatre is supposed to have been the open end of a cart which could be wheeled from place to place. The actor's face was painted, and in time this make-up would turn into a mask. His innovation consisted of introducing a single actor, separate from the choros. Thus greater prominence was given to interludes and spoken conversation. He broke sharply with tradition, which heretofore limited the subject matter specifically to the exploits of Dionysos, by introducing legends of other gods and heroes in personified roles. This laid him open to charges by Solon, the law-giver, of blasphemy for presenting divinities in the flesh, but the device was too interesting to be suppressed. By the use of the complex mythology there was opportunity for unfolding dramatic action, which in the Dithyramb was so elementary as to have been almost negligible. The single actor, by the use of masks, took all the roles of humorous characters.
In Greece, no matter how distinct from its ritual sources it might become, the theatre was intimately connected at all times with festivals of Dionysos. Participation in the dramatic seasons was a religious exercise, not merely an amusement. The plays were only performed at annual spring festivals, during which time other affairs were set aside. The compositions of the plays were in the nature of contests for which an honorary prize, a vase or a wreath, was awarded. The Greeks had a passion for competition, not only in theatrical games but in music and sports as well. Part of the extraordinary fertility of the Greek poets, only a fraction of whose effort has been preserved for us, is due to the warmth and interest in these competitions. At first the plays were produced only by amateurs as voluntary improvised amplifications of the Bacchic chorales.
The most important of the several festivals was that of the City Dionysia, the feast of Dionysos Eleutheros. The poet who won here could gain no greater prize. It was celebrated on five days at the end of March, close to the spring equinox, when the seas were again navigable after winter winds, and the streets of Athens would be full of visitors from the provincial leagues. Foreign emissaries came especially for the tragic games, which were regulated by the state under a delegated officer charged with each particular festival. On him lay the responsibility of selecting competing dramatists; at first three, and later five. On him lay the choice of actors, the distribution of roles and the preparation of the plays, but generally he would appoint or have chosen a special choregos or choros leader for detailed tasks.
On the first day there was a grand Dionysiac parade, which, exhibiting the god's image, left it standing in his theatre. The tragic, comic and satiric contests were followed by lyric competitions in the Dithyramb. These choirs of fifty members were selected from the ten main tribes and a victory for a choros meant triumph for its tribe. Our first date for a competition, virtually the first definite record of a theatrical performance in history, is the year 535 B.C., two thousand four hundred and seventy years ago. The populace had an intense interest in the theater. There were no books then, nor films for a wide audience. No one was satiated by going to see a play at dawn, watching tetralogies of independent or related subjects till sundown. Besides, it only happened once a year.
The expenses for rehearsing and producing the plays were imposed by the state on rich citizens, in rotation. Maintenance of the stage was a civic function and duty. This expense was not small. Besides training the actors, the choregos or his agents must provide rehearsal rooms for the choros, chosen from the general citizenry. He must costume them, arrange for music, and whatever machinery was called for. The audience met in the theater around break of day, well provided with food which was consumed during the tedious parts and intermissions. Herald trumpeters announced the commencement of the performance.
Originally the Greek theatre was little more than wooden bleachers surrounding a stamped-down earthen circle, rimmed with stone. This circle can easily be recognized as the place of the dithyramb, the orchestra or dancing-floor, based on threshing-floors which were rimmed to keep the grain in. At harvest time dance figures easily followed the form of the circular rim or cut it in quadrants. In time (ca. 500 B.C.), temporary bleachers, theatron or seeing-place were replaced by stone, carved from convenient cup-shaped hills, with the seats placed away from the sun. The Dionysian Theatre in Athens seated twenty thousand people. A booth or skene was erected for changing the actors' clothes. Originally open, the auditoria grew later to be closed by the: necessary buildings opposite the seats, grouped' in an architectural unit, faced with a decorative background or `scene.' The leader of the dithyramb would. mount on a rude altar, or simply a table, the better to conduct his choros, and, a stone stage floor would later, in Roman times, be raised so that the actors could more easily be seen. As time went on various innovations of costume (thick-soled shoes and masks) ; of scenery (painted side-scenes; elevators for gods to rise and descend); and of movement (gesture and choral dance) combined to make the shows theatrically efficient and spectacular.
Before we can clearly understand the place of dance (orchesis) in Greek plays or the nature of its movement and gesture, at least a rudimentary background in literary history is important, to show us how each dramatist used and developed his choros or dancing-choir. AEschylos, born in 525 at Eleusis, a town famous for dramatized mysteries of the vegetation cult of Demeter, expanded the Thespian monodrama and gave it the form by which it would be known. He stressed the importance of a second actor for purposes of more vivid narration, so the chief antagonists were actually brought face to face. His grand triptych made from the legends of Troy and the house of Atreu; demonstrates the catastrophe incurred by transgression, not only on the instigator of the evil, but on the sinner's heirs. In the `Agamemnon,' a returning victor is murdered by his adulterous wife. In the 'Choephori,' her son avenges his father by slaying his mother. In the `Eumenides,' the matricide is pursued by relentless furies. )Eschylos trained his own choros himself, creating dance-patterns and gestures. To him is attributed the invention of the tragic choral uniform, a black tunic and mantle as well as the introduction of properties, swords, wands, and scepters which may have been modeled on ritual implements. He had painted snakes in the. hair of his masked Furies and created a sensation by such hideous realism. In the early plays the choros was all important, but from the fifth century on, its part dwindled, and finally would be no more than an attendant band. But even with the advent of actors, and surely in .'Eschylos, they are prominent, and indeed most of the dramatic interest, as in 'The Suppliant Women' or `The Furies,' surrounds their emotions.
Sophocles, who lived from 497 to 406, had a thorough education in music and dance. As a choir-boy he danced in the triumph, after the defeat of the Persians. A century had elapsed since Thespis died, and Sophocles synthesized earlier innovations and introduced a third actor. The long contest between actors and chorus was now really at an end; the actors had won. The chorus now witnessed the action, no longer participated. They follow the story, the interludes give them a chance to moralize on past or coming events, and they afford the principal performers a breathing space. Sophocles was the first to use the full possibilities of three separate actors on the stage at once. He also abandoned the trilogic form which earlier competitions had demanded, humanized the tragic situations, making those elements personal which had been previously rather morally abstract or religious. He gave a considerable impetus to painted scenery which was set in portable panels against three- or, four-sided revolving drums on both sides of the stage. He increased the choros, which in the days of the dithyramb had been fifty, but was now only twelve, to fifteen singing dancers.
