26 Types of Dance: Every Major Style, Easily Explained
It’s sometimes hard to tell which style of dance you’re watching.
Many types of dance look very similar to each other.
To clear things up, here is an explanation, brief history and a demonstration of every popular dance style out there.
We’ll cover every ballroom, Latin, swing, disco, night club and country style of dance.
There are 5 traditional ballroom dance styles: Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango, Viennese Waltz and Quickstep.
Waltz is a timeless, dreamy dance, considered to be the mother of all dances.
Its strong melody is easily recognized by its 3:4 time signature, or “1,2,3-1,2,3”, with a heavier accent on the “1”.
Waltz is the culmination of elegance and sophistication.
Straight posture and the soft, round, flowing movements exude grace and poise as couples glide across on the dance floor.
For this very characteristic of Waltz, it has become the foundation for many other dances
The slow pace of Waltz gives couples freedom to move and connect closer than ever with each other.
This is where the romance of Waltz creates its timeless ambiance, and how the delicate 3 step movement of Waltz becomes breathtaking.
Simple, flowy ball gowns travel counter-clockwise around the floor with lilting actions derived from what is called “rise and fall”.
The following video shows how to dance a beautiful dance step in the Waltz, called the “Two-Way Underarm Turn”:
The name “Waltz” originated from the German word “Walzer” which means “to dance”.
Strongly rooted in European folk dance and referenced to as early as the 16th century, Waltz came a long way before becoming popularized mid-19th century by the music of the famous composer Johann Strauss.
At first it was not widely accepted, as the dance was considered to be antisocial, veering away from sequence/ communal dancing, and instead adding a personal and private relationship between partners
This beautiful dance has a melancholy quality to it.
The three quarter time is reminiscent of a lullaby, although navigating complex sets of turns, body sways, dips and foot changes add a whimsical flavor to its “up and down” appearance.
Here is an example of the American Style Waltz Dance by U.S. Smooth Champions Valentina and Jonathan Roberts:
A dance commonly found in fairy-tales, and a staple at formal events including weddings, Waltz has not lost its context in modern times.
A recognizable example of Waltz music is Henry Mancini’s “Moon River” from the movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”. Waltz tempo ranges between 28-30 bars per minute (84-90 beats per minute).
Referred to as the “Rolls Royce” of dances, Foxtrot gained its popularity thanks to its allure and reputation for being a “getting to know you dance”.
At last, partners got a chance to dance close enough to engage in conversation. This made it one of the most popular of all social dances.
Graceful, lively, vibrant, playful and swift, Foxtrot is comprised of fairly simple series of long walking movements, chassés, brush steps and side steps.
The long steps are used during slower counts and shorter steps on faster ones.
The qualities of Foxtrot are often associated with the smoothness found in Fred Astaire’s and Ginger Rogers’ dancing, as pictured above
Through the decades, Foxtrot adapted to many different musical genres and tempos, hence making the dance extremely versatile and current with the times, becoming an “All Purpose” dance.
The following video shows a fun step in the beginner syllabus of Foxtrot called “Zig-Zag Outside Partner”:
Embodying an effortless gliding motion, the dance can be described as having an easy going essence, progressing forward in a counter clockwise direction.
Although sharing some similarities with Waltz, Foxtrot has less rise and fall and the time signature is in 4:4, with the 1st and 3rd beat of the measure accented.
Foxtrot was officially codified by Arthur Murray, reaching its height of popularity in the 1930’s and into the Big Band Era.
Popular swing-style music of the times and singers such as Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennet played their part in shaping this iconic dance style, contributing to its wild popularity.
Here is an example of the American Foxtrot finalists dancing at the 2016 New York Dance Festival:
The musical variety unlocked a new flexibility in partner dancing, using a variety of quick and slow counts in new amalgamations.
Thus, a newfound flare emerged through the expression of Foxtrot’s playfulness and even “slyness”.
Foxtrot music has a Tempo of 29-34 measures per minute (116-136 beats per minute).
Fiery and dramatic, fascinating and sensual, Tango is the dance of 2 lovers.
It embodies a full gamut of human emotion, where grace meets passion.
Steps match the mood of the music with dramatic movements and shapes. Just as a love story has its highs and lows, Tango music shifts with flare, from playful qualities to somber ones.
Characterized by its world renowned “head snapping”, Tango uses these types of elements to portray attitude.
Further adding to its intensity, legato and staccato elements are used to express drama at varying extremes.
In other words, through the use of “legato” or smooth/flowy elements and “staccato” or sharp/cat-like steps, two dancers in a Tango partnership are able to tell a very dynamic story through dance as they “feel the music” and convey the raw tension of love.
Tango is known for its sure footwork and clear leading. As the leader takes walking steps forward, the feet articulate through rolling the foot heel to toe.
