Zorba’s Dance, The Famous Music of Zorba the Greek

The timeless piece “Zorba’s Dance“, popularly known as “Zorba”, was composed by Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis. This instrumental became famous when it was featured in the 1964 film Zorba the Greek, for which Theodorakis composed the entire soundtrack.

“Zorba’s Dance” is heavily influenced by rebetiko, a style of urban music played by Greek musicians using Turkish makam modes. The accompanying dance, Sirtaki, was created specifically for the movie and has since become a renowned form of Greek dance.

zorba the greek, anthony quinn

Mikis Theodorakis: Notes on his Life and Legacy

Best known for his soundtrack to Zorba the Greek, Mikis Theodorakis was a man of many parts. In addition to being a celebrated composer, he was a resistance fighter during the Nazi occupation of Greece during World War II and later served as a member of parliament.

Theodorakis was a major figure in the opposition to military rule in Greece from 1967-1974. Despite facing censorship and being blacklisted during his peak artistic years, Theodorakis was revered as Greece’s best-known living composer until his death.

Mikis Theodorakis and Anthony Quinn in Munich, 1995

The Complexity and Impact of Theodorakis’ Music

The music of “Zorba the Greek” by Theodorakis is recognized worldwide as a symbol of joy and living in the moment. Yet Theodorakis’ own life was marked by tragedy and complexity, as he endured imprisonment, torture, and exile for his resistance activities during World War II, the Greek Civil War, and under the military junta of the 1960s that banned his music.

mikis theodorakis

Zorba’s Dance, The Famous Sirtaki

Sirtaki, also known as Zorba’s Dance, was choreographed for the movie Zorba the Greek. Contrary to popular belief, this dance is not a traditional Greek dance, but a recent folk creation for the movie.

It combines the slow and fast rhythms of the Hasapiko dance and includes elements of the traditional Greek dances Syrtos and Pidikhtos. Choreographed by Giorgos Provias, the dance was adapted to accommodate actor Anthony Quinn’s broken foot during filming, resulting in its characteristic dragging-sliding steps.

The Global Phenomenon of Sirtaki Dance and Music

Sirtaki transcends traditional Greek dance to become an integral part of Greek culture and “kefi” – the Greek expression of joy and fun. This dance symbolizes the Greek spirit and the unity of mind, body and soul. It can be performed in various formations, starting with slower movements and gradually increasing in speed and energy. The music for Sirtaki, composed by Theodorakis and inspired by Rebetiko, has gained worldwide recognition, making it a staple in Greek tavernas and celebrations around the world.

Read more: Zorba the Greek, the Novel and the Movie

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