With Euripides (ca. 48o-ca. 406) the choros as an active member of the tragic cast almost disappears. In his youth he had been cup-bearer to a guild of dancers, a painter and an athlete. His imagination, of all the Greek dramatists, strikes us as nearest ours. He had a more cosmopolitan, less insular idea of the world than his predecessors. His situations are not far from our own romantic drama; a passion for spectacular realism and poetic immediacy. He felt the choros an encumbrance which hindered the swift, implacable crises of his action, and excluded them from actual participation, although they remained for choral interludes, often as doddering old men too feeble to take part, chanting odes almost irrelevant to the play, though having their own beauty, not unlike the highly conventionalized choral background of nineteenth century Italian opera. Plato, at a not much later date, complained that in the old days dancing was superb but all the choros did now was to bawl, with no attempt at gesture or movement.
But in the `Baccha',' Euripides' last great play, perhaps the last and surely among the greatest of all Greek tragedies, there is a startling reassemblage and reemployment of the choros, almost as if it were summoned for a magnificent farewell before its ultimate dismissal. Not only is the play remarkable for its employment of the choros but also for a recapitulation of all literary elements which had contributed to construct Greek tragedy, and of all ethnic and ritual factors upon which the literature was based. The `Baccha'' was written expressly for production in Macedon where the Bacchic cults were deep-seated and popularly felt. It was not, however, produced until after its author's death, being first played in Athens ca. 405. Partly on account of the possibilities it offered for spectacular display, with the presence of the violent dancing choir, it was long a popular piece. Euripides rarely named his plays from their chorus and then only if the action rendered them more memorable than the protagonists themselves.
A bare outline of the story tells the tragedy of King Pentheus, a personification of the Greek concept of hubris, that insensate self-reliance or vain pride which goes before a fall. To Pentheus' kingdom comes a stranger with a band of devotees. The god Bacchos-Dionysos and his Bacchants, maenads or possessed women, are neither recognized as god nor even as strangers worthy of hospitality, but only as blasphemers endangering the kingdom. Pentheus is warned, but in spite of warning, imprisons the god, threatens his followers, while even old nobles of his court have put on leopard skins, taken the thyrsos in their hands to try to recapture on the mountains, the essence of life and youth which the god promises. God founders his puny prison, and with terrible cunning reappears before Pentheus, still unknown to him as god, induces him to put aside his male attire, to disguise himself as a girl, that he himself may go up into the hills and spy on the profane rites. The effeminized king is seduced into a circle of Bacchants. Suddenly the loud voice of Bacchos betrays the intruder, and the wild women tear him to pieces. His own mother Agave returns in triumph with her son's head, believing it to be a lion's she has slain in the frenzy. God now appears in his obvious godhead, claims homage and disenchants the world. It is a conclusive statement that the power of fertility which gives life to nature cannot be denied by men without provoking their nemesis.
Again we recognize the structure used in the Osiris mystery. In `The Baccha'' there is a long agon, or contest of the Year spirit against its enemy, light against willful darkness which will not recognize it. The sequence of Pentheus' and Dionysos' encounters is, in the play, divided by choral hymns and dances, which give the names of the god, his history and power, his swift vengeance. The pathos is the ritual, sacrificial death of the doubting King. Adonis, Osiris and. Dionysos (who in an old myth is identified with Pentheus as one person) is torn to pieces; but in Greek drama there was a sensible convention of never showing an act of horror on the stage, since visual presentation is inevitably less impressive than the idea itself. Hence they evolved the institution of the messenger. `News comes' that the god is dead. The corpse is often displayed afterwards, covered, on a bier. The Threnos or choral dance and song of lamentation defines for the audience the clash and contrast of emotion; the death of the old and its remorse opposed to the birth of the new and its joy. In `The Bacchae' there is an elaborate threnos with the god-maddened women in hunters' triumph collecting fragments of the body which they have split. Finally there is the inevitable Anagnorisis, the discovery of the slain and mutilated year-Daimon. Dionysos is at once killer and his kill. The choros' homage to the reality of his continuous truth is followed by the Theophany, or advent of the god as god, resurrected in apotheosis, the ultimate statement of his power and glory.
The author of this study was fortunate enough to see a performance of The Bacchae' directed by Eva Sikelianos, who founded the new theater in the open air at Athens, and who produced the `Prometheus' at Delphi in 1927.
She strives, not for a strictly archeological reconstruction, but for an essential revivification of the ancient text. The setting was a flat green playing-field.* In front of some four hundred seats, like baseball-bleachers, a large whitened circle lay, in the center of which was a small triangular altar. Overhead, an enormous sky, with June thunderheads pushing on towards late afternoon. The audience had to walk across a river, some quarter of a mile away from town. They were removed into another atmosphere from the start. Barely seated, one caught a glimpse of nodding leaves and shifting heads, far off across the bridge. A trumpet blew two phrases in the antique modes preserved by the Greek Orthodox Church, and the flash of a purple dress preceded the column of Bacchants. Headed by Dionysos, fifty girls in clothes that for the first time to many made Greek sculpture alive, swept up and over the plain. Over their tunics were slung dappled panther skins. In their hands they brandished wands bound with oak-leaves, the badge of their cult. While the last seats were being occupied, as it must have been in the Athenian theater, the God commenced to speak.
Eva Sikelianos wove the hundred-odd costumes herself; it took her five months and she knows how the thick threads hang up and down, the thin threads across. Her tunics sag in their own weight, not chiffon but light solid stuff, chiseled by sun and air, holding the shape of breast and thigh, and also the shape of the material. Off-white, eggshell, light tan, the chorus of girls, their hair caught in ivy, were a throbbing background for the rash king, unholy in red, with his fringe of beard shaved when he traded his manhood for his curiosity, and the blond winey god, remote and bathed in purple.
