Kangelaris Dance of Papadates

Place: Papadates, Thesprotiko Municipality (distance from Preveza: 48 km)
Time of the year: Friday after Easter (day which is dedicated to the Life-Receiving Source in the Orthodox Church)
Info: 2683 0 31205


Kangelaris is both a traditional Epirotan Easter dance and an event. It is an event which is held in many places of the wider area of Epirus, but it is in Papadates where it is celebrated in its greatest splendour. It takes place over four days, i.e. in the three days following the Resurrection (Sunday, Monday and Tuesday) whereas the highlight is on Friday of Easter Week.

The dance and custom took life under Turkish occupation (1600-1700). In those hard times, and in search of new forms of defense and opposition, the Greeks decided to turn to Easter feasts to preserve their religion and language. The massive participation of the Greek ragiades (slaves) in the dance of Kangelaris enabled them to communicate directly with each other (the reason why they danced so close to one another), and to boost their spirits and patriotic feelings. For these reasons the dance took on a certain structure and features that will be analyzed further on. The custom of Kangelaris reached its peak after the end of the Turkish occupation when, although the above mentioned reasons had expired, it took on a social role. All the fellow-villagers waited for this Easter feast: the elders to socialize with each other and exhibit their virtues, and the young to exchange furtive looks with each other. It is around that time when the custom also started to take life in Papadates. Ever since, the celebration has shown remarkable historical continuity owing to the support of the cultural association of Papadates and the residents of the village.

In the afternoon of Friday of Easter Week (celebration of the Life-Receiving Source), a large number of people including representatives of the prefecture’s authorities, residents, and visitors from the wider area gather in the village square of Papadates and the feast begins. Men and women dressed in national traditional costumes lead the dance followed successively by men, young men, women, young women, and lastly children. The dancers hold each other with their elbows and hands touching closely and their fingers entwined. Likewise their bodies touch side by side tightly thus forming a compact wall. They sing the first line while standing and then they begin to dance. The dancers’ steps are powerful and strike the ground with passion as if to hit an enemy. The dance has a circular structure and only in the second part does the line of dancers fold forming an “s”: a move called kangelisma (hence the name Kangelaris). The lyrics are of great importance in the case of Kangelaris. Eighteen songs have been preserved with religious, historical and social content. As there are no instruments, it is the singing that gives rhythm and coordinates all the dancers.

Kangelaris is a special event of the region because it gives the visitor the opportunity to see dozens, or even hundreds, of dancers following its rhythm, as an entire village celebrates clasped in each other’s arms inviting everyone to join in.