Saturday, December 17, 2011

All is Number

The dictum of the Greek philosopher Pythagoras (ca. 580-500 BC) and his school was All is Number. To understand what was truly meant by this phrase we have to understand a little more about Pythagoras. He was much more than a mathematician. The contemporary of the saint Gautama Budhha was first of all a spiritual teacher and a healer, and he belonged to the first generations of searchers of wisdom and truth that came from the Hellenic world and were later called „philosophers“.

Pythagoras observed that music and sound follows certain numerical laws of harmony. Moreover he discovered that all things of the universe have numerical attributes that follow the same laws. He even created a musical system based on those laws. But in this context we have to understand, that when in the ancient world the word „musike“ was used, it was inseparably connected with poetry and dance. Literally music meant the „arts of the Muses“, and the Muses embraced more or less all the arts.

Especially music, poetry (sung and spoken) and dance formed one unit, and it was common practice that those three arts were performed simultaneously and very rarely alone. But they not only appeared together, they even determined each other. For example, Homers verses were written in a certain rhythm (the Hexameter) that lead to certain dance steps (those of the Syrtos). And simultaneously the words were declaimed in melodies that fit into the rhythm and the dance.

For now I do not want to go further into the Pythagorean music theory. But I want that we have a look at the basic, fundamental and principal meanings of the first three numbers in correlation with the arts of the „Muses“, especially Rhythm and Dance.

Lets start with the number ONE. Interestingly, the Pythagoreans did not consider „ONE“ to be a number at all. ONE is so perfect in itself, that it can have no attributes. It represents the divine. Just like the „TAO“ of the Chinese mystic LaoTse, that can not be spoken or described. ONE in its absence of duality can not be known, because there is no split between subject and object yet. Translated into the realm of Rhythm it could be said that one beat alone can not form a rhythm, and the same applies for only one single dance step. But we can associate the number ONE with the focused stillness of the dancer before the actual dance begins. And just like every dance at one time springs out of the stillness, it also goes back into it.

If you think we have more luck with the number TWO, I have to disappoint you again. The Pythagoreans considered neither the TWO to be a number. They saw it as a symbol of duality. A symbol of balance, but also of conflict and opposition. Without the number TWO, the positive and negative could not exist. The Pythagoreans thought this number to be most unlucky. Because it was the opponent of the godly ONE it was dedicated to the god of the Underworld. And a few hundred years later, Plato argued that there was no meaning to the number TWO, as it suggests a relationship and a relationship will in turn introduce a third factor.

When we look at dance, we can see that the TWO at the most represents our ability to walk on two feet, which can not yet be called "dance". But it can form the means and the background for real rhythms and dance steps.

Only when we combine the holy ONE with the under-worldly TWO we arrive at THREE. Now we have finally arrived at the realm of numbers (for the Pythagoreans the THREE was the first true number) and therefore: at the realm of rhythm and dance. Try to combine the movements of your both feet in a way that they perform cycles of three steps, and you suddenly will realize that the dance has started to happen.

It can be said that THREE is the most important, and also most sacred number of all. The first geometrical figure is the triangle. In the Hellenic world the Tripod (a chair or a small table standing on three legs) was sacred and symbolized the God Apollo. In the Oracle of Delphi the priestess Pythia would take her seat on the tripod. Tripods were also widely used by ordinary people as alters.

Three was considered the number of harmony, wisdom and understanding. A meaningful dialogue can only happen through threefold dialectic (thesis – antithesis – synthesis). In Hinduism the three Gods Brahma / Vishnu / Shiva represent creation – preservation and destruction: the eternal cycle of existence in time. And finally in Christianity the Holy Trinity (Father - Son - Holy Spirit) represents again the divine principle of the number Three.

I could go on describing the attributes and meanings of the following numbers. Maybe some other time? For now I just wanted to show you that all this counting and dancing would not exist without the birth of THREE out of ONE and TWO. (According to the Pythagoreans ONE is the father and TWO is the mother.) However, I think it has become clear why THREE is also the number of the magicians. With its help the world can be created, including the fascinating and manifold cosmos of the „Muses“. Again and again, through all times.

Sangit Om

Friday, June 24, 2011

Dance & Rhythm

Traditional Greek Dance and Drumming (a workshop)

In the Greek tradition, dance is considered to be the highest of all arts. Higher even than playing a musical instrument. When you think, that for the dancer the whole body becomes his instrument, then this concept starts to make sense. The fundamental base of both music and dance, is rhythm. In fact rhythm is the base of our whole life: think of our heartbeat, our breezing, our movements and more or less all expressions of the joy of living. Rhythm is also a link that unites individuals: when we move together we are synchronizing with each other through rhythm.