The most impressive part of the play was the large choros. Divided into five choirs the girls danced and sang the action simultaneously. Their thin voices were untrained and lost to the wind. With the Greeks there was time to train them and a skene to reflect their sound, like a preacher's sounding board. Two silver flutes were accurate though not satisfactory. Nevertheless when the choral-leader, a girl with red hair and a real fury, crashed her brass cymbals and leapt into the circle, followed by her companions in antiphonal singing and miming, an atmosphere was evoked that was as ancient and pun-gent as the charred. smoke of incense from the altar. The gestures were not from Isadora Duncan, but closer, if one needs modern precedent, to Nijinsky's invention of an archaic plastic, in the `Afternoon of a Faun.'
At the end, one saw, nearly a half a mile away, the tricked Queen with her women, their arms suddenly flung up like a wave, approaching the city and leaping around her son's head. The large perspective in the late afternoon sunlight, with all the ruffling accidents of cloud, light and wind, gave tremendous significance to the mysterious fatality of the site. Our deadly separation of audience and actors was lost. For two hours, without a break, on hard seats, without applause, the spectacle was felt with close attention. It was ritual drama, danced tragedy, in the original and best sense of the word, a choreodrama. In the `Prometheus,' the setting sun glittered on the fire-bringer's chains, as his effigy revolved on a constructed mountain. In the `Trojan Women' the Greek torches would flare into Priam's house as dusk fell on the audience, scattering fiery fragments on the marble steps.
Poetry, music, dancing were to the Greeks inseparably imagined, but poetry; for the dramatists, was the ruler. Music was an accompaniment and dancing was seldom introduced merely as spectacle. Plato said that orchesi's, dancing, "was the instinctive desire to explain words by gestures of the entire body"; and Aristotle, that dancing "was an imitation of actions, characters and passions by means of postures and rhythmical movements." Theatrical dancing was always combined with song, to explain or intensify the words. Song in verse and dance, as arts, had developed together. The terms in the science of poetic metric referred to dance steps. The smallest division of a verse was called a `foot'; two feet were `basic' or a stepping. The arsis and thesis, the alternate stress of the voice in singing or declamation originally indicated the position of the feet, up or down. By the study of music, the gift of the Muses,'the Greeks meant training in song or melody, dancing and verse. it was the fiber of their education, and illustrated in harmonious unity both ethical relations and moral principles. Aristotle thought music had a power to form character, and was not to be enjoyed only for the pleasure it incdentally gave. However simple it may have been in mechanical resource.;, Greek music had a close relation to emotional conditions.
From very remote times dancing was generally popular among the Greek lands for the health it gave, for the social sympathy it induced. From ancient social, educational and religious dances a strong influence descended to the more sophisticated, artificial dances for the theater. Without understanding both, one cannot have a clear appreciation of either. Historically speaking, there is ancient testimony to the existence of dancing both in poetry, painting and sculpture. At Palaiokastro, in Crete, the source of the Kouroi hymn, have been found terra-cotta groups of figures dancing in circles dating from the sixteenth and fifteenth centuries before Christ. Besides these rather static figures there are frescoes of dancing ladies in the so-called Palace of Minos; Sappho referred to the Cretan islanders as clever dancers. These antique references, not in themselves necessarily important, do show that Greek dancing was not simply of one late period, and that the well-known reliefs of dancers of the epoch of Phidias, or more often of Roman times, which mean `Greek-dancing' to too many contemporary dancers, had a long and prolific ancestry.
In the Homeric epic, which dates from the eleventh to the tenth century, there are references to dancing in the Iliad, and the religious element is by no means foremost. This dance is a kind of social game.
Also with great skill he made a dancing-floor, like that which Deadolos had done in broad Knossos for blonde Ariadne. These youths and maidens worth many oxen were dancing, holding each other's hands by the wrist. Of these some wore delicate linen dresses, and others golden swords hanging from silver belts. At one time they moved rapidly in a circle with cunning feet, right easily, just as when a potter; seated, tries the wheel fitted to the hand. to see whether it runs; at another time they moved rapidly in file. And a great crowd stood round the charming dance, enjoying the spectacle; and amongst them a divine bard sang to the cithara; and two tumblers, when he began his song, whirled about in the middle.
But it is particularly in the Odyssey in connection with the story of Nausicaa, that Homer gives us vivid pictures of early dances. The young princess asks permission of her father Alcinous, to launder clothes for her dowry. Two of her brothers already have wives, and three others "are always wanting clothes newly washed when they go out to dances." After their laundering is finished the princess and her girls lunch. Then
the food having satisfied their appetites the hand-maids and their young mistress next threw off their scarves and turned to playing with a ball. The white fore-arms of Nausicaa, leading the chorus, beat time for this ball-dance. She moved among them, as arrow-loving Artemis goes down the mountain-steeps ...for that she bears her head so high, and her brows, and moves carelessly notable among them all where all are beautiful, even so did this chaste maiden outshine her maids.
Here wandering Odysseus found her and she brought him back to her father's house, and there Alcinous gave him a feast in order to impress the stranger with his country's
surpassing goodness in seamanship and running and dancing and singing.... At the word of Alcinous his herald ran to find the polished lyre in the palace. Other nine men stood up, the elect and appointed stewards of the crowd, whose duty was to set the stage. They leveled the dancing ground, making its ring neat and wide. The herald arrived with the minstrel's singing lyre. Demodocus advanced into the cleared space. About him grouped boys in their first blush of life and skillful at dancing, who footed it rhythmically on the prepared floor. Odysseus watched their flying feet and wondered.... (After the minstrel's song of the love of Aphrodite and Ares.) ...Then Alcinous ordered Halias and Laodamas to dance, by themselves, for never did any one dare join himself with them. They took in their hands the fine ball, purple-dyed, which knowing Polybus had made them, and played. The first, bending his body right back, would hurl the ball towards the shadowy crowds: while the other in his turn would spring high into the air and catch it gracefully before his feet touched ground. Then, after they had made full trial of tossing the ball high, they began passing it back and forth between them, all the while they danced upon the fruitful earth. The other young men stood by the dancing ring and beat time. Loudly their din went up. And great Odysseus turned to Alcinous, saying, 'My Lord Alcinous, ruler of rulers, you did assure that your dancers were the best: and now it is proved true: this sight is marvelous.'