In terms of hold, the leader’s arm is lower and further around the followers back as opposed to other dances
Tango found in the ballroom world originated from its Argentine roots.
As it spread quickly to Europe and US, it branched away from its original form with the influence encountered abroad.
Stealthy foot action compliments the marching rhythm of Tango, along with open breaks, pivoting action, and progressive rocks.
Characterized by a low center of gravity, Tango also emphasizes its iconic contra body position, where shoulders and hips rotate in opposite directions.
Here is an example of American Smooth Tango filled with passion:
The word “Tango” itself means “meeting place”.
Films showcasing Tango include “Scent of a Woman” and “Shall we Dance”.
In each of those movies, “meeting places” served a key purpose for discreet tango affairs on the dance floor.
The Tango music style is somewhat repetitive with its marching quality, and phrasing in Tango is important.
Most songs are phrased to 16-32 beats of music, and astute observers will pay attention to this structure by expressing the dance accordingly.
The time signature is 4:4, and Tango music has a tempo of 30-32 measure per minute (120-128 beats per minute).
4.) Viennese Waltz
Viennese Waltz is the grandfather of all dances, which means it is the original form of Waltz.
It made its initial appearance in Germany and Austria in the 18th century.
The Viennese Waltz is whirling and thrilling, adding life and vibrancy to the Slow Waltz.
Although it has a similar graceful style of Waltz, Viennese Waltz is upbeat and purposeful, and danced at an extremely fast pace.
The dizzying sequences, high speeds and lack of pauses require high stamina, just like depicted in period films of 18th and 19th centuries
Requiring perfect timing, the Viennese Waltz is not for the fainthearted. It is up to 4 times faster than Slow Waltz.
Although similar to the Slow Waltz with its core characteristics and wide sweeping turns, the Viennese Waltz has a lighter rhythm and anticipates the second beat.
Here is a video clip of Arunas Bizokas and Katusha Demidova, World Professional Ballroom Champions, dancing the Viennese Waltz at the WDC World Ballroom Professional Championships:
Due to its speed, there is a less pronounced rise and fall, and the dance steps are more compact.
It is also limited in its figures in order to showcase the spinning and twirling qualities, as partners dance around each other down the line of dance.
The following video shows an example of how to dance one of the staple moves of Viennese Waltz, the “Reverse Turn”. This step is instructed by Jim and Jenell Maranto, U.S. Professional Smooth Champions:
The first beat of every measure is dominant, and the following 2 beats are lighter.
It has a 3:4 time signature, with a swift 58-60 bars per minute, or up to 180 beats per minute.
Music such as Johann Strauss’ “Blue Danube” fueled its popularity.
However, music for dancing Viennese Waltz can be diverse, including songs which are Instrumental, Vocal, Classical or even Top 40, as long as the correct tempo is in place.
Known for its kid-like and lighthearted quality, Quickstep is a high energy, exhilarating dance exuding a gliding sense of flight.
It is glamorous, with a light and airy appearance, as if dancers barely touch the ground.
Powerful and fast yet smooth and elegant, it’s sprinkled with intricate syncopation of feet rhythms, as if minimal effort is involved.
Danced to upbeat melodies, the Quickstep moves rapidly across the floor, demanding stamina and calling for precision of footwork
A variety of hops, skips, flicks, kicks, jumps and runs add pizzazz to the Quickstep.
Here is a video clip of Blackpool Champions Victor Fung and Anastasia Muravyeva from the 2018 Emerald Ball, dancing the Quickstep:
Basic forward and back steps danced in line become dynamic. Chassés, lock steps and quarter turns express vitality with the inclusion of fast paced hops.
Quickstep music has a brisk tempo, syncopated with split beats, and a jazz or swing rhythm.
It originated in England, but was standardized in New York in the 1920’s.
The Quickstep has its roots in Foxtrot and the Charleston. The Quickstep is danced in a 4:4 meter with a tempo ranging between 48 and 52 measures per minute (192 and 208 beats per minute).
There are 12 popular Latin dance styles (Including Latin and Rhythm Dances, “Street-Style” Latin dances and Afro/ Latin Fusion Dance): Cha-Cha, Rumba, Bolero, Mambo, Samba, Paso Doble, Salsa, Bachata, Merengue, Argentine Tango, Kizomba, Zouk.
Cheeky, flirty, vibrant and flamboyant, Cha-Cha is one of the most playful Latin Dances.
It is an incredibly rhythmic dance, combining slow and energetic movements into a light and bubbly feel.
The Cha-Cha is similar to the Mambo in style, however, on the Slow count, the Cha-Cha adds a syncopated set of three chasses (cha-cha-cha) danced on the 4&1 counts of the music.
Cha-Cha dancers keep their feet close to the floor, just like in other Latin dances, and let their hips move freely.
Foot actions are quick with sharp movements, and often become challenging due to the breaks in Cha-Cha’s rhythm.
