The Art of Dance Styles

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As a dancer, I find that many styles have a way of expressing all facets of our emotions. Dance is freeing and a hallmark of every culture articulated through the rhythm of the soul. There are so many styles of dance, and new forms are constantly being discovered. Here are a list of major styles that have influenced me and dancers all over the world.


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Ballet

Classical Ballet is one of the first fundamental influences of all dance. It is all about tight, clean lines. Although very strenuous, its allure says other wise, as dancers are seen dancing to a story in light as a feather fluidity. Ballet is romantic. It is about elegance and grace through flowing arms, tight straight legs, and the ability to stand on your toes. Prepare to get a nice lesson in French if you opt to take classes, and despite the age limit, Ballet can still be a great way to tone and train alongside other dance styles no matter the age.


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Modern/Contemporary

Modern or contemporary is a hybrid of dance styles which places emphasis on the free form. Your emotions tell a story and the movements are the words used to articulate it. Modern is known as the style in which new steps are constantly being developed. No shoes required, just the sole of the feet and soul of the heart.

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Jazz

"Jazz hands please." Jazz dance is just that, "jazzy", and pretty fun and "funky" might I add. This dance style is seen in a lot of today's mainstream music choreography. It originates in the the theater, and like ballet, tells a significant story. It is in fact, the spawn of ballet, as it incorporates many leaps, twists and turns from classical ballet, but with an attitude. Footwork is more loose and free form. No sharp lines required, just a lot of energy and balance without seeming balanced.

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Native American

Native American dance is all about spirit. It is smothered in Native American cultural traditions which are used as honor to The Great Spirit and nature in unison. This dance is vibrant and used in celebrations or festivals honoring the earth. Dance is accompanied by sacred chants, drums and flutes. Movements include hoping to the vibrations of sound, trotting and shuffling foot work. Movements also range from very strong to angelically graceful. Each movement mimics the movement of animals and nature, which allows many variations.

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African

Africa. Where it all began. Even the word "rhythm" originates from Africa and is the only word in the English language like it. African dance, to know surprise is very rhythmically coordinated, powerful and energetic. It is particularly good for boosting stamina. Such dances are originally used in celebrations and for spiritual ritualistic purposes. Dance movements include arm swinging, pelvic and hip movements and short rhythmic jumps or leaps with footwork. Today, it is still considered one of the most exhilarating dance forms.

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Hip-Hop

Hip-Hop is the child of African dance and it takes from many other forms including ballet and modern styles. There are many subcategories of this dance style including break dance but general characteristics include a strong sense of rhythm and fast or slower paced movements incorporating isolations, flowing or rigid transitions, and total use of space.

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Egyptian Belly (Raks Sharqi)

Egyptian Belly dance or Raks Sharqi is total sensuality. It involves isolation of all parts of the body with commonly known circular motions of the belly, hips and neck, as well as vibrations and shimmies. Its movements mimic the styles of nature, particularly the snake, and includes total influence from the flow of elements: water, air, fire and water. Styles are used in celebrations and are seen in the theater.

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Swing

Swing dance is the original energetic social dance that knows no limits of gravity. It is a partner dance well known for its signature lifts, spins and kicks. Sounds similar to ballet right? Well the only difference here is that its much looser and almost always fast. Add touches of boogie, jitter and jive and you have a swing dance cocktail which will keep your legs moving and heart pumping.

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Tap

In tap dance, the feet are the rhythm star of the show. Even with emphasis on the feet, tap involves every part of the body for showmanship. Movements blend acrobats, ballet and jazz techniques. The feet is used as an instrument as it effortlessly trails the beat or melody, or becomes by itself, the beat or melody. Technique basics include shuffles, flap, brush and ball changes and pivots.

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Flamenco

The Flamenco is the representation of a dancer's passion as they mold with the rhythm. It is a solo dance characterized by hand clapping, footwork, stomping and various hand and arm sweeping with full body motions. Castanets and folding fans are used sometimes for drama and as a visual compliment to the movements as expressed by the dancer's emotion.

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Tango

Tango is the dance of seduction and a great dance for couples. It has genuine intensity and romanticism that flows through precise, yet dramatic steps. Characteristic movements include steady foot work and body placement that strive to stay always reconnect with the other partner as they move around the space.

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Capoeira

Many may know Capoeira as the Brazillan style martial art which has its roots in Africa. Originally the deadly art was disguised as a dance during the time of slavery. Kicks, flips and circular movements are all major characteristics of this dance. It is performed in a dance battle-like circle which practitioners take turns going in and out of against other performers. The art of Capoeira also includes the playing of instruments which compliments the movement of the combat style dance.

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Pole 

Despite its reputation, pole dance is a very elegant form of dance that has ancient roots. The dance is definitely not for the faint of heart, but when learned correctly, is not only sexy and sultry, but also strengthens and tones every part of the body. Characteristic moves includes climbing, spins and static movements that make for beautiful poses. 

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Disco

Disco was never dead. It's alive and pumping with the frisky movements of disco dance that brought the 70s alive with its classic music. Movements include arm raises, hip and pelvic rotations and shimmies, footwork, lifts, shuffles and exaggerated shoulder techniques.