And at the end of his many adventures when it is finally granted to Odysseus to take his wife in their own bed, below, "Telemachus and the herdsmen, staying their feet from the dance and staying the women, so that all slept in the darkling halls." *
The civilization of Mycenae was heir to the primitive culture of Crete, and the Peloponnesus became famous for its dancing, which was usually a votive rite or a gymnastic or military drill. The armed Pyrrhic was taught to all Spartan males from the age of five, and conserved its educational character for the longest time. In Attica from a remote period regular dance competitions existed. But it was in the fifth century that dancing, which had been slowly accreting various local elements and maturing for the previous two hundred years, came, with architecture and drama, into its greatest perfection, comparing not in the importance of specific dances or dancers but as an esthetic force to the odes of Pindar, the drama of AEschylos, Phidias' sculpture and the painting of Polygnotus.
Towards the end of the fourth century, the choros of simple citizenry passed out of fashion; dancing, more and more, became the province of professionals. The mimetic element, present from the beginning, now became increasingly predominant; so much so, indeed, that the dance itself tended to disappear in the refinements of pantomime. In fact, certain forms of panto-mime or dumb-show were not unknown in antique epochs, whether as banquet; interludes or, as in the Delphic mysteries, where an antique religious, mime represented the contest and victory of Apollo over Python. But pantomime 'as such is a separate art and we must wait for Roman times to investigate it fully.
All Greek dancing developed from the communal form of choral dance. There may have been solo dancing and pas de deux, but if so, they were secondary. Most frequently, the choros would move cyclically or circularly in its orchestra or dancing-floor, but there were also the theatrical choros which marched in rectangular ranks or files. Both forms are shown in the existing monuments as variable, and to be combined.
In the tragic dance, where mimicry was important, they moved without touching each other, to be free for gesture. Greek dancing was not based on the relationship of the sexes, hence the most ancient may have been exclusively male or female. Later, they would attribute the innovation of a reunion of the sexes to Daedalus, their creator, or to Theseus, who led first a boy, then a girl out of the Labyrinth. The inference might be that these dances had not always existed. On most early vases, when men and women are shown dancing together, they are usually separated. Later on when there were pas de deux, the partners rarely touched, not from any sexual prohibition but because mimicry was the chief aim in such dancing, and each dancer wished his maximum freedom. This freedom was never lost, except willfully, when in the choros, they gained the greatest emphasis by mass motion, moving in unison, like singing in unison. -
It is convenient to think in two technical categories when investigating Greek dancing; the movements or large orbit of action, and gestures, which involved specialized expressive mimicry. In general Greek dancing was more active if less precise, less restricted to the feet alone, than the nineteenth century ballet. Socrates refers to the wholeness of the body's use. It had a vital connection with gymnastics, and in the palaestra, to the music of a flute, children went through harmoniously designed exercises, while in the gymnasia, the naked epheboi (newly matured men) and athletes used more strenuous calisthenics. A child's first dancing-teacher would be his first physical-instructor, and these masters were more highly regarded than mere dancing-masters, since they were the standard of all that was excellent for training models for the public contests. In the palaestra and gymnasia males learned the Pyrrhic and the Chieronomic, in the specific gymnic (naked) sense of the word. They were the correct preparation for the execution of battle motions. Plato, in his `Laws' considered the dance with its combat-drill as having no other purpose but physical well-being, agility and personal beauty. However, between simple gymnastics and dance itself, a division was quick to appear. The cultivation of the body was not considered, as we too often think of it, entirely as `physical culture.' It involved, as well, cultivation of the imagination, and to movement as exercise was added expressiveness.
This new element, the quality of dance as dance, might already be inherent in gymnastic motions by the indication of a fast or slow rhythm, and since they were, after all, executed to produce a desired effect. But Greek dancing was to become far more intensely imitative or representational of objective nature. The athletic chieronomia consisted. almost entirely of mechanic repetition of poses useful for war, a limited exercise no more expressive than foundation lessons in boxing, tennis, or fencing. However, the word chieronomia came to mean all rhythmic gestures of the arms, hands and fingers which would be an essential part of miming, and also, the earliest means of musical regulation for what would later develop into the science of orchestral conducting by a fluent use of arms and fingers. The formal, vital aspect of a god or a man could be plastically constructed by a succession of suggestive poses, lyrically designed up to the climax of one sustained attitude. For contrast, a quiet position corresponded to a musical silence, emphasizing the final meaning of the series, holding the attention of the audience in its culmination; chieronomia was the simulacra of action of people or ideas expressing a mobile equivalent of the words of hymns which accompanied the dancing. Phyrinicos said dancing provided him with as many figures as the waves of the sea or the breath of storms. Telestes, who designed the action for the `Seven Against Thebes' was renowned for having invented a chieronomia so telling that one believed one actually saw the spoken words,
The positions of the arms and feet in Greek theatrical dancing are considered by its two best historians, Maurice Emmanuel and Louis Sechan, a:; remarkably similar to classic Franco-Italo-Russo-Austro-Anglican ballet. Exactly how similar, no one can say, although the comparison is a convenient device, if for no other reason than to understand the chief differences, which may, after all; be more in degree than kind. In Greece, theatrical performance; were given but once yearly, and except for rehearsals of single performance.; there could have been little chance for that repetition of movement which tends toward clean precision and technical ingenuity, the hall-marks of ballet. The Greek dance had far more freedom or looseness than ours and hence an impression of greater spontaneity. But on vases and reliefs we do recognize familiar positions—the so-called attitude, shared by Giovanni da Bologna'; `Mercury,'—the whole system of diagonal harmony or lateral opposition, the Italian baroque principle of contraposto, the French croisé. There was nothing academic or rigid about the Greek theatrical dance although it must have pre-supposed some sort of training by useful exercises.
