[Full notes] [Summary notes] [Other dances & the source code]

Alternative Names 'Misirlou' is an English transcription.
'Miserlou' is another English transcription.
Region Greek diaspora in USA.
Formation Circle or open circle. V-hold
Dance Structure Single sequence repeated to the end of the music.
Music Structure 4 counts/bar, 8 bar phrases.
Music Speed Typically about 120 counts/min.
Choreographer Brunhilde Dorsch.
Source Mainly from Sally Fletcher in Ipswich. Variations from Sally, Stefan Freedman, Jan Savage & Jill Waters (quick Grapevine) in Ipswich and Rowena Richards (arm over head) in Youlgrave. Tango styling from Jan. Laid back Greek styling from Dick van der Zwan at the Zetten 2002 Balkan Festival. Also done in many other places with many other people. Origin details summarised from texts by Dick Oakes ('Miserlou' on Phantom Ranch website) & Ricky Holden (republished as 'Everything You Always Wanted to Know About........ Miserlou ...But Were Afraid To Ask' republished in 'The Dancing Circle volume 2' ed. Judy King 'Greek Folk Dances' 1965 via 'The Grapevine' Winter 1994).

Disclaimer: Mistakes are quite likely in the notes and no guarantees are made as to accuracy. There may be other versions of the same dance or other dances with the same name. Music may differ, particularly in speed, introduction and duration, between performers. The division into parts, bars & counts might not be standard. These notes of the dance are freely distributable (under GPL or CC-by-sa) in so much as the note's author's contribution but the choreography and/or collection were by other people and so their copyright might apply to the dance itself. Better than using notes, go to a dance class where it is taught.

A ubiquitous Greek dance popular done to many different tunes in many different styles.

Although popularly considered Greek, it was created in the USA almost by accident. In 1945 Brunhilde Dorsch, a Eurythmics professor, was asked to organise some Greek national dances for an event in honour of America's World War II allies at Duquesne University, Pittsburgh. She collected traditional dances from Mercine Nesotas, a student, including 'Syrtos Haniotikos' (renamed to 'Kritikos' as it was from Crete). The band had no music for Kritikos so instead she they used the tune 'Misirlou' (composed, also in the USA, in the 1930s by Nicholas Roubanis, also a USA professor but at Columbia University) which changed the speed & feeling of the dance.

The dance is done to many different tunes in addition to the original tune. The Greek dance tune 'Sto Perigiali' (also commonly transcribed in English as 'Sto Periyali') fits well and is so often used for this dance in the UK that many UK dancers consider that to be the Miserlou tune. I've read that in the USA many people consider the Greek tune 'Never on a Sunday' to be the standard Misirlou tune. Tangos also fit well. Other tunes I have danced it to even include UK pop tunes & joke tunes. There are also some difference in the sets of steps used by different groups do a single variation whereas others do a fixed order of variations or do variations ad lib.

Adding to the confusion is there is also a dance from the Armenian diaspora in the USA, 'Eench Eemanee', that is so similar that it is often nicknamed the 'Armenian Misirlou'! Indeed it might even have been derived from Misirlou sometime before the late 1950s. Its basic version looks similar to the Grapevine variation of Misirlou but fits the music just differently enough to not work if the two are mixed (it starts with weight on the R foot rather than L foot, has the slows/pauses in the last bar rather than the first & ends with R stamp taking the weight). Some groups mistakenly dance Eench Eemanee thinking it is Misirlou. I guess some dancers somewhere think they are dancing an indigenous Greek dance called Misirlou to a Greek tune called 'Misirlou' which is a word of Greek origin when they are actually dancing an Armenian dance called Eench Eemanee from the USA to the tune 'Sto Perigiali' with name deriving from Turkish! International folk dancing can be rather more international that intended sometimes :-) .

Miserlou is danced (even ignoring other different dances, like Eench Eemanee, accidentally substituted in) in many different styles in addition to generic Greek including:-

Laid back Greek Style: Steps flat footed with feet barely lifted off the ground. Lifts become just slow steps. Touching ground infront with L foot and sweeping it acw become a tight cross of L foot across infront of R foot without weight transfer and stepping onto L across behind keeping it as close to R leg as possible as it moves there.

Sacred/Circle: Graceful flowing style with the sweep of the L foot in an arc in bar 1 count 3 becoming as big a horizontal circle as can be fitted in.

Ballroom Tango: The slow steps become more of a quick step followed by a pause. Staccato.

Argentine Tango: Less jolly than a ballroom Tango tune but more fiery & stylish. Steps become even more staccato, the slows ornamented with flicks and stance more taut.


Depends upon the tune.

Whole Sequence

Summary: R close facing centre, pause, L touch across infront, L swing around behind. L across behind, R side, L across infront facing R, R lift pivot to face L. Forwards R, L, R, lift left. Backwards on opposite feet.

Start Facing the centre of the circle. V-hold. Weight on L foot.
1 R close.
2 Pause.
3 Touch L foot toe to the floor aross infront
4 Sweep L foot in acw arc around to across behind R foot without weight transfer.
1 Complete the L sweep around into stepping on L across.
2 R to the side.
3 L across infront while turning 45 deg cw to face partly acw around the circle.
4 R swing R across infront without weight transfer while using the momentum to pivot 135 deg acw on L foot to end up facing cw around the circle.
1 R forwards.
2 L forwards.
3-4 R forwards lifting L foot to beside R calf.
1 L backwards.
2 R backwards.
3-4 L backwards lifting R foot to beside L calf. Turn 90 deg cw during this step (or following R close) to face the centre of the circle.

Variations 1,2 & 3

Summary: Face acw when travelling cw, acw or both.

Common variations are to face acw when travelling cw around the circle, to face acw when travelling acw around the circle or both. This can be done like a partner dance looking at a neighbour in the circle.

Variation 4

Summary: Fit in quick grapevines when travelling cw & acw.

Squeeze a quick grapevine with small steps into counts 3-4& of bars 2 & 3. In detail the replacements are:-

3 Facing 45 deg acw of the centre of the circle, R across infront.
& Facing the centre of the circle, L to the side.
4 Facing 45 deg cw of the centre of the circle, R across behind.
& Facing the centre of the circle, L to the side.
3 Facing 45 deg acw of the centre of the circle, L across behind.
& Facing the centre of the circle, R to the side.
4 Facing 45 deg cw of the centre of the circle, L across infront.
& Facing the centre of the circle, R to the side.

Variation 5

Summary: R arm over own L shoulder when travelling.

Keeping hands held, lift own R arm over own head in bar 2 count 4 ending with own R hand (& neighbour's L hand) on own L shoulder and own R arm wrapped around ones own neck infront. Reverse arm motions to revert to normal hold in bar 4 counts 3-4.