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PHOTO CREDIT: Above photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

the Story of the Song and Its Dance


By Panayiota Bakis Mohieddin


Table of Contents




Song titles aren't always simple. Sometimes there are stories behind them. And so it is with the song many refer to as "Ikariotikos".

Its original title was "Ee Agapi Mou Stin Ikaria" (My Love in Ikaria), written in Greek as "Η αγάπη μου στην Ικαρία". It later took on the name "Ikariotikos".

Often, songs and the dances done to them share the same name. In this case, it's a bit controversial because of mass confusion among the people of the Greek mainland, the diaspora, and the non-Greeks who love folk dance.

"Ikariotikos" is an Eastern Aegean island song and dance from the island of Ikaria. It is located very close to present-day Turkey, specifically near Smyrna, which is known today as Izmir, Turkey.

According to Greek legend, the island of Ikaria is located close to the spot that Icarus of mythology fell into the sea after flying too close to the sun.

With both the authentic traditional island version and the more modern version, please never perform to this in a full belly dance set or a belly dance costume. This specific song and its associated dance form has nothing to do with belly dance, and it is important for belly dancers to respect the cultures that music and dance come from.



A Historical View

The traditional folk dance from Ikaria that we know today as "Ikariotikos" dates all the way back to the 15th century. Its time signature is 2/4, and is played on certain specific traditional instruments, including:

  • Laouto
  • Lyre
  • Violin
  • Tsabounofilaka
  • Percussion instruments

Although this song is mostly known as "Ikariotiko" it is also referred to as "Nikariotikos" or "Nikaria". In ancient times, the island of Ikaria was known as Dolihi or Makris, and was the name of the son of Diadalou.

The traditional version of this dance has different variations in each village. It is considered a form of syrtos dance style. There are many versions of syrtos throughout Greece!

Among Greek folk dance schools, the presentation involves the basic step along with three or more variation steps.

In 1975, a Greek singer named Giorgos Konitopoulos recorded a version of this song, making many changes to suit the tastes of his audience. His version differs in several ways from the authentic version from the beautiful island of Ikaria, and his is the one that became a major hit and won the hearts of everyone outside of the island of Ikaria. Konitopoulos' version made its way into all the nightclubs and cafes, both in the mainland of Greece and also the worldwide diaspora. This is one of my personal favorites.

Another artist, Giannis Parios (Γιάννης Πάριος) revived the popularity of Konitopoulos' version with a 1985 release. Parios was born on the island of Paros. It is very common for artists to record music from different islands. His genre is not only limited to island music but includes modern laiko as well.

If you ask native Ikariotians about it, they will express their dismay.



How the Pop Culture Version Differs from Tradition

Traditional Song and Dance on the Island of Ikaria

Giorgos Konitopoulos' Version

Slow Rapid
No Lyrics With Lyrics (translation available here)
Dance is generally improvised, with arms on each others' shoulders in a line dance, or often with arms hanging over each others' other shoulder! Originally the arms were crossed low behind each other in the back, and later moved up to the shoulders. Dancers place their arms on each others' shoulders linked in a line dance
Footwork is slow, tight, and slick with several variations The dance begins with basic steps to the right, during the instrumental part of the song. When the lyrics begin, that's when the fancy footwork starts. Generally, it's deemed very sloppy for women, even men at times, to kick the feet and legs out too much. The swagger and professionalism is shown in tightness of the dancers' footwork, regardless of speed.
If you ever witness a gathering, you will notice that one of the variations involves bending down slightly for a level change. The reason you may see this is due to the fact that traditionally, homes were very small and the ceilings were low. In order to dance comfortably in your home without hitting your head, what do you do? Bend down!  

Uses specific songs:

  • Rahiotikos (Ραχιώτικος)
  • Tsamourikos (Τσαμούρικος)
  • Peramaritikos (Περαμαρίτικος)
Original title was Ee Agapi Mou Stin Ikaria (Η αγάπη μου στην Ικαρία).

Played on traditional instruments, including:

  • Laouto
  • Lyre
  • Violin
  • Tsabounofilaka
  • Percussion instruments
Played on modern pop music instruments



Closing Thoughts

Despite the controversy, the modern Ikariotiko dance which was born outside of Ikaria yet still in Greece, isn't going away any time soon. I guess you can say it's a love-hate relationship amongst my countrymen and women.

I personally like the version by Giannis Parios. As a traditional professional folk dance teacher, I have the responsibility to teach both the traditional version from Ikaria and the modern pop music version by Parios, even though many other traditionalists would greatly disapprove.

I see Parios' song and the dance that goes with it as the syrtaki of the islands. Although it's not an old, traditional dance, it's still relevant because people enjoy it throughout Greece and the diaspora. It's good, however, to teach and explain these differences.

Regardless of preferences, as a general perspective both versions fall under traditional dances of Greece. They do share many similarities in movement and some accoustics — even though not everyone agrees.

ABOUT THE PHOTO: Panayiota wears traditional attire that represents the island of Evia (Εύβοια), which is considered the second largest Greek island!




About the Author

This page was contributed by Panayiota Bakis Mohieddin, who is happy to share her culture and music she grew up with! Here's how Panayiota describes her background:

I always love engaging with intelligent like-minded people, especially artists. I love sharing anything and everything about my Hellenic culture and upbringing, especially music and dance. A conversation with me will bring you back to America's favorite Greek-American movie by Nia Vardalos called My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

I love investigating Greek culture, history, music, and dance. Speaking of investigating, I think I missed my calling, I probably should have been an investigator. Instead, I use those skills to dig and dig and dig tirelessly, often times falling asleep on my laptop... just to find the truth. But, most importantly, accurate truth. For me personally, and other respectable folklorists, my culture and accuracy are very important. Each generation of ethnic born artists has a duty to do the best it can to pass down our traditions as was taught to us. We have been given this artistic gift to be the gatekeepers of our heritage and culture.




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