In addition, Cha-Cha is characterized by its emphasis on body isolation and hip action, creating what is called “Cuban motion”.
The following video shows an example of how to do a “Progressive Basic” in the American Cha-Cha:
Cuban motion is a type of Latin hip movement attained by alternately bending and straightening the knees, meanwhile keeping the top part of the body steady.
Cha-Cha is a dance of Cuban origin and became popular in the United States in the 1950s.
It is danced to either authentic Cuban music or to contemporary music genres including Latin Pop, Rock, Country, Funk and even Hip-hop
Its music is inherently upbeat, producing a happy, party-like atmosphere fit for this exuberant dance.
Cha-Cha is the fastest Latin Dance, incorporating the most weight changes per minute out of every other dance.
Here is a clip of World Latin Finalists Maurizio Vescovo and Andra Vaidilaite demonstrating their International Cha-Cha-Cha at the WDC (World Professional Latin Championship):
Having a tempo ranging between 28 and 32 measures per minute (112 to 128 beats per minute), Cha-Cha is danced to music in a 4:4 meter. Cha-Cha timing is: “1 2 3 4 &”, and the Cha-Cha beat value is: “1 – 1 – 1 – ½ – ½”.
An example of a contemporary Cha-Cha song is “Smooth” by Santana.
Interesting fact: Bruce Lee became Cha-Cha Champion in Hong Kong in 1958!
He was first known for his ballroom dancing skills before becoming famous his martial arts skills, and used ballroom dance for cross-training.
Rumba is a romantic dance that tells a story of love and passion.
It is slower in pace and exudes flirtation between partners.
Full of sensual and flirtatious movements, Rumba dancers embrace deep emotion to interpret the dance and sustain eye contact where needed for an impactful display of dance chemistry
Rumba hip movements are exaggerated and are a result of great technique: foot, ankle, knee and leg action.
One of the most difficult things to master in the Rumba is the Cuban Motion, which is attained by bending one leg and straightening the other.
Here are 6 of the best Latin Dancers in the World, showcasing their International Rumba:
The word “Rumba” is of African origin and comes from the verb “rumbear”, which means party.
The Rumba dance itself is derived from the Afro-Caribbean dance “Son”, and has been popular in the U.S. since the 1930’s. It is danced to slow and sensual music with a Latin beat
Sometimes Rumba is known as the ‘Latin Waltz’, since some figures in Waltz can also be converted into the Rumba through proper use of timing.
Rumba rhythms, although influenced by African-style music, have found their way into popular music genres of today.
The music is of medium tempo and has a smooth sound.
Rumba’s time signature is 4:4 and its tempos range from 30-36 measures per minute (120-144 beat per minute). Rumba timing is Slow-Quick-Quick.
Graceful, alluring and relaxing, the Bolero is a slow dance that incorporates a mélange of movements from Rumba, Waltz and Tango.
It is a sensual and romantic dance, eliciting a passionate response through movement.
Bolero music offers sentimental melodies that grow in volume and power, much like the expressive dance itself. Smooth and wave-like, Bolero movements glide two people in unison in a dynamic fashion
Bolero has been called the “Cuban Dance of Love”.
Here is a video of U.S. Rhythm Champions Liana Churilova and Emmanuel Pierre Antoine showcasing their bolero:
If we look at the Latin Dances as stages of a relationship, the following ideas have been suggested:
Cha-Cha expresses the initial flirtatious stage of a relationship, playful and fast.
Rumba expresses the romantic and passionate stage, or perhaps the “young honeymoon stage” of a relationship.
Bolero, the slowest Latin Dance, expresses the matured love of a seasoned couple who has endured its relationship, portraying unison and strength.
It is characterized by smooth and gliding movements, dramatic arm styling and a romantic feel.
The following video shows how to dance the “Basic Step” in the Bolero.
It is demonstrated by Bob Powers and Julia Gorchakova, U.S. American Rhythm Champions:
Bolero is a mixture of 3 dances: Tango (displaying contra body movement), Waltz (utilizing body rise and fall) and Rumba (incorporating Cuban motion). The distance between the partners is close.
The dance has its roots in Afro-Cuban and Spanish folk dances such as Danzon. It also has Cuban origin.
Its tempos are slow and lyrics are sentimental, usually sung in Spanish vocals.
Bolero uses an unusual “hybrid” combination of both Latin/ Rhythm technique (through Cuban hip motion) and Smooth technique (through of rise and fall).
Lilting, romantic melodies grow in volume and power, inspiring the dancers as the sounds intensify and soften with instrumentation and harmonies.
Bolero is danced to the slowest tempo of Latin music rhythms, anywhere from 96 to 120 beats per minute. Bolero has a 4:4 time signature with a tempo ranging between 24- 26 measures per minute (96-104 beats per minute).
Mambo is a dance where sound, movement and expression of rhythm flow through the body.
