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The Art of Dance Styles

Updated on October 25, 2017

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.



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.



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.



"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.


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.



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.



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.


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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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. 



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.



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.



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.


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.


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.



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 Woods


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