Movements of the arms were lively, stylized towards an artificial visual symbolism for the purpose of being legible to an audience at some distance from the performers, the principle of all good theatrical movement. The,' seemed to have a predilection for steps involving turns, which they executed not scientifically, as in our multiple pirouette, but rather `naturally,' letting the air catch the swirling folds of their costumes. Their technique was undeveloped, and may have been frequently more vital than much of our dance, though this was relatively accidental. Obversely, some of their intention must have been lost on the spectators since they had no exact method of determining the effects. Much was left to the fantasy and initiative of individual choral members. Within broad limits, they behaved according to the demands of the dramatic situation. Certain gestures, understood as the basic theme, admitted personal variants or amplifications,—the arms raised in supplication, or the sinuous feline pose of panther-girls, a supple figuration appropriate to 'The Bacchae,' punctuated by padding soles of their feet.
The nomenclature of the dances is so elaborate as to be wholly confusing. The antique authority, Meursius, gives some two hundred among them. The Tray of Sacrifice, the Tongs, Blossoms, Mortar, Kneading-Trough (from the quality of the movement involved), Flight, Boisterousness, Spilling the Meal, etc. A large number must refer only to steps or figures. Even so too many exist to be usefully listed here. They were often called after their legendary inventor or the locale of their origin, like the various musical modes. It is impossible to classify in any way the value of these dances from a geographical point of view. Attica absorbed the contributions of all the Dorian tribes, and her role was to develop and perfect the various dances. With politics, so it is usually with dancing. In the wars against the Persians, Spartan soldiers, trained in the Pyrrhic dance, had of all the Greeks, the superior armed forces. The Peloponnesian League headed by Sparta, was an entirely defensive alliance. So it remained, and so Lacedamonian dancing remained, with no internal or external conditions to urge it into forms of expansion resulting from empire or imperial complexity. But Athens, as captain of the Ionian League, was forced by pressing economic exigencies to convert her power into empire, and thus drew into her dance the native forms of various multiple species used by her allies and subjects. One might oppose a large category of Cretan or Laconic types to the semi-barbaric bacchic forms of Thrace and the northern mountains. The oriental influences from Asia Minor, violent, effeminized, often orgiastic, were at odds with the virile Apollonian measures of the lower Archipelago itself. All the local types and their subdivisions of war, social, gymnic or ritual dances could be easily drawn on for theatrical use. Plato, in the seventh book of his `Laws,' however, considered there should be but two possible classes out of many,—the serious war dances, against other less functional, and hence more frivolous practices, and those pacific dances which were devout. He proscribes the use of comic or buffoon dances, if not for the theater, at least for private citizens in his ideal state.
Dances involving the use of weapons are to be found among all primitive societies. These were anciently known in Greece, and if they had a preparative, educational function in the classic periods, they must surely have had, as among all other cultures, some remote magical arising. To dance before battle gives strength, rehearses thrusts and parries. The clash of bronze also drives away evil spirits. We are familiar with the Cretan Kuretes. An armed dance of the Amazons of Artemis at Ephesus, female counterparts to the Kouroi, may have sprung from an ancient tribal protective ceremony. Armed dances at funerals frighten away influences which disturb the heroes' sleep. A dance of triumph was not only exultation, but also a purge of the souls of dead enemies from the surrounding air.
The Pyrrhic, in the fifth century, was taught entirely as an aid to military education, a public state-regulated institution. Music and valor were allied. It was wholly different from the religious armed dance, from which it may have sprung, and with which it is often confused, even by ancient writers. It received its name either from Pyrrhos, the son of Achilles who performed it first after his victory over Eurypylos, or from Achilles himself, celebrating rites at the pyre of Patroclos. The war dance was called the red, from the vermilion tunics or blood-simulating stains which the Plateans, and above all, the Spartans, used. The word for fire is also red, recalling as well crematory games. It flourished in Athens in the sixth century, in the epoch of Peisistratus, that tyrant who codified the Homeric fragments and for purposes of centralizing his own power, moved the primarily rural, popular god Dionysos into the town. It was continually danced at the Panathenaic festivals. It could be accompanied by struck chords, the alert flute, or by a lively song of the dancing fighters. A warlike-pantomime, it linked battle formations, phalanx on the march, charging over ditches, retreating in good order, pairing off for single-combat. Indeed it sometimes was danced as a solo, like shadow-boxing, against an imaginary adversary, and called skiamachia or monomachia (shadow-fight or single-fight). Apuleius, the Roman, writing after 16o .A.D., describes the Pyrrhic as then danced by young boys and girls in shining raiment, with eloquent rhythmic steps... .
In order due they moved through graceful figures, now sweeping round in full circle, now linked in slanting line, now massed in squares or breaking away from the throng into separate groups.
In `The Golden Ass' it is used as an entirely theatrical prelude to a ballet-pantomime and even in Sparta the spectacular effect on its watchers must have been calculated. Executed en masse, it became a popular ornament to Spartan town festivals at the feast of their Dioscuri founders; in Athens at the great and small Panathenaic. As with drama, rich citizens were charged with its preparation and each of the ten tribes was represented by a Pyrrhic troupe. Everywhere (except in Sparta) it soon changed its nature, and from the reign of Alexander of Macedon its bellicose connotation was lost. It fell under Bacchic influence, and swords turned into torches and thyrsi, clashing in celebration of the victory of the god in India over Pentheus, his enemy. It came to mean a lascivious circus dance to Roman Christians and in a thousand years or more the Scots and North Saxons came to dance something not far from its source-forms, and it becomes identified with aspects of English Morris-dancing.
An athletic dance of rather a different kind was the Gymnopedia. It used as choros, men, young men (epheboi), and children, directed by palm-crowned dancers, singing the paean, chiefly in honor of Pythian Apollo, whose shrine was in Sparta's Agora. Sung and danced in memory of the fallen at There mopylae, its cult may have been the occasion for the celebrated cantata, pre-served by Plutarch, on the three ages of man.
Old Men: We've been already, young and brave.... Young Men: We are; draw nigh; you'll see it well. Children: One day we will be: braver than both.
