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This is a big article about dance, because dance is a big subject.

You can use this article for:

  • your own dance study and learning,
  • dance teaching and training
  • dance materials, presentations, etc.

This free dancing guide offers many helpful explanations, descriptions, and lots of other positive words, for creating notes and other content for effective, inspirational understanding, teaching and promotion of dancing.

Here's the main index of this dance article . (The index is also repeated after each main subject.)

Dancing is on this website because..

Dancing maintains and improves our quality of life more than any other human activity:

  • physical fitness - whole body
  • mind/body coordination
  • social engagement and cooperation
  • memory, and whole brain exercise
  • accessibility and diversity
  • self-expression and artistic/creative outlet
  • mental health

If you can think of any physical activity that offers as many benefits for human existence as dancing, then please tell me .

Dancing and learning to dance, and inspiring and teaching others to dance, also connect strongly with the many life/work/organizational development concepts on this website, for example:

This article explains dance and dancing from many important exciting perspectives:

For example:

  • dance history, descriptions and definitions
  • dance and dancing for fitness, wellbeing , society/community, and groups/team building
  • dance work and careers development - and starting and developing a dance business - a small dance school, or a substantial dance business venture.

This dance article explains the following main subjects, and this list is also a summary of the many major benefits and opportunities that dance and dancing offer:

  • Dance - a subject to study - history, theory, qualifications, cultural significance.
  • Dancing as a life-changing subject to teach others.
  • Dance and dancing terminology - definitions, glossary, technical descriptions.
  • Dancing as an art form, performance, entertainment.
  • Dance music - especially dance music and musical rhythms and styles, as they define and determine different types of dances, and the culture and 'feel' and atmosphere that surrounds and 'packages' so many radically different dance genres and styles.
  • Dancing - actually 'how to dance', and how to teach others to dance - different types of dances - principles, tips, methods.
  • Dance choreography and dance notation - the different types of choreography, and how to choreograph.
  • Dance as a creative and innovative art form or entertainment - as simply dance, or within larger entertainments, shows, and to support and bring movement and dynamism to music.
  • Dancing as a motivational and relationship-building activity for groups, and communities.
  • Dancing as a way to improve personal wellbeing - for kids, adults, everyone - mind, body, soul, spirit.
  • Dancing as an inclusive activity - becoming increasingly accessible regardless of disability
  • Dance and its specific benefits for health, fitness, stress-reduction, and a long life.
  • Dancing as a social activity - for friendships, romantics, and fun.
  • Dance as a job, or career, or business.
  • Dance as a competitive activity - to be recognised, awarded, to become a champion.
  • And other things that relate to and support dance and dancers - for example: dancing costumes, dance shoes, dancing books, dance-floor/stage and performance materials, equipment, and venues, etc.

This article aims to be a leading free online introduction and guide to dance and dancing. If you want to suggest ways to improve it, then please tell me .

This article has been written with help from City Academy , the London-based creative and performing arts training company, and the Dance Generation dance school , also of London, which is gratefully acknowledged. I am open to further suggestions and contributions.

1. Main Index - Dance and Dancing

This index also appears after each main subject.

  1. Main Index
  2. Introduction to dance and dancing
  3. About this article and how to use it
  4. Origins of dance - dancing in human history
  5. Definitions of dance - word origins, language
  6. Benefits of dance - physical, mental, workplace, society
  7. Who can dance?.. Everyone can dance..
  8. How to learn to dance and how to teach dance
  9. Glossary of dance styles and different forms of dancing - summary of the major dance types
  10. Choreography - dance choreography and dance notation
  11. Glossary of interesting and significant dance-related terms and people
  12. Acknowledgements
  13. Dance information sources - references, dance associations, teaching bodies, etc.

2. Introduction to Dance and Dancing.. from Africa to Salsa, from Waltz to Bhangra, and Bollywood to Zumba®..

(This guide is written also to offer material to teachers/trainers/writers, so you can cut and paste from this content for your own study or training materials, subject to the terms of the Businessballs website . Hence there's a lot of content here.)

Dancing is fundamental in life.

Since people have walked, people have danced.

Human beings are born to dance - we have dancing in our genes, which means you do too.

Dancing improves quality of our lives, and the health of societies.

Ancient civilisations knew about the amazing powers of dance and dancing, and increasingly the modern world is re-discovering how important dance is for living happily and healthily and long, and how dancing can transform people in so many ways

Besides being great fun, dance delivers benefits that will amaze you. This extends to people you might teach or train or entertain or manage - or the children and the young people that you parent or care for.

For many thousands of years, across all cultures, nations and peoples, dancing has been vital to human life.

Dancing is in our genes. The urge to dance - and to watch others dance - is deeply rooted in all of us.

Dance is immensely significant in our health, wellbeing and overall happiness.

Dancing enriches us, and enriches our communities.

Dancing is truly global and its benefits and joys are infinite.

Dance is far more beneficial and potent than we might imagine - as a way of living a happy good life, and helping others to be happy and healthy too.

While experienced passionate brilliant dancers and dance teachers recognise and understand the wonderful powers that dancing gives people - of all ages - many people have yet to realise what dancing can do and enable.

Dance promotes incredible benefits, and brings dramatic improvements, in motivation, and personal development too.

Dancing offers fabulous ways to motivate people towards brilliant achievements.

Dancing also diffuses stress, and fosters wellbeing - really like nothing else can - in individuals and groups, and bigger communities and societies.

Dancing is deeply embedded within us all.

If the origins of humankind first appeared in Africa, then dancing first happened in Africa too, and this was at least 150,000 years ago.

If instead the emergence of humankind is considered to be at least six million years ago, when humans separated from apes.. then we have been dancing for six million years.

For those who believe that humankind was created with the world itself, then this is 14 billion years ago, and we have been dancing for 14 billion years.

From most perspectives, Africa usually represents the oldest origins of dance - dancing for joy, for work, for play, for pleasure, for rain, for mating, for child-rearing, for ceremony and ritual, for a happy body - dancing for whatever was meaningful.

Dance is as old as people's existence on Earth, and arguably before - like we see many animal species 'dancing' - bobbing, swaying, nodding, jumping, soaring, moving and shaping, in response to the rhythms of nature - the wind in the trees - the ebb of the tide - the fall of the rain.

And in modern times - after millions of years of dancing - we are still dancing..

We are dancing our most basic human ways, and in our most innovative modern ways.

We are dancing traditional dances and modern dances and folk dances and street dances.

Our dancing is increasingly and excitingly fused into countless different dance styles, reflecting the fabulous rhythmic diversity and creativity of people and cultures on our planet.

Variations of dancing styles grow ever more astoundingly, particularly accelerated now by the globalized digitally and socially-connected video-sharing age.. and by young people more empowered, inspired, educated and confident than any previous generation.

Dance styles are borrowed, blended, invented, and combined from every imaginable dance type - in amazing ways - From Jazz and Jive, Bollywood and Bhangra, Samba and Zumba®, Waltzing and Quickstepping, Disco and Dancehall, to Ballet and Tap, Flamenco and Folk, Breakdance and Swing, Belly and Burlesque, Hip-hop and Street..

Wherever there is humanity, there will be dance and dancers dancing.

    1. Main Index
    2. Introduction to dance and dancing
    3. About this article and how to use it
    4. Origins of dance - dancing in human history
    5. Definitions of dance - word origins, language
    6. Benefits of dance - physical, mental, workplace, society
    7. Who can dance?.. Everyone can dance..
    8. How to learn to dance and how to teach dance
    9. Glossary of dance styles and different forms of dancing - summary of the major dance types
    10. Choreography - dance choreography and dance notation
    11. Glossary of interesting and significant dance-related terms and people
    12. Acknowledgements
    13. Dance information sources - references, dance associations, teaching bodies, etc.

3. About this dance article and how to use it

This is a big article about dance, so here's an explanation of its aims and how to use it..

This article intends to cover every main aspect of the subject of dance and dancing.

Firstly - please understand that this article is a basic easy introduction to dancing and its history, theory, terminology, etc - this is not a highly technical or complex explanation of dancing and how to dance.

The article aims to be accessible and easy to understand, especially for young people.

It is written in a relaxed non-technical way, so that people who are not experts in dance - or dance language - can understand it quickly and enjoyably.

That said, while the article is not academically complex, it certainly aims to be academically useful and reliable, as a basic introduction and guide to the subject of dance, for example for people beginning to study dance , or considering careers in dancing , or who might want to start a dance business of some sort.

This article also aims to be a useful and reliable reference resource for people researching dance - or different types of dances, or what dancing can do for people.

Another main aim of this article is to explain the considerable and varied things that dancing can enable , that are seemingly quite unrelated to dance, but which dancing can influence and improve enormously in one way or another.

For example, how dance can improve people's health and happiness - in life, and at work too - and extending this point, how dance is a wonderful activity to use in work and group situations as a means of motivating people, of building relationships, and for improving wellbeing and fitness and mental attitude.

This article also seeks to explain how dancing can transform the lives and feelings of young people .

This article also offers lots of definitions and descriptions for dances and dancing , and a glossary of dancing terminology - so that the reader gains a solid platform for understanding the subject of dance, on which further studies, research, work, and skills can be planned and built.

This article aims to offer a fabulous free introduction to the subject of dance, enabling further development or use of dance for every imaginable direction and purpose.

The main index above will help you see in detail what this article covers .

4. Origins of dance - dancing in human history

Since humans first began living together in small tribes over 100,000 years ago, and probably millions of years before this, people have enjoyed dancing and used dance in a variety of ways.

Our ancient ancestors began to dance as part of play and social interaction, and then later in worshipping their gods, and also as an important rite of passage to various life stages . Dance has for thousands of years been a part of growing up and entering new life stages - from children to teenagers, to adults, to parenthood, to being wise elders.

Since people have lived in groups, dance has been used in rituals and celebrations and festivals of all sorts:

  • for growing and harvesting,
  • eating and drinking,
  • farming and livestock,
  • fishing,
  • relationships and bondings,
  • births and sickness and death,
  • plagues and pestilence,
  • the weather - the sunshine, the rain, the snow, the drought, the flood, the wind and storms,
  • the elements - the fire, water, earth, the air,
  • the heat and the cold
  • the sky and stars,
  • nature - the trees and hills, rivers and seas, mountains and streams, birds and bees, every animal on the earth, every plant every herb every shrub
  • human conflict and wars
  • families and tribes and nations,
  • cultures and creeds,
  • religion and rule, revolution and independence...
  • and thank goodness peace and cooperation and love and harmony too.

It is difficult to suggest a single aspect of human existence and experience that is not connected to dancing. Everything that exists is at some time or place touched, celebrated, asked for, feared and defended, or otherwise the subject of a dance.

These dances might be performed by a single person for a few seconds, or these dances might be performed by millions of people for thousands of years.

And these dances might be private, or unseen, or might be watched by millions, or billions. And everything in between these extremes.

Throughout the development of human history, dance has developed too, in parallel, reflecting humanity and civilisation, in terms of:

  • culture,
  • variety,
  • styles,
  • structure and established patterns,
  • rules and laws
  • and learning and teaching and transfer through writing and media.

The earliest dancing, like the earliest singing, music and cooking, was instinctive, intuitive, experimental, and taught personally by demonstration and observation, shown person to person, tribe to tribe, and passed down from generation to generation - thousands or millions of years before books and writing. This type of dancing, after evolving to varying degrees, persists as folk dancing, as it is commonly technically called.

For tens of thousands of years, dance in this most basic form was accompanied by people's voices, and the most rudimentary of musical and percussive instruments, Later, when humans had evolved more and could make better tools, about 100,000 years ago, dance became more commonly accompanied by percussion - basically wooden things (hollow logs, blocks, etc) that people would strike with smaller wooden things (sticks essentially). Various shakers made from seeds and husks and shells, or sand/seeds in shells etc., would also have been used in prehistoric times around the world.

Incidentally the drum (with skin membrane stretched over a wooden shell) was invented in Chinese Neolithic culture around 5500BC (over 7,500 years ago). Shakers in natural forms (certain dried seeds in husks/outer coverings) such as the rainstick, and dried seaweeds, animal bones and teeth, or other naturally occurring shakable percussive objects, certainly existed before the membrane drum, and were used as part of ceremonial activities along with smoke and fire and water, etc., at the most basic times of human (homo sapiens) evolution. We know this from ancient archeological evidence, and more particularly from studying 'lost' tribes (especially in recent South America), whose cultures have not been touched or altered for many thousands of years.

And this happened for hundreds of thousands of years relatively unchanged, until humankind developed the capability to write and draw on paper - to record and transfer knowledge - and to make more sophisticated musical instruments and music.

And so around 500 years ago, like most other human activities, dance interpretation and performance (in celebrations and ceremonies, and socially and as audience entertainment) exploded into far greater complexity and variety - because people were able to build new ideas on previous dance concepts/movements, and share expertise and creativity. As part of this growth and development, in both cause and result, dancing became more formalised and structured - with descriptions, and types and styles, and standards and rules, and all sorts of variations that could be recorded, and shared and taught and learned by everyone.

This stage of dance development coincided with the beginnings of the modern age and globalization, which dramatically influenced the evolution of dance. Humankind began to travel and communicate like never before. Social and political structures became more organized around the world, and ideas and customs were shared and spread and blended, which is reflected in the development of dancing.

The age of the European colonial powers (mainly 14th-19th centuries) increasingly exported European rule and people and ideas into Africa, Asia and the Americas, and also moved ideas and people from these regions back into Europe and elsewhere, especially from Africa to the Americas, through the appalling slave trade, and use of slavery particularly in the Americas and Caribbean. North America especially became a vast laboratory for the importing and blending of dances.

All over the world, early tribal and folk dances were preserved and clung to by people who were oppressed, relocated or disenfranchised. This is particularly significant in South and North America, where slaves, stripped of everything, and randomly mixed together from different tribal origins, having no common languages, used percussion and song and dance as a way to bond, relate, and maintain and reform communities and social groups. Slave owners typically banned drums and other attempts to create music. Slaves were largely treated far worse than animals. Think about it.. Through generations, millions of African people were forced to work and live in the most desperate living conditions imaginable, having only their voices for singing, and their bodies for dancing, and it is from these roots that much 'Western' and 'Latin' dancing grew, becoming absorbed and adopted into new national cultures and identities as slavery declined and ceased, and the new countries of the Americas were formed. And all the time, these developments were imported back to Europe, often adapted, and then spread further, including back to where they'd been first found.

This is a very broad overview of the Africa-Americas dance history that can be regarded as an example of a major aspect of dance history internationally. Similar evolution of dance, alongside massive social and demographic movements, has always happened in other parts of the world. Dance is a mirror of civilizations and societies, whether in the Americas, or the Far East, or the Russian Empire, or the Arab world, or India or Australasia. Dance grows and spreads and blends with the changing world, especially when people are forced to live in very basic ways.

Across the globe, dance has been a central feature of human behaviour and culture for all religions, creeds, societies and ethnic groups.

We know from records, stories and rituals as well as from modern day observations of tribal rituals that dance - alongside music, singing, cooking and eating - has played a pivotal role in group bonding and identity.

We dance to teach - children especially - but also young people so they learn about relationships and love and mating and socialising.

We dance to tell stories, and dancing is in all sorts of storytelling.

Dancing is in customs all over the world, and dancing helps groups and communities stay and work together - to communicate, to bond and to feel part of the whole.

We dance for our worship and our churches and or Gods and our beliefs.

We dance to play, to rejoice, to entertain and be entertained.

We dance because it is part of our human make-up. Dancing is as much a part of being human as eating and drinking, as walking, seeing, singing, smiling, loving, and laughing.

If we do not dance, then we do not fully live.

However the significance of dance and dancing is not widely and fully appreciated. Millions of people simply do not dance - just as millions of people do not eat fresh fruit or vegetables, or walk, or smile, or love or truly seek to be happy.

So part of the purpose of this article is to encourage, enable, and facilitate more people to dance, and to use our minds and bodies more naturally, as they are made to be used.

This article's purpose is also to encourage people to teach children to dance - especially those who will benefit most from doing so - just as we want people and especially our children to live more happily and healthily.

So please take what you can from this article - vast sections of content - of just a simple single sentence or phrase or maxim - and dance for yourself a little more joy and wellbeing - or a lot - or help in some way in teaching others about dance and encourage others to dance - and bring a little more dance into our world - or a lot if you are so inspired - because doing so will surely make this world a better place.

    1. Main Index
    2. Introduction to dance and dancing
    3. About this article and how to use it
    4. Origins of dance - dancing in human history
    5. Definitions of dance - word origins, language
    6. Benefits of dance - physical, mental, workplace, society
    7. Who can dance?.. Everyone can dance..
    8. How to learn to dance and how to teach dance
    9. Glossary of dance styles and different forms of dancing - summary of the major dance types
    10. Choreography - dance choreography and dance notation
    11. Glossary of interesting and significant dance-related terms and people
    12. Acknowledgements
    13. Dance information sources - references, dance associations, teaching bodies, etc.

5. Definitions of dance - dance word origins, history... what is dance?

In the conventional sense, the word 'dance' basically means moving one's body , in some sort of rhythmical way, usually to the accompaniment of music.

However, the degree to which 'the accompaniment of music' and 'rhythmical' must feature in any definition of dance is matter of interpretation and opinion (especially in terms of technical language, and/or in terms of dance context).

Strictly speaking (no pun intended - the word 'Strictly' has become synonymous with dance due to the TV series 'Strictly Come Dancing') dance does not necessarily require music , and plenty of formal definitions do not require that music be part of any activity which legitimately can be called 'dance'. The matter of 'rhythm' or 'rhythmical' being an essential aspect of dance is also debatable, since plenty of legitimate actual forms of dance do not entail moving to a rhythm as such, especially when we consider conventional definitions of 'rhythm', which generally include the movement criteria of regular, repeated, systematic, measured, and sequential.

If we apply 'rhythm' and/or 'to the accompaniment of music' absolutely to the definition of dance, then a completely improvised 'dance' (that is irregular, non-repeatable, unmeasured, unsystematic, and non-sequential) to the sound of ocean waves, or the wind through the trees, or to complete silence, would not qualify to be called a 'dance', when by all reasonable appreciation it most certainly would be regarded as dance.

So we must be careful not to define 'dance' too rigidly, or we begin to exclude many activities that correctly should be called dance.

Now as regards more formal definitions and language, the word 'dance' is extraordinary for a number of reasons.

Firstly the word 'dance' is both a noun and a verb :

A dance is a thing - a noun . And dance is an action - a verb (a 'doing word').

Also the word 'dance' alone does not need the word 'a' in front of it, in which case it's a rather bigger sort of noun - like 'life' has a big meaning of 'life' (e.g., 'life on earth') as well as meaning your life or my life or a person's life.

So 'dance' is a noun meaning a single dance 'a movement to rhythm', and it's also a noun meaning the concept or entire subject of dance.

Let's look first at 'dance' as a noun..

Definitions of the noun 'dance':

These dictionary definitions are offered here with the warning, explained above, that we should not define 'dance' too rigidly, and especially we should be flexible in the notion that dance be rhythmic and accompanied by music..

The Oxford English Dictionary main definition of dance, the noun, is: “Dance (noun) - A series of steps and movements that match the speed and rhythm of a piece of music...”

Interestingly the definition from the 1922 OED is more flexible than the above modern definition, because it does not say that music is essential: "Dance (noun) - A rhythmical skipping and stepping, with regular turnings and movements of the limbs and body, usually to the accompaniment of music..."

Websters Dictionary (an important USA dictionary) defines dance as: "Dance - To move the body and feet rhythmically, especially to music..."

Definitions of the verb 'dance':

The Oxford English Dictionary definition of dance, the verb, is: "Dance (verb) - Move rhythmically to music, typically following a set sequence of steps..."

The 1922 OED definition of dance, the verb, is: "Dance" (verb) - To leap, skip, hop, or glide, with measured steps and rhythmical movement of the body, usually to a musical accompaniment..."

Samuel Johnson's 1755 English dictionary - the first dictionary of common English - says that dance (verb) means: "... To move in measure; to move with steps correspondent to the sound of instruments.."

Thesaurus words for dance, dancing, dancer

A thesaurus is a dictionary-type of book that offers synonyms - words of equivalent meanings - and similar and related alternatives to words - rather than strict definitions.

The equivalent/similar/related words offered by a thesaurus aid the appreciation of the meaning and range of the word dance, and its associated forms, such as dancing and dancer.

Here are some of the main alternatives and variations that a thesaurus offers for the word 'dance' and 'dancing' (from the 1982 thesaurus published by Penguin, UK).

Thesaurus alternatives for 'dance' and dancing (noun):

ball, masquerade, 'the dansant', tea dance, ceilidh (Irish pronounced 'kay-lee'), square dance, hoe-down' hop, jam session, disco, ballet, old time dance, folk dancing; country dance, Scottish dance, sequence dancing, ballroom dancing, Terpsichore, war dance, sword dance, corroboree, shuffle, soft-shoe, cake-walk, pas seul, clog dance, step dance, tap dance, fan dance, toe dance, dance of the seven veils, hula-hula, high kicks, cancan, belly dance, gipsy dance, flamenco, morris dance, barn dance, hay, hornpipe, keel row, polonaise, mazurka, fling, Highland fling, reel, Strathspey, Gay Gordons, strip the willow, Dashing White Sergeant, tarantella, bolero, fandango, cotillion, galliard, ecossaise, gavotte, quadrille, minuet, pavane, saraband, schottische, polka, waltz, valeta, lancers, foxtrot, quickstep, Charleston, black bottom, two-step, pasa-doble, tango. rumba, samba, mambo, bossa nova, habanero, beguine, conga, cha-cha, hokey-cokey, Palais Glide, stomp, shimmy, jive, rock'n'roll, twist, Paul Jones, snowball, corps de ballet, jitterbug, choreography, modern dance, solo, pas de deux, chasse, glissade, arabesque, fouette, plie, pirouette, rotation, entrechat, jete...

Those are just the main synonyms and words which might equate to a dance and dancing, and mainly from a British angle. There are hundreds more synonyms and alternative possible words meaning dance and dancing, especially when we consider more recent or informal or international words, that might not be included in official dictionaries and thesaurus books yet..

A similarly long list of alternatives would be shown by a thesaurus for the word 'dancer'.

Besides illustrating the depth and variety of words that exist for the concept of dance, a thesaurus perspective also demonstrates the vast cultural implications of dance, which is a different matter compared to the strict definitions of dance offered by a standard dictionary.

Other interesting points about the word dance...

A word that is both a noun - (especially where it is a single limited individual thing, and also an entire concept) - and a verb can be powerful, and this this is certainly the case with 'dance'.

Some profound fundamental words do not have these qualities - for example 'food', 'life', 'song', 'birth', and 'death', all of which have rather different verb forms.

Dance is in a special group of words - which are both noun and verb, and fundamental to human existence - for example 'love', 'drink', 'talk', 'walk', and 'rain'.

Moreover there are few words - in the same form - that refer to an entire universal concept ('dance' as a concept), and to a single example within the concept ('a dance'), and to a verb ('to dance').

  • Dance refers to the entire universal concept of dancing (big noun)
  • A dance can be a single event or action (small noun)
  • And dance is the verb to dance (verb).

So besides its more complex meanings and interpretations, the word dance is grammatically quite unusual.

A definition of dance/dancing according to its characteristics..

When a big concept can mean different things it is difficult to define it in a short sentence.

For example, a 'hatpin' is easy to define in a short sentence. There is absolutely no doubt what a hatpin is from the short definition, i.e., "Hatpin (noun) - a long pin with a large ornamental head, that holds a woman's hat in position by securing it to her hair."

If we try to define bigger concepts such as love or life or death or air - or dance - in a short sentence then we can confuse and complicate matters, either by offering a definition that is too vague, or by trying to cover all possible interpretations, in which case the definition becomes a big description containing mostly unhelpful information for a given single perspective.

So another helpful way to define a big concept like dance is to offer the main defining characteristics - some of all of which might apply to any particular example.

Here is a list of characterizing or qualifying characteristics for 'dance'. This can be regarded as another way to help to define dance. This is not an official list, it is created for this webpage by the author. You can devise your own characteristics if you wish, or adapt this. Remember some or all of these might apply, in order for something to be considered a form of 'dance' or 'dancing':

  • Movement of the body - typically rhythmic and coordinated or in some way following a pattern or method.
  • Usually, but not necessarily, music accompanies dancing.
  • Dance is a way of communicating and expressing ideas and emotions, as well as a way of exercising and enjoying life.
  • Dance is non-verbal, physical and empowering - it attracts interest and attention, and is an extension of human moods.
  • For many people, the urge to dance is an irresistible impulse, that starts at birth and lasts throughout life. Many people start instinctively foot tapping and moving to certain music.
  • Dance is infectious and communal - it is a natural social lubricant, bond, and relationship builder. Throughout human existence dance has been a main method by which men and women meet and discover each other, test compatibility, and date and mate.
  • Dance is also an art form. Dance performance combines the skills of amateur or professional dancers, ballerinas and choreographers, etc., to produce entertainment that can be intensely expressive, so that dance delights and thrills people, some of whom might not actually enjoy or feel confident in dancing themselves.

Origins of the word dance..

Origins of words offer information as to their meanings and history.

Chambers Etymological Dictionary (of word origins) suggests that dance came into English from French about 1300, firstly as dauncer, from Old French dancier, and before this either from Frankish dintjan (like Middle Dutch deinsen, and densen, to shrink back), or from Vulgar Latin deanteare, from Late Latin deante, meaning 'in front of', from de and ante.

Cassells etymological dictionary is certain that dance came into English from Old French dancer, to dance, 12-14thC, and which also became the modern French word 'danser' meaning to dance, and that these words came from Frankish dintjan, which is of uncertain origin.

Cassells also explains that the Old English word for dance is sealtian, from/related to Latin saltare, dance, in turn from salire, to leap, and which is the same Latin root as that of the saltarello, a Spanish/Italian dance for one couple, characterized by leaps and skips.

Samuel Johnson's 1755 English dictionary - the first English dictionary for common words - says that dance is from French, danser, and dancar, Spanish, and thought by some to derive from tanza, in the 'Arabick' language (meaning Arabic).

Interestingly the origins of the word dance via Latin through French became confused because there was a religious ban on dancing in the Middle Ages, which affected the evolution of the word. Significant in 'dance word history' is that dance was such a powerful concept that religious authorities in France decided to ban dancing altogether. English culture and language is substantially influenced by French (about 50% of English language is basically from French), mainly due to the Norman Conquest invasion (1066) and subsequent French governance, and widescale occupation and conversion of English society and national identity. The word dance is heavily influenced by this aspect of Anglo-French history. We 'dance' because the French (notably the Norman French) invaded and colonized England. Had the Romans or Vikings been similarly colonial, and left more of their culture after invading England, then our word for dance might be 'danza' (Italian) or similar, or 'danzleikr' (old Norse) or similar. Or if the Normans had not invaded, then given the prevalence of Germanic words in English, conceivably 'dance' would today instead be closer to the German dance noun/verb 'tanz' and 'tenzen'.

Within this brief overview of dance etymology and its main European equivalents, we also see similarities in the words for dance in the different languages, suggesting a very old word from a very old root, way back in time when European language was first developing from 'Indo-European' and similar ancient languages, prior to western civilisation itself, in the prehistoric times of hunter-gatherers. This was before the need to have words beyond the most basic in life - before paper and books and pencils and writing. This would be in the days when people's language vocabularies were spoken only, and included just essential words like food and drink, and run and sleep and sun and sky... and dance.

The word 'dance' in other languages...

This is delightful and interesting.

This is not a full list of all the international words for dance.

If you want to add one, please tell me .

This is the noun 'dance'..

  • Albanian - valle
  • Basque - dantza
  • Bosnian - ples
  • Catalan - dansa
  • Croatian - ples
  • Czech - tanec
  • Danish - dans
  • Dutch - dans
  • Esperanto - danco
  • Estonian - tants
  • Finnish - tanssi
  • French - danse
  • Galician - danza
  • German - tanz
  • Greek - χορός
  • Hungarian - tánc
  • Icelandic - dans
  • Irish - rince
  • Italian - danza
  • Latin - choro
  • Latvian - deja
  • Lithuanian - šokis
  • Maltese - żfin
  • Norwegian - dans
  • Polish - taniec
  • Portuguese - dança
  • Romanian - dans
  • Russian - танец
  • Serbian - плес
  • Slovak - tanec
  • Slovenian - ples
  • Spanish - baile
  • Swedish - dans
  • Ukrainian - танець
  • Welsh - dawns

The use of dance and dancer and dancing in historical language, slang, expressions, etc..

The words dance, dancing, and dancer feature strongly in English sayings, slang and colloquial (informal common) language.

These expressions and descriptions of dance imagery are part of the cultural history of dance - and life - and illustrate the richly textured relationships between people and societies, with dance and dancing. The varied ways that dance/dancing features in metaphors and common expressions emphasise that dance/dancing has been a deeply symbolic concept for hundreds of years in the English language, and therefore life.

Dance/dancing metaphors and expressions and slang feature widely in other national languages and cultures, so these English language examples below are just a tiny fraction of the extent of dance imagery, in language and communications to convey feelings and ideas, all over the world.

Eric Partridge's famous Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English first published in 1937 offers several fascinating uses of the word dance. These examples are interesting because they reflect society and language of the 1800s and early 1900s:

  • lead (someone) a dance - to cause someone excessive worry or effort
  • dance a haka - to exhibit joy - from and referring to the New Zealand Maori haka ceremonial dance
  • "(She/you/I will) dance at your funeral.." - a personal jibe or piece of banter or insult
  • dance barefoot - referring to a woman whose younger sister marries before her
  • dance in the half-pick - (Yorkshire England) reference to a man 'left behind as a bachelor, on a brother's marriage'
  • dance the reel of o'Stumple (or reel of bogie) - sexual intercourse
  • dance to a person's whistle or pipe - unquestioningly obey someone
  • dance the stairs - (quickly) burgle an office or flat
  • dancer - a cat burglar
  • 'fake a dance' - meant to improvise a forgotten step
  • dancers - stairs - incidentally Captain Francis Groce's 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (English slang) provides an earlier reference than Partridge (1937) for 'dancers' being slang for stairs.
  • dancing - locomotive wheels slipping on the tracks
  • dancing on the carpet - summoned to the superintendent's office for reprimand (this expression is nowadays shortened to 'on the carpet' - meaning receiving a reprimand at work)
  • 'dance' was a slang reference being hanged - a shortening of various longer terms including: dance upon nothing (in a hempen cravat); dance the Tyburn jig (Tyburn was the famous London prison); and dance the Paddington frisk (Paddington refers to Tyburn) - all meaning to be hanged - and also - dancer and dancing master referred to a hangman.

Brewer's 1870 dictionary of Phrase and Fable says of dance: "Dance. The Spanish danza was a grave and courtly dance. Those of the seventeenth century were called the Turdion, Pabasna, Madama Orleans, Piedelgiba'o, El Rey Don Alonzo, and El Caballer'o. Most of the names were taken from the ballad-music to which they were danced. The light dances were called Bayle..."

Brewer continues, and offers a list of the 'National Dances', which gives us a perspective of national dances as perceived in 1800s England:

  • Bohemian (Romany gypsy) - the Redo'wa
  • English - the Hornpipe and the Lancers
  • French - the Contredanse (country dance), Cotillan, and Quadrille
  • German - the Gallopade and Waltz
  • Irish - the Jig
  • Neapolitan - the Taran'tella
  • Polish - the Mazurka and Krakovieck
  • Russian - the Cossac
  • Scotch - the Reel
  • Spanish - the Bole'ro and Fandango

Brewer significantly also offers a list of 'Religious Dances', for example:

  • Astronomical dances - invented by the Egyptians, designed (like our orreries [an orrery is a clockwork model of the Solar System]) to represent the movements of the heavenly bodies.
  • The Bacchic dances - of three sorts - grave (like our minuet), gay (like our gavotte), and mixed (like our minuet and gavotte combined).
  • The Dance Champetre - invented by Pan, quick and lively. The dancers (in the open air) wore wreaths of oak and garlands of flowers.
  • Children's dances - in Lacedemonia, in honour of Diana, the children were nude, and their movements were grave and modest and graceful.
  • Corybantic dances - in honour of Bacchus, accompanied with timbrels, fifes, flutes, and a tumultuous noise produced by the clashing of swords and spears against brazen bucklers (small round shields).
  • Military dances - the oldest of all dances, executed with swords, javelins, and bucklers (small round shields). Said to be invented by Minerva (Roman goddess of wisdom, knowledge, crafts and war) to celebrate the victory of the Gods over the Titans. (Brewer refers to Minerva the Roman goddess and implies Roman mythology, when nowadays we refer more to the Titans and Gods war - the Titanomachy - being represented in Greek mythology - whether Roman or Greek, the reference is to the beginning of time, when the Titans were an earlier group of godlike characters, defeated and replaced by the Greek Gods of Olympus, i.e.,, Zeus, etc. It is in this context that Brewer asserts military dances being the oldest form of dance.)

Note that Brewer asserted in 1870 that the oldest of all dances are military dances, and he basically positions this assertion with Roman mythology about the beginning of time. This is not a modern scientifically robust argument.

