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Circle dance

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Title: Circle dance  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Dance, Hora (dance), Line dance, Sequence dance, Group dance
Collection: Circle Dances, Dances, Dances of Middle East, European Folk Dances, Folk Dance, Folk Dances, Group Dances
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Circle dance

Children's Dances (a Ring a Ring o' Roses dance), by Hans Thoma.
Laz dancers in Armenia, circa 1911

Circle dance, also known as circle dancing, is a style of dance done in a circle (open or closed) to musical accompaniment, such as rhythm instruments and singing. Circle dancing is probably the oldest known dance formation and was part of community life from when people first started to dance.

Dancing in a circle is an ancient tradition common to many cultures for marking special occasions, rituals, strengthening community and encouraging togetherness. The dance can also be enjoyed as an uplifting group experience or as part of a meditation. Circle dances are choreographed to many different styles of music and rhythms.

Unlike line dancing, circle dancers are in physical contact with each other; the connection is made by hand-to-hand, finger-to-finger or hands-on-shoulders. It is a type of dance where anyone can join in without the need of partners. Generally, the participants follow a leader around the dance floor while holding the hand of the dancers beside them. The dance can be gentle or energetic.

Circle dancing is prominently found in the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Southern Europe. Modern circle dance mixes traditional folk dances, mainly from European or Near Eastern sources, with recently choreographed ones to a variety of music both ancient and modern. There is also a growing repertoire of new circle dances to classical music and contemporary songs.[1]


  • Cultures 1
    • Eastern Europe 1.1
      • Hora 1.1.1
      • Kolo 1.1.2
    • Southern Europe 1.2
      • Kalamatianos 1.2.1
      • Sardana 1.2.2
      • Syrtos 1.2.3
      • Tamzara 1.2.4
    • Western Europe 1.3
      • An-Dro 1.3.1
      • Sacred Circle Dance 1.3.2
    • Middle East 1.4
      • Dabke 1.4.1
      • Kochari 1.4.2
      • Khigga 1.4.3
      • Kurdish dance 1.4.4
    • Other regions 1.5
      • Ghost Dance 1.5.1
      • Thabal Chongba 1.5.2
  • See also 2
  • References 3
  • Notes 4
  • External links 5


Old postcard from Greece depicting the Syrtos dance.

Circle dancing is found in many cultures, including Arabic (Lebanese and Iraqi), Israeli (see Jewish dance and Israeli folk dancing), Assyrian, Kurdish, Turkish, Armenian, Azerbaijani, Maltese, and South Eastern European (i.e. Albanian, Bulgarian, Croatian, Greek and Serbian, to name a few).

Despite its immense reputation in the Middle East and southeast Europe, circle dancing is also heavily prominent in Brittany, Catalonia and Ireland to the west of Europe, and also in South America (Peruvian), Tibet, and with Native Americans (see ghost dance).

It is also used, in its more meditative form, in worship within various religious traditions, including, for example, the Church of England and other Anglican Churches[2][3] and the Islamic Haḍra dances.

Eastern Europe


A traditional hora dance in Macedonia.

The hora dance originates in the Balkans but also found in other countries (including Romania and Moldova). The dancers hold each other's hands and the circle spins, usually counterclockwise, as each participant follows a sequence of three steps forward and one step back. The Hora is popular during wedding celebrations and festivals, and is an essential part of the social entertainment in rural areas. In Bulgaria, it is not necessary to be in a circle; a curving line of people is also acceptable.[4]


The kolo is a collective folk dance common in various South Slavic regions, such as Serbia, named after the circle formed by the dancers. It is performed amongst groups of people (usually several dozen, at the very least three) holding each other's having their hands around each other's waists (ideally in a circle, hence the name). There is almost no movement above the waist.[5][6]

Southern Europe


The Kalamatianos is a popular Greek folkdance throughout Greece and Cyprus, and is often performed at many social gatherings worldwide. As is the case with most Greek folk dances, it is danced in circle with a counterclockwise rotation, the dancers holding hands. The lead dancer usually holds the second dancer by a handkerchief, this allowing him or her to perform more elaborate steps and acrobatics. The steps of the Kalamatianós are the same as those of the Syrtos, but the latter is slower and more stately, its beat being an even 4/4.[7]

Group dancing sardanes in Barcelona.