It is high energy and fast paced with lots of body actions and ticks to accentuate the music.
Known for its freedom and complicated footwork, Mambo heavily emphasizes feeling the music.
Characterized by strong Cuban motion, exaggerated hip movement, and staccato movement, Mambo bursts with excitement and flavor.
There is no secret why the meaning of “Mambo” quite literally means “Shake it”.
Its rhythm is infectious and extremely expressive.
Here is an example of World Mambo Champions Felipe Telona and Carolina Orlovsky dancing the Mambo at the Mexican Open:
Featuring press lines, swivels, points, kicks and flicks of the feet, the flare of Mambo doesn’t disappoint
It is a three beat step with a timing of 2,3,4(1) and incorporates basics which includes a variety of rock steps.
The following video shows how to execute the hip swaying side basic, or “Side Breaks” in the Mambo:
Mambo evolved from a fusion of Son, Danzon and American Jazz.
This Cuban dance was introduced in 1940’s combining Afro-Cuban and Latin American influences, and it later evolved into dances like Salsa and Cha-Cha.
Mambo is danced to music in a 4:4 meter with a tempo ranging between 47 and 51 measures per minute (188 and 204 beats per minute).
The word Samba stems from “semba”, which means “invitation to dance”.
Often described as energetically joyful, the Samba has a contagious and pulsing rhythm that inspires the body to move.
Its vibrant beat makes one want to move their hips, feet and heart.
The original Brazilian Samba was a “Carnival” dance of celebration danced in solo form.
However, Samba gained international popularity in the 1920’s and became a partner dance mimicking the Brazilian “Carnival” feeling through specific body actions
Vibrant and showy, Samba gets the adrenaline flowing by using a great deal of rhythm throughout the torso.
Here is an example of a Samba danced at the World Super Stars Dance Festival by Bryan Watson and Carmen, World Latin Dance Champions:
It has a unique feel to it, utilizing a “bounce” motion, rolling hip action and syncopated timing.
The dance is light, fun, happy and flirtatious.
Samba dancers create the coveted “bounce” and rhythm in the hips through bending and straightening of the knees with a slight dropping action.
The following video includes information on how to do the basic Samba “Box” step:
Further using twist, pelvic tilt and staccato steps, they move progressively across the dance floor with great flare.
Samba is danced to music in a 2:4 meter with a tempo between 48-52 measures per minute (96-104 beats per minute).
Its beat value is represented as such: ¾ – ¼ – 1.
11.) Paso Doble
Paso Doble is an emotional experience, complete with theatrics and role play.
The dance is associated with the entrance music played for a matador in a bullfight and resembles a dance of conquest between the matador and the flowing red cape, as well as the provoked bull
It is both intense and tense, danced with ferocity and passion between 2 people.
The leader in the dance is the matador in the bullfight, and the woman functions as his adversary/ prey by symbolically representing one of three roles: the matador’s flowing red cape, his shadow, or a flamenco dancer.
Here is an example of Corky and Shirley Ballas dancing the Paso Doble at the Ohio Star Ball (OSB) Championships:
Paso Doble originated in France, though it was adopted and molded by the Spanish and the Portuguese. It means “double step” in Spanish, and takes up a lot of space on the dance floor, in which case it is not commonly danced socially
Exuding exaggerated style, all moves are sharp, quick and performed to march-like music.
Paso Doble songs have breaks in fixed positions within the songs, and its routines are specifically choreographed to match these “highlights”.
Song selections for Paso Doble often include variations of “Espana Cani” (a.k.a. “Spanish Gypsy Dance”).
Paso Doble’s basic steps consist of 4 counts of small steps forward for the leader, or backward for the follower. The measures per minute range between 60-62 (120-124).
One of the most popular of Latin dances, Salsa has gotten its well loved reputation by being adaptable and socially fun.
Jam packed with energy, attitude, finesse and innovation, Salsa’s hip-swaying beat inspires many to get on the dance floor, even into the most confined spaces.
Salsa is characterized by its rhythmical movement, numerous spins, and innovative choreography.
It is primarily danced to Afro-Cuban Music which is rhythmically fast and uptempo.
The dance features rock steps, fancy footwork, solo moves called “shines” and showy performance moves, drops and dips
Arm styling is personalized into the dancing as well as hip action, which is caused by weight shifts from one foot to the next.
The top part of the body remains isolated and unaffected by the bottom half of the body, creating Latin body rhythm.
Here is an example of Jose Decamps dancing Salsa at the 2nd Annual World Salsa Championships:
The name “salsa” connotes “spicy and hot”, just like the food and just like the dance.
The basic has three steps: quick-quick-slow and is danced in a 4:4 count.
Different regions have distinct salsa styles of their own, such as Cuban, Puerto Rican, L.A. and New York styles.