Sayings and expressions including dance/dancing references:

  • 'Dancing on the head of a pin' - a criticism of someone's argument tactics on the basis that the tactics are concerned with tiny incidental or irrelevant matters and the main issue is not being addressed - (this is an abbreviation of a fuller expression originally used in theological or religious argument, 'You are arguing about the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin/the point of a needle')
  • 'Bring on the dancing girls' - a reference to introducing thrilling elements or entertainments for an audience or gathering.
  • 'Dance the night away' - a reference to dancing enjoyably into the night and probably early morning too.
  • 'Dance and the whole world dances with you' - said frequently in praise or celebration or advocation of dancing as a beneficial socially connecting activity.
  • 'Takes the cake' and 'piece of cake', and takes 'the biscuit' - especially USA - alludes to competitive dances for enslaved/poor black people in which the prize was a cake (hence also cake-walk)
  • 'Lead (someone) a merry dance' - refers to someone being caused great nuisance or wasted time by another person or organization, in providing obstacles or complexity in the way of a particular task or aim
  • '(It was a proper/right) song and dance' - alluding to an unnecessarily convoluted or complex process or experience in resolving a problem or achieving an aim.
  • 'Make a song and dance (of/about something)' - (this differs from the above 'it was a song and dance') - this alludes to someone creating or introducing or using unnecessary fuss or complexity or resistance in planning or doing a relatively simple task.
  • 'Dance attendance on (someone)' - act in a servile inferior way towards someone.
  • 'Have a ball' - have a grand and enjoyable time - alluding to holding or attending a ball dance.
  • 'Out of step' - failing to maintain cooperation or synchronization or harmony in a partnering or joint project or relationship.
  • 'All-singing, all-dancing' - reference to a piece of equipment or specification which contains virtually every imaginable functionality or gadgetry, including many functions that are not required.

Quotes about dance and dancing..

There are thousands of sayings and quotes about dance and dancing.

Many appear in books and songs and poetry and other literary works.

Many others are part of our social history and have no known origins - they just exist, and are used, because dance and dancing is so fundamental to life.

Here are a few of the most popular sayings and expressions about dance and dancing, and some other rarer quotes.

Quotations are helpful for people studying dance, especially from a sociological and literary or dramatic standpoint, and also they help us appreciate the countless dimensions of dance and dancing, and how dance can mean so many different things to different people, depending on culture, mood, season, and the purpose of dance, etc.

"Dance and the whole world dances with you.." (Anonymous)

"Let's face the music and dance.." (Irving Berlin)

"We get it on most every night.. when that moon is big and bright. It’s a supernatural delight, everybody’s dancing in the moonlight. Dancing in the moonlight, everybody’s feeling warm and bright. It’s such a fine and natural sight, everybody’s dancing in the moonlight.." (Sherman Kelly)

"Dancing in the moonlight, it's caught me in it's spotlight, it's alright, it's alright.." (Phil Lynott)

"I danced in the morning when the world was begun, and I danced in the moon and the stars and the sun, and I came down from heaven and I danced in the earth - at Bethlehem I had my birth. Dance then wherever you may be, I am the Lord of the Dance said he, And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be, and I'll lead you all in the dance, said he.." (Sydney Carter, 1967)

"They that dance must pay the fiddler.." (Anon.)

"He dances well to whom fortune pipes.." (Anon.)

"If I could get another chance.. Another walk, another dance with him. I'd play a song that would never, ever end. How I'd love my mother to dance with my father again.." (Luther Vandross & Richard Marx)

"Just wanna dance the night away, with senoritas who can sway. Right now tomorrow’s lookin’ bright, just like the sunny mornin’ light.." (Raul Malo)

Busy, busy and ever busy, I dance up and down till I am dizzy.." (John Skelton)

"Dance, dance, dance, little lady! Leave tomorrow behind.." (Noel Coward)

"Dance on the sands, and yet no footing seen.." (William Shakespeare)

"It is sweet to dance to violins when love and life are fair, to dance to flutes, to dance to lutes is delicate and rare, but it is not sweet with nimble feet to dance upon the air.." (Oscar Wilde)

"Spring the sweet spring, is the year's pleasant king, then blooms each thing, maids dance in a ring.." (Thomas Nashe)

"Buffalo gals, won't you come out tonight, and dance by the night of the moon?.." (Anon.)

"Dance with me, I want to be your partner, can't you see? The music is just starting, night is falling, and I am calling, dance with me.." (John Hall/Johanna Hall)

"Dance me to your beauty With a burning violin. Dance me through the panic till I'm gathered safely in. Touch me with your naked hand or touch me with your glove. Dance me to the end of love. Dance me to the end of love. Let me see your beauty when the witnesses are gone. Let me feel you moving like they do in Babylon. Show me slowly what I only know the limits of. Dance me to the end of love. Dance me to the end of love. Dance me to the wedding now, dance me on and on. Dance me very tenderly and dance me very long. We're both of us beneath our love we're both of us above. Dance me to the end of love. Dance me to the end of love. Dance me to the children who are asking to be born. Dance me through the curtains that our kisses have outworn. Raise a tent of shelter now though every thread is torn. Dance me to the end of love. Dance me to the end of love." (from Dance Me to the End of Love, 1984, by Leonard Cohen, 1934-2016 - Cohen reportedly said the song 'Dance Me to the End of Love' was initially inspired by the Holocaust, and the death camps and crematoria, and the story of a Jewish string quartet forced to play while the horrors happened. It became a love song. Dance is the central theme for this profoundly moving work, in ways that few other concepts could be. Please note that such a large extract is substantially beyond normal definitions of a 'quote', and you should seek permission from the author's publisher for any reproduction application that is outside of 'fair use' for educational/study/research purposes. Incidentally Cohen wrote lots of verses for this song, such is the evocative nature of the dance theme. Most of his verses were not used for his recordings and performances of the song, nor in versions by other artists.)

"We dance round in a ring and suppose, but the secret sits in the middle and knows.." (Robert Frost)

"All paths lead to the same goal: to convey to others what we are. And we must pass through solitude and difficulty, isolation and silence, in order to reach forth to the enchanted place where we can sing and dance our clumsy dance and sing our sorrowful song - but in this dance or in this song there are fulfilled the most ancient rites of our conscience in the awareness of being human and of believing in a common destiny.." (Pablo Neruda, on receiving his Nobel Prize, 1971)

"His feelings were made visible in medicine bundles and dance rhythms for rain, and all of his religious rites and land attitudes savored the inseparable world of nature and God, the master of life.." (Stewart Lee udall, about the native American peoples, 1963)

"...The delirium of flesh, the lovely dance that ends in nakedness.." (George Seferis/Sefiriades)

"A dance to the music of time.." (Anthony Powell)

"Praise him with the timbrel and dance.. " (Holy Bible, Psalms 150:3-6)

"On with the dance! Let joy be unconfined.." (Lord Byron)

"True ease in writing comes from art, not chance, as those move easiest who have learned to dance.." (Alexander Pope)

"Oh I should worry and fret, death and I will coquette, there's dance in the old dame yet.."(Donald Marquis)

"Dance mehitabel dance, caper and shake a leg.." (Donald Marquis)

"Will you, won't you, will you, won't you, will you join the dance?.." (Lewis Carroll/Charles Luttwidge Dodgson)

"Then turn not to pale, beloved snail, but come and join the dance.." (Lewis Carroll/Charles Luttwidge Dodgson)

"Advance twice, set to partners, change lobsters and dance.." (Lewis Carroll/Charles Luttwidge Dodgson)

"O body swayed to music, O brightening glance, how can we know the dancer from the dance?.." (William Butler Yeats)

"When I play on my fiddle in Dooney, folk dance like a wave on the sea.." (William Butler Yeats)

"Oh you New York girls, can't you dance the polka?.." (Anon.)

"The one red leaf, the last of its clan, that dances as often as dance it can.." (Samuel Taylor Coleridge)

"For I dance and drink and sing, till some blind hand shall brush my wing.." (William Blake)

This is a tiny collection of dance quotes. There are hundreds more, so please suggest others if you wish.

    1. Main Index
    2. Introduction to dance and dancing
    3. About this article and how to use it
    4. Origins of dance - dancing in human history
    5. Definitions of dance - word origins, language
    6. Benefits of dance - physical, mental, workplace, society
    7. Who can dance?.. Everyone can dance..
    8. How to learn to dance and how to teach dance
    9. Glossary of dance styles and different forms of dancing - summary of the major dance types
    10. Choreography - dance choreography and dance notation
    11. Glossary of interesting and significant dance-related terms and people
    12. Acknowledgements
    13. Dance information sources - references, dance associations, teaching bodies, etc.

6. Benefits of Dance

There is a lot of content here about the benefits of dance and dancing... This is because there are so many extraordinary, deep, exciting, and wide-ranging benefits from dance... and also I like to offer a big choice of materials for trainers and teachers (for your own learning materials).

Everyone can benefit from dancing - actually regardless or how well people can actually dance (of which more later) - and increasingly adaptable, inclusive, and accessible in different ways to people with physical or mental disability.

Dance offers benefits of one sort or another to every person living, and also to every community, and group, and organization.

Why is this true?

What makes dance so empowering and beneficial?

Consider first that people dance for different reasons, and these reasons naturally point to the benefits that arise from dance, and that are available to everyone.

So this list of reasons for people enjoying dancing gives several good examples of the main benefits and positive outcomes of dancing.

Reasons people enjoy dancing...

  • To express emotion. Whether happy or sad, relaxed or anxious - people dance to express emotions.
  • As a physical release. We can dance for fun and to feel good, and to reduce stresses in life.
  • To improve your mental health. Dancing can certainly help reduce mental health problems - exercise is proven to be beneficial for mental health, and dancing offers much more than exercise, depending on the type of dance.
  • As part of rituals. In most cultures today, probably all cultures, people still perform dance as part of a specific ceremony or activity, religious or otherwise, like the traditional first dance at a wedding.
  • For social and romantic experiences - people dance to make friends, build relationships, and perhaps to find a partner for dating or mating or for life - and generally people dance with other people to share the enjoyment of positive physical and sensual activity.
  • To develop and reinforce a common 'code' and mutual understanding among particular social or ethnic groupings - humans have evolved this instinct since prehistoric times - it was especially prevalent among dispossessed uprooted 18th-19th century African slaves, through to the modern day dances of street gangs, high-school students.
  • For team-building and group relationships - to share experiences, learning, aims, and enjoy a sense of community. Dance is an excellent way to break down barriers between people, boost collaboration and harness team dynamics to foster a better and more productive working environment.
  • As exercise. Dancing is now proven to be one of the best ways to exercise - dancing burns calories, tones muscles, and keeps bones strong. The many different types of dancing offer different forms and intensities of exercise - there are variations to suit everyone.
  • As a profession. Dancers, choreographers, ballerinas, teachers… many people earn their living performing, teaching and managing dance.
  • For entertainment - as a spectacle and experience for an audience - all sorts of dancing in all sorts of venues - ballet, street-dance, theatrical shows, burlesque, modern dance, artistic dance.

The benefits of dancing from a more scientific and factual viewpoint are given below in sections:

  • Physical benefits of dance
  • Mental benefits of dance
  • Stress-reduction (physical and mental) benefits of dance
  • Workplace and motivational benefits of dance
  • Community/society/cultural benefits of dance

Physical benefits of dancing

Dancing is increasingly understood and proven to produce extraordinary physical benefits.

Much of this understanding is from recently developed technologies and science, that are enabling new sophisticated physiological analysis of how the human body reacts to dance. This in turn has encouraged and enabled new research and study initiatives into the science of dance and exercise and wellbeing, etc., especially in universities, all around the world.

At a basic level, dancing improves physical condition in two main ways, and this has been known for a century or more:

  1. Dancing exercises your entire body (including connective tissue, nerves, brain, etc) which tones your muscles, and stimulates and sharpening your senses.
  2. Dancing increases the amount of oxygen that you take into your body - developing your cardiovascular system (heart, lungs breathing, etc) - because muscles and brain are being exercised and so demand more oxygen.

More modern research has now extended this understanding to the following broader and more detailed benefits.

Dancing tends to:

  • Improve the condition of your heart and lungs.
  • Increase muscular strength, endurance and motor fitness.
  • Increase aerobic fitness.
  • Improve muscle tone and strength throughout your body from your neck to your feet.
  • Help with weight management.
  • Improve brain functioning, particularly cognitive function - Learning a dance routine helps increase memory and general brain function.
  • Dancing definitely aids - inevitably and unavoidably - the development muscle memory, which is the unconscious capability of the nervous system and muscles to 'remember' and reproduce patterns of movements. Music greatly assists this process, which is a feature of unconscious competence . Muscle memory - and the ease by which you can convert conscious movements into unconscious competence - is hugely useful for all sorts of physical activities beyond dancing.
  • Dancing can help you to ‘reshape’ your brain so that, for example, you don’t get dizzy spinning. (For example, ballet dancers tend to have slightly different structures in their brain which stop them from feeling dizzy when they pirouette.)
  • Enable stronger bones and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
  • Improve coordination, flexibility and agility, because dancing improves the communication between your brain and your body.
  • Improve balance, posture and spatial awareness.
  • Dancing suppresses signals from the balance organs in the inner ear linked to the brain, so it can help improve general back problems and reduce accidents.
  • Improve sleep and counter insomnia.
  • Dancing tends to make you look younger and more vibrant, and helps delay effects of ageing.
  • A major physical benefit from dancing is that it gives you a 'molecular massage': Dancing shakes, vibrates and resonates your core, promoting detoxification at a 'sub-atomic' level.
  • Learning and practising steps can help dancers benefit from ‘superfluidity’ - which enables a dancer to glide across the dance floor seemingly effortlessly.

Mental and emotional benefits of dance

Besides the range of physical benefits that dancing brings, dancing also brings powerful mental and psychological benefits.

This includes improvements to:

  • Mental health generally.
  • Motivation.
  • Happiness and positive outlook.
  • Personal relationships.
  • Self-esteem and self-image.
  • Assertiveness and confidence.
  • Stress, anxiety and depression.
  • Bereavement and grief recovery.
  • Coping with life-changes and emotional trauma.
  • Ageing healthily and avoiding isolation and withdrawal.

Here's how and why dancing can help these psychological issues and aspects of mind, mood, and attitude..

  • Dancing helps you feel good about yourself: The human body craves movement, because it is designed for movement and activity, but modern life mostly makes it easier for us to sit or be inactive. Dancing satisfies our natural need to move our bodies, so that the mind and body are stimulated in the many ways described here and above, especially producing helpful hormones, and diffusing unhelpful ones such as cortisol, the stress hormone.
  • Dancing tends to help people feel more positive and optimistic about life. Learning to dance, and dancing itself, helps expand your imagination and appreciation of the world, because dance involves and connects to so many aspects of international culture and life as a whole.
  • As with any exercise, dancing releases endorphins, one of our body’s natural 'feel-good' chemicals.
  • Specifically dancing counteracts and diffuses stress virtually immediately - try it - it is physiologically impossible to maintain a level of stress while dancing. If you are very stressed you might remain stressed to a degree, but your stress level will reduce, and the more you dance, then the greater the stress reduction.
  • You feel more alert - more alive - as more oxygen reaches your brain.
  • You feel energised - because you are energised. Dancing energises you. It's that simple.
  • Your mental capacity and functioning are boosted as you dance - this is proven repeatedly by all modern research and advanced ways to measure mind/body.
  • You feel more confident, with a greater general feeling of wellbeing - again modern research consistently confirms this.
  • Your self-esteem tends to improve with dancing in social situations - and this also improves your social and communication skills, and how you feel about relationships, other people, and your self-image. Dancing socially and sharing the experience of dancing with others helps to validate and affirm you as a happy fulfilled loved person. This is supported by a vast amount of modern research which shows that enjoyable social engagement is a crucial aspect of good mental health.
  • Very significantly, dancing with other people removes barriers and insecurities - it is a leveller and remover of status/authority or inferiority or superiority - especially work-related rank - because it is a different environment and range of activities, that are very different to normal habitual relationships, and it so makes people feel and behave more equally and respectfully to each other. Where people have dancing expertise, the experts help the learners, and these learners in other situations might be the bosses, or the judges or the people in the big houses. And the experts might in other situations be the subordinates - but dance changes all this, because dancing is a different world. Dance is a leveller, and a new social order, where everyone can feel comfortable.
  • Dance can also help you cope with life’s more negative emotions and events. Dancing can help you come to terms with rejection, grieving and loss, and help you move on.
  • You can also experience feelings of euphoria and liberation, when you are completely immersed in the movement and music.
  • For those people for whom dancing is significant, or for whom dancing has appealed but been untried or inaccessible, starting to dance can ignites a major passion. Bringing a passion to life like this - whether for the first time, perhaps one you never thought existed, or rediscovering a buried past love of dance - is powerful and actually changes people's lives - because it changes the way people feel about themselves and their place in the world.

As with other enablers of emotional wellbeing, positivity, etc., dancing tends to motivate people to explore additional ways of improving your health and wellbeing. This is because you become more aware of your body, and you naturally then become more interested and drawn to other ways of improving how you live and feel, and how you take care of your mind and body and spiritual wellbeing.

Typically when people start dancing, especially on a regular basis, they become attracted and often explore ways to improve aspects of life such as and via:

  • diet - how we buy food, prepare it and cook it
  • what we drink - we might reduce alcohol intake
  • our approach to fitness and exercise - we might take the stairs more often, or cycle, or walk, rather than drive
  • we might start meditation or practice yoga
  • we might explore mindfulness and trying to live more 'in the moment'
  • we might consider a change of career or a bigger life change
  • we make new friends and this enables new relationships and shared social activities and interests - and all of this is amazingly good for emotional wellbeing and mental health - and living long and well
  • and we might share some of these ideas with family and friends, children, parents
  • and we might share some of these ideas at work or in other groups where we can inspire or lead others

So in terms of mental and psychological health, and in many other ways, dancing encourages people to widen their view of living more healthily and happily, and trying new beneficial experiences.

Dancing opens doors in the mind, and windows to the world, through which we can see and explore lots of life-improving things.

Dancing can help manage stress and anxiety.

Given the challenges of modern life, and the shocking degree to which mental problems can affect anyone - from simple mild stress to far more serious or even life-threatening emotional difficulties, it is appropriate to comment further and more specifically about how dancing can alleviate or resolve problems of stress and anxiety or worse.

As a therapeutic device, dance has been shown to be a powerful tool in the treatment of severe and chronic mental health conditions from depression to bipolar disorder, from eating disorders to obsessive compulsive disorder.

Dance is frequently proven in studies and personal stories to help manage stresses of all sorts.

Dancing can do this because of the variety of positive effects it produces in the mind and body, and in terms of stress or emotional difficulty this might be because:

Dancing unlocks or releases suppressed feelings which can hurt us or stop us recovering if the feelings are 'bottled up' or denied.

Dancing aids the processing of toxins in the body, which under stress become blocked. There is long-standing and widely held opinion that distress in the mind is directly related to bodily ailments. Massage, reflexology, reiki , and yoga are examples of healing our minds by touching or moving or using our bodies. Dancing is another way to move the body and thereby heal or care for our mind.

We do not necessarily need to understand how and why this relationship exists, or how doing things with our body actually results in improvements for our mind, for these processes to work. They just do, and so we can consider using these connections.

Benefits of dancing for workplaces and organizations - for motivation and wellbeing, etc

The benefits of dance for workplace situations - notably for the motivation and development of groups and teams - naturally extend from the benefits already discussed.

The main outcomes of dancing that impact positively on workplaces are:

  • Social interaction, relationships, and team-building.
  • Removing barriers between people and teams - by virtue of rank/seniority, department, geography, culture, age, race, and other differentiating aspects of groups and organizations.
  • Individual and collective mood improvement - helping increase people's happiness.
  • Individual and group health and fitness - mind, body and soul.

The process of learning a specific dance routine is both an artistic endeavour as it is a memory exercise. It therefore involves mental and physical discipline: structure, agility, strength and flexibility, particularly when we dance with others.

When we dance with others there are substantial relevant benefits for the workplace, in terms of:

  • Team-building and relationships.
  • Equality, and actually helping people relate to each other as equals and fellow humans.
  • Conflict diffusion.
  • Communications.
  • Mutual respect and awareness (see the JoHari Window mutual awareness theory ).

Dancing helps develop attention and concentration. It can boost ability to multi-task because dancing is more than just moving. When you dance you have to move of course, but you also have to be in control of your balance and posture, be aware of who or what’s around you (even if to avoid collisions), respond to the beat and rhythm of the music, respond to the lyrics, and follow the steps, or create your own interpretation.

For example, learning a dance routine requires that you:

  • Put your foot in the right place
  • At the right time
  • With your arms in the right place
  • At the right time
  • And your head in the right place
  • At the right time

Dance is a fusion of movement, music, space, communication and awareness.

Dancing improves physical and mental health and wellbeing, which in turn boosts personal and team productivity.

When people feel good, and feel better about themselves, people generally work better too.

Dancing is different from typical work tasks - Dancing tends to be very absorbing, requiring a level of movement and concentration and control that shifts our minds away from our normal 'stuck' or habitual thinking patterns and opinions and stresses.

Dancing - because it is radically different from normal 'work' - can open new possibilities for problem-solving, creativity, decision-making, and action. All of these things are crucial for effective working.

N. B. Emergent Knowledge offers interesting ideas and explanation as to how changing our position and what we are doing, changes so dramatically how we think and feel , and consequently how we then behave and perform and relate to others and the world.

When we dance our motivation increases, because as already explained, our bodies produce positive 'feel-good' energising chemicals when we start to exercise. Dancing produces lots of these chemicals, and generates particularly strong emotional feelings. Motivation is vital for being productive and cooperative in work situations, and also for improving our job and career prospects.

See the materials about motivation for more information and ideas about what motivates people and why it's helpful to do so.

Dancing makes us more alert, more creative, and more driven to succeed, or to overcome challenges.

Dancing makes us healthier and fitter, which helps performance, and reduces absenteeism.

Dancing also enables better awareness and understanding of non-verbal communication: ' body language ' - our own and other people's body language - all of those hand gestures, facial expressions and body movements - that make up so much of what we say and communicate.

By dancing, people can discover skills they never realized they had, that can open new and unexplored career pathways.

People who dance are also more likely to be open to new possibilities (because they feel happier, safer and less vulnerable) and so are more likely to find new opportunities - directly by meeting new people and embracing new skills that dancing regularly brings, or by approaching external situations with a more open mind and greater confidence.

Group dancing is an excellent teambuilding activity. Learning a dance routine as a team helps build team relationships as the group works towards a common goal. Dance help people get to know each other in a fun and non-threatening manner, and so helps remove professional barriers between team members that often get in the way of cooperation.

If a work group dances, then their collective creativity, motivation and work ethic all tends to improve.

Relationships and trust improve as people dance together. People dance tend to work harder, better, and smarter.

Dance is a tool for social change..

Dance has been an aid and driver of social change for thousands of years - and especially the past 500 years.

In more recent times - assisted by social networking platforms on the web - dance is increasingly recognised and used more proactively and directly to advocate and achieve social changes on a relatively bigger quicker scale.

Two notable examples, whose efforts to prompt highly positive social change have reached audiences of millions of people, are Matt Harding ('Where the heck is Matt'), and Peter Sharp (founder of The Liberators organization). Matt Harding and Peter Sharp have each innovated some wonderfully powerful ideas, using dance, with flash-mobs and street activities, leveraged by social networking - and achieved vast followings, to promote improvements in societal attitudes.

We can expect this sort of use of dance to grow, because it is irresistible to millions of people seeking inspiration and purpose, and this is further evidence of the extraordinary power of dance to generate good positive outcomes for people and our wider world.

The benefits of dancing In summary..

Dance offers amazing benefits for human wellbeing - physical and emotional, extending to reducing serious stress and psychological pressures.

Dancing, especially as part of a group, is highly motivational. It brings people together to share experiences, and builds friendships, bonds, and is often the beginning of marriages and families.

Dancing in various ways improves virtually every aspect human existence, for individuals and groups.

In an age of incredible technology and gadgetry, online social networking, fast-food, fast pressurised lifestyles, fashion, celebrity culture, materialism and artificial constructs, dancing offers some of the simplest easiest ways to feel good - that money simply cannot buy.

    1. Main Index
    2. Introduction to dance and dancing
    3. About this article and how to use it
    4. Origins of dance - dancing in human history
    5. Definitions of dance - word origins, language
    6. Benefits of dance - physical, mental, workplace, society
    7. Who can dance?.. Everyone can dance..
    8. How to learn to dance and how to teach dance
    9. Glossary of dance styles and different forms of dancing - summary of the major dance types
    10. Choreography - dance choreography and dance notation
    11. Glossary of interesting and significant dance-related terms and people
    12. Acknowledgements
    13. Dance information sources - references, dance associations, teaching bodies, etc.

7. Who can dance? Everyone can dance...

Put simply, Everyone can dance. Really, anyone can dance.

Regardless of shape, size, age, race or religion, ability and disability, anyone can experience and delight in dance, and enjoy its benefits.

This is because dancing takes so many forms - there is a type of dance for everyone - and because each of us has dancing inside us.

If you doubt this, take a few minutes to read about Multiple Intelligences Theory - you can even do a free self-test to indicate your own 'multiple intelligence profile' - and the degree to which music and body movement feature in your own personality. We all possess musical and body movement capabilities - some more than others - but it's basically impossible for a human being to exist who has none. Besides this many people are drawn to dance for its artistic and spatial and social/interpersonal qualities, and these are also separate multiple intelligence aspects that every person tends to possess to a lesser of greater degree.

Dance at its simplest is self-expression - so ability is irrelevant. Self-expression is utterly separate from, and and not dependent on skill.

If you have natural talent and passion for dance, learning to dance might be easier.

Also some dance styles are easier to enjoy and perform when learning begins at a young age (ballet, for example).

Nevertheless people can dance, and learn to dance better, at all ages.

Moreover, certain types of dancing are much easier to learn when older.

The variations of dance also make dancing accessible to people of all physical conditions - and mental conditions.

Disability is not an obstacle to dancing.

So ability and age and physical ability are not relevant. And we have already discussed the substantial benefits that can be derived from dancing by people with all sorts of mental challenges and conditions.

We know that human beings have been dancing for millennia.

We are genetically ‘hard-wired’ to move in rhythm and we are programmed to respond when other people dance. The global TV phenomena of Strictly Come Dancing and Dancing With The Stars are clear proof of the universal appeal of dance - competing alongside the most popular sports and dramatic entertainment - for what people choose to follow on TV and other media.

Nevertheless, there is a wide belief that only a few people can really dance, and that many people can’t dance at all.

Yet dancing is in all of us to varying degrees. When we are young we naturally move to music as soon as we hear it. We tap our feet and nod our heads spontaneously, automatically, intuitively, instinctively.

We dance at events, discos, functions and weddings, in front of the mirror, with friends, with our children and grandchildren, drunk or sober, in groups of tens of thousands (at festivals and sports grounds), and alone when no-one is looking.

We can all dance, but, of course, many of us do not.

Many of use choose not to dance; convincing ourselves that we are not good enough or we will embarrass ourselves. or we might think we are not a ‘dancer’.

Just as everyone can boil a kettle and make a sandwich, and plant a seed, and hum a tune, so each of us can dance if we choose to.

Dancing is for everyone, and everyone can dance.

Dancing and disability

It is important to note that dance is accessible in various forms to people of different disabilities - temporary or permanent.

Wheelchair dancing or Wheelchair DanceSport, which is well established in over 40 countries, and as an international competitive form of dance, is a wonderful example of the increasing adaptability and accessibility of dance for people who are not as physically able as the majority of dancers.

There are also types of dance for people who have visual impairment, and other forms of sensory disability.

Dance is increasingly used as a social, therapeutic, healing, and fitness activity for people suffering from mental challenges of one sort or another.

Dancing is also a hugely helpful activity for people who suffer from illness and disease of some sort, whether temporary, or permanent, or even terminal.

Specialist dance classes and groups exist now, and continue to grow, all around the world, for people of all ages who are impaired or challenged in some way.

Research is discovering more and more ways that dance can help treat, soothe, heal or comfort people who are battling physical or mental adversity.

Teaching and learning dance for dancers who have a disability of some sort logically requires specialist knowledge and methods, but the basic principles of teaching and learning are the same as for able-bodied dancers - particularly the concept that the needs of the dancers must be understood before learning/teaching commences .

In this respect dancing for people with disabilities is much like dancing for everyone else:

  • Teachers must be suitably qualified, and must understand the form of dance they plan to teach.
  • The dancers needs and capabilities must be assessed, so that teaching can be planned and explained.
  • Teachers and dancers should have a mutually agreed view of what the aims are - the purpose, the standards and measures, and opportunity for students to influence and control their rate and intensity of development, so that people remain happy and committed, and stresses and confusions avoided.
  • Equipment, clothing, and venue considerations must be satisfied properly, so that everyone is safe, and that people have what they need to dance.
  • Dancers' learning and development must be monitored, and students given careful sensitive feedback and coaching, with suitable reference to proven learning and teaching methods.
  • Appropriate notes of theory and instruction must be provided by teachers to students, so that dancers have a printed (or other media) reference to aid their development, besides the practical learning that happens in the class/studio situation.
  • Teachers must ensure that learning happens according to an appropriate mix of fun, enjoyment, social engagement, physical exercise/development/therapy, variety of dance experience, measurement/assessment/qualification, and perhaps competition too if wanted, and certainly lots of acknowledgement and recognition of progress and achievement.

Dancing for disabled people, and people howsoever challenged or impaired physically or mentally, is an aspect of dancing that offers unlimited potential for good - for societies and communities everywhere. Much of this potential has yet to be identified, and new ideas and methods are emerging all the time.

If you have an interest in this area of dance please follow your passion, because so much good can be achieved.

The benefits of dance, for people who are physically or mentally disadvantaged, are powerful medicine indeed.

So as you read more of this article - remember that with a little adaptation and imagination - dance really is for everyone.

    1. Main Index
    2. Introduction to dance and dancing
    3. About this article and how to use it
    4. Origins of dance - dancing in human history
    5. Definitions of dance - word origins, language
    6. Benefits of dance - physical, mental, workplace, society
    7. Who can dance?.. Everyone can dance..
    8. How to learn to dance and how to teach dance
    9. Glossary of dance styles and different forms of dancing - summary of the major dance types
    10. Choreography - dance choreography and dance notation
    11. Glossary of interesting and significant dance-related terms and people
    12. Acknowledgements
    13. Dance information sources - references, dance associations, teaching bodies, etc.

8. How to learn to dance. How to teach dance. Tips and principles.

Anyone can learn to dance, whether you teach yourself, or join a dance class.

If you join a dance class, having a good teacher is important too.

You perhaps already understand how you prefer to learn new things.

If not, here are some helpful references:

Tips about how we learn, and how best to teach others..

These principles apply to all sorts of learning - and certainly to learning and teaching dance.

As mentioned at the introduction to this article, people learn in different ways.

This is a simple concept, and extremely worthwhile considering and applying.

By understanding these different ways or styles of learning/teaching, and the natural preferences of the learners - and our own preferences - we can design or follow learning that best suits our needs.

From a teaching standpoint it is important to understand our own natural preferences and strengths too (including Multiple Intelligence profiling ), so that we know how best to adjust our own natural style/preferences/strengths to fit the needs of learners. For example, if a teacher has a strong preference for physical involvement and demonstration (kinesthetic and experiential), and is teaching a student who has strong visual and reading preferences for learning, then the teacher must adapt the teaching style accordingly. Conversely if we try to teach a kinesthetic learner using only verbal instructions and written notes, then the learner will struggle. Many learners will naturally prefer a learning style that is the natural preference or way of the teacher, and to a great extent dance requires and implies that much of the learning will be kinesthetic (experience, or doing it, rather than seeing/reading/listening to instructions); nevertheless the teacher must always ensure that teaching style/method is matched sufficiently well with the learner's preferences . It cannot be a perfect match all the time, and in group class situations, where there is usually a mix of preferences, it is impossible to please everyone at all times - moreover it is generally good for learners to experience all styles of learning, because that's good for growth too - so it's a matter of optimizing learning style as far as reasonably possible, rather than teaching/learning 'blind' and in total ignorance of the importance of learning styles and preferences.

In summary, whether we are teaching ourselves, or teaching others, it is helpful to:

  1. Understand the learner's preferred learning styles, so that..
  2. As far as possible we design/orientate/access methods of learning/teaching that match the learner's natural strengths and preferences, so that..
  3. We optimise the learner's absorption and understanding and use of the new knowledge and skills.

An additional way to see this is that we must guide the learner (even if the learner is ourself) through the stages of learning (see Conscious Competence theory ) in ways that as far as possible match the learning style preferences of the learner.

Tips about learning how to dance..

The first step (excuse the pun) is deciding what kind of dance style you want to learn.

Then decide whether to teach yourself or join a local dance class. Or a mixture of the two.

Tips for self-learners

If you want to learn to dance without going to a dance school or classes, then first decide which dance style is for you.

There are many dance styles - from ballet to belly dancing, from tap to salsa.

Each style is different.

Tap dancing’s fast beats are different to the sharper movements of hip-hop.

Some dance styles ideally or absolutely require a partner or group; other dance styles are more solitary.

To discover what you like, watch videos of the different dances online, and see what moves you most.

Look at the basics of each style to see what suits and does not suit you.

Maybe you like the way your hips would move in salsa. Perhaps you like the staccato and percussion of tap.

Maybe you like the social organized flow of line-dancing. Perhaps you would be thrilled by the sparkle and elegance of ballroom.

Maybe you seek the work-out and high energy of Zumba® (note that Zumba® is a trademarked protected style with licensed teachers and class leaders). Perhaps you prefer the challenge and edginess of burlesque.

Selecting a dance genre to pursue is partly a matter of the dance itself (its physicality), and partly a matter of the style and dress and situations within which the dance happens.

The music might be specifically defined by the dance style, as in Latin ballroom, or Lindy Hop or Swing.

Or the music might be much less specifically defined or implied by the dance style, as with modern line-dancing, which is choreographed nowadays popularly to many types of music besides its origins in traditional US/Nashville country music.

Explore dance magazines, dancing websites and videos, and dance books. Look for ways to understand the basics of each dance style, so you have a good idea of what to expect, and can learn about any specialist equipment you might need, for example different types of dance shoes.

Watch professional dancers and dance shows and other dance entertainment for inspiration - seek to discover styles of dance that are new to you, because these could hold more even more appeal for you than dance styles that are already familiar to you.

