A quick look at dance forms
There are as many forms of dance as there are different cultures in the world. It is important to note that the definition of dance is broad and therefore dance forms are not limited to one country, nation or perception of what constitutes dancing. Keep an open mind when you view new forms and continue growing your dance knowledge portfolio. This will make you a more proficient and well-rounded dancer and an empathetic, tolerant individual. If you really want to discover just how many dance forms there are, this list from Wikipedia is the most comprehensive you will find.
However here we have prepared a very quick guide to just a few:
Jazz is an umbrella term for the fun, frivolous and funky dance forms that developed in the early part of the 20th century as a response to jazz music. The steps and style originated from African dances brought over to America by African slaves. Over the years “jazz dance” has evolved to enormously. First it encompassed Swing, Lindy Hop, Tap and Jitterbug. Modern jazz choreography includes a whole host of choreography , techniques and music borrowed from other dance forms.
Check out this great video from Pineapple Dance Studio’s on their Jazz dance classes. PHEW!
Ballroom dance is set of dances danced with a partner both socially and competitively. Ballroom is probably the most prolific dance genre in the world, danced by millions of people for fun weekly and at spectacular dance competitions locally and internationally. Ballroom now refers to the 5 International Standard dances (Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Foxtrot, Quickstep) and 5 International Latin dances (Samba, Cha-cha, Rumba, Paso Doble, Jive). In American and Canada these differ slightly (see Wikipedia for a full breakdown).
Check out this episode of Britains Got Talent where this amateur couple demonstrate their ballroom moves
Here at one of the world’s most famous Ballroom Competitions – Blackpool- the Pro’s dance their finale.
Contemporary dance is a characterized by beautiful, free flowing movements and, first developed in the mid twentieth century , has evolved to become the dominant genre for highly trained dancers in the West. Contemporary borrows from classical, modern, jazz, ballet and modern dance. Technically it can be extremely difficult as it combines the controlled precise legwork of ballet and contract-release movements using the torso and arms. It’s not unusual to see contemporary dancers down on the floor as this level is utilized frequently, as is improvisation and borrowing from other genres such as African.
This spectacular dance solo by Oalfur Arnalds is a stunning example of contemporary dance.
Belly dancing is a Middle Eastern folk dance that emphasises movements of the torso and arms. Legs are generally hidden under a long flowing skirt which is worn to emphasis isolations of hip movements. Legs can peak out during performance but are not the dominant means of expression, mainly focus is left to isolations of the torso and arms. The dancer will shiver, shimmy and quiver in one minute and then flow through to a percussive quick tempo staccato move in the next. Belly dancing is popular worldwide due to its non-impact, weight baring nature that can be mastered to any level the student wishes to take it to.
In this video eHow Fitness explains the different types of belly dance.
Here Sonia Ochoa shows us how its done at the 2015 Eilat Festival
Ballet originated in Italian Renaissance courts of the 15th century and further developed in France and Russia. Ballet is most definitely the most prolific and widely known dance form of all. Its classic nature, long history and highly technical movements have entrenched it as the fundamental form most small children start with on their journey into dance. Because of ballet’s extreme precise movements and discipline, dance teachers often regard it as fundamental training for all other dance forms. Becoming a professional Ballet dancer requires years of training to master the French named movements.
Ballet has evolved into various styles, all of which a ballet dancer is expected to master.
Currently the world of educative ballet dance is dominated by the Royal Academy of Dance curriculum and the Cecchetti curriculum.
Here the impossibly elegant Hee Seo of the American Ballet Theatre performs the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.
And this is where it all starts, aaaah!
Hip hop dance is an American street style dance form that is danced to hip hop music. It now covers a wide variety of choreography and has evolved to include a massive influence from other dance styles and cultures. It was made popular in the 1970’s so is the youngest style of dance covered in this quick guide. Popping, locking and breaking are popular techniques as well as more modern introductions of isolations and acrobatics. Hip hop is one of the worlds most inclusive and accessible dance forms, danced by millions of people worldwide from all types of different cultures and backgrounds.
Here Americas current top dance crew The Jabbawokeez astound with their hip hop performances
And here is South African Choreographer, Rudi Smit’s, take on Meghan Trainor’s “Me Too”. HOT!
We cant cover every form in this guide but we did want to introduce you to 2 forms you may not have heard of that are followed in growing numbers around the world:
High Energy Freestyle
This genre of dance developed in the UK as a reaction to disco music in the 70’s and has evolved into a highly technical and acrobatic dance form, popular in the UK, Europe and South Africa. Music used is techno and club music which is extremely fast. Dancers need to be incredibly athletic and technically precise to perform the movements. Check out this and this video – nothing is sped up here – this is the speed the dancers are dancing at!
Freestyle dancers are triple threats in their own right as they train in three to four modalities of dance (freestyle, rock n roll, hustle, slow dance and hip hop). They must also master partner dance both side by side, in teams and connected to a partner and the need to master acro, lifts and drops from a very early age. Freestyle dancers are some of the most sought after dancers on the show circuit because they are so adaptable and versatile.
Freestyle dance competitions differ from some other dance genres in that the dancers move around the floor in a circle (like ballroom). Competitions are characterized by their often out of this world costumes and massive amount of rhinestones!
This video shows some of the 2016 Norwegian Championships competition.
Nia is a relatively new genre of dance which is essentially a mix of all sorts of movement modalities. Nia combines 52 simple moves from dance, martial arts and African dance to invigorate both mind and body. Nia is very popular with women, especially those who are not interested in classical and other forms of traditional dance or those who want to experience something more unstructured and freeing. Some argue that Nia is merely a workout incorporating dance, however due to its very free flowing nature and incorporation of so many dance forms we have included it here as a dance genre.
Developed in 1983 by Debbie Rosas and Carlos AyaRosas in the San Francisco area, Nia has quickly spread around the world.
Here Debbie Rosas demonstrates a Nia routine.
We hope you have enjoyed this super quick guide to some dance forms the world has to offer. Keep on discovering this amazing sport in all its facets and glory and Happy Dancing.
As mentioned earlyer, this is a really concise guide to just a few of the hundreds of dance forms in the world, but a great place to start.
Have fun exploring your chosen genre and happy dancing!