Sardana is a type of circle dance typical of Catalonia. It would usually have an experienced dancer leading the circle. The dancers hold hands throughout the dance: arms down during the curts and raised to shoulder height during the llargs. The dance was originally from the Empordà region, but started gaining popularity throughout Catalonia during the 20th century. There are two main types, the original sardana curta (short sardana) style and the more modern sardana llarga (long sardana).[8]


Syrtos and kalamatianos are Greek dances done with the dancers in a curving line holding hands, facing right. The dancer at the right end of the line is the leader. The leader also be a solo performer, improvising showy twisting skillful moves as the rest of the line does the basic step. In some parts of syrtos, pairs of dancers hold a handkerchief from its two sides.[9][10]


The Tamzara is an Armenian, Assyrian, Azerbaijani and Greek folk dance native to Anatolia. There are many versions of Tamzara, with slightly different music and steps, coming from the various regions and old villages in Anatolia. Firstly they step three steps ahead and strike their left feet on the ground and then they put their left feet ahead and for a while stand on it, then they make three little steps back and speed their actions a bit more in the second part with the actions of the first part. Like most Anatolian folk dances, Tamzara is done with a large group of people with interlocked pinkies.[11]

Western Europe


Breton people dancing the An Dro, swinging their arms with little fingers linked.

An Dro, meaning "the turn", is a Breton circle dance. The dancers link their pinkies in a long line, swinging their arms, whilst moving to their Relative direction. The arm movements consist first of two circular motions going up and back followed by one in the opposite direction. The leader (person at the left-hand end of the line) will lead the line into a spiral or double it back on itself to form patterns on the dance floor, and allow the dancers to see each other.

Sacred Circle Dance

The Sacred Circle Dance was brought to the Findhorn Foundation community in Scotland by Bernhard Wosien who brought traditional circle dances that he had gathered from across Eastern Europe.

Colin Harrison and David Roberts took the dances to other parts of the UK where they started regular groups in south east England and Somerset, then across Europe, the US and elsewhere. The network extends also to Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and South America and India.

A small centrepiece of flowers or other objects is often placed at the centre of the circle to help focus the dancers and maintain the circular shape. Much debate goes on within the sacred circle dance network about what is meant by 'sacred' in the dance.[12]

Middle East


Women dancing the Dabke.

Dabke is popular in Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Israel, Jordan and Turkey. The most famous type of the dance is the Al-Shamaliyya (الشمالية). It consists of a lawweeh (لويح) at the head of a group of men holding hands and formed in a semicircle. The lawweeh is expected to be particularly skilled in accuracy, ability to improvise, and quickness (generally light on his feet). The dancers develop a synchronized movement and step, and when the singers finish their song the lawweeh breaks from the semicircle to dance on their own. The lawweeh is the most popular and familiar form of dabke danced for happy family celebrations.[13]


The kochari is an Armenian[14][15][16] and Azerbaijani folk dance, danced today by Armenians, Assyrians,[17] Azerbaijanis, Kurds, Pontic Greeks[18] and Turks. Armenians have been dancing Kochari for over a thousand years.[19] Dancers form a closed circle, putting their hands on each other's shoulders. More modern forms of Kochari have added a "tremolo step," which involves shaking the whole body.

In Azerbaijan, the dance consists of slow and rapid parts, and is of three variants. There is a consistent, vicious double bounce, also referred to as tremoulo. Pontic Greeks dance hand-to-shoulder and travel to the right. There are few variations which may be added to the step. It is a dance that tries to scare the viewers. At the start, it is danced by both men and women. Then, men go in front and do their figures.[20][21]

Assyrians dancing khigga at a party event.


The khigga is the one of main styles of Assyrian folk dance in which multiple dancers hold each other's hands and form a line or a circle. It is usually performed at weddings and joyous occasions. Khigga is the first beat that is played in welcoming the bride and groom to the reception hall. There are multiple foot patterns that dancers perform. The head of the khigga line usually dances with an handkerchief with beads and bells added to the sides so it jingles when shaken. A decorated cane is also used at many Assyrian weddings.[22]

Kurdish dance

The Kurdish dance is a form of a circle dance, with a single or a couple of figure dancers often added to the geometrical centre of the dancing circle. In every dance one dancer falls or comes to the head of the circle who is called Serchopí, holding a colorful or symbolic object in his/her right hand. It is a tradition that no one take his/her place until he/she leads the dancers group at least one circle.[23]

Other regions

Ghost Dance

The Ghost Dance by the Oglala Lakota at Pine Ridge. Illustration by Frederic Remington, 1890.

The Ghost Dance is a traditional ritual that has been used by many Native Americans since prehistoric times, but this new form was first practiced among the Nevada Paiute in 1889.[24] Often accompanying the dance are intermissions of trance, exhortations and prophesying. It consists of a group of singers striking hand drums simultaneously. The dancers join hands to form a large circle, symbolically indicating the equality of all people in the circle. The dancers move to their left with a side-shuffle step to reflect the long-short pattern of the drumbeat, and they would bend their knees to emphasize the beat pattern.[25]

Thabal Chongba

Thabal chongba is a popular folk dance associated with the festival of Yaoshang in Manipur, India. It is done by the Meitei people. In earlier times, this dance was performed in the moonlight accompanied by folk songs. The boys and girls in a circle clutch each other's hands with rhythms of music slow and fast, high and low, up and down. If the number is great they may form two or three rows so that everybody and anybody can participate in the dance. They wear no make-up or special costumes.[26]

