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The dancing women of Tanagra


Tanagra dancer

Tanagra was a small Boeotian city east of Thebes in ancient Greece, well-known for its tiny clay figures, mostly of women. These Greek terra-cotta miniature statues are famous for their precious aesthetic qualities. They danced at the festival of Dionysus.

Tanagra sculptors were called cora plasters (in Greek, cora is a girl, plastein means to sculpt), as they were particularly drawn to representing women. Nearly all of the earlier statues represented deities. The Tanagra women or girls were elegantly wrapped in thin himatia sometimes wearing Phrygian hats or holding fans. The so called belly dance is not indigenous to Greece although the movement of the Tanagra dancer resembles much to oriental dancing. The statues are dated between 3 nd and the 7 th century BC. The dancing terracotta figure right is a figure of a dancing woman, Boeotia circa mid 4 th Century. Some of the statues can be seen in the "Greco - Roman Museum" of Alexandria.

Ancient Greec music treatises, sometimes influenced by the legacies of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, were translated by the scholars of the Islamic world starting from the 9 th century at the court of Caliph al-Mamun who reigned the Abbasid caliphate from 813 to 833. From the historical point of view, oriental music owns partly a musical heritage to the ancient Greeks.

It's fairly possible that dances from Mesopotamia and Egypt passed through ancient Hellas as well. Of course it's sometimes very difficult to separate the influences of the Ottoman culture from the remnants of the Hellenic culture. Only historical evidence like the statues of Tanagra can give us an idea of the important input of Hellenic civilization to contemporary oriental dance. Just imitate the position of the dancing figure and check out the logical movement. Now it becomes clear what kind of dance it might have been...


Tanagra beotica
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