Many dance schools/classes offer free 'taster' classes that enable you to experience different dance styles to help you decide which you enjoy most.

When you decide which style of dance to learn, the process for teaching yourself to dance is basically as follows:

  1. Find or make a space to practice - minimum about five feet square - ideally with a flat solid non-carpeted floor, and where you can make some noise without disturbing others.
  2. Organize a music-playing system that's easy to operate and reach, and which produces a good sound quality so you can hear and 'feel' the music properly (again be mindful of neighbours and use a volume level that's acceptable for your situation).
  3. Choose some music that fits your chosen dance style.
  4. Learn to hear the beats - when you listen to a piece of music, hear/feel the beats, and tap your foot in time. This is also called the rhythm.
  5. Start by moving just your arms then add in leg and foot movements - really listen to the beat and allow and be aware of the 'feel' of your body, so that it moves in time with the beats (timing) of the music.
  6. Take your time - know that there are limitations and stages of learning. You will become a good or perhaps great dancer over the course of time, not immediately or overnight or in a few weeks. So give yourself time. Expect to learn gradually and enjoyably. Enjoy the time it takes and the journey of learning, rather than wishing to be an expert before you are ready. It takes time to learn to dance.
  7. Practise little and often - generally when learning anything new - especially involving mind-body coordination - it is much better to practise 'little and often' rather than lots all at once. If you try to practise for too long, especially early on when it is all new to you, your brain will become tired after as little as 5 minutes. To practise intensively for more than 10 minutes is not easy for experienced people. The brain has a natural limit of operating at high performance.
  8. Avoid risks of strains and overloading yourself by building up practice duration and intensity gradually and gently. Also build up your fitness gradually. You will be using muscles and tendons and ligaments that probably have never been stressed, and it is easy in early stages of new exercise to tear muscles and connective tissues.
  9. Focus on the basics and practice them until you are proficient at them, before moving on to more complex movements.
  10. Respond to the more subtle rhythmic 'feel' the music - after you have confidence in basic timing (beat), your body additionally might begin to feel and express more of the musical rhythm (the accent or emphasis of different beats and half-beats, etc) - for example rock and reggae might be the same beat, but the emphasis of the beats vary (these differences can be heard in all music to varying degrees) - so that your body reacts more fully to the mood and emphasis of the rhythm, in addition to the basic timing and beat.
  11. Use the pattern/shape/feeling of the music - all music has emotional variation and structural shape - and this provides additional cues/inspiration for your movements - for example in some dance styles and accompanying music the dance movements can be changed along with the different parts of the music, for example choruses, and stops, quieter sections and crescendos, etc. This is not applicable to all dance styles, and is not relevant to certain dance types; also much of this is a matter of personal preference anyway, so great freedom exists in pursuing these ideas or not.
  12. Consider joining a dance school or classes - when and if you feel that you would improve better or quicker with outside coaching, join a dance school or classes. While it's possible to develop considerable expertise via self-learning, you might find that your progress and competence - and awareness and scope - increase markedly when you expose yourself to help and guidance of good teachers and other like-minded learners.

When/if you decide to go to dance class or school, it's important to select the level best suited to your ability.

If you’ve never danced before naturally go to beginner classes.

If you have some experience in your chosen dance style, then a more advanced class might suit you.

Talk to the class provider or dance teacher to establish which level, or class, is best for you.

How to choose a dance class or dance school ..

In choosing a dance class and teacher, consider your lifestyle and budget, and your aims, for example:

  • What day(s) of the week is best for you?
  • What time of day is best for you - afternoons, weekends, evenings?
  • How long you want the class to be - 30 minutes, 1 hour, longer?…
  • How long the course lasts - 8 weeks, 2 months, 3 months. Can you commit to that length of time?
  • Is it a drop-in class or much more structured? A drop-in class can be convenient but you might find that progress is slow and patchy. A class or school that offers qualifications to a set curriculum will enable more structure and discipline, and probably faster progress, but this is not something that everyone can commit to.
  • Does the teaching allow/encourage a progression so that you can move to a more advanced class as you improve?
  • Is the size of the class suitable for you? Are you more comfortable in a small or large class?
  • How qualified and experienced is the teacher? Read his/her biography online. Anyone can set up a dance school or dance class but not everyone who does this is a good teacher. A good teacher understands people and the teaching/learning process, and understands how to lead a group enjoyably - a good teacher takes care of people (this is especially important for young people) and is able to support people's needs and concerns, fears and hopes, etc., in addition to knowing and being expert in the subject itself.
  • Are you attracted to the social/cultural characteristics of the other people in the class - will you enjoy being with the other learners, assuming group aspects are important to you - (this does not mean the other students must all be exactly like you in age and outlook, etc - it means will you enjoy being a part of the group?)
  • Where are the classes held? Are the facilities comfortable and good for what you want - the room/dance hall, floor, other facilities, etc? If you want a strong social dimension, is there a strong social dimension?
  • If you want to perform in front of an audience, does the dance school offer the opportunity to do this?
  • If you want to gain qualifications and gradings, does the dance school offer this, and is the school properly accredited with a good reputation?
  • If you want to become a dance teacher, does the dance school offer this training and qualification, and perhaps also opportunity to teach?
  • Can you get to the venue easily and reliably?
  • Do you need any specialist equipment? If so what, and how much does it cost?
  • How much do the classes cost? Can you afford them?

When you choose the perfect dance teacher and dance school or class for you, and continue learning to dance, again take your time - expect for improvements to come in stages when you ar ready, not immediately and overnight. Ask for lots of advice and feedback from your teacher. Teachers generally love to help students who are enthusiastic, positive, and love the subject, and ask lots of questions. Definitely ensure you ask for help with any problems that you encounter.

To progress faster, practise in your own time what you learn at school - at home and at dance clubs and other venues.

Learning a new skill is a mixture of absorbing knowledge, being inspired by mentors and teachers and other great students, learning the skills and techniques, and then importantly practising the skills and techniques .

The more you practise, the more brilliant you will become.

Tips for dance teachers

If you are an experienced dancer, then you might be attracted to teaching other people to dance.

You might want to become a dance teacher even before you can dance brilliantly yourself.

You might want to teach dance more than become a great dancer yourself.. This is perfectly ok too.

Teaching is a skill in itself.

Not all teachers have to be brilliant at actually doing what they teach. It's helpful to be good at what you teach, but it's not essential to be brilliant.

This is rather like the fact that some of the greatest football coaches were not actually great footballers.

Teaching is a special capability, quite different to dancing.

Of course you will need a good level of dancing ability and good dance knowledge to be a dance teacher, but to be a great dance teacher you do not necessarily need to be a great dancer.

Conversely there are plenty of great dancers - or specialists/artists in other disciplines - who do not make good teachers.

Being a dance teacher can be approached as a hobby, or part-time job, or as a full-time career.

If you are interested in teaching people to dance, then you will need to consider the following:

  • What dance style(s) are you going to teach?
  • What level of dance ability are you going to teach?
  • Do you want to teach beginners? Experienced dancers? People seeking to be qualified in dance? People wanting to be dance teachers? All of these?
  • Who are you going to teach? And particularly what age?
  • Teaching young children is in many ways different to teaching teenagers, which is different to adults, which is different to teaching elderly people..
  • Some things in dance teaching apply to all ages; other things do not. There are things about teaching little children that do not apply to any other age group. And the same applies to teenagers. And the same applies to adults and especially older people.
  • Where are you going to teach? Would you prefer to teach locally or are you happy to travel further?
  • When are you going to teach? What days of the week? What hours of the day?
  • How long will your classes be? Will they be in a drop-in style, so that people attend when they can do, or something more structured and progressive where each class moves students onwards?
  • Are there enough people to fill your class? If you want to teach a popular, well-known style like tap dance or ballet then it may be easier to fill a class than say flamenco or belly dance.
  • Do you want to work for somebody, or work for yourself? Or a mixture of the two?
  • If you want to start your own dance classes or school, how will you recruit students?
  • What sort of venue/hall/studio do you imagine using - what availability and continuity and hire cost do you seek?
  • What will you need to charge each student per class? How many students will you need to cover your costs, and earn enough money as your wage, and to reinvest in your development costs?
  • Or do you prefer to join an established respected company to teach dance - as a freelancer or employee, so that you can benefit from proven systems, structure, processes, support, etc.
  • Do you have the necessary qualifications and experience to teach dance to the level you want to, and if not do you know reliably how best to become suitably qualified and experienced?

Setting up your own dance class or dance school - starting your own business

Here are some guidelines for setting up your own dance class or dance school venture. This is effectively setting up a small business, even though it might begin with just a single hour-long lesson, once a week. It's still a little business, and you must follow some simple rules:

  • You will be self-employed, so you must notify your tax authority. In the UK this is HMRC (Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs)
  • You must obtain necessary insurances - for public liability especially, and ideally specialised insurance for self-employed dance teachers running their own dance classes or dance school. This is not complicated or particularly expensive, but it is extremely important. If one of your students slips and injures themselves at your class then you are personally liable, and so you need to be insured.
  • You must consider and decide what to call your dance business - even if it is simply "(Your name) Dance Classes", or "(Your name) Dance School".
  • If you want to use a brand-name that you think of yourself, then you must check that this is free/available to be used. You can do this by checking if there is already a dance business of that name on the web. Additionally you should check existing registered tradenames, which typically are listed and searchable online on a national authority for trademarks. In the UK this is part of the Central Government website.
  • If you plan to build a sizeable business with a website and potential international reach, then you should seek some professional advice about trademarks and registrations. In any event, you should ideally check that you can buy the website domain name for your chosen business name, because these days a website presence is helpful and important.
  • Ask for help from people about setting up a business. There are many things that you need to do that are not actually about dancing and dance teaching, but they are important for your success. These things are not especially difficult, but for many artistic and creative people, they are strange and sometimes do not seem natural or enjoyable - and so can be time-consuming and difficult to get right - they can even be quite (and unnecessarily) worrying. There are many people who can help you with these things - for example, find a good accountant or bookkeeper to do your accounts and tax returns. This will save you lots of time and money compared to trying to do it all yourself unless you are expert in such things.
  • There is a lot of help and advice on this website too for setting up a business, and for when your business is established and you wish to grow it bigger, for example marketing and planning . Also leadership and negotiating .

If you are establishing your own class or dance school, here are some of the things you must consider:

  • Establish and publicise the purposes and aims of your dance class or school.
  • Ensure you have the knowledge and experience and qualifications for the teaching that you plan.
  • What will each lesson include? How much time will be allocated to recapping and practising what you learnt in the previous lesson? How much time will you allocate for teaching new dance moves and skills?
  • How flexible will you need to be? How will your plan change if you find out that your students can’t learn as quickly as you thought they would?
  • How will you deal with a student that misses a class and falls behind?
  • How will you deal with a student that distracts others or is disruptive?
  • It is helpful in considering these questions and others if you write a code of practice , which you can give to your customers/students/parents (of younger students). A code of practice clarifies what you will do for your customers, and what you expect in return. It can be a tremendously important document, especially for a new business. It's important if you have staff too, or helpers. By having a code of practice you demonstrate professionalism and good command of your subject, and business, and this gives customers confidence in you. A good code of practice is also helpful if any confusions or misunderstandings or disputes arise, which can happens due to nobody's fault - just the way that people naturally make assumptions. A code of practice keeps things clear and transparent, and avoids areas of doubt and uncertainty, which otherwise can cause misunderstandings.

When you’ve started teaching:

  • Show your love of dance with enthusiasm and energy.
  • Communicate clearly your goals to all of your students so that they know what to expect and where they are headed.
  • Throughout the classes, ensure that your teaching is always supportive and encouraging. People can be nervous and easily intimidated so you can help greatly by the way that you teach and care for people.
  • Teach at a speed that suits all of your students. Set reasonable challenges that you are confident that they can achieve. Achievement builds confidence. Step by step, little by little, will advance people's capabilities much more easily and quickly than by making tasks too big.
  • Failing to achieve tasks seriously reduces confidence, and this hampers growth, and can actually cause people to give up entirely.
  • Teach safe dance principles, for example the importance of warming up and down: Include some time at the beginning and end of each class for students to warm-up/stretch and warm-down which can help prevent injuries, aches and pains.
  • Use language that communicates clearly and simply what you want your students to do. If you use dance jargon, then explain exactly what it means.
  • Issue good clear notes for students, so they can read about what they have been taught in their own time, and refresh their understanding.
  • Encourage students to support each other and to discuss any problems or issues that they may have.
  • Encourage students to practise outside of class so that they can perfect their new dance skills in time for the next class.
  • Encourage students to bring along friends to introduce new people to your classes.
  • Encourage students to sign-up for your next class so that you build up a database of students who will regularly attend you classes.

Teaching adults to dance can be fun and extremely rewarding. For many people, teaching children and young people to dance can be even more rewarding. Teaching children and young people however involves additional responsibilities and considerations, and this places extra demands on the teacher..

Tips for teaching children to dance

Teaching children to dance can be exhilarating and frustrating.

As well as observing the relevant tips above, you will need to plan your lessons methodically, be prepared for the unexpected and also you have additionally to manage the students' parents, which is a separate and quite different skill.

In many countries to work with children and young people, you must be approved by statutory authority as being safe and free of any past criminal conviction that would be deemed unsafe for children. This generally entail suitable administration and evidence, plus a fee and documentation. Only then can you start to actually teach.

Here are some things to consider for teaching dance to children:

  • What age group do you plan to teach dance to? Teaching a group of 4-5 year olds is different to teaching 14-16 year olds.
  • What venue is suitable for your target age group?
  • What day of the week and time of day are you going to teach? You will have to fit in with school timetables.
  • How long will each lesson be? Younger children generally have shorter concentration spans - and therefore require shorter classes and more breaks.
  • What equipment might you need to supply? You may also need to help your students, for example, to put on their dance shoes, and this affects the timings of your classes.
  • What will you charge for your dance classes. Per class, or per term? Or monthly?
  • How will you modify your classes to meet the particular requirements of your target age group?
  • How will you deal with a student who joins the class part-way into a 'term' or progression of learning.
  • How will you communicate with parents? How will you report on their child’s problems and progress while still being positive and encouraging?

Teaching young children can be particularly challenging. So designing a dance classes to suit their specific needs might include:

  • Always plan more activities than you’ll think you will actually need per class.
  • Allow for lots of repetition so that they have time to pick things up
  • Always keep your promises. (This applies to anyone, any age.).
  • Use imagery and 'pretend play' to enhance understanding, for example ask them to pretend to be the wind to get them to move their arms fluidly.
  • Don’t spend too much time on one step or skill. Spend five minutes or so on any one thing as younger children are more easily distracted. If you see that you are losing their attention then move on to the next as soon as you can.
  • Remember, even though it is a dance class, children are there to have fun. So keep up your energy levels and 'play' as well as teach. To keep little children interested, you, the teacher must always be the most interesting thing in the room.
  • Young children tend to watch and learn. They will carefully watch everything you do. So if you ask them to pretend to be a fish swimming in the ocean, then you have to be that fish first, rather than simply tell them to be fish.
  • Offer young children at least one choice per lesson, especially ' either/or' choices (for example, do you want to dance quickly or slowly?). Little children are not comfortable with big open questions/choices (what?.. how?.. etc) - they prefer yes/no, either/or, fast/slow, big/small, etc.
  • If you have a child that misbehaves all the time, then ask him/her to help you in some way, for example, hand out props, or demonstrating something.
  • Always give positive feedback at every opportunity. Children especially respond to positive encouraging feedback. Children respond poorly to negative feedback and criticism (like most grown-ups too..)
  • If you are forced to intervene firmly then do so calmly, and with minimum fuss, and then consider how to prevent a repeat, even if this means discussing the problem outside of the class with the parents. You have a responsibility to maintain and protect a positive enjoyable environment for the remainder of your students and the class as a whole. You are responsible for the quality of experience for everyone, and this must not be undermined by being too forgiving towards a single disruptive student, or a minority who cannot behave properly.
  • Say what you want to see, even if it’s not there. So instead of saying ‘I want to see straight arms,’ say ‘I’m seeing lovely straight arms’. This approach can be particularly powerful in encouraging children to do things.
  • Take great care when communicating with parents, who can be especially sensitive to any criticism about their child, although be mindful of your overall responsibility for the wellbeing and progress and environment for the whole class.

Teaching non-dancers, and people who are not necessarily excited by dance, notably as part of a team-building exercise in a corporate or organizational situation, requires a different approach compared to teaching people who want to learn how to dance.

Tips for using dance for team-building

Teambuilding is an exciting area of use and great potential for dance activities of all sorts.

Teambuilding - (or team-building, or team building) aims to bring people together and encourage them to act cooperatively as a group, rather than as a collection of individual people with their own interests and barriers to group-working.

Successful teambuilding transforms any business or organization, and there are many ways to make it happen.

Teambuilding comes with many obstacles and challenges, and these tend to vary greatly according to situation.

The benefits of teambuilding for any organisation large or small include:

  • Getting to know each other better
  • Build team spirit, better communication and improve morale
  • Encourage tolerance and understanding and a sense of belonging and connection
  • Create a climate of cooperation and collaboration
  • Improve motivation, self-esteem and personal and team development.
  • Develop trust, care, compassion and empathy between team members.
  • Improve understanding of team members skills, strengths and weaknesses
  • Encourage creative thinking and problem solving.
  • Improve job satisfaction levels, commitment and loyalty.
  • Improve productivity and profit levels.

A lot more about teambuilding and its benefits and methods are on the teambuilding pages of this website.

Dancing - in many different formats and types of exercises - is one of many activities that can help to foster good teambuilding.

If you are planning on using dance as a teambuilding tool, then as for any teambuilding activity you must plan your sessions well.

Designing and delivering dance classes and activities for teambuilding entails factors quite unlike dance classes for enthusiastic dance students. Here are some of the major differences and considerations:

  • A teambuilding group (for example workers from a department of an organization, or staff at a company conference) is likely to include mane people who have little or no interest in dancing or desire to dance. They might normally shy away from the dance floor and would not imagine joining a dance class.
  • Levels of fitness will vary greatly from person to person.
  • Ages will probably vary a lot too.
  • The people or 'delegates' in the group (in teambuilding/corporate training and conferences, people are often referred to as 'delegates') will possess mixed abilities and experiences, and mixed attitudes towards dance too.
  • Among the attitudes, some people will feel awkward, scared, embarrassed, inadequate, threatened, etc., so, as the teacher or 'facilitator' (a group leader in teambuilding situations is often called a facilitator, and also a trainer), you must be especially sensitive to reduce the pressure on people, and to find ways of making the activities seem relaxed, non-threatening, and inviting. Be gentle. Be kind. Be like a reassuring parent to a nervous child..
  • The idea of any kind of teambuilding can be regarded as a waste of time for some people. Enthusiasm will vary greatly from those who love and embrace the idea of dancing, to those who are resistant. So you will need techniques to help the insecure resistant delegates feel happier about taking part..
  • There will also be different levels of authority and status within the group - potentially from executives earning six figures, responsible for thousands of people, to new recruits and interns earning minimum wage, with responsibility only for their duties.
  • One of the great benefits of dance is that it levels people, and removes rank and status, and breaks down artificial barriers and prejudices. Helpfully using dance in teambuilding all this 'leveling' can happen without your intervention - because the intern is likely to be a more confident dancer than the CEO.. nevertheless you must be awake to the potential barriers and obstacles that workplace seniority and subservience can bring to teambuilding activities, and you must manage the group so that rank is not a problem for anyone..
  • Crucially you must also ascertain and agree (with the organization) the aims of the teambuilding activity, and how its success will be measured. You will do this with the organizational person responsible for using dance as a teambuilding activity, and consequently the person buying in your services. Typically this will be a training professional, or senior manager.
  • Organizations and corporations are 'results-driven' (just like your own business must be), which is a reflection of quality and efficiency, user satisfaction, and competitive value. Teambuilding is increasingly assessed in terms of the results it produces for the organization, beyond its 'feelgood' effects on the day. Therefore it's important to be able to explain the benefits of dance in a teambuilding context, to help the organization see the value of these effects. The benefits of dance in teambuilding - which are mainly (but certainly not only) improved attitudes, relationships, workplace cooperation and team-working, do not have obvious monetary or numerical values, but they do definitely equate to vast cost savings, and to vast improvements, which in an organization can be worth many thousands of pounds, dollars, etc, even millions. For example if two previously adversarial managers and their teams start working together properly - as a result of learning to like and respect each other through dancing together - then this can add millions in extra revenues for the organization, and will also save enormous sums in avoiding attrition, absenteeism, staff turnover, recruitment and training, etc.
  • The Kirkpatrick learning evaluation model is an excellent simple tool for understanding and assessing learning outcomes and their true values. A dance teacher, who can facilitate an organizational dance-led teambuilding event, and who can explain its effects in terms of Kirkpatrick's theory, or similar professional organizational language, would be considered by most good organizations to be an expert provider and hugely valuable resource. None of this is especially difficult - it's just a matter of understanding some basic principles.

Other things to consider in running dance-based team-building activities, events and services:

  • Venue -
  • Group size -
  • Session timing -
  • Activity/ies - exactly what?..
  • Outcomes - fun, success, effects, reward for participants, follow-up, results/change/value, organizational benefit
  • Preparation and training, pre-activity -
  • Equipment and clothing and props -
  • Refreshments and catering -
  • Type(s) of dance -
  • Costs and pricing -
  • Notes - specification, instructions, for organiser and delegates -
  • Measurement and feedback -
  • Reporting -
  • Contracts -
  • Health and safety -
  • Insurance -
  • Publicity and PR - internal and external

Here are the major considerations for the quality and content of the actual dance-based team-building activities themselves:

  • Explain fully to the delegates (and conditionally on their agreement and trust) the aims and approach and expectations, and the rewards and outcomes and benefits - seek agreement and input - modify aims and approach accordingly
  • Define the agreed tasks clearly, with clear measures
  • Use ice-breakers and warm-ups - relax people - make it fun, remember introductions are crucial especially for people who do not know each other well
  • Enable participants to see and understand and experience their achievements, as well as the fun and physical/social effects
  • Check and review - seek feedback and criticism - modify and adapt continually in response to the group, as necessary
  • Give positive feedback and encourage collaboration and laughter
  • Give lots of praise and thanks
  • Give more praise and thanks - use words like Awesome and Amazing
  • Make it as fun as possible - teams respond best if they are enjoying themselves.

There is a lot more guidance for managing successful teambuilding activities, and all sorts of motivational concepts and leadership theory on this website. Much of this guidance and information is not required until you have quite a big operation under way, although if this sort of work thrills you, then you will become a wonderful and extremely sought-after provider if you learn about these aspects of managing people and business relationships, alongside learning about dance and teaching others how to dance.

  1. Main Index
  2. Introduction to dance and dancing
  3. About this article and how to use it
  4. Origins of dance - dancing in human history
  5. Definitions of dance - word origins, language
  6. Benefits of dance - physical, mental, workplace, society
  7. Who can dance?.. Everyone can dance..
  8. How to learn to dance and how to teach dance
  9. Glossary of dance styles and different forms of dancing - summary of the major dance types
  10. Choreography - dance choreography and dance notation
  11. Glossary of interesting and significant dance-related terms and people
  12. Acknowledgements
  13. Dance information sources - references, dance associations, teaching bodies, etc.

9. Dance styles and different forms of dancing - summary of the major dance types

Since dance evolved thousands of years ago from play, through ritual and worship and celebration, dancing has exploded into hundreds of different styles. This happened mainly in the 20th to 21st centuries, when people around the world were able to learn and share ideas via books, and later through TV and more recently computerised and web media, especially online videos.

Today, new dance styles emerge anywhere and everywhere as new musical trends develop, tastes change, new moves are innovated, old dance styles are revisited and revitalised, and styles are blended and mixed in ever-increasing ways..

Globalization has encouraged and enabled a fusion in all sorts of creative forms, especially in music and dance.

This fusion of cultural and international styles in creative and performance art (as in cooking and fashion, etc) has produced truly infinite variety in all art forms, and this has certainly happened in dance, and the variety will continue to expand.

For this reason it is impossible to be very specific or absolute in listing and defining dance forms. terminology can mean different things; dances change, and new dances are given new names. Dancing is an extremely fluid range of types and styles, unlike animal or plant species, or chemical elements and scientific compounds, which by comparison to dance have relatively fixed unchanging names and organizational structure or hierarchy - technically called a taxonomy.

So the 'taxonomy' of dances, or dancing styles, is not a fixed structure. We might attempt to put all dances into boxes and levels within a 'family' structure, but it would not be certain or agreed, and other than some broad definitions, for example that a Waltz is generally a partner dance to the timing of '1-2-3 | 1-2-3...etc', or a Ballet is a classical theatrical dance form, or Linedancing is a group dance performed in unison.

To illustrate how things change, Linedancing used to be exclusively performed to country music, but into the 21st century lots of choreographers began choreographing Linedancing to pop music, or Latin music. Linedancers largely welcomed this trend and now only a proportion of Linedancing is performed to traditional country music.

Bollywood dancing was once limited to India, but now Bollywood dancing is everywhere. We increasingly see Bollywood dancing in all sorts of dance styles and dance shows, so that by the early 2000s Bollywood dancing had become mainstream internationally, and as such, along with other developments this is reflected in formal qualifications and standards, and in the accreditation of dance teachers.

Many countries and cultures have at least one form of traditional or folk dance. These traditional dances might even be 'national' dances, and/or they might have officially defined heritage and status (such as Salsa in Brazil). Such dances are deeply embedded in national and cultural history and identity. Examples of such dances are the Ceili (dance) and Ceilidh (dance gathering - pronounced 'kay-lee') in Scotland and Ireland; the Hora dance in the Balkans; the Setswana dance in Botswana; and the Kachina dance performed by Native Americans. Traditional 'folk' dance styles are for many millions of people a deeply defining part of what it means to be human, and a human of a particular nationality or race or ethnicity. The tradition is not limited to dance - it naturally extends and links strongly to music, to costume, and often to food, and important ceremonies, celebrations, festivals, religions and entire lifestyles, for example the lifestyle embodied by Brazilian Salsa, or by Flamenco of the Spanish Romani, and certainly personified by the Linedancing and country music heritage found across vast regions of the USA.

As cultures and economies developed through the late 1800s and especially the 1900s, dance soon become a hugely popular form of entertainment.

The entertainment-driven popularity of modern dancing ('modern' being since the start of the industrialised and computer ages) has led to the creation and spread of many of the dance styles now widely known and enjoyed - as participative and social dancing, and dances to learn and teach - as well as entertainment dance for audiences. In fact participative dance has now eclipsed entertainment/audience/theatrical dancing for many of these styles.

Many dances were 'formalised' during the 1900s, which enables:

  • consistent learning and understanding
  • qualifications, examinations, and teaching standards
  • universality (so you can dance the major styles anywhere with anyone)

It's helpful also that the leading dance institutions/bodies generally categorize the major different styles of dance, broadly as follows:

How dance types are typically structured by official dance training institutions

This structural example of main dance types is used by the IDTA (International Dance Teachers Association), one of the world's leading and largest dance teaching/accreditation organizations.

Dances are typically grouped into three categories, and these three main dance categories are:

  • 1. Ballroom & Latin (and Sequence)
  • 2. Theatre
  • 3. Freestyle

(Note that many 'National/Folk/Speciality dances' are excluded from this Western qualifications structure, and are explained and examples given later.)

Typically three main categories contain the major internationally standardized/taught dances, as follows:

1. Ballroom and Latin

  • Foxtrot (Ballroom)
  • Quickstep (Ballroom)
  • Tango (Ballroom)
  • Waltz (Ballroom - technically usually Viennese Waltz)
  • Cha-cha-cha (Latin)
  • Jive (Latin)
  • Pasa doble (Latin)
  • Rumba (Latin)
  • Samba (Latin)

2. Theatre

  • Ballet
  • Tap
  • Modern Jazz
  • Theatre Craft

3. Freestyle

  • Street Dance
  • Rock and roll
  • Linedance
  • Cheerleading
  • Dance exercise
  • Dance gymnastics
  • Disco

If you want to become professionally qualified in dance and/or dance teaching (in the Western world, or according to Western world 'international' standards) then it is likely that you would become so according to the above framework, by choosing a main category, which would tend to require you to become knowledgeable and skilled in performing the dances within the main category.

Please note however that there are many dances - and some hugely popular and recognizable - that are not generally included in the above framework (although arguably anything might be included within 'Freestyle', given the flexibility of the genre).

For the purposes of this article therefore we might imagine there to be a fourth main category of dances called 'National dances' or 'Folk dances' or 'Speciality dances ', and which could include for example:

  • African dance (perhaps the oldest dances on the planet, given the history of humans - there are hundreds of surviving ancient dances and variations - notable examples: the Adumu ceremonial Maassai warrior coming-of-age 'jumping dance'; the Ndlamu 'stamping dance' of the Nguni tribes, including Zulu)
  • Lambada (a partner dance from 1980s Para, Brazil, a hybrid of Salsa, Maxixe/Brazilian tango, Merengue, Carimbo)
  • Belly dancing (ancient Middle Eastern/Indian/Greek, originating 5000-6000BC)
  • Indian classical/folk dances (8-10 ancient main classical styles, notably Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Kuchipudi)
  • Bollywood dance (or technically Hindi Dance Music, derived from the Bollywood movie phenomenon, and among the most popular dance genres globally - increasingly featuring in 'Western' Freestyle and Theatrical dance styles/choreography)
  • Greek dances (notably Syrtos and Kalamatianos, popular at weddings, etc - there are said to be over 10,000 Greek dances)
  • Morris dancing (Old English folk dance)
  • Chinese folk dances (notably the Yayue from 1000BC, and the famous ancient Dragon and Lion costume dances)
  • Cossack dance (also called Hopak/Gopak - a Ukrainian national dance)
  • Burlesque (from 18-19th century European music hall entertainment/cabaret)
  • Ceilidh (pronounced 'kay-lee' - a traditional Irish/Scottish folk dance event/gathering)
  • Irish dance (also called Ceili dance - many different styles including those popularized by the show Riverdance, and which are danced socially at Ceilidh events)
  • Limbo dancing (African ritual/Trinidad and Tobago/Caribbean 1950s)
  • The Hora/Horo Dance ( also called the Chair Dance - a cultural, celebratory and wedding circular dance of the Balkan regions)
  • Country & Western partner dancing (USA, lots of variations, for example the Texas Two-Step)
  • Japanese traditional dance (notably including Kabuki, a drama-based dance containing the Parasol dance)
  • The Polka (central European folk dance from 19th century Bohemia)
  • Sword-dancing (an old traditional Scottish folk dance)

The above list of 'National/Folk/Speciality dances' extends to many tens of thousands of dances and variations around the world.

Some of the above dances are related/similar to dance styles that are included in the main Western formal educational/teaching framework (Ballroom/Theatre/Freestyle), or are dances that are commonly included in that framework, for example Belly Dance is certainly referenced by the IDTA as falling within the Freestyle category. Bollywood is increasingly referenced/used in Freestyle. Lambada is a fusion of styles arguably sub-genres of Latin ballroom. This complexity of classification demonstrates that it is actually impossible to present a definitive fixed classification of dance styles, and therefore great care should be taken when working with dance names, descriptions, definitions and categorizations. Do not assume that everyone understands Rock and Roll to be the same thing, or Freestyle, or Latin..

If you use dance style terminology so that its interpretation is very important, then ensure that you agree/clarify meanings to avoid misunderstandings.

How to classify dance types in other ways..

This section is useful for people seeking to be qualified in dance, or teaching others to dance. It's not especially relevant for everyone else, although it is fascinating.

There are some other important ways by which we can classify dance types, and which to a degree help indicate which branch of formal dance teaching and qualification they could be positioned.

Being able to make such judgments is useful for people deciding what formal dance qualifications to pursue, or for teachers and dance mentors who help less experienced learners make decisions about their chosen dance learning and qualifications, etc.

For example, a young person seeking to become a dance teacher might imagine that he/she should pursue qualifications in Freestyle dance, because it offers flexibility to learn and teach modern dance styles, but if the person's main passions are for partner dancing , then perhaps Ballroom/Latin would be a more appropriate qualification.

Similarly, a young person might imagine that formal Ballroom/Latin is his/her best qualifications direction (perhaps because of the allure of Strictly Come Dancing or dancing with The Stars on TV), but if he/she has a strong passion for performance and stage dancing - to an audience, under lights and dancing alone and/or in a show situation - then Theatrical dance training might be more appropriate.

It is therefore useful to consider that dancing can be categorized loosely according to rather different factors than the typical dance qualifications structure shown above.

Here are some of the other main characteristics of dance types that can help suggest a dance's genre and formal dance classification in terms of considering the dance's classification, and choosing direction for learning and qualifications, etc.

Using several of the perspectives below - rather than just one - can help when trying to position or understand or explain how different dances or dance preferences relate to formal dance classifications, and qualifications/teaching direction and decisions.

  • Partner dance/dancing - if a dance - or a person's preference - is mainly for partner dancing, then this tends to suggest a strong relevance to Ballroom/Latin. There are of course many non-Ballroom/Latin dances that allow or require partner dancing, but the main classification for qualifications involving partner dancing is Ballroom/Latin.
  • Sequence dancing - if a dance - or a person's preference - is for sequence dancing then this tends to indicate major relevance to Ballroom/Latin. Interestingly sequence dancing is actually older than Ballroom/Latin dancing, so sequence dancing also remains strongly connected to less formal 'National dances' and 'Folk dances' that generally are classified outside of formal dance qualifications structures (for example including Square dances, Country dances, Polka, Old-time Waltz and Cakewalk dances).
  • Performance dance - if a dance - or a person's preference - is for performance dancing - on a stage, in a theatrical situation, to an audience - then this tends to suggest a strong connection to the main Theatrical classification of dance qualifications and teaching, which contains the main theatrical dance forms of: Ballet, Tap dancing, and Modern dance, and the related dance types typically called Contemporary dance and Lyrical dance. Performance dance is arguably an informal term for Theatrical or Stage dance.
  • Social dancing - if a dance - or a person's preference - is for social dancing - i.e., where there is a strong bias/emphasis on groups of people dancing, then this probably suggests the formal Freestyle dance qualifications classification and learning/teaching avenue, although of course most 'National/Folk dances' are also highly social forms of dance. Theatrical dance is not typically considered social dancing, although Burlesque and Pole Dancing (which are arguably 'performance' or stage/theatrical/audience dancing) are often used as social dancing activities. Ballroom/Latin dancing of course adapts well to socially motivated dancing, but in terms of formal training, the main social dances tend to be classified and taught/accredited within the Freestyle classification, for example, Line Dancing, Dance Exercise, Lindy Hop, Disco, Breakdance, Dancehall, Swing, etc.

