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Home / Things to do / Culture and Events / Cretan Music and Dance
Cretan Music and Dance

A Cretan's life is drenched to the bone with rhythm and rhyme. All events, be them happy or sad, concerning love or fate, heroic deeds or hymns to nature, are expressed by music and song; not just today, but for as long as they remember, in times of peace and in times of war and oppression. Everything that touches the soul has to be bared and soothed with music and songs that tell the tortured soul what to do.


Known all over the Aegean are the mandinádhes, 15 syllable two-verse rhymes that tell of sweet or bitter love, tricks of fate, advise someone or even give a sarcastic opinion of some recent event. At feasts, a mandinádhes singer is not only supposed never to repeat the same verse twice, but he is also expected to compose new verses instantly, in answer to or as continuation of those sung previously. This improvisation often takes the shape of a poetic contest between singer(s) and lyre player, thus keeping up the party’s cheerful atmosphere. Even today this form of rhyming is immensely popular with Cretan youth, to a point that they store the mandinádhes on their mobile phones!

Myrolói on the other hand are sung in times of grief and sorrow, not accompanied by music, often during the night wake after having lost a beloved one.

Authentic Cretan songs are the rizítika, discerned in songs of the table (távla) that are sung among friends during or after dinner – usually without music – and the songs of the walk (stráta) that accompany a groom and his musician friends on their way to the bride’s house. Many of the rizítika tell of historical or heroic deeds or report events of contemporary society.


While the mantinádhes express the thoughtful and philosophical side, the Cretan dances display a man’s "levendiá": a show-off of his physical fitness and well-shaped body. There are 5 Cretan dances, all of which are danced by men and women alike today:

Syrtós is a slow, 12-step dance, even and imposing, where men and women line up circularly, holding each other’s hands and make small steps with sharp, straight-out footwork. The first dancer in line performs figures.

Sighanós is an easy, slow, circular 5-step dance, performed by men and women, with arms outstretched and hands resting on their neighbours' shoulders.

Pendozális is based on the 5 steps of the sighanó and a continuation of this dance, which is completed with 5 more steps. Formerly it was a man’s dance only, as the vivid and jumpy movements on an increased rhythm were ‘not done’ for women. Nowadays it is danced by men and women alike and has a wide variety of movements.

Malevisiótis is one of the fastest and most energetic Cretan dances, danced in a circle and of a jumpy type, where men and women take each other by the hands that are kept at shoulder height and perform 8 small fast steps forward and 8 steps back. The impressive, acrobatic personal figures of the first dancer in line give the dance a strong, intense character.

Soústa is a jumpy, 3-step couple’s dance in two-quarter beat. Initially a war dance, it was performed by a male couple, symbolizing the two warring opponents. Later it acquired an erotic character, as it is danced by a man and a woman, the man performing imposing and challenging movements that are received by the woman with dignity and modesty and to which she answers with graceful movements.