These distinct Salsa styles are defined by their timing; by taking their break step on count one or two. Breaking on two is referred to “Salsa on 2”.
Salsa traces back to Cuba to the 1900’s, having its earliest origins in Cuban Son.
However, it evolved in the 1970’s among the Puerto Rican, Dominican, and Cuban communities of New York City. Here is an example of Cuban Salsa danced in the streets:
Although Salsa music has Afro-Caribbean roots, it has been adapted by contemporary genres to meet the tastes of popular music.
Salsa music features percussive sections which include cow bells and timbales, exuberant horns, powerful vocals and a complex clave driven rhythm.
The movements are similar to the Mambo, however, both the dance and music of Salsa is smoother than the staccato style of Mambo.
The following video includes a detailed explanation of Salsa basic timing, including both “Salsa on 1” and “Salsa on 2”.
Salsa music is written in a 4:4 meter and its tempo ranges between 40-55 measures per minute (160–220 beats per minute).
It also includes a complete demonstration on how to do the “Basic” Salsa footwork, forward and back:
Originating in rural countrysides of the Dominican Republic, Bachata is a sensual dance focusing on letting loose and exuding a sensual love for life.
Its music has a very distinctive sound which features lively and prominent guitar melodies derived of Pan-American music from the 1960’s
Bachata’s unique sound is lively and romantic with a Carribean feel to it, often accompanied by melodramatic lyrics about lost love, bitterness and pain.
The mood is intimate yet relaxed, spicy and fun.
Although Bachata footwork includes simple basics, the stylized dance is more about adding elements of self expression.
It has a heavy emphasis on body isolation and strong hip movements.
Here is an example of Bachata dancers dancing on the beach:
The way Bachata is danced varies from couple to couple, and reflects personal and intimate responses to the music.
The 4 beat basic moves sideways, forwards/ backwards and in circles, and includes three steps with an optional hip pop on the hold (tap).
The following video demonstrates how to do the basic Bachata step and the “Walk around Turn”:
Bachata is danced to music in a 4:4 meter and its tempo ranges between 30 and 34 measures per minute (120 and 136 beats per minute).
One of the easiest dances to learn, Merengue has a strong, steady beat with a straight-forward rhythm.
It sounds festive, happy, and has almost a “frantic feeling” tempo. However, the moves and turns are slow and allow for ample creativity and combinations.
The Merengue is characterized by its marching rhythms and strong side to side hip motion.
The music is counted “1, 2, 1, 2” in 2:4 timing.
It is the only dance that demands a weight change on every beat and has no syncopation.
In other words, every beat is equal and the same: “1-1-1-1” or “Quick-Quick-Quick-Quick”.
Dancers bend and straighten their knees to create hip movement and the ribcage further works in synchrony to achieve a rhythmic “Cuban action”.
Here is an example of Merengue danced at a club:
Partners use small and precise steps to match the rhythm as they walk sideways, forwards, backwards or circle each other.
Meanwhile, slow turns may twist and tie using the handhold to create intricate pretzels and other hand positions.
To dance Merengue comfortably, a tempo between 58 and 64 measures per minute (116-128 beats per minute) is ideal, although the music can play as fast as 160 beats per minute.
Merengue originated in the early 1800’s from the Dominican Republic, and in its early stages was a circle dance.
It was developed by blending African Dance and the French Minuet. The dance eventually evolved into the partner dance we recognize today.
15.) Argentine Tango
The Argentine Tango is the dance of seduction.
Both partners contribute to tell a dynamic story, as if having a conversation with their feet.
Through sharply executed movements and slow, stylized and sensual moves, partners express emotion of varying extremes, depicting the highs and lows of love and life.
Staccato footwork, flexed knees and a highly focused connection between the partners defines what we know as Argentine Tango today
One of the main differences of Argentine Tango and Ballroom Tango is its intimacy and invitation for improvisation.
The former uses a lot of improvisation and intensifies the connection between partners through using a compact embrace called “abrazo”.
It’s within this “abrazo” that two dancers create the iconic look of the dance, having their upper bodies close together and legs further apart.
Here is an example of Argentine Tango Dancers:
An emphasis on contra body movement, flicks, kicks, drags and intertwined legs help elicit the dramatic passion of Tango that takes our breath away
Argentine Tango was conceived in Buenos Aires on the cusp of the 20th century.
There are three dances that define the Argentine Tango, and those include “Tango de Salon” which is the primary style, “Milonga” which is danced to a more brisk and jovial rhythm, and “Tango Vals” which is danced in three quarter time.
The following video shows the most important step in the Argentine Tango, which is the foundational “Basico” or basic step:
Argentine Tango music features atmospheric music, as some of the first recordings date back to when crackling sounds could be heard alongside the compositions of violins, piano and bandoneon in Tango music.