The issue of dance classification can be important for people seeking a career in dance, because professional dancing and teaching tends to require (initially, and progressively) decisions about which formal dance category or branch to study, learn, and in which to become qualified.

For everyone else - i.e., people simply seeking to dance for fun or fitness or personal fulfilment, etc - the issue of dance classification is largely irrelevant, although it is interesting and to many people extremely fascinating.

It is fabulous to dance, and it's also wonderful to understand more about dance from a technical, historical and cultural viewpoint.

Here are more detailed descriptions of some of the main dance styles, including the dances which are included in many standard teaching classifications.

Summary descriptions of popular dance styles, genres, dance events.

This listing is more than a simple collection of popular technical dance forms and dance styles - it's a broader presentation of significant dance styles and dance activities, illustrating how dance reflects and influences our world - notably human lifestyles, societies, attitudes, behaviours - and the relationship between art and civilization.

This means that some entries in this listing are not technical or formal dance styles (as would be defined by fixed choreographed steps, etc) - for example 'Baroque', 'Rave', 'Ice Dance', 'Roller Dance', and 'Wheelchair Dancing' - instead, entries like this may represent wider cultural aspects of dance, and which may contain a number of formal or informal dance styles.

Several other broader or more vaguely defined dance genres and dance styles are featured in the Glossary of interesting and significant dance-related terms and people below.

Note also that where reference is made here to formal dance qualifications and teaching classifications, this is based on the modern structure developed by the IDTA (International Dance Teachers Association), which is a world-leading dance institute, with a global reach and membership.

For clarity in this listing, capital letters are generally used at the beginning of the names of the dances and dance genres, especially in connection with 'proper nouns' and names. Normally 'proper' nouns/names, e.g., placenames such as Charleston, and 'brands' such as Bollywood and Zumba®, require the first letters to be capitalized. For clarity and emphasis in this article terms such as 'Classical Ballet' are also generally capitalized. If you excerpt from this article to produce your own writing about dance please decide for yourself a capitalization format to suit your situation.

Note that dance names are open to considerable interpretation.

Here below are brief introductory descriptions of the dances, and where appropriate some interesting background information. This listing does not offer precise technical definitions of each dance form, for which you should consult suitably detailed dance reference materials (for example provided by a good qualified dance teacher) for each dance concerned.

This is not an exhaustive list of dances. It's a list of some of the most common and popularly known dance forms, together with a few other dance types that are fascinating or interesting in other ways.