When we want to learn traditional dances, we have to understand the language of rhythm. The more we are able to master a basic repertoire of rhythms, its principles and methods, the easier it will be to move freely in the framework of traditional dances. Therefor it is a great idea for dancers to practice drumming and to play percussion instruments. To develop the art of rhythm greatly empowers our skills in dancing. Very often, if someone faces difficulties to proceed in the art of dancing, developing a stronger feeling for rhythms does solve the problems and opens doors for new dimensions.

But it also functions the other way around: for a musician the experience of dancing can open up a whole new world. I am myself a musician, and today I am dividing my life into two periods: the times before I was a dancer and the time after I had started to integrate dance into my life. Before I was maybe not a bad musician – but something was missing. But when I finally had discovered the other half it was, as if a part of me that was hidden deep inside, was finally allowed to flow and to unfold its power.

So, here you have a few reasons why I have decided to offer a workshop for traditional Greek dance combined with drumming and playing percussion. The workshop will take place from December 26th 2011 to January 2nd 2012 at the Island of Crete. We will learn Greek dances, mainly dances of the Island of Crete. And we will also learn to play on various percussion instruments like tumpeleki, tarabuka, daouli, framedrums, udu, shakers and many more. It will be a great opportunity to connect with our hidden powers and to start the new year with full energy. If you are interested, please don't hesitate and send a short email to right now. In return I will send you all the details about the workshop (without any obligations, of course). You can also find additional information at

Sangit Om

Monday, March 14, 2011

Forgotten Dances of Crete

I will be holding a dance workshop in Kamilari / Crete from May 1st until May 7th. I thought the issue of this workshop might be interesting for everybody, so I would like to share with you what it is all about.

The Minoan civilization on the Mediterranean island of Crete began nearly 5,000 years ago and it lasted several thousand years, before the Dorians from the Greek mainland took over the island. When we consider that the Minoan Crete has formed the oldest civilization on European soil, it can be assumed that the Cretan dances are among the oldest cultural dances of humanity. Homer described the Cretans as enthusiastic dancers, and we know from many illustrations, that dance has played a central role in the life of the Minoans.

There is no clear evidence that the contemporary Cretan dances are stemming directly from the Minoans, but there is every indication that this is the case, at least for some dances. Therefore we can speak of a special status for the Cretan dances. Some dances certainly came later to the island, but the particular Cretan character is always obvious.

Today, most Cretans are commonly mastering five different dances, which we will also practice in our workshop:

1. Sirtos of Crete (also called Chaniotis, the most popular dance)
2. Malevisiotis (originally a war dance with fast, dynamic steps)
3. Siganos (or Siganos Pentozalis, a very simple dance)
4. Pentozalis (or Pidichtos Pentozalis, dynamic dance with jumps)
5. Sousta (a couples dance)

Except for the Sousta all those dances are danced in an open circle, as it is common in all of Greece. They are still danced at festivities (village festivals, weddings, baptisms, etc.) and taught in the schools. Although they belong to the general education of every Cretan, it is important to note that there are also local differences and variations.

However, it is generally not well known that additionally to these 5 dances there are many other Cretan dances, which are often almost forgotten and only maintained in some villages or areas. We want to dedicate this seminar to some of these dances, which form a unique cultural treasure and deserve to be rescued from oblivion. Only recently they are receiving increased attention and there are more and more musicians who play the accompanying music and have also recorded them on CDs.

Our aim is to learn at least 8 of those additional dances during this one week workshop

Although the Cretan dances with their Minoan influence have a special role, they still belong to the Greek dances, with their typical characteristics, as they have been formed in the ancient world. They were not only just dances for the people, but also a means for the comprehensive training of body and mind. They were considered "sacred exercises”, which have been brought by the Gods to humanity, in order to give mortals an opportunity to get in touch with the higher worlds. They belong to the realm of the "Muses" and are considered the highest discipline in the field of music. It is important to understand that the ancient Greek word for "music" equally included the playing of musical instruments, singing and dancing. All three are inextricably linked and all three are based on the traditional view of the "Divine Harmony", which can be expressed in figures, and so the dance has its counterpart in the numerical proportions of rhythm, meter and proportion.

As we will learn those dances in our seminar, we will also look for a deeper understanding of such relationships. But mainly we will be engaged in the actual process of dancing, thus having the direct experience of the forces and messages that each dance contains within itself, and ultimately can not be described with words. Just like the "Real Crete" will intuitively reveal itself only to the person who is willing to meet it with open hearts.

Hope that made you more curious... and I am also looking foreward to see some of you at the workshop or at other events and workshops that will certainly follow in the future.

For additional information please visit

Sangit Om