Some of the most famous Tango music is composed by Astor Piazzola. However, with the evolution of the dance, Jazz, Electronica, Pop and Classical music can be used for dancing Tango.
Argentine Tango is usually danced to a 4:4 meter (unless it’s in 3:4), and typical tempo ranges from 30 to 32 measures per minute (120- 128 beats per minute).
Embodying a slow, sensual movement, there is no repetitive basic step or tempo in Kizomba dancing.
It is derived from pure leading and following, and as a result, the experience creates a close connection between partners.
Kizomba originated in Angola, West Africa, and is sometimes called the African Tango.
The dance has been influenced by many other dances as it evolved, including the Lambada, Samba, Bachata, Salsa and Merengue.
Kizomba uses lower body and fluid hip movements in a close embrace, and brings an “internal” feeling to the partnership.
Here is an example of Kizomba Dancers:
The music is accentuated by the dancing as dancers take walking steps, swivels and create hip movements.
The following video shows instruction on how to do the basic steps in the Kizomba:
Kizomba as a musical genre started in the late 1970s, evolving out of traditional African rhythms and Angolan Semba music, combined with Zouk.
Highly stylized, Zouk is improvisational, and draws its foundation from free flowing motions, upper body movement (i.e. body waves), and long graceful steps within a close embrace.
Partners use their entire bodies, joined at the hip, to create smooth and intimate movements.
Decorating the dance even further, Zouk dancers personalize their interpretation of the dance paying close attention to the music, and expressing it with a variety of actions.
These include strong hip movements, body isolation, undulating bodies, wild spins, and whip like head movements which allow for the lady’s dramatic “hair flicks”.
As one can imagine, the dance can be physically demanding at times.
Here is an example of an improvized Zouk dance:
Grounded in a slow and steady beat, Zouk offers a smooth and sensual experience to the dancers and demands an intimate partner connection.
The Zouk two-step is used as an underlying foundation when first learning the dance.
However, Zouk dancers are free to deviate from any set confines of rhythm or footwork, so that they can express their personal interpretation freely.
The following video gives an example of what the Zouk basics look like:
Zouk is danced to popular rhythms from the French Caribbean, and the word means ‘party’ in French Creole.
It is a descendant of Lambada and Samba with origins from Brazil. The music and dance style of Zouk made its mark internationally in the late 1980’s.
There are 6 Popular Types of Swing: East Coast Swing, Jive, Jitterbug, Charleston, West Coast Swing and Lindy Hop
18.) East Coast Swing
Happy, fun and upbeat are all words to describe the infamous East Coast Swing.
One of the most energetic and versatile social dances, it elicits smiles on behalf of both dancers and onlookers alike.
Twisting and turning, the East Coast Swing engages the whole body and gets the blood pumping.
Improvisation and personal style is welcomed, though tricky at first, as the momentum and lively pace of the dance leaves no time for thinking
East Coast Swing can be referred to by different names, depending on the region.
It has alternatively been called the Jitterbug, Eastern Swing, American Swing, East Coast Lindy, and Triple Swing.
Here is an example of Rhythm Champions Jose Decamps and Yulia Zacharewicz dancing East Coast Swing at the United States Dance Championships (USDC):
The origin of East Coast Swing can be traced back to the 1940s, coming up as an offshoot of the original Lindy Hop and Foxtrot.
As music evolved, the Swing dances did too. Dances came in different flavors and variations as a response to the evolution of music at the time.
The East Coast Swing burst into the scene as a new Jazz Era of music emerged
This Jazz music was soon also called Swing music, and included a wide variety of tempos and styles. Hence, the many different types of Swing.
East Coast Swing features three basic steps: triple-step, triple-step, rock step back. It is a 6 beat dance which is danced in 4:4 time.
The following video demonstrates how to dance the “Basic Triple” Step in the East Coast Swing.
It is instructed by Donald Johnson and Kasia Kosak, who are Open British Rising Star Champions and Show Dance Champions:
Hips “swing” from one side to the other with plenty of hip movement.
Although the dance looks like it bounces all around, dancers keep control with small and tight steps.
Now-a-days, any music that “swings” is fitting for the dance, whether it is in original form or more contemporary.
East Coast Swing blends in well with music such as Big Band, Rockabilly, Rock and Roll, Blues, Soul, “Oldies”, (i.e. Elvis and Chuck Berry), Country, and Top 40.
The East Coast Swing is generally danced to music in a 4:4 meter with a tempo ranging between 34 and 36 measures per mintue (136 and 144 beats per minute).
Another happy, boppy and energetic Swing dance, Jive is one of the liveliest of dances.
Embodying a free spirited exuberance and a lot of personality, the Jive began in 1930’s in the U.S., as a mashup of the Jitterbug and the Lindy Hop.
The dance has also been known to be called “Swing”, Boogie, Boogie-Woogie and Jitterbug.