  • Ballet - Originating in Italy during the Renaissance (14-16th centuries), Ballet is the highest standard of dance according to several major criteria. Ballet is a supremely artistic and expressive dance style, which entails learning and performing precise and highly formalized steps and gestures. Choreography, costume, and music are all significant and rigorously integrated with ballet dance performance, which ultimately is high entertainment, and at the upper end of the scale some consider elitist and less accessible than other dance forms. In its expert form ballet is tremendously demanding physically. Leading ballet dancers are effectively world-class athletes as well as dancers, and the level of muscular/bodily control equivalent to that of Olympic gymnasts. Ballet is nevertheless characterized mainly by relatively light, graceful movements. Dancers wear 'pointe' ballet shoes with reinforced toes, so that they can dance mainly on tip-toe. Famous ballet dancers include Darcey Bussell, Vaslav Nijinsky, Anna Pavlova, Rudolf Nureyev, Margot Fonteyn and Mikhail Baryshnikov and Sylvie Guillem. Ballet was popularized in France initially via the royal court and patronage, from the late 1600s, and rather later in Russia, Denmark and the UK, late 1800s/early 1900s. The defining and teaching and choreographing of ballet from the 18th to early 20th centuries marked the beginnings of modern formalised classical dance, which enabled the inspiration and direct evolution of many other dance forms, notably for theatre, stage and concert performance.
  • Barn Dance - A Barn Dance (UK terminology) is a traditional dance gathering or event for social dancing in pairs and particularly groups. In the USA the term Barn Dance may refer instead to specific rural American 4/4-time dance form, from the early 1800s, danced to a song 'Dancing in the Barn', originally called 'Military Schottische'. A Barn Dance (UK) is typically guided by a 'caller' (of the steps and movements), who instructs the dancers in country dancing or or folk dances, such as Square Dances, and other forms of traditional 'country' dancing. The Barn Dance is an English version of this form of dance gathering, which exists popularly in many variations around the world, originating from days when rural communities were strongly connected, in which farming and agriculture was central to the village way of life, and people made their own entertainment with live country/folk music and dance. Nowadays most Barn Dances are a recreation of this experience, rather than being a regular naturally occurring feature of modern community life. An example of a national equivalent is the Irish/Scottish/Gaelic dance event called a Ceilidh (pronounced 'kay-lee').
  • Baroque Dance - Baroque dance is among several major art forms covered by the Baroque style and historical period, including art and sculpture, architecture, music, literature, and theatre. The Baroque style/period is generally considered to have begun c.1600 in Rome, Italy, and then spread across Europe, being extremely popular through the 1600s and 1700s. Baroque style is characterized by exaggerated movement (of dance and music) and very clear, ornate, easily understood features and meanings, so as to convey great dramatic effect, and grand 'larger-than-life' impacts. Socially, Baroque style - and its sense of connecting powerfully detailed art to human emotions and awe - was encouraged by the Catholic Church in response to the split away and Protestant 'Reformation' beginning in the 1700s. Baroque Dance is significant in dance history because of this social/political/religious association, and also because it was the first dance to be choreographed and notated in a formal or academic system (giving rise to the first 'dance notation' system, devised by Frenchman Pierre Beauchamp, published in 1700 for Baroque dance as the Beauchamp-Feuillet notation method). the word Baroque is from French meaning 'rough pearl'.
  • Belly Dance - Belly dancing one of the oldest dance styles, originating in its modern form with many variations in the Middle East (extending to North Africa, Balkans and Arab regions), deriving in part from ancient folk custom dating back to the Roman and Greek civilisations. In Arabic, belly dance is known as Raqs Sharqi (Eastern Dance) or Raqs Beledi (Country/Folk Dance). Belly dance is concentrated in torso movement, and while the iconic image is of scantily dressed women dancers, in many cultures belly dancing is popular with men, notably at celebratory events and festivals, etc. Good belly dancers are able to isolate different parts of the body and move them independently, in sensuous patterns and routines. Belly dancing has become a popular social and fitness dance form in recent times among non-dancers, seeking a fun enjoyable dancing activity which also offers a liberating sense of self-fulfilment and discovery. Famous belly dancers include Badiaa Masabni, Tahiya Karioka, Beba Ezzedin, Dina, Faten Salama and Delilah.
  • Bollywood dancing - The Bollywood dance form has become one of the most popular globally, and demonstrates the tremendous speed and scale of change that can be seen in dance development. Bollywood dance evolved from classical Indian dance styles, in a fusion with more modern dance, and became hugely popularized by the national and later global success of the Indian Bollywood film industry (the biggest in the world since the late 1900s). Bollywood dance uses detailed movements of hands, feet, neck and head, with facial expressions that convey the story of each dance. Bollywood refers to a dance form, and also the wider Bollywood entertainment genre of India, which has now spread around the world. The portmanteau word Bollywood is from the 1970s, alluding to Hollywood, and borrows the B from Bombay, being the previous name of Mumbai, the centre of the Indian film industry. Bollywood as an entertainment dance is arguably the most popular 'watched' dance form globally in the early 21st century, and likely remaining so for decades. Famous Bollywood dancers include Ranbir Kapoor, Shaid Kapoor, Katrina Kaif, Helen, Mithun Chakraborty, Madhuri Dixit, Prabhu Deva and Hrithik Roshan.
  • Breakdance - Breakdance originated in the 1970s in the USA, specifically among Puerto Rican and African-American street gangs in New York City's Bronx district. It has a fascinating history. Breakdance is also called B-boying or Breaking, and is traditionally accompanied by hip-hop music, funk music, and/or breakbeat sampling (the looping and variation of a particular percussive groove section from a song). More varied musical accompaniments are now used, since the breakdancing style has become mainstream and popularized, although all breakdancing generally entails fast moving funk rhythms and great emphasis on percussion and bass sounds. Breakdancing began as a street display and part of serious gang culture, and soon moved into dance venues and onto the stage. Elements have been copied and adopted, typically in milder versions, into other dance forms (for example the English Northern Soul genre of the late 1900s). In addition to self-entertainment/personal growth, and entertaining and impressing bystanders, breakdancing was/is also a modern type of wardance or warrior exhibition. It was an alternative to, and development from fighting, and a way of settling gang rivalries. We can see this as a direct comparison with the use of dance by prehistoric humans. Breakdancing contains spins, transitions, freezes, floor work and movements of power and great athletic control. Breakdance is a fabulously innovative dance form, traditionally containing four elements known as toprock (body moves with static feet), downrock (hands and body on floor supporting athletic moves), power moves (strength and athleticism flips etc), and freezes (sudden stops, especially in stress or acrobatic positions that would be impossible for most competent athletes). Like many other street inventions, breakdancing dancemove terminology is a language of its own, (Airbaby, Hollowback, Sandwich flare, Eggbeaters, Boomerangs, Darkhammer, etc...). The breakdance genre is utterly fascinating for students of life and society as well as dance. Famous break-dancers include Adam Sevani, B-boy Junior, Crazy Legs, Bboy The End, Ana “Rokafella” Garcia and BGirl Terra.
  • Burlesque - Modern burlesque dancing began in the 19th century, perhaps derived from earlier concepts in Ancient Greece, although the distinctive elements of today's burlesque dance and entertainment are unequivocally from the 1800s and 1900s. The word burlesque is from Italian burlesco, burla, a joke, ridicule or mockery, and it refers to wider genre of theatre than dance alone, which features parody and caricature of serious things, typically involving big brash effects and costumes and exaggeration, as if to magnify and make ordinary serious things ridiculously glitzy and bursting with atmosphere. Burlesque dancing is now a popular genre in its own right, especially since the decline of the music halls and theatrical shows. Burlesque dancing is not especially demanding physically or technically, and offers flexibility to incorporate/adapt most styles - solo or in formation, and is generally a stage or theatre-style routine, which seeks high audience engagement. Burlesque dancers may actually involve members of the audience in routines, and certainly routinely throw gloves and other items of clothing and props into the audience. Burlesque is a very accessible inclusive dance for adults, (besides its sexual daring, which does not appeal to everyone). All shapes and sizes of people, and levels of fitness and technical prowess are accommodated within Burlesque, and in this respect burlesque is a wonderful joyous and unusual form of dance. Burlesque has throughout its evolution developed an increasing level sexuality and daring - much like other forms of entertainment. Burlesque is a highly original and quirky form of dance, being a mixture of sensual and overt sexual display and allusion, blended with comedy and irony, outrageous costumes and props, and all enormous fun. Burlesque does not take itself overly seriously, although dancers and choreographers may be as committed and dedicated in attitude and purpose as in any other genre. Burlesque seeks to make fun and entertainment by amusing the dancers as well as the audience, an in this regard burlesque is distinct from many other old classical forms of dance. Burlesque is both elegant and satirical and typically involves corsets, gloves, feathers and plenty of glitter. And that's just for the men. The ladies may be for more extravagant. Burlesque dance music is increasingly varied, although it tends always to have a fun populist highly dramatic glamorous feel, with lots of saucy sexy undercurrents. Burlesque dancing is increasingly popular as a social and fitness activity, in similar ways to belly dancing, although burlesque is more daring, not least because it is more likely to entail performance to an audience, if only in a local hall or small venue. There is a strong connection between burlesque and transgender and transexual entertainment, evocative of French/German cabaret, and the music hall entertainment of the mid-1900s. There is also a strong connection with striptease and erotic dance, and much burlesque dancing is absolutely not suitable for children. Famous burlesque dancers include Lydia Thompson and the "British Blondes", Gypsy Rose Lee, Mae West, Sally Rand and Dita von Teese.
  • Cha-Cha-Cha - The cha-cha-cha - also called the cha-cha - is one of the main Latin dances, and is within the family of essential Latin ballroom dances as defined by dance theory, schools and qualifications, etc. In traditional pure form the cha-cha-cha is a partner dance, although its movements occur in other non-partner dance genres. The cha-cha-cha has Cuban origins, evolving into formally defined steps/musical rhythm in the 1950s Americas, from older Cuban Mambo styles. The cha-cha-cha is known for its appealing and highly compelling Latin rhythm, which combines slow and energetic dance moves. The name cha-cha-cha is onomatopoeic (it sounds like the the thing that it is) - specifically the original Cuban and the ballroom cha-cha-cha count is "...two, three, chachacha..." - being the split-beat percussion/timing and the sound of the dance steps, and distinctively a three-step 'chasse' which confusingly occurs at the end of a bar (cha-cha) and the start of the next bar (cha). Fortunately it's a lot easier to do than explain... Famous cha-cha-cha dancers include Slavik and Karina, Slavik and Anna, Peter and Kristina Stokkebroe and Brian and Carmen Watson.
  • Character Dance - The term Character Dance has meanings besides its technical classical interpretation, so like some other dance terms its use should be clarified where confusion can arise. In classical dance and ballet terminology Character Dance refers to dance and choreography based on national dance styles and folk dancing, typically from Europe, and which may or may not be integrated within a ballet, and which usually suggests a recognisably distinct human or character role - such as a jester or policemen or woodcutter, or a village idiot, or a supernatural creature, etc. Mime is usually a major component in Character Dance, especially that of a single character. The effect of classical Character Dance is the representation of a (normally human) character's function, or trade, or occupation. In a classical context this may be based on movements originating in national/folk/rustic dances that existed and offered such elements during the development of ballet in the 19th century. In ballet and non-ballet Character Dance, the dancer usually wears non-pointe shoes - perhaps even boots depending on the character. Ballet tradition is for a Character dancer to be of shorter stature than the other cast members. A ballet Character dancer might also be an older dancer, playing an old person character. Character Dance scenes, often featuring several dancers, are found in classic choreography of many famous ballet works, notably The Sleeping Beauty, and a series of national dances in Swan Lake. Character Dance may be used in classical ballet for contrast and uplift, and to offer the audience a light-hearted or more obviously or crudely or rustically defined part of the overall performance. Character Dance in this classical sense also exists in its own right as a skill and performance dance form. Besides the classical technical interpretation of meaning, Character Dance can instead refer more loosely (and arguably technically incorrectly) to any portrayal of a character in theatrical dance, or may refer simply to national/folk dances, or ethnic dance dancing.
  • Charleston - The Charleston dance (derived from Afro-American tradition, and named after Charleston city, South Carolina) was defined and popularized in 1920s USA, by the song The Charleston, by James Johnson, written for the 1923 Broadway show Runnin' Wild. Previously the dance was less well defined. The music is syncopated with ragtime influences. The popularity of the Charleston was at the time of American prohibition, when alcohol was illegal and forced 'underground', with music and dance and cabaret, into illegal clubs called 'speakeasies'. The Charleston dance and lifestyle, including distinctive 1920s fashion in clothing, hair, shoes, jewellery, non-curvy figures, make-up, long cigarette-holders, etc., are associated with young adventurous women of the time, called 'flappers', whose dancing of the Charleston provided iconic imagery of the 'Roaring Twenties', and the increasing independence/confidence of women between the world wars. The Charleston dance entails vigorous forward and backward movements, feet-twisting and short-stepping, with kicking, embellished with highly stylised hand movements. In the Charleston there is relatively little side-to-side movement, nor much coverage around the dance floor. Dancers are encouraged to add their own variations and personality to attract maximum attention. In pure form the Charleston is a partner dance. Charleston dancers include Josephine Baker and Bee Jackson, and most of the extras to have appeared in American 1920s gangster movies.
  • Cheerleading - Cheerleading - originally cheering, rather than dance and acrobatics as it is now - began as an all-male American college activity in the 1870s alongside the development and promotion of college sports and the increasing independence and empowerment of students. Females were permitted to join cheerleading groups in the 1920s, and the activity began to be female-dominated during the 2nd World War. By the 1970s over 90% of cheerleaders were female, and this bias has applied across the world as the Cheerleading dance form became popular internationally. Young school-age Cheerleader dancers are almost all female. The dance moves are technically choreographed and energetic, and extremely acrobatic at the top level of expertise and display. Cheerleading is one of the main dance styles within the Freestyle classification used by major dance qualifications institutions. At a simple level Cheerleading dance is hugely enjoyable and dynamic for young people. Generally, everywhere in the world, Cheerleading alludes strongly to USA sports/college fashion and lifestyle, notably the cheerleading uniforms/dress and props such as pom-poms, which were introduced in the mid-1960s. In the USA Cheerleading began and remains closely associated with US football, basketball, ice-hockey, wrestling, etc., and internationally is increasingly seen with other sports, such as soccer and cricket. Cheerleading is also a serious competitive 'sport' in its own right among the best practitioners, in which many of its moves equate to significantly challenging gymnastics and acrobatics. There are estimated to be more than 1.5 million Americans who participate in formal Cheerleader groups, and substantial growing participation around the world, both in its pure form, and fused with other dance genres. The widespread use of Cheerleading pom-poms in other dance forms is an example of such fusion.
  • Contemporary dance - Contemporary dance is a fusion of Jazz dance, Ballet, and Modern dance, developed in the mid-20th century. Contemporary dance expresses emotion through organic movements and unrestricted lines, and in this respect it is different to most forms of traditional and modern-day dancing which is choreographed to more predictable musical patterns and accompaniment. The Contemporary dance style therefore offers enormous freedom to choreographers and performers. It may be physically demanding, or not at all. Contemporary dance is not generally a partner dance, and may be solo or formation dancing of some sort. It does not require the strongly repetitive rhythmic music found with most other dance types, and so might be likened to abstract art or sculpture in terms of interpretation and meaning, so that assessing the quality of a Contemporary dance is arguably rather more difficult and subjective than assessing the quality of say a Waltz or Tap dancing performance. Famous contemporary dancers include Isadora Duncan, Merce Cunningham, Martha Graham and Sophia Lucia.
  • Contra dance - Contra dance is also called contradance, contra-dance, New England/Appalachian folk dance and other variations. Contra dance is a folk dance involving long lines of couples, called sets, and which many people might regard as a form of country dancing. The name is derived from the French, contra, opposite, and this characterizes the line formations. Partnering is flexible via a rotated combining of couples throughout the dances, which are choreographed by a 'caller' (using contra-choreography), typically from a vantage position on stage, who teaches the dancers a sequence of 'figures' (typically between 6 and 12) which are patterns repeating generally every 64 beats. Couples generally form foursomes, and these combinations of pairs are changed dance to dance, producing great social interaction. Origins of Contra dance are a mixture of 17th century country dance styles from England, Scotland and France, with African-US/Appalachia influences. Contra dances have spread globally with popular regular locally organized events especially across the USA and UK. A major appeal of contra dance is its sociability, and its accessibility and ease of learning/dancing. Contra dance is an example of a dance form which is not choreographed in a fluid way, so that repeating sequences or patterns of steps are designed, rather than a fixed routine. Here this repeating sequence method of choreography is called contra-dance choreography.
  • Cumbia - Cumbia is a popular Latin American dance - similar to Salsa - which began in Colombia in the early 1940s, based on the music of the same Cumbia name, which spread quickly and substantially across South America. Cumbia was adopted especially in Ecuador, Panama, Peru, then to the USA via Mexico, by the 1980s, and then progressively to Europe, often fused with other dance forms. For example the proprietary exercise dance Zumba® makes use of Cumbia music and steps in its routines. While considered to have its origins in courtship dancing, certain Cumbia dance steps are said to include movements symbolic of farm slavery work, notably short steps as if shackled by chains, and sweeping arm movements as if cutting crops. Cumbia is one of many dances that carry and convey huge cultural meaning.
  • Dance Exercise - Dance Exercise is a broad genre of dance that covers many dance styles, designed innovatively or by adapting/combining traditional dances, primarily for physical fitness and exercise, and significantly including the aim of weight loss. Dance Exercise is a relatively modern dance phenomenon, emerging in the late 1900s as a mainstream activity and mass-marketing concept, featuring progressively thousands of branded products and businesses, across a variety of delivery systems, including classes and schools, retreats and conventions, shows and demonstrations, video/DVD, live stream and webcams, books and informal gatherings. Various items of equipment might feature in the dancing (steps, balls, weights, etc). Specially designed and branded clothing and dance shoes also feature heavily in the Dance Exercise world. Many celebrities become involved endorsing or even starting/owning Dance Exercise businesses. There seems vast potential for ongoing substantial growth in Dance Exercise, as people of all nationalities and cultures are rightly open to dancing in different ways, being 'coached' to achieve motivation to do physical exercise, and also increasingly searching enjoyable 'easy' ways to keep fit and lose weight - to music and especially in social groups - in the quest for greater health, happiness and a longer life.
  • Dancehall - Dancehall dance originated in Jamaica in the late 1970s. Dancehall dance contains movements and rhythms that are high in energy, and enable great levels of expressive attitude. Musical accompaniment can be at very loud volumes. The dancing is strongly liberated and offers dancers opportunity for great individual interpretation, and encourages a relatively huge scope for physically free body movements. Dancehall is a modern dance style that is part of the general Freestyle classification of teaching standards and qualifications according to major dance institutes.
  • Disco - Disco dancing is highly significant, because it provided the foundations on which Freestyle dancing and its related modern dance forms grew, and continue to grow today. Disco dancing was first developed as a formal dance style in the 1970s, in the USA, and was popularized by the 1977 movie Saturday Night Fever, which prompted dance teachers and dance schools to analyse the dance steps and moves in the film, and to choreograph the style so that it could be taught and developed, and later be standardized. According to the history of the making of Saturday Night Fever, the Bee-Gees were not the first choice of writers for the soundtrack, and when they were asked, they were unclear and unexcited about the project. Oddly as well the Tony Manero Disco Dance champion lead character was based by the writer Nik Cohn (of the original 1976 New Yorker magazine article which inspired the film) on a British 'mod' (a scooter-riding beatnik who would more happily have listened and danced to The Who or Rolling Stones) and a persona very far removed from the Brooklyn discotheques. For such a massive lifestyle as Disco to have grown from these accidental beginnings is extraordinary - but that is music and dance. So Disco Dance was born - an energetic up-tempo liberated dance style that accompanies music of the same name. Disco dance is characterized by hip and pelvic moves, with raised arms, optional fancy footwork, sometimes extravagant 'showdance' gestures, performed obviously in time to the main beat of the music, which is usually emphasised in prominent percussion and bass parts, and highly repetitive melodies and musical/lyrical 'hooks' that make the music memorable and potentially rather hypnotic. Significantly Disco music songs became the first given 'extended dance mix' production treatments - basically looping the percussion/bass/hook instrumental for several more minutes, commonly on '12-inch singles' - such was the appetite among DJs and dancers for outrageously long dance tracks and prolonging the dance experience to the maximum - all in the days before ecstasy and other mind-altering substances, besides cigarettes and alcohol. Apart from relatively few 'fixed' Disco dances, usually to accompany certain songs, generally Disco dancing is freely interpreted, and also very flexible as to whether it is danced solo, with a partner, or in a group. The free random nature of Disco dancing can be said to reflect the rejection of rules and convention by the young generation of the times, especially the 1970s and 1980s, just as happened with Rock and Roll in the 1950s. The minimal contact between partners also reflects the societal shift away from traditional dating and mating customs, as women became more liberated and empowered, compared to the austerity and reserved attitudes of the post-war 1950s and early 1960s. Many Disco dancing styles have developed during the late 1900s and into the 2000s, including Boogaloo, Watergate, Bump and Penguin. Famous Disco dancers include John Travolta, Christopher Penaro, Øyvind Gulli and Manu Dibango. Disco dancing - and the distinctive hugely popular Disco music - provided the most significant origin and inspiration for (and evolved into) Freestyle Dance, and also fuelled the social appetite, amenities, and teaching/learning environments that allowed Freestyle to flourish into the 21st century.
  • Flamenco - Flamenco is a famous deeply symbolic Spanish dance originating from the region of Andalusia, from the 18th century at latest. Flamenco is full of passion and energy, with much hand-clapping, finger snapping, heel-stamping, rhythm and highly accentuated and flamboyant dance steps. Dancers, and dancers waiting their turn to perform, generally vocalise occasional shouts along to the accompanying music, which is typically sparse percussive guitar playing, with traditional Flamenco singing and hand-clapping and castanet percussion. Dance is normally solo. Songs tend to be plaintive and emotional. Flamenco has a strong origin and tradition in Spanish Romani gipsy culture, which in turn has origins/connections in blacksmithing, in which the heat and fire and sparks are resonant with the dance style. Flamenco is also associated with and symbolic of bullfighting. Flamenco costumes are distinctively traditional Spanish - big flowing multi-layered dresses of vivid satin, with lace. Men wear white shirts with big sleeves. Dancers wear black shoes often with metal taps to enhance heel and toe stamping percussion. The whole effect of Flamenco is extremely dramatic and atmospheric. There are many famous flamenco guitarists, and there is a strong relationship between guitarists and dancers - emotionally and in terms of the performance for the audience. Besides 'stage' performance, Flamenco is a family activity for many traditional Spanish family groups and friends. The origin of the word Flamenco is not known and is suggested to be related to the sense of a flame, or possibly flamingo, (which in Spanish is actually the word flamenco). Famous flamenco dancers include Joaquin Cortes, Sara Baras, Antonio Canales, La Paula and Carmen Amaya.
  • Freestyle - Freestyle dance has different meanings: First it's a main teaching classification, and second also a loosely defined dance style within the main Freestyle classification (more details below). Freestyle's somewhat confusing taxonomy (taxonomy means a classification system) seems partly to have resulted from the IDTA's decision in the early 2000s to create a new main category for modern dance, whereby non-Ballroom, non-Theatre dances were given a new category alongside Ballroom/Latin and Theatre, called 'Freestyle', and this included the dance style called Freestyle.
    • So, firstly and most clearly, the term Freestyle is used typically by dance teaching/standards organizations as a main category heading alongside 'Ballroom/Latin' (including Latin and Sequence) and 'Theatre' (including Ballet and Tap). Basically Freestyle comprises the formal teaching dance forms formally recognized and taught within international standard curriculums and syllabuses that are outside of the two more traditional teaching/qualifications branches (i.e., Ballroom/Latin and Theatre). As a main dance category Freestyle is therefore one of the three main dance teaching qualifications. As a main dance teaching/qualifications category Freestyle refers to a wide range of non-Ballroom and non-Theatre dance styles including Disco, Street Dance, Linedance, Cheerleading, Rock and Roll, and Dance Exercise, (and Freestyle dance itself..)
    • Secondly 'Freestyle dancing' is a dance style in its own right (in terms of IDTA classification, within the above Freestyle international qualifications/standards category). Freestyle dancing is upbeat and lively, allowing lots of individual/personal expression, using all of the body. It may be a solo dance, or a pairs dance, or a group dance. Freestyle dance may be improvised, rather than firmly choreographed (Michael Jackson is reported to have improvised a lot of his Freestyle dance routines). Freestyle is a modern form of dance, which means it tends to be danced to modern 'pop' music. The Freestyle dance form grew chiefly from 1970s Disco dancing (in turn from somewhat looser 1960s 'beat' music dancing), originally in the USA, and was quickly adopted and developed around the world. The 1977 movie Saturday Night Fever is commonly cited as having been the catalyst for the establishment of Disco Dance as a respected dance genre, and also providing the impetus and demand for Disco dance to evolve into Freestyle. John Travolta and his character Tony Manero became Disco dancing icons, and inspired dance teachers, schools and students to learn and standardize the dance moves in the film. A better example of life imitating art is hard to imagine. The film's soundtrack, featuring songs written and performed by the Bee-Gees, became the world's best selling soundtrack album, which also began an explosion of new Disco dance music, and this further fuelled Disco dancing popularity, and the discotheque clubs and disco lifestyle. Disco Dance developed rapidly after the Saturday Night Fever movie from a simple 'right-foot-to-left-foot' weight transfer (the 'handbag step' as it is sometimes called) into an increasing array of choreographed movements, so that the Freestyle Dance style emerged from it, increasingly recognised and standardized by teachers, schools, then by competitions and awards, and then ultimately by international dance institutes. Freestyle is sometimes instead called Improvisational Dance, and in many situations there is a high improvisational content. Whatever, Freestyle is a modern dance style that is open to different interpretations, which is actually a reasonable general definition... Freestyle Dance may combine any/all sorts of modern dance styles - most obviously those in the Freestyle category (for example, Disco, Breakdance, Rock'n'Roll, etc), and at competition level may also use/adapt moves from dance gymnastics. Freestyle dance may also borrow steps or movements from traditional Latin/Ballroom and Theatre dances, and potentially from any other influence, for example folk/national dances not generally represented within major formal international dance qualifications and standards.
  • Foxtrot - The Foxtrot is one of the main styles of dance within the formal Ballroom classification according to major dance teaching institutions. The Foxtrot emerged popularly and spread to Europe in the 1910s, from the USA, and is a smooth elegant partner dance, likened by some to the Waltz in shape and movement, although it is danced to 4/4 time rather than 3/4. There are no certain claims for the origin of the name, although it is likely to be after a person or place, and certainly not an allusion to wildlife. The dance style seems to have traceable origins to black communities in the USA.
  • Hand Jive - The Hand Jive is a fascinating dance style which mainly or only uses the hands, necessarily with some shoulder and arm action too. Rock and Roll Dance body movements may be added to hand Jive, although not essentially. Hand Jiving may actually be performed sitting down, or even lying down.. There are some fixed patterns of Hand Jive, particularly as a pairs dance, and the style is also open to free interpretation. In Hand Jive, the dancer's hands are moved and clapped to the percussive patterns of Rock and Roll or Rhythm and Blues music, including hand-clapping, and slapping thighs and other parts of the body, mixed with other non-contact gestures such as fist-hammering (one on top of the other, then reversing), criss-crossing flat hands, and 'thumbing a lift' (hitch-hiker-style) as if throwing salt over one's shoulder. The Hand Jive emerged as a dance style craze in the late 1950s and 1960s, popular in the USA, and in London's crowded coffee bars, where young people would practise the art of Hand Jiving to songs of a distinctive Latin beat associated with Bo Diddly, a famous US Rock and Roll guitarist/singer, after whom a main interpretation of the rhythm is named (the 'Bo Diddly Beat'). Hand Jiving features in the film Grease, where it is integrated with other Rock and Roll dancing by dance-floor dancers, and also performed by seated members of the audience. The Hand Jive has origins in and/or influences from very old African percussive performance/dance/music, using the hands and body to make percussive rhythms and matching body movements. Hand Jive is included in this listing especially because it's a good example of a popular dance form (albeit less fashionable nowadays) that actually only requires arm and hand movements.
  • Hip Hop - The intensely lively and entertaining Hip Hip dance style originated in New York, developed by Hispanic and Afro-American men in the late-1960s, along with the 'hip-hop culture' extending to rap music, scratching (DJ technique using vinyl records and turntables), graffiti, and hip-hop fashionwear, etc. The Hip Hop style is mainly a solo dance, often performed in a circle of dancers/audience, and while apt to change and accommodate innovations, essentially comprises the dance forms of Breakdance (athletic diving to floor, spinning on different body parts and freezing), and 'Body-Popping' (robotic mixture of fast sharp actions and freezes). Hip Hop spread internationally and began to enter theatre dance choreography by the 1970s.
  • Hopi dance - This is the ancient ceremonial rain dance of the Hopi native American people of Northern Arizona. The dance variations are preserved and recorded, and serve as excellent examples of the earliest known use of dance in ancient human tribal ritual. Based on when the Americas were originally populated (it is generally suggested c.13,000 years ago), the origins of the Hopi form of dance probably pre-date most 'western' dances (besides African influences) by several thousands of years. We can imagine easily that Europe also once had very ancient dances too (although perhaps not so many rain dances given the climate), but the absence of any surviving ancient European tribal communities/cultures means that the ancient European tribal dances longer survive either, unlike Hopi traditions.
  • Hustle - The Hustle refers to several different dances that emerged in the 1970s, popularized by 1975 Van McCoy's disco hit song of the same name, which was featured as revised versions of the Hustle Dance in the 1977 film Saturday Night Fever. Earlier the song (said by McCoy to have been influenced by a New York club dance) had spawned a Line Dance called The Hustle, and other variations, extending to formal Ballroom Dance (as a partner dance), where the dance became defined as the New York Hustle. There have been and continue to be other variations including the Spanish Hustle, Detroit Hustle, Latin Hustle and LA Bus Stop Hustle.. there are others. The Hustle Line Dance is considered to have evolved from the Continental Walk and The Bus Stop dances in the 1970s, and then revised into the 21st century, regarded as a derivation of the popular modern Electric Slide Line Dance. The Hustle is an example of a combination of hit song, musical style, and dance craze that became globally popular, and branching into a range of styles seen in discos, line dancing and ballrooms everywhere.
  • Ice Dance - Ice Dance, which encompasses Figure Skating and other forms of dancing on ice, is not normally detailed in general guides to dance, and in articles about non-ice dancing (and also in general dancing qualifications), because the floor surface, footwear and skating ability necessary for Ice Dance are so radically different to the floor/footwear/skills used in traditional dance forms. Ice-skating, and therefore Ice Dance, is a very different skill to 'traditional' dancing. The skills and physical characteristics of conventional dance types are broadly transferable between the dance forms, but Ice Dance requires the distinct extra ability to skate, which is separate to moving on a dry floor or surface, even a very slippery one. This is not to say there is no transferability or commonality between Ice Dance and conventional or traditional dancing.. Clearly many dance aspects are common to both genres (balance, co-ordination, timing, expression, choreography, etc). Many ice dancers are brilliant dancers on a non-ice surface, and many conventional dancers are great ice dancers, but the surfaces and fundamental capabilities are different, and there is no guarantee that a great dancer in either format will be a great dancer in the other. Ice Dance is also relatively inaccessible and much less common around the world than conventional dance, because it requires an ice rink or a frozen lake, and dance skates, etc., and these are quite rare things in most parts of the world. In addition, and interestingly, Ice Dance is considered a true 'sport', as well as an art form, not least because a number of Ice Dancing events have for decades featured in the Winter Olympic Games, and this is a reflection of the 'sporting' aspect of skating itself. As an art form and entertainment, Ice Dance - commonly as a big extravagant performance involving lots of ice dancers and scenery sets and costumes - has at times been immensely popular in vast stadium shows, and also on television. So although Ice Dance is classified distinctly differently to conventional dancing, it is a dance form that offers immense potential for teaching and careers and entertainment in certain parts of the world, for certain people (typically who love and have great expertise in skating..)
  • Jazz Dance - Jazz dance includes a wide range of dance styles, while also being a main style name within the Theatre teaching classification used by major dance institutes. Rather like jazz music Jazz Dance offers great freedom for individual expression, style and personality. Jazz dance is very energetic and has leaps, jumps, turns, fancy footwork, unique moves, and is considered by dancers and audiences to be a lot of fun. Jazz Dance is not normally structured to be for partner dancing. Famous jazz dancers include Jack Cole, Mia Michaels, Lester Horton, Bob Fosse, Lynne Simonsen, Ann Reinking and Graciele Daniele. The formal stage/performance variation of Jazz Dance is a main dance style within the common dance teaching classification called Theatre Dance, in which case it may be called Modern Jazz. Besides this Jazz Dance can have a range of different meanings, potentially also being an over-arching term for non-Theatre dance styles (for example Lindy Hop) that might more readily be considered Freestyle dances. Therefore, as for many other somewhat flexible dance names, it's important to clarify your meaning/understanding when using the term Jazz Dance, because it is rather loose.
  • Jive - Jive dance was created in the USA in the 1920s. Jive is a form of Swing dance popularized by Cab Calloway. It is danced at a speed typically of about 176 beats per minute, although may be slower at 128-160 beats per minute. Jive is known for its kicks, flicks and pointed toes and exciting moves including The American Swim, Throwaway, Comb, Chicken Walks, Arm Breaker and Jig Walks. Surprisingly to many people the Jive is a form of ballroom dancing, and is one of the five main ballroom Latin dances according to dance theory and dance schools and qualifications..
  • Limbo Dancing - Limbo dancing is definitely not a traditional ballroom or dancehall dance, and is in this list to illustrate the vast scope of dance as a human activity and method of cultural expression or ritual. Limbo Dancing is essentially a contest between dancers in which each dancer must shuffle inch-by-inch forwards on feet spread wide apart while bent backwards very low to the ground, underneath a horizontal bar (pole or stick), so that the dancer's entire body passes under the pole and the dancer can stand upright at the other side. The pole is progressively lowered with each 'dance' so as to increase the challenge of athleticism and suppleness and contortionist ability of the Limbo dancer. Limbo Dancing is thought by some to have developed originally in ancient African ritual, but was popularised in the 1950s, having been earlier established as a dance of national significance in Trinidad during the 1800s. Around the world nowadays Limbo is seen mostly as a theatrical entertainment, besides a tourist attraction in Trinidad and Tobago and the rest of the Caribbean. Drumming typically accompanies the Limbo Dance. Further clarification is offered by Wikipedia (Oct 2016): "Limbo is unofficially considered the national dance of Trinidad and Tobago, which refers to itself as the land of limbo, steelpan (steel drums), and calypso. After a preparatory dance, the dancer prepares and addresses the bar, lowering and leaning back their body while balancing on feet akimbo with knees extended backwards. The dancer is declared 'out' and loses the contest if any part of the body touches the stick or pole that they are passing beneath, or if the hands touch the floor. When several dancers compete, they go under the stick in single-file; the stick is gradually lowered until only one dancer, who has not touched either the pole [stick] or the floor, remains... Traditionally, the limbo dance began at the lowest possible bar height and the bar was gradually raised, signifying an emergence from death into life... As Limbo spread out of Trinidad and Tobago to the wider world and the big screen, in several other Caribbean islands, such as Barbados and Jamaica, limbo became a major part of the tourism package... [The Limbo] dance is also used as a funeral dance, and may be related to the African legba or legua dance. The limbo dates back to the mid to late 1800s in Trinidad. It achieved mainstream popularity during the 1950s... The word 'limbo' dates back to the 1950s. It is conjectured that limbo is a West Indian English derivative of 'limber'. Limber is a sixteenth-century word used in the dialectical sense to refer to a cart shaft, alluding to its to and fro motion... An alternative explanation of the name is suggested; that the version of the limbo performed in nineteenth century Trinidad was meant to symbolize slaves entering the galleys of a slave ship, or a spirit crossing over into the afterworld, or 'limbo, but no literary reference is known to substantiate this linkage..." A world record for Limbo Dancing (the lowest bar height) was achieved by Shemika Charles, 18, from Trinidad, in New York City, 16 Sept 2010, when she successfully danced under a bar 8.5 inches (21.5 cm) above the ground.
  • Lindy Hop - The Lindy Hop originated in the USA, c.1927-30, in Harlem, among New York's African-American communities. It is typically a partner dance, and developed through the mid 1900s with jazz and swing music, alongside those dance styles. The Lindy Hop is considered a type of Swing dance, and so could be regarded as an 'older sister' to Rock and Roll dancing, having earlier beginnings. The Lindy Hop's essential shape/movement is called the 'swingout', whereby the couple's hold is broken to enable a swinging movement out and back again to hold position, all done very energetically with lots of knee-bending and arm movement. Wikipedia suggests four possible sources, being the Breakaway, Charleston, Texas Tommy, and the Hop. As ever there are likely to have been several influences, if the origins were mapped back into slave history and African tribal dances, from which so much dance emanates. The Lindy Hop name is seemingly an allusion to Charles Lindbergh, heroically and famously first to fly solo across the Atlantic, New York to Paris, 1927, although he had no involvement with the dance, and is not known ever to have danced a single step of Lindy Hop. The Lindy Hop soon spread around the world, and experienced a substantial revival internationally in the 1980s, and continues to be popular, retaining its original jazz/swing accompaniment into the early 2000s and beyond.
  • Line Dancing - Line Dancing (also Linedancing, one word, or Line Dance) offers interesting examples as to the development and popularity of different styles of dance, extending to its adaptability and flexibility for choreographers, and its appeal to groups of dancers and society. Line Dancing is a main dance form within the Freestyle classification as used by major dance qualifications institutes. Line Dancing in its basic form requires simple movements of the lower body; twists, turns, kicks, shuffles, crossovers, etc., danced in unison, in lines, in groups of about eight dancers or more, up to whatever size the floor or space can accommodate. In 2007 a world record of 17,000 participants in a Line Dance was set in Atlanta Georgia. A group in China eclipsed this with over 18,000 in 2015. It is difficult to imagine any other dance form achieving such a number, let alone staying in time with the music.. In modern times a lot more complexity and whole body moves/influences have entered Line Dance choreography and this trend is likely to grow. Line Dancing began in the USA mid/late-1900s and became a clearly differentiated and 'standardized' dance form by about 1970/80. Line Dancing and Line Dance events grew quickly internationally and extremely organically in the late 1900s to become one of the most popular forms of dance on the planet. Line Dancing continues to be so, and its flexibility to accommodate and blend with other genres should ensure its survival and popularity. At a beginner level, Line Dancing is relatively easy to learn, and then to progress, and the style has no handicaps (such as requiring partners, which can be a threat to Ballroom/Latin mainstream participation), other than needing an organizer, and a reasonable group size, ideally eight or above, who agree or can be instructed on the steps of a dances or two. Wikipedia suggests there were about twelve nationally (USA) known Line Dances in the 1980s. By the 2010s there were several hundred, and the next decade saw thousands of choreographed Line Dances available online, and being danced all around the world. China and the Far East has embraced Line Dancing as if Line Dancing were born in Peking. Line Dancing actually has traceable beginnings to a late-1950s dance called the Maddison, a local Columbus Ohio country dance, whose simple steps and flexible group-size 'line' format made it very accessible and appealing, so it spread countrywide fast via TV dance shows in the early-1960s. The Maddison (incidentally featured in the dance film Hairspray) is therefore arguably the earliest mainstream 'line dance'. In the 1970s the movie industry and the music industry became really good at combining dance, with young people having fun, with very popular music, and this was strong fuel for publicizing and inspiring millions of people to adopt dances that were relatively simple, and that contained the seductive sensory elements of music, rhythm, socialising, 'group-belongingness', packaged within a strong sense of identity (cowboys and cowgirls, bars, country music lifestyle, etc). Through the late 1900s Line dancing was virtually always danced to American country music. By the 2010s Line Dancing (especially outside of the USA) was being choreographed and danced to all sorts of pop music, pulled away from its country roots and big hats by a vast market of new dancers and choreographers into new merged dance/music styles, such is the sophistication and plasticity of the concept. There are a few rules however, and one of the central rules of Line Dancing is that the dance contains a series of repeated sequences. The second rule is the positional notion of four 'walls' of the room, by which the finishing position of each sequence, and therefore the starting position of the next sequence is determined. This makes makes the choreography much easier to learn and remember, which is significant in the ease and accessibility and success of Line Dancing as a social group dance. This aspect of positioning (using four walls) is however liable to unsettle dancers and increase the challenge of teaching where the room shape is irregular. In a 'ONE WALL' Line Dance each sequence of the dance starts and ends facing the FRONT WALL. In a 'TWO WALL' Line Dance each repeating sequence starts alternately facing the FRONT and BACK walls (i.e., the dancers will turn 180 degrees from the start to the finish of each sequence). In a 'FOUR WALL' Line Dance each repeating sequence of the dance finishes facing the next wall of the room, (which is specified as) moving clockwise or anti-clockwise, so that the dancers turn 90 degrees between start and finish of each sequence. I'm not a mathematician, however these variations seem very simply to cover the main directional possibilities of where a sequence could end and begin, assuming that nobody actually starts dancing on the ceiling. Thus beginners can understand quickly the directional structure of each dance, even before they learn the steps, which is a great help towards minimizing collisions and embarrassments, which along with the musical/choreographical adaptability, and highly modular 'building-block' structures of Line Dancing, perhaps explains its extraordinary popularity and enduring appeal. An increasing trend in Line Dance choreography (which also arises in other forms of dancing) is for choreography to 'match' the structure of songs more precisely than in past decades. In the late 1900s, Line Dances generally comprised repeating sequences that disregarded uneven song patterns (for example a 12-bar bridge in a song of 16-bar verses and choruses). In more recent times however, and certainly the 21st century, Line Dance choreography tends to be more complex so that it contains different dance patterns to match musical passages of different durations (for example 'bridges' or 'pre-choruses' or 'instrumental sections', etc). When this happens in Line Dance choreography this change of pattern is called a 'Re-Start', which often entails an alteration of the main 'Wall' pattern of the dance (for example a 'ONE WALL' dance may contain a section that is 'TWO WALL' or 'FOUR WALL'). This makes teaching more challenging, especially in dances which also contain lots of turns within each sequence, never mind trying to teach it in a circular room.. N.B. The above nuances explained here for Line Dance can arise in their own ways and terminology in many other dance forms, which illustrates the evolutionary and highly adaptable nature of dance and choreography.
  • Lyrical Dance - Lyrical Dance is one of the main dance forms within the major formal teaching classification of Theatre dance, although typically not regarded as fundamental as Ballet, Tap and Modern Dance styles. Lyrical Dance is a performance or stage form of dancing, and along with Contemporary Dance, is popularly taught in 'Western' schools where dance is a curriculum subject. As the name suggests Lyrical Dance is generally accompanied by music with lyrics, and it's this aspect of words that the choreographer/dancer draws on particularly to express emotion through dance. Timing and technicality are not prominent aspects of this dance form when compared to the demands of Ballet, or Ballroom, or Breakdance for example. the emphasis is on expressive interpretation and movement. The Lyrical dance style is relatively young, being a hybrid or modern evolution/fusion of Ballet, Theatrical Jazz Dance (Modern Jazz) and Contemporary dance.
  • Mambo - Mambo is another Cuban dance, becoming popularly defined in the 1930s, from earlier influences. Mambo is a highly rhythmical dance, accompanied by the music of the same name. Similar to Salsa, the Mambo was popularized by famous musicians and dancers such as Perez Prado, Benny Moré, Tongolele, Adalberto Martínez, Rosa Carmina and Lilia Prado.
  • Mashed Potato - The Mashed Potato is a fast and somewhat hypnotic dance step that grew to become a full dance in the early 1960s, like a hybrid between the Charleston swivel step and the Twist, by which the feet swivel from heels-together to heels-apart, mixed with sideways kicks alternating left and right. The Mashed Potato step endures as a step movement that is often included in modern/Freestyle dancing and show dancing. It's easy to imagine that the name reflected the zig-zag pattern of a potato masher, and/or that the feet action evoked a mashing action, or treading grapes perhaps.. Anyway, like a lot of other dance crazes of the 60s and 70s, the Mashed Potato was made additionally more popular by hit songs which mentioned it, and which featured the ideal beat for the dance to thrive.
  • Modern Dance - Modern Dance began as a distinct dance style in the late 1800s, chiefly as an alternative to and/or reaction against the formality and rigidity of Ballet, including the sociological and political associations of Ballet, which in many nations was and remains relatively elitist, inaccessible, and considered by some to be an extension of the establishment, rather than a dance of ordinary people. While Modern Dance was immediately a much freer theatrical dance style than Ballet, it encouraged more serious expression from the dancer, compared with the often frivolous prescribed themes of Ballet. Modern dance also tended to reject other traditional aspects of Ballet, for example preferring bare feet to the Ballet pointe shoes. Modern Dance was developed mainly in the USA and Germany, and is a major link in dancing evolution between traditional highly structured classical performance dance of Ballet and more recent styles of performance and stage dance that became popular in theatres in the late 1900s. The name - Modern Dance - is somewhat misleading, because it was 'modern' in the late 1800s and early 1900s, but is now one of the more traditional longer-established forms of theatre dance. Modern Dance nevertheless offers choreographers and dancers potential for all sorts of truly modern innovation, just as Ballet now does too.. Modern dance was defined very innovatively by notable dancers/choreographers/teachers such as Isadora Duncan, Martha Graham, and Doris Humphrey. More details about Modern Dance are in the glossary entries for these dance pioneers.
  • Morris Dance - The Morris dance is a peculiar English folk dance, which emerged in the 1400s, of uncertain origin. It is traditionally danced to simple cheerful old-style folk music, often fiddle, or melodeon, accordion, or pipe and tabor-drum, at country fairs, parades, and outside country pubs. There is often a fund-raising/charitable purpose. A dance group is typically six or eight men, but may vary depending on the code. Morris dancers wear a distinctive somewhat childlike and amusingly designed uniform, depending on the group's own traditions, and usually a small number of little bells strapped to each shin or lower leg. Short trousers are popular, as are plus-fours, hats, waistcoats, handkerchiefs, sashes, woolly socks, and big clunking boots. Dancers may hold handkerchiefs or sticks or something to else wave or hit with another dancer. Other props may be used, again depending on the code. Morris dancing is open to quite a lot of modern variation, especially of humorous nature. Dances are strictly choreographed. There are some quirky roles in a Morris dance group or 'side', for example a squire and/or foreman (leader/caller/announcer/teacher), and ragman/bagman (responsible for costume/kit). The dance style is rather light and airy, and jig-like, contrasting somewhat with the burly appearance of many Morris dancers, whom one might imagine to be farmers, miners, dry-stone wallers, etc. Membership of dance groups is usually very open and welcoming, notwithstanding the traditional male bias of most groups. Some female groups exist, and there are Morris Dance groups around the world in small numbers. There are considered to be six main styles of Morris Dance, which have evolved on a regional and sometimes trade-related basis, specifically: Cotswold Morris (Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire - handkerchiefs/sticks); North West Morris (NW England, from industrial textile mills - more military style, processional); Border Morris (English-Welsh border - simpler, looser, vigorous, often with blackened faces, from coal-mining tradition); Longsword Morris Dancing (Yorkshire/Sth Durham - long metal/wood swords); Rapper Morris (Northumberland and County Durham - short sprung steel swords); and Molly Morris Dancing (Cambridgeshire - traditionally a feast dance to collect money in winter - one dancer wears a dress, hence 'Molly' dance).
  • Paso Doble - The Paso Doble (pronounced 'Paso Doe-blay') is a Spanish originating dance traceable from the 1500s, notably nowadays performed as a main Latin dance form within the typical Ballroom/Latin classification of international dance teaching and qualifications. Paso Doble means 'double step', seemingly influenced by a Spanish infantry marching pace of 120 beats-per-minute, originating in the 17th century. After this, the Paso Doble became more formally associated with bullfighting in Spain and Portugal - especially including the highly evocative Paso Doble music played at certain times during the bullfight. The dance and the music of the Paso Doble remain steeped in ritualistic tradition, with a high sense of drama and power. These close associations endure, and also feature in Mexican tradition. There is a strong association with the look and feel and atmosphere of Flamenco, which has similar deeply symbolic roots in Spanish history and culture.
  • Pole Dancing - Pole Dancing is a fascinating example of dance development, which can be traced originally to the 'Mallakhamba' of c.1000AD, an acrobatic Indian art-form and tradition using a sturdy vertical wooden pole, typically performed by a male troop. This acrobatic art-form was gradually adapted and adopted into Chinese culture, typically using two poles and highly acrobatic moves, which developed to be performed in circuses, by which pole acrobatics were exported and seen across Europe and the USA in the early 1900s. The USA then seems responsible for innovating a version of these acrobatics within strip clubs during the 1960s - significantly accompanied by atmospheric music - so that Pole Dancing as we know it today as a female dance form became associated with nightclubs and strip clubs, rather than as a male acrobatic/circus performance. Pole dancing sadly retains this aura for many people - whereas in fact its popularity shifted significantly again, around the turn of the 20th century, to grow into a popular female exercise and competition dance form, which is its primary participation in modern times. This shift is similar to the development of Belly Dance and Burlesque as popular accessible dance forms, for fun and exercise, mainly for women. As with many other areas of dance evolution, the changing nature of Pole Dance is a reflection of changing society and culture, and specifically in this case latterly the decreasing social acceptability of female strip clubs for men, alongside the increasing liberation and empowerment of women in the 21st century, seeking to explore exciting different forms of dance, for exercise, fun and personal growth.
  • Polka - The Polka is an example of a popular folk dance - often thought originated in Bohemia, associated with the culture of the Romani gipsy people, although the Polka is actually a folk dance of the Czech people. The word Polka is from Czech pulka, meaning half-step, due to the distinctive 'duple' timing (two beats to the bar) and short half-steps of the dance. The Polka, accompanied by the equally popular and distinctive Polka folk music, spread across much of mainland Europe, and into ballrooms and occasionally into Ballet in the 1800s. While declining in recent decades, the Polka Dance and music - in various regional forms, remain popular in many parts of Europe and in many European communities abroad such as the USA.
  • Riverdance - Riverdance - and the Riverdance Show - became a global entertainment sensation after a sample of its traditional Irish dance form and music was featured in the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest interval. The hypnotic upbeat hugely entertaining dance form - which involved lots of dancers in formation - is based on Irish Step Dancing, with some added folk and tap dancing influenced by Spanish and Russian styles. The success of the quirky little experimental Eurovision interval demonstration prompted the development of a two-hour stage show, mainly choreographed by Irish dancer/choreographer Michael Flatley, launched in Dublin 1995, and which led to a record-breaking London theatre run, a world tour, and vast TV and video/music audiences. Riverdance illustrates the potential for narrow dance niches to adapt to the big stage, and a mass audience, with dramatic success. From simple folk origins, Riverdance exploded rapidly within just two or three years, into a new theatre dance and vast global brand, and boosted the popularity of lots of related Irish music and dance and culture.
  • Roller Dancing/Roller Disco - Roller dancing is dancing on roller skates or 'rollerblades' (or 'in-line skates'), often in a specialized roller skating arena. In this respect Roller Dancing is similar to Ice Dance. It's quite different to conventional dance because it requires a skating skill and location in addition to other dancing abilities. Roller Dancing is in this listing because it illustrates the adaptability of dance to merge with other concepts. Like Ice Dance, the equipment and venue requirements of Roller Dance/Disco mean that it has a limited accessibility and much fewer participants than conventional dance forms. Roller Dance may be seen in occasional fads and peaks or perhaps a reality TV show, but the logistical and equipment implications will probably prevent it from ever becoming a global phenomenon. Roller Disco emerged in the late 1900s as a fashionable hybrid of Disco music and roller skating, but its popularity reduced into the 21st century.
  • Quickstep - Quickstep is is one of the essential ballroom dances according to dance theory and qualifications. It was developed in New York and England in the 1920s, from influences including the Foxtrot and Charleston, although it became very different. The Quickstep is a partner dance that is upbeat, fast, flowing, characterized by syncopated movements, and was standardized in 1927. Quickstep dancers should be very light on their feet, and the dance is generally regarded as being light-hearted and fun within the formal Ballroom dancing range. Famous quickstep dancers include Nyle DiMarco and Peta Murgatroyd.
  • Rave - Rave became a very big term for a style of music, clubbing and dancing in the 1980s, through to the 90s and then into the 21st century. The Rave lifestyle embraced recreational drugs, notably Ecstasy, and its derivatives, although this is not to say that everyone who enjoyed the Rave scene took drugs, just as not every 1960s beatnik smoked cannabis, and not every Rock and Roller drank alcohol and smoked cigarettes. The Rave Dance style can best be described as intense, rhythmic, and highly focused on very big loud bass and percussion sounds. The body moves very fast, but little floorspace is covered. Rave dancing is a mass experience. It's not a partner dance, nor is it structured or choreographed. It's highly individualistic. The volumes and depth of the bass sounds accompanying Rave events meant that dancers for the first time could literally feel literally the power of music. Typical Rave music has very long-lasting looped seductive hypnotic repetitive melody lines, heavily oriented to keyboards and synthesizers and high-pitched female vocals. Music was most certainly not limited to two or three minutes per song... Rave music and dancing, mixed 'live' by DJs, could continue for hours without a break. DJs who provided the music at Rave dance events are generally considered to be musicians rather than traditional 'disc jockeys' of the 1960s and 70s, such is their expertise in mixing tracks together. In the first few years of the Rave genre mixing was wholly by using two variable speed turn-tables, and a big box of vinyl 12" records, played nominally at 45RPM, adjusted with great accuracy and musical feel, to facilitate smooth blending and transitions between songs/tracks - for intonation/blend and crucially the beat too. Rave events are famous for their size - thousands of people in one vast space, sometimes illegally using farmland or industrial wasteground, often an abandoned warehouse, or vast marquee. Raves are also famous for the power of their sound systems, which are comparable to the noise at a stadium rock concert - hundreds of thousands of watts, and speakers resembling tower-blocks. Rave was highly significant as a lifestyle and step change (excuse the pun) in generational attitudes and behaviours, coinciding with the start of the digital age. The biggest illegal Raves cleverly and secretively exploited modern mobile communications and early social networks, so that police or council officials generally arrived just as everyone was leaving at 8am the next morning. Raves marked huge social change... Young people for the first time in modern history began to spurn alcohol. Recreational manufactured (rather than cultivated) drugs became mainstream, very accessible and inexpensive, and the drink of choice became water - thousands of gallons of it in little plastic bottles. Rave lifestyle was inevitably criticised by older generations (just as Rock and Roll was back in the 1950s, and beat music was in the 60s), but in truth Ecstasy has killed a tiny fraction of the numbers that tobacco and alcohol continue to do, and actually most casualties of the Rave scene resulted from exhaustion, or over- or under-hydration, and a few burst eardrums. Please note this is not an endorsement of recreational drug-taking, and time will tell the extent to which Rave-related drug-taking has affected the long-term mental health of its most enthusiastic participants. Rave is in this listing because Rave dancing was as significant to social history as the original Waltz dances (couples dancing together acceptably for the first time); Rock and Roll (post-war liberation and the end of austerity); and Disco (the beginnings of the aspirational materialistic age and rampant consumerism). In dance we see societies and civilisations changing probably more than in any other art form.
  • Rock and Roll (or Rock'n'Roll) - Rock and Roll is a broad and immensely significant popular dance style, open to different interpretations of meaning. From a dance standards/qualifications viewpoint, Rock and Roll is generally categorized within the Freestyle classification, although informally some people would consider Jive (technically a Latin ballroom dance) to be a Rock and Roll dance. Rock and Roll is directly associated with the Rock and Roll music of the 1950s, and with specialist (with more distinct steps/moves) dances such as the Lindy Hop and Jitterbug. Rock and Roll dance is less specifically defined in its steps and moves. Rock and Roll became, and survives as, a lifestyle and fashion far beyond dance and music, so that since the 1960s the term has become adaptable for many sorts of contemporary guitar/piano-based songs and dancing, while also retaining its original more 'purist' 1950s definitions and meanings. Rock and Roll as a dance craze first became popular in the early 1950s, along with Rock and Roll music. Culturally (because Rock and Roll's musical origins are more complex) Rock and Roll dancing developed from the 'big band' Swing music and dance of the previous two decades, which was the main musical entertainment/dancing for young people pre/post World War Two, almost entirely of USA origin. According to some definitions Rock and Roll as a 'partner dance' is a style within Swing dancing. After this, into the 1950s, a vast number of guitar-oriented rock and roll groups (pioneered initially by Bill Haley and his Comets, and specifically the hit song Rock Around the Clock) began to interpret and blend styles of boogie woogie, blues, jazz, etc., which had previously been popular/developed in black/Afro-American communities and outside of 'white' commercial mainstream black/African, and to make popular records (initially 78rpm) which sold in huge volumes. This explosion of popular Rock and Roll fuelled more than anything else the growth of the modern music recording/publishing industry that exists today - so we can see that Rock and Roll is a term with substantial meaning. Rock and Roll music and dance became highly symbolic of the generational shift - a clear 'generation gap' - after the Second World War, when mass media and consumerism and optimism replaced the austerity of the war and post-war years. See generational theory - it's fascinating. Teenagers wanted something different, and Rock and Roll music and dance and fashion was it. This new music and dance genre also marked a major societal change - born in the USA, and fast exported to Europe, especially the UK - whereby black music was progressively adapted and adopted by the white middle class media and consumers - on an absolutely enormous scale. Black musicians and songwriters, influenced by gospel and blues, became international stars, whose influence - upon most styles of popular music and dance - is still growing into the 2000s. Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Fats Domino, alongside their white counterparts such as Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, etc., became huge international stars, and their music spawned the pop and rock music and dance of the 1960s and beyond, to current times. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Led Zeppelin, The Eagles - to Elbow, Radiohead, One Direction and Take That - all this music and dance draws heavily on Rock and Roll. So consider this, when you dance a Rock and Roll dance - that Rock and Roll changed the world, perhaps more than any other dance.
  • Rumba - The Rumba is a Cuban dance created in the 1920-30s whose style entails sensual hip movements of the dancing partners. There are many different variations of the Rumba including notably: Cuban Rumba (derived from the African slaves who created it), Catalan Rumba (with a Spanish emphasis), Flamenco Rumba (Spanish Flamenco aspects) and African Rumba (with African aspects). Famous pairings of Rumba dancers include Slavik Kryklyvyy and Karina Smirnoff, and Franco Formica and Oxana Lebedew.
  • Salsa - Salsa one of the most popular Latin dances. Influenced by Mambo, Cha-Cha-Cha and Rumba, the Salsa was developed in the USA in the 1930s initially from Cuba immigrant culture. The Salsa is a sensual dance with energetic movements; typically a 'lead-and-follow' partner dance. Salsa classes as a social and fitness activity grew with considerable success around the world from the late 1900s/early 2000s, and the Salsa style endures as a very popular and accessible dance form for people seeking fun and fitness and friendship through organized dance gatherings. Famous Salsa professional dancers include Celia Cruz, Eddie Torez, Johnny Vazquez, Juan Matos and Magna Gopal. The word 'salsa' is from Spanish, meaning 'sauce', referring specifically in Spanish American to a spicy tomato sauce variety, originally used in Latin American cookery, and this 'spicy' allusion no doubt encouraged its adoption as the name for the dance.
  • Samba - The Samba originated in Africa, specifically Angola and Congo, and then came to Brazil via the slave trade, where the dance evolved in African religious and social communities, in the Eastern Brazilian state of Bahia. The Samba dance then spread and became immensely popular in Brazil, where it remains a dance of enormous national and cultural importance. Brazil is indisputably the home and world centre of excellence for Samba dancing, with millions participating in its many and various forms. Samba is a partner dance within the range of formal ballroom Latin dances. Samba is also a very free style of dance that is adaptable for all sorts of interpretations and situations, and this has resulted in a wide variety of Samba variant dances across Brazil. Samba dancing has also spawned a vast culture of Brazilian art, music, food, fashion, clothing, and lifestyle generally, so that the Samba is actually part of Brazilian identity, perhaps more than any other nation is so deeply associated with a dance. The original Brazilian Samba dance, the Bahian Samba de Roda (dance circle) became a UNESCO Heritage of Humanity in 2005, and Samba day, every 2nd December, is a Brazilian national statutory holiday. Not surprisingly Brazil has for decades produced some of the finest ballroom Samba dancers. The Samba is characterized by an infectious, joyous rhythm, seen famously every year in Brazil's famous Rio Carnival. The word 'samba' emerged first in 1800s Portuguese, from African origin, imported to Brazil with the dance via the slave trade.
  • Street Dance - The origins of Street Dance are in Breakdance, accompanied by Hip Hop music. Street dance is however different to Breakdance, with different influences, and removed from gang culture. Like Breakdance, Street Dance developed outside of the dance studio - in social spaces like parks, streets and nightclubs. With many of the movements and attitudes of Breakdance, Street Dance is graceful, strong and challenging, and comes in two main forms called Urban and Commercial. Famous street dancers include Ciara, Les Twins, NappyTabs, Shane Sparks, Soulja Boy, Marquesse Scott, Salah and Du-Shaunt Stegall.
  • Swing - Swing dancing developed alongside the jazz and swing music of the 1920-30s in the USA. Swing is mainly a partner dance, and it is performed in many different styles including Lindy Hop, Jitterbug, Boogie Woogie, West Coast Swing and Rock and Roll (or Rock'n'Roll). Swing is a very social dance, and is especially associated with the carefree attitudes of young people just before the Second World war, and how dance offered an important vent for young adults during the war and in its aftermath. Swing is accordingly an energetic dance that's full of fun and vitality, which seeks to create a 'swinging' unrestrained feeling and impression, with lots of potential for improvisation between partners. Famous swing dancers include William Downes and Micky Jones, Billy Ricker and Norma Miller, Al Minns and Willa Mae Ricker, Frankie Manning and Ann Johnson.
  • Tango - The Tango was originally created in Argentina in the 1870-80s - becoming a fusion of African slave community dance, and the music/dance of European immigrants, spreading and developing into a wide variety of Tango forms across Argentina, Uruguay, South America, then popular in early 1900s Europe, notably Paris and London, and then in America. There is Spanish and Cuban influence too and some aspects shared with Flamenco. The music is highly distinctive, played originally on folk instruments, notably guitar, piano, violin, bandoneon (a small Uruguay/Argentina accordion), developing into dance hall Tango orchestras with singers. The rhythm is well demonstrated in the famous 'Habanera' aria in Bizet's opera Carmen, named after the habanera Cuban style of music from the 1800s, characterised as 'Boom, ba-ba-bom | Boom, ba-ba-bom | ...' The Tango's different variations include Argentine Tango, Uruguayan Tango, Finnish Tango and the two Ballroom Tangos - Standard and American. The Tango dance has UNESCO heritage status for Argentina/Uruguay, and is immensely significant in these nations, as the Salsa is in Brazil. The Tango is seriously associated with many 'mind/body/spirit' therapeutic concepts, in which its demands for mindfulness, disciplined fitness, and posture/movement control extend the applications and potency of the Tango far beyond dancing. The Tango is known for its extremely intense, energetic and sensual moves, which vary considerably between the variant Tango dance forms. The Tango is definitely a partner dance - potentially an overtly sexual dance - in which there are open and close holds, including exaggerated thigh contact - a major part of the erotic atmosphere of the Tango. The Tango is a highly dramatic dance - it's really very theatrical, in which the dancers are playing parts, as well as dancing. Stylistically the Tango is worthy of further explanation, because it so markedly differs from other dances in the traditional Ballroom and Latin range... Notably Tango partners connect extremely closely, while maintaining perfect balance and also allowing free individual movement; the lead-and-follow is exchanged/reciprocated subtlely (so that it is not generally easy to see who is leading and who is following); vertical posture and bodily control is obsessive/devout; and hands stay stuck together; men lead 'from the waist down'; there is a pause each step; and feet are mostly 'grounded', transferring bodyweight late. The Tango to many thousands of dancers is a religious and deeply spiritual experience, far more than a mere dance. Famous tango dancers include Celia Blanco, Antonio Todaro, Javier Rodriguez, Geraldine Rojas, Sebastian Achaval, Miguel Angel Zotto, Lorena Ermocida, Sebastian Arce and Mariana Montes, Maria Nieves, Gabriel Misse, Natalia Hills and Alejandra Martinian.
  • Tap Dance - Tap Dance is globally popular as a participative dance form, and one of the main basic dances of the theatre and stage, and also a fundamental dance of theatre-style dance teaching and official dance qualifications. Tap Dance was first introduced during 1920s during the US Prohibition era. Originally created by African-American slaves, Tap dancing is characterised by the sound of special metal-tipped tap shoes - heels and toes - striking the dance floor as a form of percussion. Tap dancing shoes are among the most iconic and cherished dancewear - even among people who can't tap dance. Famous tap dancers include the Nicholas Brothers, Sammy Davis Jnr, Fred Astaire, Ann Miller, Gene Kelly, Ginger Rogers and Jason Samuels.
  • The Twist - The Twist became a dance craze spreading across the world from 1960s USA, popularized especially by Chubby Checker's music and his hit song of the same name, although the basic 'Twist' dance style originated in Africa and was brought to America in the 19th century by slaves from the Congo. The Twist is a highly distinctive dance style entailing juxtaposed twisting movements of arms, torso, hips, and knees, which remain together for much of the time, and especially when knees are bent so that the body is lowered and then raised at chosen intervals. The Twist offers dancers great flexibility to exhibit flair and personal style while adhering to a recognisable Twist pattern. The Twist may be danced with a partner or without, and was one of the earliest dances to offer great potential for people to show off their athleticism, and stamina.
  • Viennese Waltz - The Viennese Waltz can refer to different types of Waltz partner-dance forms, although the common modern interpretation is that the Viennese Waltz is the original form of Waltz to become popularized and 'standardized' (accepting the flexibility of its meaning nowadays). According to this definition, the Viennese Waltz is typically faster than the simple general Waltz, which has a less specific meaning and covers a wide range of styles. Its musical accompaniment is the very distinctive '1-2-3' timing, with emphasis on the first beat, of longer timing value, so might better be represented as 'Ooom-pa-pa | Ooom-pa-pa | ...' The Viennese Waltz is considered the earliest formal standardized dance to require the 'closed hold' between partners. Not surprisingly it emerged first and was 'standardized' in Vienna, Austria, in the 1800s. Today the Viennese Waltz is a fundamental ballroom partner dance within the International Standard division of contemporary ballroom dance. The history of the Viennese Waltz is not easily distinguished from the history of the Waltz in its broader sense.
  • Waltz - The Waltz is a graceful and slow two-person ballroom dance, becoming popular in mid-19th century, chiefly in Vienna, Austria, evolving from as far back as the 1600s via earlier peasant dances of Bavarian Germany and the surrounding regions. When the Waltz was first adopted by enthusiasts, it was highly controversial because for the first time couples could engage in intimate contact - 'closed hold' as the technical term states - which was generally not acceptable in social dancing before the Waltz emerged. The Waltz dance soon became and remains one of the most popular and iconically recognizable European ballroom styles, spreading and spawning many variations around the world long ago. The Waltz and its variants - as the Viennese Waltz might now be regarded - is danced to the distinctive Waltztime '1-2-3' timing, emphasis on the first longer beat ('Ooom-pa-pa | Ooom-pa-pa | ...'). The Waltz is a revolving dance, which is the origin of the name in German. The Waltz was greatly popularized by the famous orchestral music of Johann Strauss, each piece of music being individually called a Waltz. Famous dancers include Anton Du Beke, Erin Boog, Maksim Chmerkovskiy, Vernon and Irene Castle, and Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The first development of the Waltz Dance in 1600s Germany, and its later wider popularity across Europe from the 1800s, was arguably more significant for societies and attitudes than the explosive societal impact of Rock and Roll in the 1950s, because for the first time in modern human history it became acceptable for couples to dance holding each other. The word Waltz as a dance is first recorded in late 1700s Germany, from waltzer, and the word waltzen meaning revolve.
  • Wheelchair Dancing/Wheelchair DanceSport - Wheelchair dancing, and the officially established 'Wheelchair DanceSport' became popular in the late 1900s and established in more than 40 countries by the 2010s. Typically a standing partner accompanies the wheelchair dancer, so that the dancing is in pairs. There are international events and competitions at the highest level, and participants at social levels in schools and classes all around the world.
  • Zumba® - Zumba® is a popular Latin/African-based form of dance exercise. Zumba® is also a registered and firmly protected trademark. Zumba® teachers must be trained and licensed by the Zumba® organization, and the use of the Zumba® name in marketing and advertising is subject to permission. In this respect Zumba® classes cannot be started - without licence - by a qualified dance teacher as can a classes for generic styles of dance like Freestyle, Tap, Ballet, Salsa, Bollywood, or Line dancing, etc. The training and licensing to become a Zumba® teacher is much faster and less expensive than more general formal dance qualifications, and is mainly for protection of the brand/business/franchise, although the Zumba® organization seeks also to maintain the quality and integrity of the Zumba® class delivery, which is by thousands of licensed Zumba® teachers/class leaders, all around the world. Typically Zumba® teachers already have experience in dance and /or fitness instruction, but the Zumba® licensing does not require the teacher to hold any formal dance qualification at all. This means that licensed Zumba® teachers do not necessarily have to be knowledgeable and qualified beyond the basic Zumba® training. Important features of operating and running Zumba® dance classes include innovative 'whole-body' choreography, and the ability to demonstrate and lead fast-moving highly rhythmic group dance movements, typically accompanied by energetic Salsa, Merengue, Cumbia and Reggaeton music and songs, often edited short versions, so as to enable/encourage lots of fast-changing variety in the choreography and dance exercise. Relaxation or 'cool-down' to a much slower piece of music or song is also typical in ending a Zumba® class, and physiologically beneficial too. The Zumba® organization supports its licensed teachers with suggested music tracks, selected according to ongoing development of different mainly Latin-based hybrid styles, to augment more traditional styles such as Samba. Normally Zumba® does not involve or allow teaching besides the group following the moves of the dance class leader/teacher. In this sense Zumba® is organic, intuitive, and reminiscent of ancient African tribal dance tradition, where dancers learn from the group and leader by participating. In modern times leading/teaching and supporting a Zumba® class is greatly enabled by the technological capability to share videos of dances. Zumba® tends not to entail printed/text-based or diagrammatic dance steps that are often conveyed to dance students/participants in more conventional dance teaching. Zumba® is almost always a group/formation dance activity, generally in private in halls, but may also be exhibited or demonstrated in front of an audience. Zumba® developed from (originally) some old Latin-based dance fitness ideas, and emerged around 2010 as a powerful international business franchise concept, as well as a new dance genre. At an early peak in Zumba® popularity it was reported in 2012 (Wikipedia) that about 15 million people participated in weekly Zumba classes in over 200,000 locations across 180 countries.