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Praise

Praise dance is an expression of appreciation to a higher power. Its purpose is to inspire and heal. Moves are primarily expressed with arms praising the sky and may incorporate swaying and other prayer like positions that transition into modern or contemporary dance techniques.

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Ballroom

Ballroom dancing is a dance of courtship. It is a regal couples dance for all ages. It involves holding hands as the couple moves in unison (one leading and the other following). It is a slower and sometimes fast-paced clean dance with a steady footwork which gives the impression of floating around the room. There are also various styles to choose from.



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Country & Western

Get out your cowboy boots and get ready to hit the dance floor. Country and western dance shares its birth through country music and is a social dance involving partner pairing and group line dancing. Slides, footwork and clean movements are characteristic of this dance, not to mention, it can be quite energetic and fun.




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Contact Improvisation

Contact is the key word for this dance. It is very social and involves close contact which incorporate every part of the body. Movements include lifts, ground to air positions and molding techniques based on the positioning of other dancers. It is a free form and of course improved on the spot during "jams" and other festivals.

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Ariel

Ariel dance or gymnastics is motion in flight. It is a beautiful form of dance performed in air with the support of ariel silks or rings in which the dancer adapts and molds in movement to. It requires a lot of flexibility, strength and coordination of the body with support of the ceiling apparatus. Ariel dancers are most commonly seen performing in circus acts and other major acrobatic shows. Moves are a fusion of poses taken from yoga, gymnastics and modern dance.  



My Source:

I am a naturally trained dancer in Contemporary/Modern, Ballet, Hip-Hop, and other specialty styles including Egyptian Belly, Contact Improv, Capoeira and Praise Dance.


© 2011 Latasha N. Woods

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Comments 10 comments

Marisa Wright profile image

Marisa Wright 5 years ago from Sydney

Nice overview! The bellydancer looks more tribal or gypsy than Egyptian, but I appreciate you including the style - it's so often overlooked.


Latasha Woods profile image

Latasha Woods 5 years ago from USA- United States of Aspiration Author

Thank you Marisa!! Egyptian belly dance (Raks Sharqi) is one of my favorite specialty styles. Some of the photos were difficult to obtain totally spot on, but its still right on both accounts... a gypsy demonstrating the originating Egyptian belly dance. This style, like many others, are gradually becoming more mainstream as we see mixed style influences over the ages. I am glad that you liked it.


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

A great hub again and your obvious hard work has certainly paid off.

Take care

Eiddwen.


Latasha Woods profile image

Latasha Woods 5 years ago from USA- United States of Aspiration Author

Thank you Eiddwen!! Yes, this was one of the most time consuming hubs by far, but well worth the effort towards the expression of my passion for dance. Thank you for your feedback.


kittythedreamer profile image

kittythedreamer 5 years ago from the Ether

Voted up and beautiful, Latasha! Great information here. I have to say, my favorites are contemporary and also hip-hop. A sub-genre of hip hop that I REALLY REALLY love is crump! I can't help but love Lil' C and Russell on So You Think You Can Dance! Have you been watching this new season? I really loved that hip-hopper from Brooklyn last night.


Latasha Woods profile image

Latasha Woods 5 years ago from USA- United States of Aspiration Author

Hi KittytheDreamer,

Thank you!! Yes, I did see bits of the SYTYCD performances this season.

It's my favorite dance show. Contemporary and hip-hop are wonderful mainstream performance styles featured all over the world. Thank you again for your feedback, and I look forward to reading more of your hubs as well.

-Latasha W.


epigramman profile image

epigramman 5 years ago

...I am so excited about this - I really think you have created the definitive dance hub of all time - so I must post this beauty work of art to my Facebook page with a direct link back here so hopefully more people can see it.

I have always adored classical ballet in particular but I am also a big fan of traditonal and modern dance too - and I love 'dance' in film ..... for putting this hub together in the way you did and with such passion and as an obvious labor of love - you are my hero?

Do you have a favorite dance film by the way? Or a dance sequence in a film?


Latasha Woods profile image

Latasha Woods 5 years ago from USA- United States of Aspiration Author

Hi Epigramman,

I am truly honored by your words and am very happy to hear that you found some interest in this hub. It has indeed been a labor of my love of dance.

As for dance in film, I'm not sure if I have a favorite. It's a good question though. I do love contemporary mixed styles. I really enjoyed Flashdance and the dance sequence in Moulin Rouge for "Roxanne". There are so many.

Thank you again for the wonderful comments and for passing this along.

-Latasha W.


epigramman profile image

epigramman 5 years ago

Check out the dance sequence from a Jean-Luc Goddard film - A BANDE APART - you can find it on You Tube - also a Christopher Walken dance sequence from Pennies from Heaven - also on You Tube - and Gregory Hines and Mikhail Baryshnikov from White Knights - on You Tube

...and thanks so much for your fan mail and endorsement of my hub - I love it!!!! especially coming from someone like you - and in closing - I love Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre and Pina Bausch and Martha Graham and the Nicholas Brothers ....and so many many more - would love to send you some links from you tube if you could give me your email address in a private in house memo through hubpages here ......


Latasha Woods profile image

Latasha Woods 5 years ago from USA- United States of Aspiration Author

Thanks again!! I will certainly check those out. I am actually very fond of all of those groups as well.

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