Spectacular dances were not always first performed consciously in theaters, but often in temple precincts and in the stadia. Among well-known Spartan forms, the Gymnopedia was particularly revered. It was preeminently the show which exalted the soul of the stiff old town. No reprimand was so severe as exclusion from its participation. The greatest care was taken with its preparation and performance. There is the incident in Xenophon, when a messenger brings tidings of the defeat at Leuctra, arriving on the last day of the ceremonies, at that very moment when the men's choros went out before the audience; then the city-fathers, keeping the catastrophe to themselves, let the solemn games continue, and only proclaimed it by adding to those holy dead, already cherished in the city's memory, the names of the newly slain. Such parade marches, to the sharp cadence of a hymn, might be theatrically transformed for the entrance of such a king as returning Agamemnon.
In the large group of entirely pacific dances, known under the general head of Emmelia, there were those appropriate to purely devotional ends; mimetic, corporal, plastic prayers or sacraments, like the processional hymns of Homer. The Hyporchemia was a dramatized hymn from Crete, danced by two choirs, of immobile singers and silent dancers. The song was carried now by one voice, perhaps the composer's, now by a section of the choir which stayed quiet, or executed simple motions, while the rest consecrated them-selves entirely to dances, illustrating the hymn. It differed from the [man where every one sang and danced at once, and was much more vivacious and expressive. The Geranos (stork or crane) came from Delos. It was based on the story of Theseus who saved the Cretan hecatomb of youths and virgins from the labyrinth. It was held in the month of Hecatombeon, of sacrifice, in mid-July. Probably once a nocturnal fertilization ceremony, girls and boys led each other by the hands, imitating with the carriage of their heads, necks and flapping arms the V-shaped flight of birds. Then there were dances which used veils as a chief feature, with deft manipulation of woven materials in the air, disturbed by the moving bodies of the dancers. Cloth covered the whole body, even the head (except the face) and hands. Such dances are familiar in oriental and Islamic countries. In Greece they may have come from the cult of the fertility goddess Demeter or Persephone, shrouded in mourning for her lost summer. The best exemplification of these dances are the popular Tanagra fired-clay figurines, which give a vivid idea of skillful dress-play. In the minds of the ancients they also may have had a significance which eludes us, imitating the sudden apparition of gods, veiled in mist or night,—revelation and disappearance. Some orgiastic dancers tossed veils, and these feminine symbols were used by men in the female impersonations of Dionysiac theatrical dancing, which is exemplified by the transvestation of Pentheus in `The Bacchae.' Another branch of Emmelia which has been popularized in architectural sculpture was the Karyatid, once annually performed at the feast of Artemis Karyatis, the female dancer of the gods, at Karyai on the Laconian-Arcadian border. These may have started with the girls bearing flower-baskets on their heads. Their uniform is always a short tunic. They took quick, brief steps, moving as much as nature would permit on their tiptoes. This may have been affected by the upright carriage of the backbone necessary to balance their burdens. There were no leaps or jumps, and the dancers seemed to glide along the ground. They are conventionally represented actually on the tips of their toes, but more realistically on the high half-toe. They flowed in continuous chains, arms high to support the baskets. In architecture, as on the `Porch of the Maidens' they become static pillars.
Distinct from the war-dance, yet so much more violent than any of the Emmelia as to be really separate from both, were a considerable number of orgiastic measures, basically oriental or at least alien to native Greece. The noble, stately eurythmic measure of the Emmelia, the dignified Spartan and Attic processionals seem characteristically Hellenic while the Dionysiac routs were replete with alien influence. Bacchos personified not only wine, but every vital secret in nature, and his votaries obeyed him in mad explosions of extreme exuberance, an ecstatic eclipse of individuality, in which by passionate, self-indulgent relief they would lose their simple identity and merge in a group-consciousness with the God's pervading influences.
These phenomena need not seem so remote to us for in North America there are several more or less familiar parallels to the orgia of Dionysos. In 187o, the cult of the Ghost Dance swept the West. It was a Round, danced in a tense, monotonous rhythm, till all the participants, one after the other, sank stiff to the earth. During the induced trance, the Indians saw visions of their reconquest of the continent from the white man; while the exhausted ones lay motionless, the rest danced on eventually to join them. Some tribes on Northern Mexico danced themselves into frothy frenzies on their stone altars. "For the American Indians as a whole, and including those of Mexico, were passionately Dionysian. They valued the violent experience, all means by which human beings may break through the usual sensory routine, and to all such experiences they attributed the highest value."
Lucian, a late Greek, describes the Dionysiac threat:
For they had heard strange reports from their spies concerning his army: that his phalanx and bodies of troops consisted of mad and raging women, crowned with ivy, clad in fawn-skins, carrying short spears, not of iron, but also made of ivy; they bore small shields, which gave forth a booming noise if one so much as touched them—for their drums resembled shields. There were also it was said, a few rustic youths among men, naked, dancing the Kordax, having tails and horns.
Once introduced, these excesses were popular, and indeed there were a few precedents in Greece herself for them—notably in cults of the ancient vegetation goddess; the Artemis of Ephesus. The religion of the Phrygian earth-motherof-all, Cybele, and her servant Corybantes, was not popular until the fifth century, but when it had so become, wild casting of arms and legs, convulsive, tearing turns, barbarous shrieks and crashing cymbals spread like wild-fire, fusing with similar rites of Thracian Dionysos. As an oriental effeminizing innovation it would always remain suspect, to he censured by such outraged puritans as Demosthenes. But a succession of public disasters, and the disintegration of the old religion caused a general demoralization in whose anarchic atmosphere the orgiasts had fertile possibilities. Cybele's young love.-was Attis, who perished mutilated in an excess brought on by the goddess' jealousy. Adonis, Osiris, Dionysos himself, now Attis, had no effect on the established state religion, but their rites were practiced in private, which corrupted the whole fabric of Athenian state belief. The foreign rites were locally adapted and the foamy-lipped, mad-eyed, seizing hysteria finds its most perfect artistic definition in `The Baccha.' As for the technique of the orgiastic dance, insomuch as it can be reconstructed from Greek monuments (and these have been considerably imitated and readapted by late Graeco-Roman artists) it seems to have consisted of three or four dizzy turns on the half-toe, a small bound, alternations of the feet, turns, and successive leaps. The head was tossed back in an extremity of tension, a position impossible to maintain for long except in an advanced stage of nervous tautness or pathological spasm. There was a wild sweep of thrashing arms, sudden thrusting supplication or invocation, the torso twisted, rush forward, quick arrest and dip; then a wave-like resumption to an almost inevitable denouement in physical collapse: `Maenad, Thyiad, Phoibad, Lyssad,—mad, rushing, inspired, raging one.' These dances were considerably more varied than monotonous Persian or Arabian dervish-dances which produce a similar exhaustion. Indeed they were not specifically aimed to produce delirious transport; these conditions were rather the result of an induced state of mind. Satyrs and sileni of the comic and satiric choros could also practice such violent dances, but they would probably accustom themselves to a broken, trotting, horsy beat. Angular movements of their arms, hunched heads and stamping goatish feet were more petulant and brutish, faunish, and neither insane nor drunken.
