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  • Tishya Doraiswamy

The Story Of 9 Popular Dance Genres

We all love to dance - whether it be professionally, in a class, at a party, or just letting loose at home. However, dance is so much more than that! It's an art form, a culture, a story, and a statement. So today, we bring you a little about 9 popular dance forms.

1. Ballet

One of the most graceful and elegant dance forms, ballet is a dance form that originated during the Renaissance in Italy in the fifteenth century, and subsequently in France and Russia as a concert dance. It has since spread around the world, and its techniques have been greatly influential in other dance forms as well. Ballet has several styles encompassed within it, including classical ballet, romantic ballet, and contemporary ballet. When we think of ballet today, it is generally of classical ballet, which involves flowing movements, balance, and an otherworldly beauty and feel to it.

The art form usually involves a stage performance making extensive use of costumes, scenic lighting and props, and is often used to tell a story or express an emotion or thought. 

Although it may look soft and graceful - don’t be fooled! Ballet dancers go through rigorous training that lasts several exhausting hours a day, and maintain strict exercise regimens as well.

If you’d like to learn ballet in India – you can! Several institutes exist around the country, including the National Ballet Academy and Imperial Fernando Ballet Company.

Popular Ballet Artist: Mikhail Baryshnikov

Check out a beautiful ballet performance HERE

2. Jazz

Jazz dance has its roots in several century old African traditions, largely brought to the United States as a result of slave trade. However, it only emerged as a distinct dance style in the early 20th century. It’s characterised by dramatic and improvisational movements, and isolation movements.

The dance form was popularised by the bands of the swing era, and led to a radical change in stage and social dance in the 20th century.You can learn Jazz in India at several institutes that exist around the country, including Danceworx, Zenith Dance Academy, and Delhi Dance Academy. 

Popular Jazz Dancer: Jack Cole

Check out a stunning jazz performance HERE

3. Folk Dance

It’s a rather broad term, encompassing the various dance forms of people of different cultures and religions. Folk dances are often used to portray emotions, age-old stories, and even retellings of historical events of a community. 

They’re usually performed at social gatherings, often to traditional accompanying music, and often by people with little or no professional training. 

A few examples of these from around the world include Hula (Hawaii), Flamenco (Spain), and Samba (Brazil).

Take a look at this graceful performance

4. Ballroom

Dating all the way back to the 16th century, ballroom dancing is a type of partner dance that was once a popular form of social dance, and today, is a well-known competitive dance, with several competitions being held worldwide. In ballroom dancing, couples use step-patterns and move rhythmically along with the music.

In the past, ballroom dancing was largely a social dance form for the privileged, with folk dancing being more common amongst ordinary people. Over time, however, the meaning of ballroom dance has evolved depending on the popular dances at the time. 

Ballroom dancing is of several forms, including the Foxtrot, Waltz, and Tango.

You can learn ballroom dancing in India at Ballroom India.

Popular Ballroom Dancer: Kym Johnson

Check out a stunning Ballroom dance performance HERE

5. Contemporary

It’s one of the more recently developed dance forms, originating only in the mid-twentieth century, but is one of the most popular forms of dance, particularly in Europe and USA today. 

It’s an expressive style of dance that takes elements from several preceding dance forms, including jazz, modern, and ballet. It involves extremely fluid dance moves that place importance on improvisation and floor work. 

The dance form was pioneered by Isadora Duncan, Martha Graham, and Merce Cunningham, who opposed the strictness and lack of versatility in ballet and beloved that dancers should have the freedom of movement. If you want to learn contemporary dance, several institutes exist as resources, including the Delhi Dance Academy and the Terence Lewis Contemporary Dance Company. 

Popular Dancer: Isadora Duncan

Check out a beautiful contemporary dance performance HERE

6. Hip-Hop

This refers primarily to street dance styles performed to hip-hop music, both of which evolved as a part of hip-hop culture. It developed in the 70s in New York and California out of funk and break beat, which is a type of electronic music. 

Hip-hop involved Breaking, Locking and Popping, and several other extremely characteristic moves, which were popularised in pop-culture through music videos at the time, as well as dance crews. Today, hip-hop is performed both, in studios and competitively, as well as in outdoor, far more informal spaces. It often involves improvisational techniques and responding to other’s movements. If you want to learn hip-hop, several studios exist as resources, including the Delhi Dance Academy and Zenith Dance Academy.

Popular Dancer: Ysabelle Capitulé

Check out a striking hip-hop performance HERE

7. Modern 

An extremely vague and broad genre, modern dance originated in USA and Germany in the late 20th century, and relies on individual’s interpretations of the music. The dancer’s interpretation and feeling of the music guides their movements in this dance form, which was initially born as an opposition to more rigid and traditional forms of dance. 

Today, modern dance uses unconventional movements to convey feelings and emotions through dance. If you’d like to learn modern dance in India – you can, at institutes such as Danceworx.

Popular Dancer: Martha Graham

Check out a beautiful modern dance performance HERE

8. Swing

This is a dance style developed from jazz in the 1920s to 40s, but the term wasn’t commonly used to identify a dance style until the second half of the 20th century. It grew as a result of the increasing popularity of swine jazz music in the United States, and with a change in the music style, the dance also began to transform as it became faster and more rigorous. Swing dancing was often accompanied by Big Band musicians playing smooth, upbeat music. 

Today, swing dancing styles form the base of several other dance forms, and swing dancing clubs and competitions still exist worldwide.

Popular Dancer: Dean Collins

Check out a performance HERE

9. Tap

Probably one of the most unique dance forms on this list is tap dancing - a complete departure from the free-flowing movements of swing or modern dance. Like the name suggests, it involves the ‘tapping’ of shoes hitting the floor as the person performs. 

The tap sound is a result of the metal its fixed to the heel and toe of the shoes as they strike the floor. As a result this dance can be done either with music, or without, with the sounds of the taps providing the beat. 

This dance form has roots in a range of other dances, including the Gioube Juba Dance, English clog dancing, and Irish jigs. It originated in the mid-19th century as a result of minstrel shows. Today, it’s often performed in theatre as well as major competitions and shows.

Popular Dancer: Savion Glover

Take a look HERE

Let us know what your favourite genre and artist is in the comments below, and share this article with your friends!

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Tishya Doraiswamy, Content Writer @ Skyshot Media


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