See also


  • Circle Dancing - Celebrating the Sacred in Dance by June Watts, Green Magic Publishing (2006) ISBN 0-9547230-8-2
  • Grapevine, the quarterly journal of the sacred/circle dance network, Circle Dance Friends Company Ltd. ISSN 1752-4660
  • The Dancing Circle, volumes 1-4, compiled by Judy King, Sarsen Press, Winchester, England
  • Dancing on Water, by Marion Violets Gibson, printed in Wales (2006) ISBN 0-905285-79-4
  • The Sevenfold Circle: self awareness in dance by Lynn Frances and Richard Bryant-Jefferies, Findhorn Press (1998) ISBN 1-899171-37-1
  • The Dancers Journey, by Bernhard Wosien, translated from the German by Katharina Kroeber
  • The Dancers Journey - Bernhard Wosien "Self-Realisation Through Movement" - Ed. Seamas O Daimhin
  • Sacred Dance: Encounter with the Gods by Maria-Gabriele Wosien
  • The Bible in Israeli Folk Dances by Matti Goldschmidt, Ed. Choros
  • Sacred Woman Sacred Dance: Awakening stirituality through movement and ritual, by Iris J Stewart, Inner Traditions, USA ISBN 0-89281-605-8
  • Drumbeat, the South African circle dancing journal
  • Encyclopaedia of Indian Tribes by Shyam Singh Shashi, Anmol Publications PVT. LTD.(1997) ISBN 81-7041-836-4
  • Social Change in Manipur by B. K. Ahluwalia, Shashi Ahluwalia, Cultural Pub. House (1984)


  1. ^ International Folk Dance at a Glance. Second Edition. Cecile Gilbert. Burgess Publishing Company. 1974. SBN 8087-0727-2
  2. ^ "We ended with a circle dance." "A short session of circle dance was one of the activities on offer..."[3]
  3. ^ "...we were able to testify our love to the lord using circle dance and hymn singing."[4]
  4. ^
  5. ^ Costumes. (2009). In ASKA Kolo Ansambl. Retrieved March 26, 2009, from ASKA Kolo Ansambl
  6. ^ kolo. (2009). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved March 26, 2009, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online:
  7. ^ George H. Lykesas [Γιώργος Χ. Λυκέσας]. Οι Ελληνικοί Χοροί [Greek Dances]. Thessaloniki: University Studio Press, 2nd Edition, 1993.
  8. ^ "Origin of the sardana" (in Español). 2010-03-16. Retrieved 2013-07-27. 
  9. ^ σύρω, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
  10. ^ συρτός Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
  12. ^ See many issues of Grapevine over its 25 years history, available via the legal deposit libraries since Winter 2006 or via
  13. ^
  14. ^ Elia, Anthony J. (2013). "Kochari (Old Armenian Folk Tune) for Solo Piano".  
  15. ^ Vvedensky, Boris, ed. (1953).  
  16. ^ Yuzefovich, Victor (1985). Aram Khachaturyan. New York: Sphinx Press. p. 217.  
  17. ^ BetBasoo, Peter Pnuel (30 April 2003). "Thirty Assyrian Folk Dances" (PDF). Assyrian International News Agency. Retrieved 6 November 2013. 
  18. ^ "Kotsari". Retrieved 6 November 2013. 
  19. ^ Кочари // Музыкальный энциклопедический словарь / Ю.В. Келдыш, М.Г. Арановский, Л.З.Корабельникова. — Советская энциклопедия, 1990. — С. 275.
  20. ^ "The National Dancings". Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. Retrieved 6 November 2013. 
  21. ^ Greece - Page 67 by Paul Hellander, Kate Armstrong, Michael Clark, Des Hannigan, Victoria Kyriakopoulos, Miriam Raphael, Andrew Ston
  22. ^
  23. ^ Kurds, Kurdistan, Part 4. Dances and music, The Encyclopedia of Islam, Edited by C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, B. Lewis & CH. Pellat, Vol. V, KHE-MAHI, Leiden, E.J. BRILL Publishers, 1986, 1263 pp. (see p. 477).
  24. ^ Edmonds, Randlett. Nusht'uhti?ti? Hasinay: Caddo Phrasebook. Richardson, TX: Various Indian Peoples Publishing, 2003: 19. ISBN 1-884655-00-9.
  25. ^ Cross, Phil. "Caddo Songs and Dances". Caddo Legacy from Caddo People. Retrieved December 9, 2009.
  26. ^ # Encyclopaedia of Indian Tribes by Shyam Singh Shashi, Anmol Publications PVT. LTD.(1997) ISBN 81-7041-836-4

External links

  • What is Circle Dancing?
  • Central Scotland Circle Dance
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