National Steps: Can You Be Greek If You Can’t Dance a Zebekiko?


  • Gail Holst-Warhaft Cornell University



As an epigraph to his short story ‘Father Dancing,’ 1 Nick Papandreou uses a Celtic motto: ‘Never give a sword to a man who can’t dance.’ The motto is not important here, but I will come back to it later. Meanwhile, to our story, in which the author describes coming downstairs at his house in King City, Ontario at the age of fifteen to discover a Greek party in full swing. He hears:

A raspy voice singing ‘Cloudy Sunday/Like my heart’. Strangled bouzouki notes raced wildly between phrases… a number of men and one woman were clapping for a man who was dancing: my father… Head down, one hand behind his back, the other holding worry beads, my father moved slowly, with heavy, responsible steps. He swayed like someone drunk. He careened from one side to the other, as if about to fall, lifted himself from a bent position and spun, then crouched and slapped the parquet with both hands, back and forth as if he were sweeping the floor (1996:165).