The Greek term “mousikē” was a broad category that encompassed all activities that fell under the realm of the Muses. It was used to define music making, poetry, and coordinated physical movement. Thus, performing arts – instrumental music, singing, recitation, dancing – and even non-performing activities - ball playing or some physical exercises – can be found under the supervision of Apollo’s companions. Its broad scope conveys the idea that mousikē permeated all spheres of everyday life.
Dance had a divine origin with many mythical creators and protectors – Dionysos, Pan, Apollo - and also contributed to the order of the cosmos, as stars and planets danced in harmony around the universe. For mortals, dancing was a natural response of the body, mind, and soul to music, but it had to be learnt and required certain training. Gymnopaidai – learning to dance – was a key subject at school. Ancient authors thought that it had such beneficial effects on the body and mind that dancing was recommended as an essential part of the development of good citizens.
Either spontaneous or choreographed, individual or in groups, dancing was present in symposia, weddings, funerals, theatre, competitions, and religious celebrations. Dancing could happen in private and public spheres; it was so interwoven in all aspects of everyday life that its functions were very varied: to tell a story, showcase martial and athletic skills, entertain guest, shape processions, and constitute ritual practices in religious celebrations.