The basic patterns of Jive are similar to those of the East Coast Swing
However, a few major differences between ECS (East Coast Swing) and Jive include the quicker pace, heightened kicks and bounce of Jive.
Here is an example of Max Kozhevnikov and Yulia Zagoruchenko dancing their Jive at the World Super Stars Dance Festival (WSSDF):
To musicians of the era, “Jive” was a word that denoted foolish talk
Kicks, flicks, and rocking of the hips use up a lot of stamina, however, the dance does not move around the dance floor, which helps jive dancers retain control and precision.
Jive dancers use plenty of knee-lifting actions that portray pumping actions.
The following video clip shows how to dance a fun Jive step called “Hip Bump”.
It is taught by World Show Dance and Latin Dance Champions Max Kozhevnikov and Yulia Zagoruychenko:
The Jive is danced to music in 4:4 time with a tempo ranging between 38 and 44 measures per minute (152 and 176 beats per minute).
Also known as “Single-Time Swing”, the Jitterbug incorporates energetic, acrobatic and improvisational movements, many of which come about on the fly.
The dance is meant to be fun and easy, with less structure.
At the height of its popularity, the Jitterbug included bumps, grinds, squats and even aerials, however, it tamed a bit down as music evolved into a smoother, more sophisticated sound.
As the Jitterbug dance began gaining steam, “Jitterbug” as a term started to define swing dancers in a derogatory fashion.
However, that did not stop the explosive popularity of the dance.Here are the incredible Jitterbug Champions in 1961, Gi Gi Brown and Gary K. Lewis:
Like most swing dances, the Jitterbug has roots from the 1920’s Jazz era.
It is considered to be a simplified version of Lindy Hop including 4 steps performed in 6 counts.
Due to the fast paced music, most of the Jitterbug basics span one and a half measures of music and omit the well known triple step of other swing dances.
This makes Jitterbug comfortable for a wider audience and easier to execute.
The following video demonstrates how to do a fun step called the “Cuddle” in Jitterbug:
The Jitterbug has a time signature of 4:4 with a tempo ranging between 35-46 measures per minute (140 and 184 beats per minute).
Animated, lively and energetic, the Charleston made its mark in the Roaring Twenties by uninhibiting movement on the dance floor.
Kicking arms and swinging legs had this dance controversial at first. However, the Charleston turned into a profound dance craze in no time.
It became an iconic dance symbolizing a newfound enthusiasm for “letting lose” after the war.
Attire became looser, as well as actions and attitudes
Flappers, “flapping” their arms around and walking around like birds also played their part in popularizing the Charleston.
Here is a fun clip of the best solo Charleston dancers competing against each other at the ILDC:
Characterized by big and loose motions, the fast-paced Charleston is comprised of four steps.
The footwork is basic, which allows for a number of variations to be added.
Big arm movements swing in opposite motion (contra motion) to kicking steps and twisting feet. It can be danced solo, with a partner or even in a group.
The foot articulation is further defined by the toes turning in, then heels turning out.
The following video illustrates how to dance the Charleston basic:
Charleston patterns exist in present dance genres like the Lindy Hop, Jitterbug, East Coast Swing, and East Coast Swing.
Charleston is commonly danced to Ragtime Jazz, and New Orleans/ Dixieland Jazz.
It has a 4:4 time signature and is considered to be a clave rhythm.
The dance has a tempo ranging between 50 and 75 measures per minute (200 and 300 beats per minute).
22.) West Coast Swing
Defined by its sleek and slinky style, West Coast Swing is one of the most unique and improvisational dances.
Partners are allowed to work off of each other, creating a dialogue between themselves, by using a lot of leg and syncopated footwork.
West Coast Swing is also known as “Western Swing”, and originated in California in the 1940’s.
West Coast Swing has evolved with the times and music, and is still quite relevant to the dance scene today.
Characterized by its smoothness, West Coast Swing is danced in a long and thin slot about 8-9 feet long and has a different feel from other swings.
Here is an example of Ben Morris showcasing his West Coast Swing at the Mid Atlantic Dance Jam:
This type of Swing has an elastic look resulting from a partner connection that uses an extension-compression technique.
It further uses walks instead of rocks, with tap-like steps and push pull interactions.
There is a freedom of expression in the moves with emphasis on core movement and stretch.
Poise is slightly backward-leaning at the full extent of what’s called a negative connection.
The following video includes a series of “moves and grooves” from West Coast Swing, taught by Ben Morris, West Coast Swing Champion:
West Coast Swing puts emphasis is on musicality and connection.
It can be danced to a wide range of medium tempo music including Rhythm and Blues, Jazz, Soul, Honky-tonk, Country Western, Disco, Funk, Rock and Pop.
West Coast Swing is danced to music ranging from very slow to fast. It has a 4:4 meter and its tempo ranges between 28 and 32 measures per minute (112 and 128 beats per minute).