In contrast to the circular dithyrambic choros, from which the tragic choros evolved, when the singing-dancers finally entered the theater, it was in a rectangular form. In the early AEschylean `Suppliant Woman,' for the purpose of the story of the fifty daughters of Danaos, the number of the choros was the same as the old dithyrambic choir, but afterwards the choros of tragedy and satyr play seems to have been composed of fifteen members with three files of five persons, or five of three. In the comedies a similar set-up numbered twenty-four, the choros, entering in silence or led by a flautist, could present itself in ranks, advancing in an order wider than deep, but more often in the reverse, deeper than wide, which was more suited to a defile. As the choros was almost always present during the action, entering from the right, the left file was the most observed by the spectators, and for this reason its most attractive members were placed in front. In the middle, in the third row, was the acknowledged place of the choir-leader.
Theatrical dancing was divided into three chief categories after the three dramatic types: the grave Emmelia, for tragedy; harmonious, unbroken, close to the religious Emmelia; the lively Kordax, for comedy; and the lewd Sikinnis, for satyr-plays, whose members wore pink drawers or skirts for attachable horse-hair tails and phalloi. These three specific types did not preclude the use or combination of usage of other dance forms which might be called for by nature of the action.
Too often our idea of ancient drama is more influenced by French seventeenth century imitations of Roman tragedy, than by Greek relics themselves. Even in its most developed epoch, its authors never lost sight of a lyric-dance origin, devoting much thought and emphasis to a synthesis of song, movement and verse. In the `Suppliant Women,' the earliest preserved play of AEschylos, the principal character, as such, is the band of Danaos' daughters.
And in `The Bacchcae,' the last of Euripides', the Bacchants are equally, if otherwise, indispensable.
The choral entrance or Parados consisted of a simple processional apparition in full view of all, though in the `Eumenides' the choros dashed furiously in, and the `Birds' of Aristophanes entered one after another to have their plumage described in turn. The most important dances of all were those of the Stasima, the three or four lyric interludes where the chief actors having left the scene or were quiet, the choros stayed in the dancing-place to perform. Their movements were usually sober, often more plastic attitudes accompanying song than what we would consider dance. Movement varied to the metric of song, recitative, or conversation. It is difficult to allocate their parts. Some-times they moved and spoke in groups, at others responding singly. They were frequently on familiar terms with the actors, particularly in comedy.
No comparisons of our contemporary theater with the Greek serve to clarify our understanding of the Greek. It is true both are spectacular in isence. The shows are framed by the theatron, a place for seeing; although the proscenium frame itself will not really appear until the Renaissance. Here the similarity ends. There was no surprise in Greek tragedy. The prologue ex-plains conclusively what will be shown. The main deed, the killing, always happens off-stage. There are continual scenes of long, wrangling dialogues. The climax is not a finale. The action, unified in time and place, always hap-pens on the last day before, or the day of the catastrophe, a kind of continual atmosphere of doomsday pervading all the verse. In their theater there was much less division between the audience and the actors. Choros linked actors and audience by being audience when watching the main actors, and actors when they thought aloud for the audience. The audience surrounded them, sitting on three sides of the dancing-place. In the dithyramb, audience and actors were one. Later they were mutually dependent, but definitely separate. This was the transition from joining in the action, and watching the action. Now the dance is not only danced, but watched. There was perhaps a loss of emotional immediacy and intensity, but a growth of the spectacular.
The music was simple, severe, subordinate to verse and action. All choirs sang in unison. The melody was fitted to the words, as in the Bach Mass. There were no harmonics. Each note corresponded to a syllable, and the audience could hear the choros with great distinctness, since they were trained to articulate precisely and throw their voices in speaking poetry, which was, after all, the prime element. The accompanying strings or flute used the: melody's identical tune. In lyrical, as opposed to dramatic verse, there was a tendency for the flute to overpower the voices. The modes took their names from the places of their geographical origin and had the differences of, say, Irish, Swiss or Spanish folk-music. The Dorian and Myxolydian were proper to tragedy in general. AEschylos favored the severe Ionic. Sophocles used the semi-oriental Phrygian, and Euripides was ridiculed by Aristophanes for it. Sometimes a few notes of incidental music were inserted to emphasize a choral introduction, or finale, or to point off the speech of the chief actors, like the struck chords before a Mozart aria.
The Greeks had few musical instruments, but they are the same three types we now possess: strings, wood-wind and tympani. Among the last were not only drums, but cymbals, timbrels, tambourines and castanets, and these were not always favorably regarded, since as percussive importations they were used for new and suspect orgiastic rites. The most common flutes were a series of seven or nine graduated hollow reeds bound together by wax or thongs, which we call `Pan-pipes'; the double flute or auloi (the medieval shawm or hautboy) each having a vibrant reed at the mouth like our clarinet; and the trumpet which was of metal, for use in battle, as ritual signal or as a call for attention in mass gatherings. Sometimes, in the fifth century at least, boys generally learned to play the flute; but one could not sing and play at once, so the practice was fairly well taken over by professional choral accompanists who were employed in the theater, at games, and to lead soldiers on the march. The lyre, originally two animal horns inserted into a tortoise-shell sounding-box, to which four or seven strings were pegged, was held in the left hand, and its player, with a plectrum in his right, modulated or silenced the chords with the free fingers of his left. From the lyre descends guitar, mandolin, zither and all viols. Pipes were the first musical implements to be developed by technical virtuosi, who in the latter part of the fifth century created the cross-flute (our flute), from which emerged pipe-organ and the symphony of wood, lead and brass down to our saxophone.