Please note that this is not intended to be an exhaustive list of all known dance styles - it's just some of the main dance forms, plus some broader dance genres that for various reasons illustrate the fascinating connections and influences between dance and life on Earth. If you feel strongly that a major dance form or dance-related activity is omitted from this listing please contact me .

All of the dance styles and activities above - in fact all forms of dance - have multiple benefits and uses including:

  • improving overall fitness, particularly cardiovascular health
  • weight management
  • improving muscular strength
  • improving co-ordination
  • improving confidence and self-esteem
  • improving mental health and outlook
  • effective powerful therapy for many illnesses and medical conditions

For many people any of the above dance styles/activities serve as:

  • lifelong passions and careers
  • hobbies
  • fitness regimes
  • ways to socialise and meet new people
  • ways to keep fit
  • ways to keep young in outlook and physical shape

Dance is everywhere.

Dancing features in films, theatre, adverts, pop videos, showcases, exhibitions, cabarets, television, flash-mobs, all around the world….

There are hugely popular shows devoted to dance, most obviously Strictly Come Dancing, Dancing with the Stars, and Let's Dance.

There are scores of Broadway and West End productions, from The King and I, to Cats and The Lion King.

There is the classical excellence of the Bolshoi Ballet to the irresistible rhythms and wonder of Bollywood cinema.

There are countless national and international dance competitions, dance schools and dance companies.

Hollywood to Bollywood (again) and Limbo to the Chinese Dragon dance - there as many forms of dance as there are forms of life.

For some dance styles you can dance alone or individually, such as ballet, breakdance, dance hall, burlesque and belly dance.

Other dance styles usually require a partner - either leading or following - such as in the Waltz, Rumba and Tango.

And many dance styles are best performed as a group or troupe, for example Cheerleading or Street dance, or Linedancing, or Zumba®, or traditional Irish/Scottish dancing at Ceilidh.

Dance is high art and street cool.

Kids learning and having fun. Teens dating. Grown-ups smooching, Elders making new friends and staying young.

Everyone staying fit and healthy, grounded and rounded, mind and body and soul.

Dancing appeals to people of all ages, men and women, across all creeds and cultures.

Anyone can learn to dance, and anyone can learn to be a better dancer.

If you have a particular love or ability for dancing then you can make a career of it, be a dance teacher, run a dance fitness class, start a bigger dance business, or become a truly expert brilliant captivating dancer, and perhaps dance on stage in front of thousands or millions of people.

Dancing can be as easy as one-step, two-step and repeat; or as complex as Swan Lake.

Dancing can be a laugh, or extremely dramatic - fast or slow - barefoot on the lawn, or sparkling leading the parade - for yourself, with your friends, or for others to watch in awe.

Dance can be delicate and graceful, or sensational and acrobatic. Loud, quiet, soft or strong.

Dance is all encompassing and all-inclusive.

Dance is everything and anything imaginable.

So go imagine - go dream and go dancing.

  1. Main Index
  2. Introduction to dance and dancing
  3. About this article and how to use it
  4. Origins of dance - dancing in human history
  5. Definitions of dance - word origins, language
  6. Benefits of dance - physical, mental, workplace, society
  7. Who can dance?.. Everyone can dance..
  8. How to learn to dance and how to teach dance
  9. Glossary of dance styles and different forms of dancing - summary of the major dance types
  10. Choreography - dance choreography and dance notation
  11. Glossary of interesting and significant dance-related terms and people
  12. Acknowledgements
  13. Dance information sources - references, dance associations, teaching bodies, etc.

10. Choreography - dance choreography and dance notation..

Every subject has a technical design aspect, and choreography is the technical design aspect of dancing.

Choreography refers to the process/method/skill of designing dances and dance routines.

A choreographer is someone who does this.

Understanding basic dance choreography is much easier than the word might suggest.

While brilliant performance choreography requires great skills and experience, starting to be a choreographer is very easy.

In fact choreography is instinctive and natural for anyone who loves dancing.

Choreography is the language of dance design. It enables a dance to be designed and described and communicated to dancers, and teachers, directors, etc.

Usually the choreography 'score' or 'notation' (or simply 'the choreography') will be matched to a piece of music, although many choreographed dances can be used for different pieces of music.

The main elements of choreography - and the language of choreography - are basically:

  1. Step and movements - with names/descriptions, related to..
  2. Timings - typically numbered beats of the music, or bars, and
  3. Directional instructions - i.e., where the dancer(s) must travel on the dance floor or area

These choreographed elements of a dance are recorded in different ways depending mainly on:

  • the dance form
  • the choreographer's methods
  • the needs of the dancers, and
  • the dance performance purpose/situation.

There are no universal rules for choreography. Each dance form tends to have its own terminology, especially names for the steps and movements, although many of these names can be the same or similar from one type of dance to another.

Some dance forms such as ballet commonly use choreography notation that is coded and diagrammatical. Other dance forms use choreography expressed as very simple language. And some choreography uses just a video demonstration.

A few dance terms (notably for steps/movements) are universal across all dance forms - that is to say, a street dancer and a ballet dancer and an exercise dancer would understand the term as meaning the same thing. Many dance terms are specific to a broad dance genre (such applying to all Latin Ballroom, or to all Freestyle Dance), and many dance terms are specific to just one or a small number of dance forms.

It's important therefore that when creating choreography the choreographer understands and clarifies the dance form and terminology on which the choreography is based.

Rules of choreography vary too across different dance forms. An acceptable choreography format in one dance form might be very unacceptable in a different dance form. For example the type of choreography notation used for Linedance or Street Dance (both different choreography formats), is inappropriate for Ballet or Ballroom dancing, or Flamenco or Bollywood (again all different choreography terminology and formats).

The choreography for many dance forms is increasingly recorded using video demonstration - avoiding any traditional text/written/diagram notes - both to make a record of the choreography, and to convey/share the choreography among dancers, teachers, etc. This is especially common in informal non-classical forms of dance, and particularly where routines are developed and taught quickly, and entail fun/social/exercise dancing activities rather than more serious professional or classical dance performance for a paying audience.

Definitions and origins of the word 'choreography'..

The Oxford English Dictionary definition of choreography is: "Choreography - the sequence of steps and movements in dance or figure skating, especially in a ballet or other staged dance..." and "...the art or practice of designing such sequences..."

The word choreography also refers to the choreographed dance. A choreographed dance could be called 'a choreography'.

The word choreography is derived from the Greek words for dance (khoreia, 'dancing in unison', in turn from choros/khoros, meaning chorus) and write (graphia/graphein, to draw or write).

Before 1789 in English the word was recorded and in use as 'choregraphy', prior to which it came from the French 'choregraphie', in turn from the Greek words above.

Dance choreography is sometimes called 'dance composition'.

The broader technical methodology of dance choreography, especially referring to its language and recorded formatting, is called 'Dance notation'. Dance notation covers several different dance/body-movement recording systems. Dance notation can generally include all methods of creating and recording dance choreography for teaching and performance, and also extends to the recording and analysis of dance movements for scientific and historic study, ergonomics, and anatomical research, etc.

A dance that is represented in a format using a dance notation system is called a 'dance score'. It's no coincidence that several dance notation systems use a five-line stave as one would see in a 'music score', and this reflects the integral relationship between music and dance - and between musicians and dancers, and composers and choreographers. Music prompts dance, and dance generally needs music.

The word choreography now extends beyond dancing - to the planning or arranging of other physical movements, for example at an organized human gathering, or a formal meeting, or parade or ceremony, or the movement of troops on display or training or even on a battlefield. For this reason we increasingly see the term 'dance choreography' (technically a tautology ), because the meaning of choreography is no longer limited to dance. Wikipedia includes the following in a list of things that are subject to choreography: "...musical theatre, cheerleading, cinematography, gymnastics, fashion shows, ice skating, marching bands, show choirs, theatre, synchronized swimming, video game production and animated art..."

In this article generally the term 'choreography' refers to 'dance choreography'.

The word choreographer is first recorded in English in 1886, and the variant choreographist emerged in 1923, which has now largely been replaced by the word choreographer.

In dance teaching (among teachers - not generally addressing students) and the dance profession, choreography is sometimes abbreviated to 'choreo'.

Choreography overview and history...

At a basic level, choreography can be simple and natural and informal, which anyone can do (even little children), and which humans have been doing for thousands of years. Prehistoric humans 'choreographed' their dances - even if the 'writing' of the moves might have been scratched in sand, or mapped in someone's head first and demonstrated, rather than recorded permanently by drawing on paper or notating in a computer file.

More usually nowadays choreography refers to quite a moderate or high level of technical and theoretical skill, so that potentially very complex dance compositions can be designed, and recorded in descriptive and/or diagrammatic form, and conveyed to other people who then learn and perform the dance.

The importance and professionalism of a dance performance is typically reflected in the seriousness and formality of the choreography methods used to record and teach it.

Formal classical and academic choreography began with Baroque dance of the 1700s, and became established across Europe firstly in ballet in the late 1700s, starting in Russia, which enabled the great Russian ballets by Marius Petipa (e.g., Don Quixote and The Sleeping Beauty, the Nutcracker, etc) to be choreographed and recorded and exported to Europe.

Ballet dance remained the driving force for the development of several highly sophisticated Dance Notation systems, some using staves (as for music), with symbols and diagrammatic patterns that require extensive learning, and which are applied to other forms of dance, and other studies of body movement.

Some forms of professional choreography - for example the stadium displays performed at the opening of the Olympic Games involving many hundreds of dancers - are extremely sophisticated and become vast productions. Other professional performance choreography might involve a single dancer for a few seconds, and is far less complicated and challenging, and yet will require quite a formal degree of notation.

In film and theatre and other big productions, a 'movement director' is often responsible for dance choreography, and it is within this wider discipline of 'movement direction' that dance choreography tends to be encompassed. Some dance choreographers would regard the job of 'movement director' to be a logical progression, especially if their interests and skills extend outside of dance to other aspects of human/performer movement.

Crucially as with any form of design, much of the choreographer's skill is in creating dance steps and routines that fit the needs and abilities of the dancers, and potentially the audience too. This is especially so in dance teaching, and more so in teaching young people and children to dance.

Brilliant choreography is not necessarily the creation of brilliant dancing - brilliant choreography is the enabling of dancing that thrills and motivates the dancers, and delights an audience where appropriate.

The most highly qualified choreographer, for example able to choreograph world-class ballet or contemporary dance on the greatest stages, might not be able to choreograph effectively for a small group of seven-year-olds for a local dance show, or for a group of elderly people wanting to socialise and exercise.

Effective choreography must primarily understand and respond to the needs and abilities of the dancers and the audience, just as the design of anything else must be 'fit for purpose', and not necessarily the exhibition of the designer's entire technical command of the subject.

Choreography is an absolutely fundamental aspect of dance, and especially the teaching of dance, the staging of dance performance, and the use of dance in any entertainment or dance show situation.

It could be said that: "Choreography is to dance, what songwriting is to pop music, and composition is to classical music and opera."

Without choreography there would be very little dancing.

Choreography basic theory...

Choreography consists of planning and arranging the steps, movements, positioning and patterns of a dance.

As previously explained, choreography is the language of dance design, enabling a dance to be composed, recorded, and conveyed/shared in a common 'code' or language to dancers, teachers, and anyone else needing to know.

Choreography is typically created (technically 'scored' or 'notated') to match a particular song or piece of music.

Many choreographed dances can be used for different pieces of music.

And certain types of dance - for example African dance, and Contemporary and Theatrical dance, may be choreographed to drums, or percussion, or other sounds, or the spoken word, or even silence.

If we think of choreography as a language, it contains different elements, in the same way that written/spoken language has grammar and structure.

The elements of choreography - and the language of choreography - are basically:

  1. Steps and movements - Many steps/movements have different names in different dance genres - Steps and movements are related to..
  2. Timings - Typically shown as numbered beats of the music, or bars - The expression/measurement of timings is generally consistent across 'popular' music, although some ethnic music contains quite different timing structures, as does much classical music that would feature in ballet, etc.,
  3. Directional instructions - These tell the dancer(s) where on the dance area/floor to travel (typically the dance area is a dancefloor or stage, but it can be a much larger area such as a public space or sports stadium, or more unusual dance setting, such as a building site in a pop video, or a wooded glade in a theatrical production)
  4. Multiple dancers movements - This is for dances involving more than one dancer (where several dancers are dancing different steps movements, and doing different things, extra description or instruction is required for the positioning of multiple dancers in relation to each other on the dance area)

These elements of a choreographed dance may be noted (technically 'notated') in a variety of ways depending on the dance genre, and to a degree the working preferences of the choreographer and dancers, etc.

The rules applying to choreography vary according to the dance forms. For example choreography for formal Ballroom/Latin styles or Line Dancing or Ballet must be created according to rules (movements, use of the dance-floor etc) of the particular dance form; whereas the choreography for other forms of dance can be a lot more free from rules and structures, for example Modern Dance or Freestyle or Breakdance.

The choreography for certain dance genres is increasingly produced into a video demonstration, straight from the 'head', or from physical experimentation/development by the choreographer.

There are different ways to define the different types of choreography. Choreography is not a precise science like chemistry or mathematics, although certain forms of 'dance notation' (by which choreography and dance movements are recorded) are extremely scientific and can be based very much on mathematics and science. Dance notation is however not the same as choreography..

Here's one way simple way to look at choreography:

Choreography can be used in dance with varying degrees of rigidity, here shown as three main approaches:

  1. A fixed choreographed set of movements throughout the entire dance ('planned choreography')
  2. A series of fixed patterns or sequences that repeat throughout the dance ('sequence choreography')
  3. A loose and flexible guide to dancers as to how and where to move ('improvisational choreography')

Wikipedia prefers a simpler presentation:

"Dances are designed by applying one or both of these fundamental choreographic methods:

Improvisation , in which a choreographer provides dancers with a 'score' (i.e., generalized directives) that serves as guidelines for improvised movement and form. For example, a score might direct one dancer to withdraw from another dancer, who in turn is directed to avoid the withdrawal, or it might specify a sequence of movements that are to be executed in an improvised manner over the course of a musical phrase, as in contra dance choreography. Improvisational scores typically offer wide latitude for personal interpretation by the dancer.

Planned choreography , in which a choreographer dictates motion and form in detail, leaving little or no opportunity for the dancer to exercise personal interpretation.

  • Several underlying techniques are commonly used in choreography for two or more dancers:
  • Mirroring - facing each other and doing the same
  • Retrograde - performing a sequence of moves in reverse order
  • Canon - people performing the same move one after the other
  • Levels - people higher and lower in a dance
  • Shadowing - standing one behind the other and performing the same moves
  • Unison - two or more people doing a range of moves at the same time Movements may be characterized by dynamics, such as fast, slow, hard, soft, long, and short."

Essential to any performance or show, choreography determines the potential quality of a dance. It could be argued that choreography often determines actual quality too, because choreography should in many cases anticipate the skill level of the dancers.

Choreographers are so important to dance that many have become celebrities, for example, Bob Fosse, Martha Graham, Savion Glover, Jerome Robbins, Paula Abdul, Twyla Tharp, Michael Kidd, Siobhan Davies and Robert Joffrey.

Dance choreography is an essential skill within virtually all dance teaching qualifications.

This means that dancers need to know sufficient dance theory before they can begin to teach others, and this is generally more than the theory that is required to learn how to dance.

How to choreograph a dance..

Here are some very simple flexible tips for teaching yourself how to choreograph dance:

  1. Firstly get to know the piece of music or song that want to choreograph a dance for.
  2. Listen to, and move to (if only tap your foot or finger), and think about the music structure .
  3. Hear and feel and think about the timing especially, and the verses, the chorus, repeating patterns, etc.
  4. Dance should reflect or express what is happening in the music, so you must know the music.
  5. Think about and feel how you can move your body - the different parts of you, and how your body can move or travel on the dance floor.
  6. Movement can be infinitely different. Think about and feel the quality and type of movement , as well as what parts of your body to move.
  7. Try to 'map' the piece of music or song on a piece of paper in a way that you can see its structure. It might help you to refer to this as you develop your ideas.
  8. Then start to create your dance ideas, while the music is playing.
  9. You might have ideas about a theme or a general 'feel' for how your dance can best express the music.
  10. As you develop your ideas, write them down in some way that makes sense to you.
  11. Draw stick-figure diagrams as well, to show/remember movements.
  12. Importantly match your dance steps and movements to the beats of the music, and make notes as to when the movements happen.
  13. All music - and especially pop songs - can be counted in beats, and usually these beats stay at the same rate (beats per minute, or BPM) throughout the song, although obviously some music can change beat, and then perhaps return to the main beat.
  14. Usually there is a main drum-beat that will tell you the beats per minute of the music, and therefore the timings at which movements should be made and altered.
  15. A lot of popular music is in patterns of four beats to a bar, although there are plenty of variations to this, so try to pick a song that has a beat that you can easily count, and whose patterns you can map and predict.
  16. A waltz is a popular variation, which is generally three beats to the bar (1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3...).
  17. A bar in music is a natural section or 'measure' into which a certain number of beats fit, and this determines the 'time signature' for the song. At a basic level this is easier to 'feel' than to appreciate in theory.
  18. It's important that you understand a little about beats and timings of music for choreographing, and this knowledge must increase with the seriousness of your choreography.
  19. That said, it is possible to choreograph a dance very well without great technical knowledge, just as many songwriters and musicians can 'play by ear'.
  20. The need for technical knowledge becomes much greater when you seek to teach or share your ideas with others, especially if you cannot show them a video or physical demonstration.

Choreography examples..

Here are some examples of choreography, in this case Line Dance choreography 'step sheets'.

(The choreography is by Maria Hennings Hunt, and the use of these choreography examples in this article is gratefully acknowledged.)

  • 'Red Dress' Linedance choreography (pdf)
  • 'More Than Amigos' Linedance choreography (pdf)
  • 'Caught in the Moonlight' Linedance choreography (pdf)

Notice that the beats are numbered in the left column.

Notice that there is a structure, and this structure matches the song.

It's interesting that in these examples of Line Dancing 'step sheets' the choreography language is relatively simple. This is especially so for 'Red Dress' because the choreography is for beginners.

Choreography language is extremely varied - some is simple and some complex. Line Dancing is a dance form that generally does not demand particularly complex language, especially at a beginner's level.

That said, actually creating and writing (choreographing) a dance that is simple and easy to follow for dancers (as these example illustrate) is not a simple easy thing to do. Often great expertise is required to produce a simple design, and a simple set of instructions.

Dance Notation

'Dance notation' is a more technical method (and terminology) for recording dance choreography, especially for dance in classical, historic, and academic situations - especially ballet.

A person who 'scores' a dance using dance notation is called a notator.

Video is increasingly used for recording choreography, and for teaching and directing all forms of dancing, including classical dance such as ballet.

However as a teaching/directional aid, video is not as accurate as dance notation, because video is a recording of the dancer's/teacher's demonstration, or interpretation or performance. Video is not necessarily, and is arguably never, a 100% reliable representation of how the dance was originally choreographed. This is because every physical performance of a dance is subject to some variation, and lots of dance demonstrations/performances may be subject to quite serious inconsistency when compared to the original choreography.

So just as a recording of a song or musical performance can never be a 100% reliable representation of what was originally written in a musical score, so a video of a dance is not a reliable version of an original choreography.

In most dance situations this is not a real risk or problem, but it could easily be a problem if you were attempting to direct Swan Lake at Covent Garden, or to cascade dance teaching - and invite feedback and development of the dance - through a number of teachers to many students, so that everyone could reliably understand every movement from every angle, and understand the feedback and proposed changes, etc.

Therefore dance notation is likely remain the most scientifically reliable way to record and communicate a choreographed dance to students, teachers, academics, etc.

Dance notation is alternatively called 'choreology'. The word 'choreology' is strongly associated with and perhaps popularly derived from the Benesh Movement Notation system (BMN), one of the most popular and long-standing international dance notation systems. Benesh Movement Notation is actually sometimes called Choreology.

Wikipedia says: "Dance Notation ... is the symbolic representation of human dance movement and form, using methods such as graphic symbols and figures, path mapping, numerical systems, and letter and word notations. Several dance notation systems have been invented, many of which are designed to document specific types of dance. Recorded dance notation that describes a dance is known as a dance score... The primary uses of dance notation are historical dance preservation through documentation, and analysis or reconstruction of choreography, dance forms, and technical exercises. In ethnochoreology, dance notation is used to document dance for study. The two systems most often used in Western culture are Labanotation (also known as Kinetography Laban) and Benesh Movement Notation. Two other systems, Eshkol-Wachman Movement Notation and [Sutton] DanceWriting, are used to a lesser extent..." (Wikipedia 2016)

Dance notation was pioneered by Frenchman Pierre Beauchamp firstly for Baroque dance. This became the Beauchamp-Feuillet notation method, published in 1700 by Raoul-Auger Feuillet. This earliest formal notation method used symbols, and enabled formal recording of dances through the 1700s. Later Vladimir Ivanovich Stepanov (a lovely punning name), a dancer at Saint Petersburg's Imperial Ballet (now the Kirov/Mariinsky Ballet) devised what became the Stepanov notation, which recorded and exported the great Russian ballets such as Sleeping Berauty, Swan Lake, Nutcracker, etc., in the late 1800s to early 1900s. The French-Russian ballet dancer and choreographer Marius Petipa (1818-1910) is regarded as the most influential 'ballet master' and choreographer in ballet history, and his recorded choreography of classic Russian ballets - and elsewhere in Europe (he was prolific) - using the Stepanov notation are central in the Sergeyev Collection, since 1969 at Harvard University Library, and which is seminal in the history of classical ballet and related theatrical areas.

Dance notation is a wider concept than dance choreography and importantly refers to the many different dance/body-movement notation 'languages' and formats, especially the various sophisticated diagrammatical coded 'dance notation' systems used in classic dance genres such as ballet.

Here are some of the common dance notation systems:

Benesh Movement Notation (BMN) - Benesh Movement Notation is one of the most popular and widely used systems of formal/classical dance notation. BMN is also known as Benesh notation or 'Choreology'.

Fundamentally BMN uses a five-line stave and positional symbols for:

  • Head
  • Shoulders
  • Waist
  • Knees
  • Feet

BMN employs additional symbols to indicate movement quality/dimension, and direction of dancer. Benesh Movement Notation is a dance notation system originally designed to document dance movements, and subsequently developed to record other types of human movement. BMN was devised by Rudolf and Joan Benesh in the late 1940s. Rudolf was a Czech/Ango-Italian mathematician, and his wife Joan was a ballerina at London's Sadler's Wells company (experiencing difficulties with choreographed instructions apparently, so Rudolf - a non-dancer - then quickly devised what became a world leading dance notation system..). The Benesh system uses abstract symbols (vertical/horizontal lines, dots, etc) representing the human body, plotted on a five-line stave, and this system soon developed to be an 'industry standard' for top-quality dance choreography, and physical therapies too. BMN is used by the Royal Academy of Dance to teach ballet, and since 1990 has also been a computerized system. The Benesh notation system's five-line stave is respectively for head, shoulders, waist, knees and feet, (top-to-bottom, obviously), showing a rear view of the body. Extra symbols notate dimensions/qualities of movements. One full dancer view is called a frame. Short horizontal/vertical lines and dots represent hand/foot positions relative to the body. A line in the top space indicates a new head position. Direction change is indicated below the stave.

Sutton Dancewriting - Sutton Dancewriting, or simply 'Dancewriting', is a beautifully simple dance notation system. It's part of a series of notation systems developed by the American writer/creative genius, Valerie Sutton. 'Dancewriting' was originated by Valerie in 1974 initially as fine pen and ink drawings, and (as the Dancewriting website explains) "... is a way to read and write any kind of dance movement. A stick figure is written on a five-lined staff. Each line of the staff represents a specific level. The bottom line of the staff is called the Foot Line. It represents the ground. The next line up is the Knee Line, which is at knee level, when the stick figure stands straight. The next line up is the Hip Line, and after that, the Shoulder Line: When the figure bends its knees or jumps in the air, it is lowered or raised accordingly on the staff. The five-lined staff acts as a level guide. Figures and symbols are written from left to right, notating movement position by position, as if stopping a film frame by frame..." This system has a spirit and quality like no other. It's beautiful.

Action Stroke Dance Notation (ASDN) - A dance notation system enabling fast writing, invented by Iver Cooper, based on five movement sections:

  • General
  • Leg/foot
  • Arm/hand
  • Trunk (head/neck/chest/pelvis)
  • Notes (detailed explanations)

And three main types of 'action strokes' or 'gestures':

  • Support (weight-bearing, e.g., hop, step, etc)
  • Touch (contact non-weight-bearing)
  • Air (non-contact, non-weight-bearing)

Labanotation (or Kinetography Laban) - A movement/dance notation system originated by Hungarian dancer/theorist Rudolf Laban first in his work Schrifttanz (Written Dance), 1928, developed by Ann Hutchinson Guest and others, also used for Laban Movement Analysis, robotics and human movement simulation. Labanotation uses abstract symbols to define:

  • Direction/level of movement
  • Body part moving
  • Movement duration
  • Dynamic quality of movement

Motif Description/Notation - A less formal and less detailed system of Labonotation, developed by Ann Hutchinson Guest (b.1918), an American movement/dance academic and world-leading authority on dance notation. Motif Notation is designed to convey a sense and shape of general movement rather than highly specific movement record instruction as enabled by Labonotation.

Eshkol-Wachman Movement Notation (EWMN) - EWMN is a highly complex and sophisticated yet brilliantly innovative movement notation system, conceived for paper (nowadays computerized too), created in Israel in the 1950s by dance theorist Noa Eshkol and architecture professor Avraham Wachman. EWMN is used beyond dance, for example in physical therapy, autism diagnosis, and animal study. It is substantially different and more flexible than many other notation systems, based on a human stick-figure representation and adaptable grid layout. The Eshkol-Wachman Movement Notation methodology basically works like this: The stick-figure body is divided at its joints. Each line between two joints is a 'line segment' (a limb or part-limb). The relationship between limbs is recorded/indicated using a 'three-dimensional' spherical code system. A limb in fixed position equates to centre of sphere, and the radius (line from centre to the edge of the sphere) is the limb length. Position of the free end of the limb (or part-limb) is fixed by two values on the surface of the sphere, like latitude and longitude on a globe. Positions are written as vertical number over the horizontal number. Brackets/parentheses indicate whether the position is relative to an adjacent limb or an external reference point, e.g., a stage. Eshkol-Wachman Movement Notation dance scores are written on grids: Each horizontal row represents position/movement of a single limb, and each vertical column represents a unit of time. Movements are therefore shown as transitions between starting and ending values, equating to positions. Phew..

DOM - DOM was the first computerized dance notation system. The software was developed for an Apple computer by American video game designer/producer Eddie Dombrower (b.1957). DOM designed/launched 1981/2, and enables dance movements to be plotted into the program using simple codes, and then for the dance to be shown 'performed' by a dancer on screen.

This listing and summary of dance notation systems is not exhaustive, and is open to more ideas. Please send a brief summary of suggested additions, together with any other improvements for this free dance guide.