23.) Lindy Hop
Wild, spontaneous and full of personal style, the Lindy hop is a fast-paced, joyful dance, with a flowing style.
This fun and playful dance gives plenty of leeway for improvisation and many tricks: flips, twirls and other jazz steps.
The street dance has been referred to as Jitterbug and Swing, and also as a ‘true American Folk Dance’
Having a unique dichotomy of energy and calm, Lindy Hop is comprised of moves ranging from frenzied kicks to smooth and sophisticated body movements.
Here are examples of the best Lindy Hop dancers showcasing their dancing at the International Lindy Hop Championships:
Characterized by extreme precision, Lindy Hop dancers coordinate their dynamic moves perfectly in sync with the music.
The dance demands athleticism; Lindy Hop dancers make plenty use of intricate and acrobatic steps that require great finesse and ability.
Some of the fancy footwork is borrowed from the Charleston and tap dancing.
The following video includes the basic footwork for Lindy Hop:
Lindy Hop was born in Harlem, NYC in 1928, and has evolved with the times. Types of music acceptable for dancing Lindy Hop have a wide range including Jazz, Blues, Country and Rock.
Eight beats are used to complete a figure. Lindy Hop has a 4:4 time signature with a tempo of 30 to 45 measures per minute (120 and 180 beats per minute).
Disco, Night Club and Country Dances
Here are 3 popular types of these dances (among many others): Hustle, Nightclub Two-Step and Country 2 Step.
Funky and fun, the Hustle encapsulates the heart of the 1970’s disco era.
John Travolta’s hit movie “Saturday Night Fever” played a big part in popularizing the dance, as well as tunes of the era such as “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees.
The Hustle is an upbeat and happy dance, eliciting laughter and commanding grace. The movements are rapid and smooth, characterized by a syncopated rhythm
Musicality, styling and movement have evolved through the years to reflect the latest music and trends in Hustle.
Here is an example of Billy Fajardo and Katie Marlow showcasing their Hustle at the Mid Atlantic Dance Jam:
Hustle was originally danced to Disco music, but its unique pulse can be traced in many different genres of music like Pop, Jazz, Rock, Soul, Hip Hop, Techno and R&B.
The Hustle Dance includes an ample amount of turning, passing and wrapping with an emphasis on arm styling.
It also has options to travel on the dance floor or to stay put in a rotational alignment.
The following video shows how to do a cool move in the Hustle called “Double Hand Hold Bridges”. It is taught by Billy Fajardo:
There are several different dance positions including sweetheart, cuddle, handshake and closed positions.
The dance features hip and knee movements common to other rhythm dances.
Hustle is danced to 4:4 music and is a 4 step dance performed to 3 beat syncopated pattern (&1,2,3). Tempos range between 28 and 30 measures per minute (112 and 120 beats per minute).
25.) Night Club Two-Step
One of the most practical social dances, the Night Club Two-Step fills a gap where no other ballroom dance fits.
Slow, romantic and “floaty”, the dance perfectly accompanies the beats of contemporary soft rock and “love songs” such as “Lady in Red”.
Night Club Two Step is calm, gentle and smooth, designed to be versatile and to be enjoyed in relaxing atmospheres.
Here is an example of social dancing the Night Club 2-Step in a casual atmosphere:
Characterized by its rock steps and long sweeping movements, the Night Club Two-Step is a social partner dance created in the 1960’s by a 15 year old.
Danced in a relaxed frame, partners glide to the timing of Quick-Quick-Slow, matching the quick drum beat in the music.
An example of the Night Club Two-Step “Basic” can be seen here. It is instructed by U.S. Professional Latin Dance Champion Ron Montez:
Night Club Two-Step is danced to 4:4 Music, with a tempo of 16-22 measures per minute (64-88 beats per minute).
26.) Country Two Step
A smooth and progressive partner dance, the Country Two-Step bursts at the seams with fancy spins, wraps and weaved patterns.
Country Two-Step comes equipped with a variety of hand holds, such as hammerlock, cuddle, shadow, skaters, and promenade positions.
Series of rhythm accents, timing variations and syncopation are scattered throughout the dance
Intricate spinning and smooth flowing movements make the dance both fun and challenging.
Here is a video of Toby Munroe showcasing his Country Two-Step at the UCWDC World Championships:
In some parts of the U.S., the Country Two-Step has been referred to as the “traveling swing”. This is because many swing elements have made their way into the dance.
Heavily influenced by the Foxtrot, the dance starts in closed position but uses many other positions as partners shuffle and stride across the dance floor.
Country Two-Step is also known as the “Texas Two-Step” or “Two-Step”. The timing for Country Two-Step is QQSS (quick-quick-slow-slow). Country 2-Step is in 4:4 time and danced to country music between 160-192 BPM beats per minute.
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Let me know your favorite dance and any questions you have.