Even taking into consideration all peculiarities of the ideology of their plays, notions of what were theatrically effective or permissible, the frugality of the presentation and the simplicity of the music, the single element that must strike modern dramatic artists as most original and most different from our own conceptions the institution of the Greek choros as a singing and dancing unit. Not only was it a plastic background, but also a fluent means of inducing atmospheric changes, a kind of barometer of action which created its own weather. Particularly in Sophocles, before the declaration of catastrophe, the choros is permitted considerable gayety, the better to contrast with imminent gloom. Often, in the course of the most tensely pathetic scenes, the choros entered into direct colloquy with the protagonist, and its speech or song alternated with his words. This was Kommoi or communion. As a dramatic device we will again encounter it in the drama of the Christian passion where the choros is its responsive schola cantorum. In `The Bacchae' there are indications for mimetic play between Pentheus, Dionysos, choral leader and chorus. The movements and attitudes of the heroic characters were stylized from habit so they would be legible, prefiguring Roman dramatic pantomine.
The history of the comic choros is parallel to the tragic. Here dancing is less important, while miming and buffoonery are more. A special and important feature of the comic chorus was the parabasis, where the members threw off their roles as dramatis personae, and apostrophized the public directly in thei own name or their poet's. Choral movements were more brusque and sharp. The Parados or entrance-dance was frequently in the agitated trochaic beat; no steady processional, but in the `Acharnians,' a race; in the `Knights' a battle-charge; in the `Birds,' a succession of daft pirouettes; in 'Lysistrata,' a mock combat: The Exodos of comedies was not brief and perfunctory as in the tragedies, but almost always a rout or buffoon's game. Aristophanes had a tendency to make his exodos a separate amusing or facetious piece with grotesque dances, almost in the nature of a terminal ballet, without vocal accompaniment. The Kordax was the name of that dance always associated in Roman' and Christian times with the lewdest aspects of comic dance, and of these there were no lack; obscene jesting with great leather phalloi or horse-hair tails strapped front and back, their performance was later considered a real dementia. There was a good deal of leering verse, suggestive hip-rolling, nose-thumbing, thumb-biting, chest forward, buttocks thrust out, kiltflouncings and outrageous parodies of the ordinary movements of familiar popular or social dances. The mimic actor-dancers of the comedy burlesques are the, descendants of fabulous half-animal creatures who snuffled, stamped, laughed and gambolled with Thracian Bacchos. Horse-hooved and goat-footed they remained, sinewy reminders of the fertility of animal life. There were also masked and painted demons with sacks for bellies and flapping genitalia. The Sikinnis was the type-dance of satyr-plays of which only one example remains in the `Cyclops' of Euripides, an episode of the one-eyed giant in the Odyssey. The name and origin of the Sikinnis are equally vague; the satyr-plays followed the tragedies; perhaps a remnant of early Bacchic worship. There were tragic figures among fools and dancing clowns, insomuch as they .parodied incidents from the preceding tragedy. The satyr-dances were not so much comic-relief, as a religious hangover, when the tragedy itself had lost its significance as a ritual act. As a dance, the Sikinnis accompanied the liveliest choral parts of the satyr-plays, and were characterized by an alacrity often noted in ancient sources to parallel the pyrrhic.
It is impossible here to more than mention the complex systems of Greek metric and the development of prosody which was the underlying rhythmic indication of both dance and music.* The imitative and tragic dances adopted the iambic; in all the odes, the song was sustained by rhythmic movement strictly linked to the articulation of triad, strophe, antistrophe and epode, keeping an interior time to the syllabic heat of syncopated or regular phrasing.
The dances in private life for personal recreation or social amusement probably had less direct influence on stage-dancing than the public religious or civic forms. But since they did exist it would not be unlikely to assume that for various purposes they found their way into the drama, either as solo adaptations, or perhaps most frequently in the comedies, as satirical pantomimic comment on the behavior of men and women in the privacy of their homes.
Wedding dances are frequently mentioned by Euripides and they are anciently referred to in Homer. Called Epithalamia, they were performed in honor of Hymen, the marriage god. By torchlight, young friends of the bride and groom would hymn them to their marriage chamber, and once abed, they would return for a final dance and serenade. The custom inspired many beautiful verses, and two thousand years later, masques of the Italian, French and English renaissance.
Funeral dances, we know, are also connected with survival rites and ancestor worship. In Greece they had become, perhaps under Egyptian influence, rather stereotyped and conventionalized. The hands are shown clasped in stylized attitudes of noble grief. Perhaps the remote and independent prototypes of mediaeval dances of death, or danse macabre, they are more popularly represented in tombs that the Greek colonists painted in Sicily and Magna Graecia. Entertainments at feasts included many acrobatic features we have already seen in Egypt; there were dances by invited guests and others by professional entertainers who tumbled, juggled, walked on ropes, on their hands, executed rapid flip-flops, with such dangerous variations as performing neat somersaults between upright knives. There were also miniature interludes of monodrama or monomime, in the same relation to drama as chamber-music would be to a full orchestra.
Among the popular social dances, there were those inspired by various labors, flower-dances celebrating the year's first fruits and blossoms, play-dances, such as the Hormos, or collar, a circular round of alternating boys and girls, similar to our old-fashioned 'ladies' chain.' Many of these dances can hardly be differentiated from games. There was, in the later periods, from the fifth century on, a sharp demarcation between amateur and professional,—the citizen who participated in civic and religious observances,—or danced at dinner parties, and the stage-dancer or banquet-entertainer, who were often hard to distinguish from courtesans. These were accustomed to dance naked at feasts from remote antiquity. Certain of them banded themselves together, under a kind of ballet-master, and could be had for hire, either placing them-selves at the disposition of a choregos, who may have been preparing plays for the annual season, or else performing in public as they found the chance. The dancing-masters of the palaestra, however, who were originally poets as well, held honorable positions, and the daughters of the best Lacedaemonian families, were expected to dance the Karyai. At the age of sixty, Socrates is supposed to have been taught some new dances by Aspasia, who as a hetaira, may also have been a professional dancer: "Am I," he asked, "to be blamed for reducing the corpulence of my body by a little dancing?