  1. Main Index
  2. Introduction to dance and dancing
  3. About this article and how to use it
  4. Origins of dance - dancing in human history
  5. Definitions of dance - word origins, language
  6. Benefits of dance - physical, mental, workplace, society
  7. Who can dance?.. Everyone can dance..
  8. How to learn to dance and how to teach dance
  9. Glossary of dance styles and different forms of dancing - summary of the major dance types
  10. Choreography - dance choreography and dance notation
  11. Glossary of interesting and significant dance-related terms and people
  12. Acknowledgements
  13. Dance information sources - references, dance associations, teaching bodies, etc.

This is a special glossary of dance and dancing terms. It's not a full technical dance glossary.

It's intended to illustrate that dance touches every aspect of life , and thereby to help teachers, and to inspire students to enjoy the rich joyful cultural and human aspects of dancing, beyond conventional theory.

There are already many big technical glossaries of dancing terms, so this one is a bit different, and as with other materials on this website, it adds something new, rather than replicates what's already out there.

This glossary includes some basic dance terminology if it's interesting in some way, and other more unusual fascinating dance terms that you might never use, except to enthuse to other people about the words and meanings, and the wonder of dancing.

This is a glossary of dance words - and definitions and origins - that are curious, fascinating, funny and interesting or inspiring - to excite and and entertain people, and to encourage wonderment about dance - to realise how deeply connected dancing is to life on earth, and to the sun and moon and stars, and whatever God or universal force rocks and rolls your universe.

I'm open to suggestions of fascinating and entertaining additions, thank you.

Abstract dance - A technical term for theatrical/ballet dances without a plot or storyline.

Academic dance - An alternative technical term for classical ballet. The name reflects the seriousness, and 'academic' nature, of the theoretical and technical 'school' teaching associated with the ballet dance genre.

L'Academie Royale de Dance - Founded in Paris in 1661 by Louis XIV, L'Academie Royale de Dance (The Royal Academy of Dance) was the first dance institution of the western world. Thirteen selected 'dancing masters' were tasked to produce standards of perfection in and codification for 'court and character' dances, and to offer examination and and qualifications to dance teachers. L'Academie Royale de Dance closed at the fall of the French monarchy in 1789 and was the first official dance institute, and the first body of standards and qualifications for 'western' classical dance. It briefly re-opened 1856-66 as a ballroom dance school: Societe Academie de Prefesseurs Artistes du Theatre de l'Opera.

Air, en l' (En l'Air) - This is French for 'in the air' and is fundamental to many forms of dance, especially ballet, referring to steps performed while jumping, or when the working leg (rather than the supporting leg) is positioned in the air, rather than on the ground. Incidentally the classical dance term, also French, for a step/leg on the ground is 'Par Terre' - on ground).

Angelina Ballerina - Angelina Ballerina is a cartoon mouse featuring in a globally popular children's book and TV series, whose first book was first published in 1983. More than 20 books have been translated into 15 languages. The Angelina Ballerina character was created by US author Katharine Holabird and English illustrator Helen Craig, and has grown into a substantial brand and business franchise, beloved by generations of children all around the world, extending to a touring ballet and lots of merchandise. Angelina Ballerina is an example of dance being interpreted into fantasy characters and stories, media and products, that can drive consumer interest on a truly vast scale.

Bachata - A Latinesque music and dance style from the Dominican Republic, the word is Caribbean Spanish, meaning 'a party, a good time'.

Bagnolet - One of the major dance choreography competitions in the world, established 1969 in the Bagnolet suburb of Paris. This is just one example of a huge number of dance-related competitions across all dance genres and styles, all around the world. If you can think of a dance style, or a dance-related capability, then somewhere there will be a competition for it. Dance is many things to many people, detailed at length in this article - Competition is an important aspect, that drives development and innovation and lots else.

Ballet - A classical Western form of performance dance, established in Renaissance Italy and defined later in France in the 1800s. Like the dance origins, the word ballet is French, taken from Italian 'ballo' meaning a dance, from earlier Latin, ballare, to dance. Ballet can be regarded as the beginnings of most types of formalized theatre dance.

Ballets de cour - This is a fundamental entry for lots of dance history... The Ballets de cour (Court ballets) were the earliest French ballets, of the 1500-1600s, performed in the French royal court. Key figures besides patron King Louis XIV were composer Jean-Baptiste Lully, and dancer/theorist Pierre Beauchamp, who was tasked to develop ballet as a high art form, worthy of the music. Beauchamp, head of Académie Royale de Danse, codified 'the five positions' (of the feet), specified costumes, footwear, female dancers, and long dance sequences so that ballet was basically defined by 1700. Pierre Rameau further developed Beauchamp's work (1725) detailing body/steps and positions. The first ballet de cour was performed 15 Oct 1581, and thereafter at festivals and weddings. Louis XIII presided over later richer developments. The ballets de cour evolved into into 'comedie-ballet' and 'opera-ballet' during 1700s. Jean-Philippe Rameau is cited by some as creating work (c.1735) that began social/ballroom dance, as a separate form, out of ballet, and the original Ballets de cour.

Ballo - Standard Italian dances of the 1400-1500s, from which the word ballet is derived, specifically from the diminutive word form 'balleto'. In this single definition we see the beginnings of classical modern dance.

Barre - The Anglicized-French word for the waist-height wooden bar attached to walls of ballet studio to assist dancers in balance and stretching, etc. It would not be normal to put your drinks or packed-lunch on this type of bar, although I bet some people do it.

Battement/Batterie - Ballet terms for beating movements of the leg or legs, respectively one bent/stretched leg, and both legs against each other while in the air. The latter especially is somewhat limited in its application to other dance forms (line dancing, disco, etc), and these terms are examples of movements in ballet that tend to be restricted to ballet.

Berkeley - Busby Berkeley - Busby Berkeley (1896-1976) was a hugely successful US director and choreographer, famous for his extravagant Hollywood 1930s musicals, notably intricately designed dance sequences, involving very many dancers, often filmed overhead, to produce dramatic and frequent kaleidoscopic effects. His work was decades ahead of its time, and was also daring in containing much sexual innuendo. Significantly Berkeley had no formal dance training, and this is perhaps an example or lesson that even in extremely demanding technical disciplines, creativity can be most brilliant when it is not constrained by 'taught' (and therefore typically unavoidably) technique.

Bolshoi Ballet - The Russian ballet school and company in Moscow, arguably the most famous in the world, is generally agreed to have been established in 1776. The strength and quality, and size and influence of The Bolshoi fluctuated through the 1800s with the movements of Russian socio-political history, strengthening and stabilizing during the 20th century after The Russian revolutionary turmoil, and then declining again from the 1990s after the breakdown of Russian communism when the Bolshoi was forced to become independently viable. Like the Russian Kirov Ballet, the Bolshoi is directly connected with the history of the Russian Imperial Ballet.

Can-can - The can-can (French originally cancan) is an energetic and physically challenging show dance which peaked in French music hall dancing in the 1840s. In the French language 'can-can' may be translated to mean scandal, or scandalous gossip - and in its early years the Can-can was certainly scandalous, as dancers wore open-crotched pantalettes (long-legged knickers). The Can-can remains popular in cabaret-style shows in France, and to a lesser extent internationally (mainly US, UK). The Can-can was originally danced by men and women, and then by prostitutes, until the entertainment attracted bigger fee-paying audiences, upon which the Can-can became the familiar modern 'chorus line' of highly skilled professional female dancers. The Can-can evolved international variations, and a fixed routine (ostensibly for 'tourist' audiences) emerged in France in the 1900s. Many composers have created Can-can music. And many artists, notably Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, have painted can-can dancers. The most famous accompanying music for the Can-can is the Infernal Galop from Orpheus in the Underworld, composed by Jacques Offenbach. The Can-can, danced to this music, has been featured in many films, notably mid-1900s US movies about cowboys and the Wild West. The 1900s and modern Can-can dance typically entails lush multi-petticoated dresses, stockings, high kicks and 'rond de jambe en l'air' moves (lower leg circles in the air) exposing frilly knickers, with splits and cartwheels. The Can-can's modern formats have encouraged progressively more impressive acrobatics performed by dancers individually in turn. There is also much screaming and shrieking by the dancers, to maximise the sensory assault. The Can-can is strongly linked to the Moulin Rouge nightclub in Paris. Charles Mazurier, a French acrobatic entertainer of the 1820s is considered a primary innovator of the Can-can.

Cabaret - Cabaret dancing is an adult style of performance or show dance featuring in Cabaret nightclubs and similar venues, particularly illustrated and popularized by the 1972 US musical film Cabaret (about 1930s Germany during the growth of Nazism), directed by Bob Fosse, starring Liza Minnelli. The film drew from the 1966 Broadway musical Cabaret (by Kander and Ebb), in turn adapted from the 1939 novel The Berlin Stories (by Christopher Isherwood). Cabaret in this sense combines several forms of flamboyant ironic highly suggestive song, dance and entertainment, including Burlesque, Striptease, comedy, etc., typically watched by small audiences in intimate clubs, with dining/drinking by candlelight, generally at small tables for couples or small groups. The Cabaret genre has in more recent times been embraced and developed substantially and tremendously enjoyably and entertainingly by the transgender communities across Europe and beyond. The word cabaret emerged in France c.1650, meaning a 'small inn', from Middle Dutch/Old Picard language camberet, little room.

Chasse - The chasse (originally, and also chassé - pronounced 'shassay') is a widely choreographed and used dance step - often called a type of 'triple-step' - essentially where one foot displaces or 'chases' the other. We can imagine the timing like a child 'galloping' as if pretending to be/ride a horse. The chasse is originally from ballet, and is found in many other dance forms in several variations (gliding. smooth, staccato, etc). Chassé means 'chased' or 'hunted' in French (as if one foot chases the other). The word chasse - especially in past tense 'chasséed' has crossed over into mainstream language with a wider informal meaning and reference to a person walking somewhat flamboyantly across a floor, as if to draw attention to themselves.

Covent Garden/The Royal Opera House - This is London's premier opera venue and home to the Royal Ballet since it moved there from Sadler's Wells in 1946.

Cunningham - Merce Cunningham - American dancer and choreographer Mercier Philip 'Merce' Cunningham (1919-2009) was a major force in modern dance and avant-garde art from the 1940s to the early 2000s. Besides this he pioneered computerized choreography, starting in the 1970s. Cunningham trained originally in tap, ballroom and folk dance, and thereafter shifted his talents to modern dance, collaborating for decades with composer and life-partner John Cage.

Dai Ailian - Dai Ailian (Chinese, Tai Ai-lien, 1916-2006) was a Chinese dancer, choreographer and educationalist. Born in Trinidad, she became a dancer, choreographer, teacher, and then during the 1940s-50s worked increasingly in China, where she transformed Chinese modern dance - through choreography, education, diplomacy, and by leading the development of Chinese dance administration, and dance teaching infrastructure. Dai Ailian is therefore a seminal character in Chinese dance, and is considered directly responsible for enabling China to build its first generations of modern dancers, choreographers, teachers and institutional dance educators and officials. Dai Ailian is often called the 'Mother of Chinese Modern Dance'.

Dance notation - See the Choreography and Notation section - Dance notation refers to the technical method (and terminology) for recording dance choreography, especially for dance in classical, historic, and academic situations, particularly ballet. Dance notation in this glossary because of the following fascinating point: that prior to the invention of sufficiently accurate dance notation methods, considered to have begun with Labanotation, first explained and published in 1926, the reliable recording of any dance - and significantly all ballets prior to 1926 - was actually impossible. Dance earlier could best be recorded and conveyed by personal physical demonstration and memory. We might wonder therefore what dances prior to the 20th century have been distorted or lost altogether.

Dancing With The Stars - See 'Strictly Come Dancing'. Strictly Come Dancing is the original UK BBC TV show name for the international licensed version of the dance show called Dancing With The Stars.

Danse d'ecole - (French, meaning 'school dance) - Danse d'ecole refers to the pure academic style of classical ballet. This is typically defined further as being ballet founded on principles defined by Beauchamp, Blasis and later teachers.

Danse macabre - This French term refers to ancient dance interpretations, and popular in the presumably very miserable late medieval centuries, 1300s and 1400s, where a dancer represents death exhorting humankind to destruction. The danse macabre genre is no longer a mainstream entertainment.

Deboulé - Another entertaining French term, referring here to a fast series of half turns, reflecting the literal translation 'suddenly running away'.

Diaghilev - Sergei Diaghilev - Sergei Diaghilev (1872-1929) was a highly influential Russian impressario. He was a keen and creative and passionate supporter of the arts - especially ballet - also a businessman, and one of the most important people in re-building Russian Ballet for the 20th century. He was particularly skilled in spotting and nurturing talent, and in facilitating and maintaining collaborations between the most brilliant composers, choreographers and dancers, and the necessary systemic considerations, to create world-leading ballets, many of which survive today.

Dirty Dancing - Dirty Dancing, a low-budget 1987 US Latin dance movie, starring unknowns Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, became a global phenomenon. It was the first film to sell more than a million copies on home video, and the Dirty Dancing soundtrack produced two multi-platinum albums and multiple singles, notably '(I've Had) The Time of My Life', winning the Golden Globe, and Academy Award, for Best Original Song, and a Grammy Award for best duet. Dirty Dancing became a sell-out stage show, and encouraged huge new interest in Latin dance styles, and related genres. The film featured lots of Salsa dancing, and blended styles combining Merengue and Cha cha cha. It was choreographed by American producer and choreographer Kenny Ortega, who also designed dances for Michael Jackson, and directed the series of High School Musical films.

Disability and dance - Dance and other performing arts are accessible to people who have disabilities. There are many extraordinary organizations around the world which run schools, classes, teaching, therapies, and personal development of various sorts, to make dance accessible for people who are visually impaired or blind (to use the traditional term), or sensorily or physically impaired in some other way. The AMICI Dance Theatre Company (founded by pioneer Wolfgang Stange in 1980), based at London Hammersmith's Lyric Theatre is one example. The AMICI dance theatre company mixes able-bodied and disabled artists and performers, and is noted for staging radical moving productions.

Duncan - Isadora Duncan - Californian-born Angela Isadora Duncan (1877/8-1927) was and remains one of the most famous dancers of the early 20th century. She performed modern and contemporary dance to serious adulation across Europe having left the USA to develop her dancing in what she considered to be the centres of excellence. She was a choreographer and teacher, and a highly significant dance celebrity and role model, in the days before mass media. She is additionally and tragically notable for having luckily changed plans late to travel on the doomed RMS Lusitania in 1915 (a German U-boat attack that helped bring the USA into the First World War) but then died prematurely age 49/50, when she was strangled by her scarf, caught in her car wheel.

Eurythmics - A system of movement theories and practice originating in the Renaissance period (14-16thC) developed, defined and taught by Swiss composer and educationalist Emile Jacques-Dalcroze (1865-1950), so that music is learned through body movement; i.e., dance - and a very free form of dance. The concept, (also called Eurythmie, French), was taught by Jacques-Dalcroze in the early 1900s until the start of the First World War in 1914. Eurythmics became popular in western (especially British) schools later in the 20th century, and more widely as a fundamental reference and application theory for dance and music. Jacques-Dalcroze's full concept aimed to teach the body to act and respond like a musical instrument, integrating two additional elements: teaching/awareness/response of musical note pitch; and improvisation, with the Eurythmics principle of body movement. The word is from Greek, 'eurhythmia' meaning 'rhythmic order and graceful motion'.

Extension - A dance term generally meaning that an arm or leg is straightened to its maximum, i.e., 180 degrees, or in ballet dance, extension refers more technically to a dancer's ability to lift one straightened leg high and sustain the position. The other leg remains on the floor, obviously, or the dancer would fall over. At the highest level of physical dance prowess, dancers, typically female, aim to be able to achieve the 'half-past midnight' position, whereby the leg is raised high enough to brush the dancer's own ear. Do not try this at home unless you are very supple and have created a soft landing area around you.

Fall-recovery - This is one of the most fundamental elements of dance, and of many dance forms, especially modern dance. Put simply, fall-recovery (or fall-and-recovery) is the blending of three phases actually, a falling movement, a recovery, and a suspension, so that two opposing types of movement are balanced. We could liken the effect to a child on a swing, falling, recovering/rising, and for a brief moment being still or in suspension before falling again. Walking is in fact a series of fall and recovery movements. The sense of gravity in all 'fall-recover' movements is significant. So is the dancer's breathing. The timings and movement relationships between the phases are infinitely variable, and the successful dancer produces these movements in sympathy with the music so that the whole effect is balanced and harmonious, and joyful to see. Fall-recovery is a simple deeply connected and meaningful concept as to how humans sense and appreciate beautiful dancing movements. Doris Humphrey (1895-1958) the American dancer, choreographer, author and educationalist, is credited with the codification of the 'fall-and-recovery' principle in her 1958 book, The Art of Making Dances. Fall-recovery is correlated to similar theories, notably Martha Graham's 'contraction-release', and Rudolf Laban's 'Anspannung-Abspannung' (tension-release).

Fandango - A lively Spanish-originating folk dance for two people, typically accompanied by castanets and tambourine. The word fandango has long been a metaphor for an unnecessarily complicated process, which is an allusion to the complexities of the dance.

Fantasia - Walt Disney's seminal 1940 cartoon film Fantasia was the first and perhaps most spectacular and successful production of animated choreography, in which plants and animals dance to classical ballet/musical works, performed and recorded to brilliant standards, including The Pastoral Symphony, The Sorcerer's Apprentice and The Nutcracker Suite. The film - employing more than 1,000 artists and over 500 cartoon characters - is a supreme example of artistic genius and choreographic innovation on a vast and unprecedented scale, for which Disney's team also made intense studies of real dancers of the times, such as Baranova and Riabouchinska, to enable the creation of fabulous dance by entirely fantastic characters, using tens of thousands of individually drawn pictures for the frame-by-frame animation.

The Five Positions - The Classical Ballet term 'five positions' refers to the five classic positions of the feet defined by French ballet master Pierre Beauchamps in the Ballets de Cour during the late 1600s, being the first codification of classical ballet. These remain the five classic feet positions for modern classical ballet. So Pierre Beauchamps did a very good job. 6th and 7th positions were later defined (by Lifar) and are included below. Here are Wikipedia's descriptions (2016). I'm open to improvements, thank you:

"...The first basic position requires the feet to be flat on the floor and turned out (pointing in opposite directions as a result of rotating the legs at the hips).

  1. Heels together, and toes going outwards [ideally 180 degrees].
  2. The feet point in opposite directions, with heels spaced approximately twelve inches apart [180 degrees].
  3. One foot is placed in front of the other so that the heel of the front foot is near the arch [near to parallel].
  4. There are two types of fourth position: open and closed. In both cases, one foot is placed approximately twelve inches in front of the other. In open fourth position the heels are aligned, while in closed fourth position the heel of the front foot is aligned with the toe of the back foot. There are two variations of each type of fourth position, determined by which foot is in front.
  5. Fifth position should form two parallel lines with your feet. The heel of the front foot should be in contact with the big toe of the other, and the heel of the back foot should be in contact with the last toe of the front foot.
  6. (Defined later by Lifar) Parallel feet, as in pas couru sur les pointes en avant or en arrière.
  7. (Defined later by Lifar) Similar to fourth position, but performed en pointe with heels in center with each other. There are two seventh positions, determined by whether the left or right foot is placed in front..." (Wikipedia, Nov 2016)

Folk dance - A folk dance is a dance that develops and is learned in a community organically, rather than a dance created by a choreographer or teacher. The term is significant because it refers to the dances of the peasant classes, compared to the ballroom dances of the upper classes that first emerged in the 1400s. Folk dance reminds us that dancing became and remained to a degree a reflection of social class and division. Since the first separation of dance according to social class, and increasingly in modern times, folk dances have influenced and integrated with other styles of dance, blurring the separations, especially theatre and social dancing. Where folk dances survive close to their original form they tend to do so for historic interest or academic reasons, or as tourist attractions.

Folies Bergère - Folies Bergère is the famous Paris music hall founded in 1869, originally as the Folies Trévise opera house, featuring light operatic-related entertainment, It became the Folies Bergère in 1872, peaking in popularity in the 1890s. The institution remains noted for lavish and controversial erotic dance performances, including much female semi-nudity and nudity, outrageous costumes, and circus-type acts and cabaret-style singing and dancing. Bergère is simply a nearby street; it means shepherdess. The Folies Bergère is iconic in Parisien and French culture, and also in the history and imagery of dance.

Fonteyn - Dame Margot Fonteyn - British ballerina, born Peggy Hookham (1919-91), Margot Fonteyn became the most famous dancer globally of her time - basically 1930s-70s. From 1961 she danced with Russian ballet superstar Rudolf Nureyev, which became the most famous dance pairing in ballet history.

Fosse - Bob Fosse - One of the most influential dance choreographers in history, Chicago-born Bob Fosse (1927-87) began dancing in burlesque shows age 13. He became a Broadway dancer in 1950, and was choreographing professionally soon after for theatre and films. He later directed and choreographed major musical/dance films, innovating dance radically, notably in Sweet Charity (1966), Cabaret, (the movie, 1971), and Chicago (1975). Fosse changed dance for ever, and influenced and inspired countless thousands of choreographers, dancers, designers, and entertainers. His work continues to entertain and bring joy to millions, probably actually billions of people.

Gangnam Style - In 2012 'Gangnam Style', by the South Korean musician Psy, became the most successful song and dance video in history. Released 15 July 2012, within two weeks the Gangnam Style YouTube video 'went viral'. If you do not know the internet, 'went viral' means it achieved vast popularity rapidly via social media - and 'social media' is rather like everyone in the world knowing and seeing and hearing what everyone else is doing, and being able to send practically anyone anything, except touch and smell, which will happen before long. On 21 December 2012 Gangnam Style was the first YouTube video to be seen a billion times. Given that there are only about 8billion people in the whole world, that's a lot of views, even if some people did see it more than once, or actually more than fifty times. Gangnam Style combined a clever song and funny dance, a bit like pretending to ride a horse, that appealed globally and influenced (especially young) people and makers of entertainment everywhere. Gangnam Style filled dancefloors everywhere with people pretending to ride a horse. The crazy success of Gangnam Style would have been impossible five years earlier, because the world then was not connected adequately by social media. Arguably the world was not ready for the Gangnam Style song and dance then either. Gangnam Style - which means something quite different to horse-riding, in fact a reference to an up-market district called Gangnam in Seoul, South Korea, meaning 'south of the river' - is an example of how the huge popularity of any dance depends on more than artistic dance creation - it depends on novelty, fun, music and song, lyrics, costume, and crucially society and technology too. Where these elements combine harmoniously and relevantly, then creative art - especially song and dance - can achieve popularity beyond imaginings. The digitally connected world of the 21st century will enable future song and dance phenomena of even more mind-blowing proportions and speed and impact, that we simply cannot conceive until they happen. How exciting.

Glissade - French meaning slide/glide, this is a common ballet/dance for a gliding movement, any direction, usually as a linking step. Like many ballet terms it is similar to a musical term, in this case glissando, referring to a playing a sliding transition between two notes.

Graham - Martha Graham - US dancer Martha Graham (1894-1991), also prolific choreographer, teacher, and businesswoman, is considered the most significant and influential person in the history of American modern dance. Her family were Presbyterian and non-dancers, and her father was an 'alienist' (an early form of psychiatry). Martha Graham's own dance education (from c.1915) and early career was unremarkable, but after about ten years (1926/7) she established her own dance school/company and quickly became an extraordinary innovator and collaborator. Martha Graham innovated new dance ideas for theatre/concert and dramatic performance far beyond and despite classical ballet convention, and transformed the teaching of modern dance internationally. Her New York dance school and company, The Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance, founded in 1926/7, was the leading modern dance institute globally, and remains the oldest continuing dance company in the world, renamed and grant-funded 2005, as the Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance. Martha Graham, whose 'trademark' teaching method is called the 'Graham technique', pioneered systems of dance teaching emphasizing the use of lower back and pelvis in generating movement, with the importance of breathing, and the fundamental principles of contraction-and-release. She was still performing at age 74. Martha Graham choreographed for Fonteyn and Nureyev, collaborated with leading fashion designers, was the first dancer to perform at the White House, built a sizeable dance corporation, became a US cultural ambassador, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom (the highest US civilian award). We can therefore regard Martha Graham as among the first dance professionals to successfully combine dance, innovation, education, business and diplomacy, on a serious international scale.

Humphrey - Doris Humphrey - US dancer, choreographer, teacher, Doris Humphrey (1895-1958) is regarded as a fundamental influencing figure in the development of American modern dance. Humphrey devised the concept of fall-and-recovery, and emphasized the importance and use of gravity, self-expression and emotion especially in her work and teachings. She referred to 'dancing from the inside out'; to the transition between balance and being off-balance, and to dance existing in 'the arc between two deaths', i.e., which is interpreted as between standing and lying prone.

Ice dancing - Ice dance has a longer history than one might imagine.. An early social pairing is recorded as having been London diarist Samuel Pepys and actress Nell Gwyn (mistress of King Charles II), on the River Thames in the big freeze of 1683. In more recent times Ice Dance has occasionally become a global audience phenomenon, for example Torvill and Dean's Bolero routine at the 1984 Winter Olympics. During the 1990s ice dance shows became extremely popular.

Imperiale Regia Academia di Ballo - The foremost early Italian classical dance school and standards institute, established in 1812 in Milan.

India and Indian dance forms - India and Pakistan have a richly diverse history and tradition of dance. For example Hindu belief is that Shiva, the Lord of the Dance, created heaven and earth when he danced the Dance of Creation. Ancient guidelines for music, drama and dance are proposed in the classical texts of Bharata's Natya Shastra, dated between 200BC and 300AD. Major dance forms include Kathakali, Manipuri, Odissi and Kathak. Sadly much traditional dance was suppressed by colonial British rule. Happily the transition towards independence during the 1900s enabled India to experience a major resurgence of its native dances, in performance, popularity, teaching and wider education and study. In the late 1900s classical Indian dance began to spread around the world, alongside the development of new dance styles, fuelled by improving economic prosperity, liberation, modernization, education, infrastructure, and technology. By the end of the 1900s the Bollywood movie industry was the biggest in the world, and the Bollywood style of music and dance had become among the most popular, if not actually the most popular dance form on Earth. The depth and sophistication of India's art, culture, philosophy, and people, guarantees that all sorts of dance in and emanating from India will continue to develop in amazing wonderful ways.

Isolation - This is virtually a universal dance term, referring to the movement of one part of the body independently of the other parts of the body, while these other parts of the body remain still. In certain forms of dance, good isolation skills are essential, and hugely affect the quality of the dance; in other dance forms, isolation is less significant. Certain isolation is easy, for example a simple movement of one hand or leg. Other isolation abilities are far more challenging, for example, many hip movements, or moving a shoulder in a specific way, or in some body positions moving the head, or the stomach muscle control in belly dancing. Note that the body might be in an unusual position while trying to isolate the movement of a particular body part, which might also present challenges. And of course movement must be appropriately artistic and sympathetic for the music and mood, and expression, etc. This can be so challenging that it's impossible to do it well without substantial training and practice, and considerable levels of fitness and muscle control too. So isolation in dance is quite an involved subject. Isolation is both a matter of muscular and skeletal quality and control, as well as brain/neurological control.

jig - A jig is a very old British folk dance, which emphasizes lots of quick footwork and jumping or hopping movements. There are many jig variations. Jigs are particularly associated with Irish dance and music, and the fiddle (violin). Generally a jig is a fast solo dance. The word is thought by some to be derived from French 'gigue' and/or Italian 'giga'.

Kabuki - Kabuki is a Japanese form of dance theatre, dating from the 1500s, which helps illustrate that dance has formal beginnings in different parts of the world, as far back as the earliest formalisation of 'western' classic dance. Kabuki began as an all-female blend of prayer dance, folk dance, and erotic dance, with added comic mime. Women played the parts of men as well as women. Due to the erotic content and changing Japanese attitudes, women were banned from dancing in Kabuki from 1629, and replaced by boys. Then boys were banned in 1652, which gave rise to the male 'omnagata' female impersonator in Kabuki, subsequently becoming an honoured profession for which boys were trained from childhood. Kabuki later split into theatre and dance genres, each full of vivid storytelling, and women were re-admitted to Kabuki performance. The three Japanese kanji characters for the word Kabuki represent 'sing', 'dance', and 'skill', and this helps explain the original ethos of Kabuki as a dance form. The whole word Kabuki in Japanese separately means 'shocking/bizarre/strange' which additionally reflects the design and contextual approach of the Kabuki entertainment.

Kinesiology - Kinesiology is the study of human movement - both its mechanical action, and anatomical structure, i.e., how the body moves. Related term is 'kinesics', meaning the study of body movements and gestures as non-verbal communications. These are from Greek 'kinesis', meaning motion. An interesting related term is 'kinesthetic', which appears in the VAK learning model , (applicable for all sorts of learning) and refers to the 'touching and doing' method of learning, alongside 'visual' and 'audio' (seeing/reading, and listening/talking).

Kirov/Maryinsky Ballet - The Kirov/Maryinsky (or Mariinsky) ballet of St Petersburg is one of the most influential ballet schools/companies in history. Like the Bolshoi Ballet of Moscow, the Kirov/Maryinsky of St Petersburg was fundamental for ballet and dance in Russia, and with the major early ballet schools and companies of France, Italy, and the UK, helped define and standardize ballet, and provide a platform for the development of concert dance and other classical forms of theatre dance around the world. The beginnings of the Kirov Ballet were the Russian court dancers trained at the Empress Anna Ivanovna's dance school, which evolved initially into the Russian Imperial Ballet, reflecting its royal patronage. After the Russian Revolution it became the Soviet Ballet, and then Kirov Ballet (named after the assassination of Bolshevik revolutionary Sergey Kirov in 1934). The Kirov/Maryinsky Ballet has been through many changes since its 1773 origins in the Russian royal court. In more recent times the Mariinsky Ballet is the official name, linked to the school, now known as the Vaganova Ballet Academy.

Laban - Rudolf von Laban - Laban (1879-1958) was a Hungarian dancer, choreographer, ballet master, and dance theorist. He became a specialist in the analysis of human movement - its dynamics and expression Laban is mainly noted (excuse the pun) for developing his system of dance notation, called initially 'Kinetographie Laban', published 1926, which was later named Labanotation, which is a major dance notation system internationally. See dance notation in the Dance Choreography and Notation section .

Leotard - The iconic popular stretchy one-piece gymwear garment, worn by dancers the world over, is named after its inventor, French acrobat Jules Leotard (1830-70). Jules Leotard more impressively developed the art of trapeze acrobatics and became an international entertainer and celebrity. Interestingly he was also the inspiration for the 1867 song by George Leybourne, and its popular refrain, "...He'd fly through the air with the greatest of ease, That daring young man on the flying trapeze...."

Maillot - Appropriately near to the leotard entry, maillot is a classical dance word for dancer's tights. Maillot also means a leotard or similarly designed swimsuit. Any maillot interpretation tends to entail stretchy fabric. Dictionaries vary as to origins. The Oxford Dictionary of Dance says maillot is named after a 19th century costumier at the Paris Opera. Wikipedia says maillot is of French origin meaning swaddling clothes, and that it's mainly a swimsuit or cyclist's shirt, for example the leader of the Tor de France wears the 'maillot jaune' (yellow jersey). The Oxford English Dictionary says maillot is all three: dancer's tights, a ladies swimsuit, and a cyclist's top, and that the origin is French.

Masque - Theatrical entertainment of the English royal court, in the 1500-1600s, performed by nobility, equivalent to the 'Ballets de cour', the earliest 'court ballets' of the French royal court. Ballet was adopted in the English royal court rather later than in France. The masque performance - which was also an entertainment for commoners - derived from masked processions and medieval 'mummers plays' (mummers, from older language meanings of mask, Greek mommos, or silence, as in 'mum' Old English). Masque entertainment comprised music, songs, dances, and strong literary content, sometimes by famous writers such as Ben Johnson and John Milton. In masque we see the early development of formal dance for the upper classes. Masque is French for mask. French, and progressively Anglo-French, was the language of the English court and nobility for hundreds of years after the Norman invasion of 1066. The English language retained its Anglo-French nature permanently thereafter, and so, unsurprisingly, this is reflected in the history of dance and its terminology. Masked entertainment is fascinating and is found deep in human culture and entertainment everywhere.

Mime - Mime is an ancient art form and entertainment, and is central to many forms of dance - because Mime is basically the use of body-language to convey meaning, usually to an audience. In more detail, Mime refers to conveying a story, event, situation, mood, character, feeling, word(s), joke, or any other concept, by using non-verbal communications such as body movements, gestures, facial expressions, costume, make-up, masks, and potentially other props too. The word Mime is from Ancient Greek mimos, and later Latin mimus, which meant actor or imitator, or mimic (hence the word mimic). Mime was first standardized as an entertainment by the Ancient Greeks and then the Romans, when it included strong elements of farce and comedy. It's not surprising that Mime developed in this way, given the challenges of conveying stories and meanings to large audiences before microphones, PA systems, printed notes, and books, etc. Mime continued to feature in the development of dance for more than two thousand years, as it still does today in most dance forms, to a small or substantial degree. Mime was central to the earliest forms of classical dance and ballet, notably 'Ballet de cour', 'masques', 'mummers' plays, and to the development countless styles of folk and tribal dances, all around the world. Mime also exists as a significant and popular theatrical and street art form in its own right, quite separately from dance. Mime was the principal component in the beginnings of the movie industry, in silent films, and Mime survives today and lends itself to adaptation for all sorts of entertainment and new media, including large-scale film animations, and moving graphics extending even to logos and emoticons, used and seen by billions of people, billions of times every day, on modern smartphones, computers and digital devices.

Mudra - Mudra is an Indian Dance and yoga gesture found in Hindu dancing. The term Mudra is included in this glossary to illustrate that the meaning of dance is subject to varying interpretations between different cultures. According to the Oxford Dictionary of Dance, the Mudra gesture is described (Lama Anagarika - Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism) as a: "...bodily gesture, especially of hands, which accent the ritual act and the mantric word, as well as the inner attitude..." Full appreciation of this gesture is therefore quite different to understanding typical movements in most western dances, or African or Latin dances, or Disco or Rock and Roll, or Irish folk dancing - instead full appreciation of the Mudra gesture - and therefore the dances which feature it - requires an understanding of a spiritual philosophy, beyond dance. To emphasise this point, here's the Wikipedia definition (2016) of Mudra.. "A mudra is a symbolic or ritual gesture in Hinduism and Buddhism. While some mudras involve the entire body, most are performed with the hands and fingers. A mudra is a spiritual gesture and an energetic seal of authenticity employed in the iconography and spiritual practice of Indian religions. One hundred and eight mudras are used in regular Tantric rituals. In yoga, mudras are used in conjunction with pranayama (yogic breathing exercises), generally while seated in Padmasana, Sukhasana or Vajrasana pose, to stimulate different parts of the body involved with breathing and to affect the flow of prana in the body..." This is not a part of dance that would be readily comprehended by students, or even advanced teachers, of 'western' dance. Here, in the case of Mudra and Hindu dance, dancers must also understand Buddhism or Hinduism.

Nijinsky - Vaslav Nijinsky - Russian ballet dancer and choreographer Vaslav Nijinsky (1889-1950) is one of the most famous dancers in the history of dance globally, regardless of genre, such was his reputation and celebrity. Nijinsky was born into a Polish dancing family, and after training with the Russian Imperial Ballet School, became central in the development and pre-eminence of the Russian ballet in the early 1900s. Nijinsky's physical, technical and charismatic prowess was unequalled. He could do things, and dared to do things, that nobody else could. Nijinsky's influence extended later to choreographic and dance innovation that shocked and thrilled audiences, and changed the entire world of ballet - in terms of dance interpretation, eroticism, and technique. Sadly Njinsky's life after a spectacular early career went into a catastrophic decline, heavily affected by mental illness. His last public performance was in 1919, age just 29.

Nureyev - Rudolf Nureyev - Russian ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev (1938-93), also choreographer and ballet director, changed ballet, and dance too. After initial training in folk dance and ballet, in 1955 Nureyev moved to the Leningrad Choreographic School (Kirov School) at age 17. He became a soloist with the Kirov Ballet three years later in 1958. By the early 1960s Rudolf Nureyev was a global celebrity beyond the appreciation of dance, boosted in 1961 by becoming the first dancer to defect from Soviet Russia, after a dramatic stand-off in Paris between his KGB minders and French police, at which Nureyev successfully appealed for political asylum. Nureyev lived and worked from then in the western world. Soon after his defection Margot Fonteyn invited Nureyev to dance in London, and this began one of the most famous dance partnerships in history. Like Nijinsky before him, Nureyev's unique dancing talents and virtuosity - together with his technical brilliance, and physical and charismatic qualities - transcended all. Nureyev's success, at the beginning of the globalized multi-media televised world, was unparalleled in ballet, and dance and celebrity more widely, particularly in his dancing with Margot Fonteyn. Nureyev was a pioneer and innovator too, and the first major ballet star to work with leaders and choreographers of Modern Dance, notably Martha Graham. He appeared in many films, and directed and danced in world-leading shows on Broadway and touring productions, and was artistic director of the Paris Opera Ballet from 1983-89. At age 51 Nureyev returned for the first time since defecting to perform at the Kirov ballet, in St Petersburg's Maryinsky Theatre, in 1989. Towards the end of his life Nureyev also became an orchestral conductor. He died from an Aids-related illness age 54, ending prematurely one of the most extraordinary careers in the history of dance and entertainment.

Opera Ballet - Opera Ballet is a significant historical 17-18th centuries genre of theatrical and classical dance, combining the implied singing and dancing styles of the times. Opera Ballet emerged most significantly and became defined in late-1600s France, and remaining popular more widely into the early 1700s. Stagings and stylings were opulent and rich, contrasting somewhat with generally light dramatic content. The Opera Ballet genre and its influences spread around European cities, notably the evolving ballet capitals and major cities, which explains why many ballet schools and companies and theatrical institutes refer to Opera Ballet in their older names, and in some surviving names. Opera Ballet remains a marginal niche, attracting little attention from mainstream or popular dance choreographers, dancers, composers, audiences, etc.

Pantomime - Traditionally and internationally the term Pantomime, which derives from Greek 'pantomimus', meaning originally 'imitator of all', refers to a theatrical show without words or songs. Mime originally 2,000 years ago referred to an actor or imitator, and panto means all. In Britain, from the early 1700s, the term Pantomime developed more a specific meaning, for a Christmas theatrical entertainment, combining songs, dancing, comedy, extravagant costumes, usually with traditional 'fixed' characters and storylines. British pantomimes are usually based on fairy tales, such as Aladdin, Goldilocks, Cinderella, etc., and are extremely light-hearted, with lots of audience participation in well known dialogue patterns, for example... Actor: "Oh yes we are.." Audience: "Oh no you're not..." and Audience: "He's behind you...". Much dance in pantomimes is very simple, because the entertainment is aimed at children/families, and performers are commonly from entertainment genres different to dance, and in some cases have very little dancing ability indeed. Nevertheless accessibility and joyful entertainment value is high. The origins of mime - from Ancient Greek and Roman cultures - are also the earliest beginnings of Pantomime, whether considered from the UK or from wider global perspectives.

Pas - Pas is French for step, and is therefore a common term in Ballet dancing, notably in longer terms, including terms in which 'pas' means dance, such as 'pas de deux', and pas de trois', meaning a dance for two people (a duet), and dance for three, etc. A step example, is 'pas de chat', referring to a light sideways foot-to-other-foot step, literally 'step of a cat' or 'cat-step'.

Pavlova - Anna Pavlova - Russian prima ballerina Anna Pavlova (1881-1931) was during her career the most famous female dancer in the world, in any dance genre. She trained from 1891 age 10 at The Imperial Ballet School in St Petersburg with the leading Russian teachers and choreographers, notably Marius Pepita, with whom she later collaborated and choreographed, and in whose productions she innovated and performed some of the most breathtakingly beautiful and significant dance sequences in history. She graduated in 1899 and by 1906 was prima ballerina at the Maryinsky Theatre in St Petersburg. In 1911 Pavlova formed her own touring company, based in London, where from 1912 she taught at her home. Pavlova took her ballet productions all around the world, including places that had not seen ballet before, and in this respect Pavlova was directly responsible for building the increasing global awareness and popularity of ballet in the early 20th century. Pavlova gave her final performance in London in 1930, and died prematurely age 50 from pneumonia in 1931. Her dancing excellence, and legacy as a ballet dancer, choreographer, and global popularizer for ballet is comparable with that of Nureyev and Nijinsky.

Pepita - Marius Pepita - French-Russian Marius Pepita (1818-1910) is widely considered the most significant choreographer in the history of Classical Ballet. Born in France, Pepita trained as a ballet dancer with his father in Brussels, and then danced largely unknown in European cities through the 1830s. Pepita's influence began to grow seriously age 30, after moving to St Petersburg and Russia in 1847. There he choreographed his iconic productions of The Nutcracker, The Sleeping Beauty, and a remake of Swan Lake, all working with composer Pyotr Tchaichovsky. it is thought that due to Pepita's illness, the Nutcracker was choreographed by his assistant Lev Ivanov, under Pepita's guidance. Pepita's role in creating these ballets extended to giving very detailed instructions to Tchaichovsky - even concerning timings and beats, as well as mood and story. Basically Pepita provided the musical specification to Tchaichovsky, which is a remarkable additional dimension of capability and command of his art form. Try to imagine the level of brilliance required to specify a musical composition to Tchaichovsky... Pepita is regarded as the main force behind the establishment of Russia's Imperial Ballet as the global centre of Classical Ballet excellence in the late 1800s. Pepita is an example of using diverse cultural experience to achieve amazing innovation - namely the world-leading technical skills and knowledge he learned in French and Italian Ballet, blended with the grand influences and ambitions of Russia's Tsarist system and philosophy. Pepita danced in and created ballets for France and Russia which toured the world and continue to provided the basis for productions around the world in modern times. Marius Pepita held the most senior creative and administrative position in Russian Ballet for over 30 years until he was 85 years old, from 1871 until 1903, while Russian Ballet (notably The Imperial Ballet, later the Kirov/Maryinsky Ballet) led the world in the Classical Ballet art form. Pepita retired in 1903, and died age 92 in 1910.

Picasso - Pablo Picasso - Spanish genius Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), better known as a painter, was also deeply connected to the world of Classical Ballet. Picasso designed world-leading ballet sets and backdrops in the 1910-60s, notably for the influential and powerful Russian impressario Sergei Diaghilev. Picasso's sketches of ballet dancers are iconic - a small one would now equate to the value of a moderately-sized country. Picasso also married a ballet dancer, Olga Kokhlova. Really.

Pirouette - A pirouette (French originally meaning a 'spinning top') is a dance turn on one foot that is common in many forms of dance, and gymnastics too, with variations according to dance type. In Classical Ballet the pirouette pose and movement resembles the 'spinning top' meaning. The dancer is turned by the partner, standing on one leg tip-toe, with the other leg bent, with the foot fixed at the supporting knee. In ballet a pirouette is en pointe (on tip-toe) with legs rotated outward at hips (called 'turnout'). Generally in other dance forms and gymnastics the legs are not turned out at the hips, and the turn would not usually be on tip-toe, and would commonly be a solo move, which obviously enables fewer revolutions before repeating propulsion. In Ice Dance, a pirouette, aided by much-reduced friction, and a technique of retracting the extending leg, and arms, a pirouette can attain seriously dizzying acceleration and speeds.

Plié - Plié (from French, bent) is a basic Classical Ballet dance movement of slowly bending the knees, with legs turned out, feet pointing outwards, heels grounded. Plié is fundamental in ballet teaching and classes as a warm up exercise, typically at the wall and barre, before moving into the centre of the floor. A Plié may be one-legged. The Plié is also fundamental to many ballet moves and steps, for example, most jumps start and end with a plié, and most turns start and end with standing leg in a plié; also plié is a common transitory step; it's vital for toning the muscles, and for maximising the effortless appearance of movement.

Pointe - Point (French, point) is a fundamental classical ballet term referring to dancing on tip-toes, or 'en pointe'. Ballet shoes are called pointe shoes. Generally female dancers dance en pointe; and men do not, although there are exceptions, notably the Bottom character in Sir Frederick Ashton's Ballet, The Dream, for comic effect. Pointe dancing in ballet began in the early 1800s and was defined and standardized, beyond an occasional device to a common style, by Marie Taglioni, in the 1830s, by which time basic technology had been developed to make pointe shoes. One of the major deviations of Modern Dance away from Classical Ballet is the rejection of pointe dancing and pointe shoes, instead to dancing on the balls of the bare feet.

The Royal Academy of Dancing - Founded in London, 1920, The Royal Academy of Dancing (abbreviated commonly to RAD) was the UK's first major dance institute and formal teaching school for ballet. Originally called the Association of Operatic Dancing in Great Britain, RAD grew to become the world's largest examinations and training body for ballet. In 1997 the RAD amalgamated with the Benesh Institute, extending its offerings of dance degree qualifications to notators (classical choreographers and dance analysts) and dance teachers.

Royal Ballets - Companies, Theatres, Schools, Academies, etc - Across Europe, and to a lesser extent in other continents too, there are many academies, companies, and schools of dance and opera that are named 'Royal'. This is due to the strong historical associations between power and dance, and also the traditional patronage by Kings, Queens, Tsars, and ruling dynasties of dance as a high 'classical' art form. This is for complex reasons and is fascinating. Many royal patrons of course have held a genuine fondness arts such as dance, but also, dance and power have long been linked for less positive reasons. We see examples everywhere - even in ancient tribal rituals. We see the connection between dance and power in ceremonies of all sorts - especially religious and military ceremonies - where dance symbolises aspects of human power in life and its organization - virility, ownership and possession, fear and superstition, obedience, loyalty, affirmation and conformity, fighting and battle, life and death, mourning and grief, etc. Also dance is a form of beauty and high art. It satisfies powerful people's needs for high spiritual purpose and legacy, for academia and recognition, and to be part of groups of highly talented admired sought-after artists, and natural leaders and innovators - and also celebrities whom powerful people think are loved. And this taps into a basic human need, not least of powerful people - to be loved and accepted, and to be seen alongside brilliant creatives. Dance is indeed beautiful and fulfilling and wonderful in many accessible ordinary human ways, but dance, like other art forms, may also be presented or perceived mainly as a highly aspirational and egotistical concept, which is not so wonderful. The many historical associations between 'Royalty' and dance prompt us to consider that dance can be used for good, to benefit everyone, or instead dance may be appropriated and protected and kept for the enjoyment of a privileged elite. The patronage and support of powerful people for anything is to be valued, and without it much artistic creation would not exist; however dance is most importantly an open accessible powerful force for good, for everyone, and this must be the primary purpose for anyone's involvement in it.

Ring a Ring o'Roses/Ring Around the Rosie - Across the UK and USA, and in many other nations, this is a popular nursery rhyme, typically sung to the same tune, and danced in basically the same patterns and movements by small children, in a circle, holding hands, and curtsying, or sitting or collapsing to the ground at the final line of the song: "Ring-a-ring o' roses, A pocket full of posies, A-tishoo! A-tishoo! We all fall down." The American version is generally: "Ring-a-round the rosie, A pocket full of posies, Ashes! Ashes! We all fall down." There are minor variations of the song and dance in the UK and more so in the US, and adaptations or similar versions of the song and dance in other countries. The song and dance together are remarkable because small children have loved it for over 200 years, perhaps longer, and seem naturally to learn it and perform it more than any other infants' choreographed dance. The Ring a Ring o'Roses song was first published in 1881 in the UK but was reportedly performed in its modern format earlier (1840s USA, and 1790s UK). Common belief is that the song and actions refer to and derive from the Great Plague (London 1665-66) or the Black Death (Europe, 1346-53), or the Plague pandemic outbreaks generally affecting the known world (at 6th, 14th, and 19th centuries), however experts tend to reject this notion because there was no suggested connection of Ring a Ring o'Roses to any plague before the 20th century, and despite popular myth, the actions and allusions of the song (e.g., sneezing, carrying flowers in the pockets) do not actually reflect the characteristics of the plagues. Competing theories of origin suggest the song and dance have roots in paganism, but really, nobody knows. The song/dance is amazing nevertheless because it has endured for so long completely organically, and almost seems part of the DNA or genetic programming in little children.

Rise and fall/Rises and Falls - Rise and Fall refers technically to the quality of important Ballroom Dance movements where the dancer's body position moves up and down ('Rise and Fall') by bending knees and/or ankles and feet. Rises and Falls feature significantly, and are a major aspect of excellence, in dances such as the Waltz, Viennese Waltz, Foxtrot, Quickstep, and American Smooth variations. Other dances such as the Tango inherently demand much less Rise and Fall, or in basic form seek to avoid Rises and Falls, being described as 'level' or 'flat' dance forms. The technical term/feature Rise and Fall tends not to be found in theatrical and classical dance forms such as Ballet, although of course in these dance styles the body's up and down movements are technically just as crucial, and are defined/assessed in different ways. Whatever, clarification of Rise and Fall meaning is required where confusion could arise because Rise and Fall may be interpreted less technically in Ballroom, Latin, Freestyle, etc., or from the standpoint of the body's centre/center of gravity rising and falling instead of the dancer's 'body'. There are other perspectives, for example, beyond normal technical definition of Rise and Fall, a dancer's body rises and falls due to hip action in many Latin dances and falls of the body. A dancer's body may also rise and fall simply by straightening the spine or stance, or tightening the body's 'core', or by lifting the torso and shoulders.In many other dances where technical precision is being judged, a degree of rise and fall might be encouraged or prohibited, so again clarification depending on the situation is necessary. Rise and fall does not refer to being lifted by a dancing partner.

Saturday Night Fever - The 1977 film Saturday Night Fever changed popular dancing more than any other film. It changed lots else too: music, the entertainment industry, market-design, an entire generation of people, etc). Saturday Night Fever starred John Travolta as Tony Manero, a young man in Brooklyn NYC, and Karen Lynn Gorney as Stephanie Mangano his dance partner. Both have a passionate ability for Disco Dance. Travolta's character especially regards dance as an utterly crucial escape; his quest for purpose, value, recognition, etc., beyond the desperate difficulties of his day-to-day life. Millions of young people could identify with what dance means to Travolta's character - a way to be brilliant as a person, and to find meaning. To achieve and be the best. You will see illustrations of most classical motivational theory in Travolta's character (see Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs , for example). The film revolutionized Disco Dance and also provided the foundations on which wider Freestyle Dance was developed, defined, taught, and adopted globally. This is explained in the sections about Disco Dance and Freestyle Dance. The broad Freestyle Dance category, and the Freestyle Dance form itself, grew from the Disco Dance that the music and choreography in Saturday Night Fever inspired. Specifically the film Saturday Night Fever was the catalyst for Disco Dancing to be standardized and choreographed using a system of steps, movements, principles, in ways that already applied to traditional formal genres of dance such as Ballroom, Latin, Ballet and Tap, etc. Before Saturday Night Fever, Disco Dancing was not considered a serious structured dance form. Disco Dance was not taught in dance academies, nor were there any teaching qualifications for Disco Dance, or standards, or competitions, or famous dancers who were noted for dancing in the Disco Dance style. The film Saturday Night Fever was an enormous global success. The soundtrack album, and many Disco singles from it - largely featuring Disco songs written by the Gibbs brothers (The Bee-Gees) - became massively successful in their own right, and effectively defined the standard for Disco music in the late 1970s, and into the 1980s and beyond this too. Disco music became absolutely integral to Disco Dance and Disco lifestyle and fashion. Disco music also became totally oriented for discotheques and nightclubs - designed to promote dancing in a very different way from the much looser and ill-defined 'beat' dancing of the 1960s and early-mid 1970s. Disco music was/is characterized by: 'hooky' (accessible, unforgettable) melodies and choruses, slick smooth production, a big emphasis on hypnotic repetitive powerful bass, and percussion (bass drum/snare/high-hat) beat , multi-layered electric guitars and synthesizers/keyboards, usually with highly acrobatic and clinically clean vocals, usually multi-tracked and given lots of compression treatment. The sound of Disco music is radically more polished and sumptuous than other popular rougher and earthier styles of the times, for example rock, punk, blues, soul, reggae, ska, etc. Disco was a new lifestyle, as well as a fundamentally new dance form, and it was embraced globally - more enthusiastically and widely than any other dance/lifestyle genre in history. As such, Disco was the first dance style to benefit from mass media and rampant consumerism, enabling a new approach to market-design by the big entertainment corporations, so that they could successfully 'manufacture' a music and dance concept, to a sophisticated formula, and which was quickly supported and sustained by a heavily commercialised industry of discotheques and related lifestyle products (drinks, fashionwear notably). Saturday Night Fever was the start of all this - the globalization of entertainment and lifestyle - which grows ever more powerful, and continues to re-invent itself into the 21st century, and likely indefinitely beyond.

Singin' in the Rain - Singin' in the Rain - the 1952 US musical film, and song and dance scene - provides one of the best examples of an globally famous dance sequence. It's up there with the Beatles and Bob Dylan, Mount Everest and Coca-Cola. Dance has the potential to touch all of humanity. In fact most people would know Gene Kelly's splashing dance in the rainy street and the phrase 'Singin' in the Rain' more than knowing it's from the film of the same name.

Smooch - A smooch is a very popular British-originating term for an intimate slow dance between two people. The smooch 'style' of dancing is heavily biased towards close full-body contact, hardly any movement, hardly any floor coverage, with plenty of eye-contact, plus optional hair-smelling and stroking and the occasional proposal of marriage. Kissing is common in a smooch, especially late-night when the music slows down, after plenty of alcohol. The term emerged in the 1930s, initially as a reference to kissing and cuddling (smooching), and then naturally extended to refer to the slow non-choreographed smooch dancing. Newly-wed couples commonly begin the dancing with a smooch.

Soft Shoe Dance - This is related to tap dance, but as implied is performed with soft-soled shoes without metal taps. The style is also abbreviated to Soft Shoe, or called a Soft Shoe Shuffle, and may also be performed on a scattering of sand on the dance floor surface, so that the dancer can create a 'sweeping' percussive effect similar to a drummer using brushes.

Spotting - Spotting is a technique in many different dance styles - whereby essentially a spinning dancer fixes gaze and head position on a point in the room until the last possible split-second, and then quickly turns the head 360 degrees to 'spot' the same point again. The technique reduces dizziness risks, and also encourages precision, balance and clean tidy shape in controlling movement of head, and body, while spinning.

Step Dance - Step dancing is a narrow genre of folk dances from the UK and US, typically solo, accompanied by traditional fiddle or accordion or similar folk music, entailing precise fast footwork, often in heavy percussive shoes or clogs. There is little hip movement or swaying. The torso remains generally rigid. Most movement is legs and feet/ankles. Head and arm movements tend to be minimal and 'snapped' into positions, and dances often have quite an angular staccato feel. There are similarities with many leg/feet movements in Tap Dance. The theatrical show Riverdance extended Irish Step Dancing to be a big stage formation dance production for multiple-dancers.

Strictly Come Dancing and Dancing With The Stars (and Strictly Ballroom , and Come Dancing ...) - Strictly Come Dancing (often abbreviated to 'Strictly') is the famous 'celebrity' dance competition BBC TV show. In the early 2000s, the Strictly Come Dancing show transcended globally the popularity of all other 'reality' and 'celebrity' competition shows, and in certain years has been globally the most popular TV programme of any genre. This is a clear and astonishing illustration of the popularity of dancing - interestingly Ballroom and Latin dance styles - as an audience entertainment. Strictly Come Dancing launched on BBC1 (UK) 15 May 2004, and soon became one of the UK's most popular TV shows. Dancing With The Stars (often abbreviated to DWTS) is the international name for many licensed versions of the 'Strictly Come Dancing' show, produced and shown in over 40 other countries, notably USA, China, India, Russia, Japan, Turkey, Ukraine, Australia, Indonesia, and Pakistan. The 'Strictly Come Dancing' dance show is produced with different names in other countries, such as Germany, Spain, Brazil, Poland, Romania, France, Italy, Israel, and Mexico. International versions vary in format. In 2006 and 2007 the 'Strictly Come Dancing' dance show in its different international versions (mainly Strictly Come Dancing and Dancing With The Stars) became the most popular TV program globally, and the show was in the top ten TV programs in 17 countries. The TV show format is a ballroom dance competition between dance pairings. Each pairing is a professional dancer (males and females, world-champion standard) and celebrity (males and females, drawn from sport, media, politics, entertainment, music, etc). The early UK seasons/series of shows featured 8-10 pairings, soon increasing to 15 or 16 pairings as the popularity and funding and production extravagance of the show grew quickly. Each pairing learns a different ballroom dance each week, choreographed by the respective professional dance partner. Each professional dancer is responsible for teaching his/her celebrity partner, and the choreography. Many couples form intense relationships, and despite the show's light entertainment approach, some genuine touching stories of human motivation and personal growth emerge, offering further proof of the powerful effects of dance, even on celebrity contestants who have never danced seriously, and do not expect to be affected at all. Production treatment varies internationally, not least because cultures do too, but internationally by any assessment, the 'Strictly' dance show is an completely unprecedented entertainment phenomenon. Each week (commonly Saturday nights) the show features the pairs dancing to a live dance band, in front of a live audience (each dance is about 90 seconds). Blended with and between the actual dancing performances is film footage of each couple's practising during the week 'on location', often to a theme, plus comments and reactions from the celebrities - rather oddly scripted, perhaps to appeal to extremely young children as well as adults - as they struggle with and/or relish the challenges of the dance style and choreography, or ride donkeys on a beach, or dress as clowns in a circus. This is not a universally popular part of the show, and deters many dance enthusiasts from watching the show, but it is perhaps necessary to keep astronomical production costs to a justifiable level. During the show performances a panel of (typically) four dance-expert judges award points for each dance. The judges also offer criticism and/or plaudits to the celebrities. The judges' scores and comments have little influence on the ensuing public voting. One couple is eliminated weekly from the show (commonly Sunday nights), from a shortlist of the two pairs polling the lowest public votes by TV audience phone/online voting, and ultimately by the panel of judges, after a 'dance-off' between the two pairings. Public voting is not always based on dance ability and performance - instead often on personality and popularity or novelty - although the judges do apply genuinely expert objective assessment, and generally the best dancer wins the competition at the end of each season/series, which happens in the final show, when all but two or three couples have been eliminated. The name of the original BBC 'Strictly Come Dancing' version of the TV show was derived as a combination and reference to BBC TV's serious 1960s ballroom dance show 'Come Dancing', and more meaningfully to an Australian comedy-drama about ballroom dancing - a 1984 play and later the popular 1992 film, both directed by Baz Luhrmann, called 'Strictly Ballroom'. The play/film 'Strictly Ballroom' provides another wonderful illustration of how dance and its development relates to life: 'Strictly Ballroom' tells a story about a small dance school and its human history, its politics and passions. Central to the story, the leading male character Scott Hastings (played by Paul Mercurio) dares to innovate new interpretations of dance that are 'not strictly ballroom' in striving for greatness and becoming a dance champion. Specifically he is inspired by his novice Spanish partner Fran (played by Tara Morice), and her family, to incorporate traditional Paso Doble movements into their choreographed routine. It is appropriate that the 'Strictly Ballroom' play/film - which is the origin of the 'Strictly' term that is now synonymous with dance all around the world - so poignantly and aptly reflects the relevance of dance to life, and life to dance.

Tarantella - The Tarantella is an good example of dance reflecting and being influenced by human culture: The Tarantella is a very lively whirling dance of Southern Italy, originating in the late 1700s in the historic sea port of Taranto. The dance was named after 'tarantism' - in Italian 'tarantismo' - a psychological illness prevalent in Southern Italy from the 15th to 17th centuries (named from the port Taranto), characterized by an extreme compulsion to dance wildly and whirlingly, thought caused by the bite of the large black wolf spider of the region, in turn named the tarantula, which is also the derivation of the name of the different tarantula (bird-eating) spider species of the tropical Americas. During the 1600s the Tarantella dance was believed to be a cure (as well as confusingly a symptom) for the tarantism illness, presumably because victims would eventually slump into a rest, having danced themselves to exhaustion.

Tchaikovsky - Pyotr Tchaikovsky - Russian composer Tchaikovsky (1840-93) is the most famous and significant composer of Classical Ballet music of the 19th century. Tchaikovsky wrote the three most popular Ballet music scores (musical accompaniments) of all time, and this achievement will probably never be eclipsed. The Ballets are: Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, and The Nutcracker. Even people who know nothing about ballet and Tchaikovsky will recognise some of the the music from these ballets, and sections of these musical works are among the best known classical music in history; in fact among the best known music of any genre, in history. Tchaikovsky worked on the the Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker under very tight instruction from choreographer Marius Pepita. Pepita also gave instruction to Tchaikovsky revise the score for the remaking of the Swan Lake Ballet, which is the version most commonly performed. Tchaikovsky composed music for very many other famous and popularly performed ballets, and music that has retrospectively been used for ballet. Tchaikovsky was a prolific composer of other hugely popular classical music too, quite aside from ballet. Tchaikovsky's died suddenly age 53 in 1893, mostly thought to be from cholera.

Travestie - En Travestie - Travestie is from Greek, referring to a man playing a woman's role in a play or dance. The Travestie concept in dance offers lessons, and opens realisations and discussions, about gender and equality, in deeply meaningful ways. The root words 'tra' and 'vest' essentially mean across and dress, similar to the term 'cross-dressing'. En Travestie refers in Classical Ballet to a man playing the part of, and dressing, as a woman. The history of this is fascinating: Ancient Greece was an early example of a civilization which prohibited women appearing on stage. Incidentally women were also banned from the original Olympic Games in Greece, so this was not just a stage policy, and as we all know, men have subjugated and abused women in all sorts of shockingly bad and shameful ways throughout time everywhere, and continue to do so in many ways. Other societies through the ages - notably Japan - see Kabuki Dance, and Western Europe - adopted similar attitudes and laws as the Ancient Greeks, so that the tradition of female impersonation in entertainment became normal. The Christian Church in Europe was a major force in establishing these female bans. In Shakespeare's plays for example men commonly played the parts of women. We see the custom continuing - albeit for entirely ironic and comedic effect - in UK Pantomime theatre in modern times. Burlesque and parody have for hundreds of years been common aspects in the use of Travestie. Travestie shows in modern times feature transgender artists and female impersonators in Germany, and other parts of Europe where the entertainment is replicated/exported. The English word transvestite is from exactly this German etymological (word history) origin. The English word travesty (absurd, especially an injustice), originally in the 1600s meant 'dressed to appear ridiculous', later evolving to mean a false or distorted nonsense, and then much later an absurd (decision, injustice, etc), and again the word travesty is from the same 'cross-dress' Greek origin. In modern times the Travestie concept/terminology also applies to reversal of gender, i.e., women playing the parts, and dressing as, males. Fascinating huh... It's all in dance.. all of human life - you name it, and you will find lessons and stories about it in dance.

Unitard - An all-in-one leotard and tights, worn by some dancers. I want one. Fluorescent yellow with purple spots.

The Wave/Mexican Wave - This modern phenomenon of human movement is included because by traditional dance definitions 'The Wave' is not a dance, but by more sophisticated criteria The Wave is a dance. The Wave (outside the USA, 'Mexican Wave', or Spanish 'La Ola') is a coordinated movement - technically a metachronal rhythm or metachronal wave - of thousands of people in an audience at an all-seater stadium - so that people in vertical sections of the crowd stand, arms lifted, and then sit again, so that a wave effect travels around the stadium. The Wave effect was first seen in US sports stadiums in the 1970s, and reached a global audience when seen in TV coverage of the 1986 FIFA World Cup tournament in Mexico, hence the Mexican Wave name outside USA. There is no musical accompaniment, but The Wave is certainly a highly coordinated cooperative choreographed bodily movement, which produces a very pleasing sensual effect for participants and observers. There may additionally be a vocalized synchronized sound accompaniment from the participating crowd. So The Wave meets most qualifying definitions of a dance. Interestingly a successful Wave has involved a crowd up to 210,000 participants. Waves are typically about 15 seats (deep) and move clockwise at c.12m/s (40ft/s), equating to c.22 seats/second.

Y.M.C.A. - The 1970s YMCA hit song produced one of the most popular and enduring dances in history. The YMCA dance simply uses the arms to shape the letters of the 'Y-M-C-A' song chorus parts. The YMCA arm movements can be performed seated, which adds to the dance's popularity, notably at sports/stadium events. It's also a dance that even tiny children can learn, conceivably before they can walk. It is perhaps possible that a monkey could be taught this dance. It is that easy and accessible. Commonly dancers exhibit all manner of accompanying body/leg movements, especially dads and grandads at weddings. The song YMCA (technically Y.M.C.A.) was released in 1978 by US disco group Village People, reaching US number 2 and UK number 1 in early 1979. YMCA is one of fewer than forty songs to sell over 10million physical copies globally - and probably for ever, given 21st century digitized music downloading/streaming. Interestingly the original YMCA TV video features the band dancing in their trademark costumes (Native American Indian, biker, construction worker, etc) but significantly not the famous YMCA arm gestures routine that soon exploded onto dancefloors everywhere, and remains one of the most danced movements globally. In fact it might be the most danced movement ever. The YMCA arm gestures dance is said to have arisen 'accidentally' on Dick Clark's American Bandstand TV show, 6 January 1979. This is a good example of the organic social nature of dance development: Reportedly while Village People performed the song on the show, Dick Clark pointed lead-singer/co-writer Victor Willis to the audience using the YMCA arm gestures. Various sources suggest that Clark asked Willis, "Victor, think you can work this dance into your routine?" And Willis replied, "I think we're gonna have to." The group's previous choreographed dance, which also featured in the video, showed the group merely clapping above their heads during the chorus. Ironically the original TV video gave little attention to the band dancing in the chorus, instead it showed lots of a YMCA sign, and certainly made no attempt to promote a dance during the chorus. A credible explanation by some commentators/analysts for the audience's innovation of the arm gestures is that the group's initial movement in preparation for clapping above the heads resembles a 'Y' shape, and the audience took their lead from this. Whatever, it's certain that the YMCA arm gestures dance was not devised by the group or a choreographer - instead it developed organically, among ordinary people, responding to the words and music. This is extraordinary, considering how quickly and deeply embedded and widespread the dance became. Incidentally the YMCA dance was listed in the Guinness World Book of Records when over 44,000 people danced to a live performance of the song by Village People at the 2008 Sun Bowl game in El Paso, Texas.

12. Acknowledgements

This free guide to dance article has been produced with the help of City Academy , the London-based creative and performing arts training company, and from Maria Hennings Hunt, founder of the Dance Generation dance school, also of London, and this help is gratefully acknowledged. I am open to comments, suggestions and contributions as we continue to develop this introductory guide to dance.

City Academy

City Academy is a highly innovative London-based creative and performing arts training company founded in 2007. City Academy offers courses and training in performing arts, especially dance, in many of London's most famous theatres. They specialise in the use of performing arts as a teambuilding and motivational activity in organizations, and continue to pioneer research in the benefits of dance in life and work. City Academy's help in producing this dance article is gratefully acknowledged.

Dance Generation

Maria Hennings Hunt began teaching dance in 1997 after a successful career in publishing. She was initially taught by the famous Peggy Spencer MBE, before qualifying as a dance teacher with the IDTA. She founded the popular London-based Dance Generation dance school in 2003. Maria is an internationally renowned choreographer, and besides running her own dance school, has been a teacher for Len Goodman (Goodman Dance Academy) since 2004. Her help in producing this free guide to dance is greatly appreciated.