Summary of Dance Styles

Argentine Tango:

Argentine Tango is a partnered dance that has developed over the last century in the city of Buenos Aires and is characterized by its hold embrace and complex leg and foot movements. It is an improvisational social dance that is truly a dance of leading and following.


Bachata is a partnered dance that originated from the Dominican Republic. It is a social dance that is usually accompanied by a 4/4 beat, where the dancers move from side-to-side and change direction after the forth beat.

Ballroom dancing:

Ballroom dancing is a form of partnered dance that has pre-defined steps following strict tempo music, such as waltz, quickstep and foxtrot. In practice, it is a social dance and sequences are improvised. However, choreographed sequences may be used by groups of dancers for demonstrations, or for teaching purposes in classes.


Ballet is a classical dance form that is characterized by grace and precision of movement. It can be a performed as a partnered dance, or as a solo or group dance. It is generally choreographed and is primarily a performance dance.

Barn dance:

Barn dance is an example of a partnered dance. It is as much a dance event as it is a dance form. Couples follow the instructions of a 'caller' who directs a choreographed sequence of moves. There is therefore no improvisation in Barn dancing.


Baroque is the precursor of ballet and originated in the court of Louis XIV. As in Ballet, choreographed sequences are generally taught; however, Baroque is always practiced as a partnered dance. The main difference between the two is that Ballet is danced high on the toes, whereas Baroque favours heels just off the ground.

Belly dance:

Belly dance is not a partnered dance; it is generally a choreographed dance where individual performers or groups follow a series of pre-determined moves. Often referred to as Middle Eastern Dance or Raqs Sharqi, this dance form is based on a social dance performed by all ages and both sexes at weddings and other social occasions in the Middle East.

Blues dance:

Blues dance is a form of partnered dance that is basically a physical expression of the blues music that it is danced to. In practice it is a social dance, but in classes a choreographed sequence is generally taught.

Cajun dance:

Cajun dance is a partnered dance form that originates from New Orleans and is heavily influenced by French music. It is a social dance that has since spread throughout the US, but is yet to make an impact in Britain.


Capoeira is a Brazilian mode of combat that is dance-like in form. It is not necessarily partnered as such, but there is usually an adversary. It is as much a martial art, a game and a culture as it is a dance. Participants form a roda circle and take it in turns to sing, play instruments and perform in pairs within the circle.


Ceilidh is the traditional social dance of Scotland that is particularly popular with the Scottish youth. Ceilidh, as with Barn dance, is as much an event as it is a dance. At English Ceilidh dances, a 'caller' is also used, who choreographs proceedings by calling out the next move. It is a partnered dance and partners generally switch regularly.

Contemporary dance:

Contemporary dance is not a specific dance form, but is a collection of methods and techniques developed from modern and post-modern dance. It is a concert dance and choreographed sequences are generally taught or invented and then performed with a partner or otherwise.

Country dance:

Country dancing is a sociable dance that can be partnered or otherwise. There are many different types of Country dance from many different countries, which are danced in circles, squares, lines or couples. The dances usually make use of predetermined choreography, and callers are frequently used to indicate changes in figures.


Cumbia dance originated as a Columbian folk dance, through an amalgamation of Amerindian culture and that of African slaves. It is a partnered dance, which originally played a role as a courtship ritual amongst the lower classes. It is an improvised dance that is danced to a 4/4 time rhythm structure.

East Coast Swing:

East Coast Swing is predominately a six-count version of Lindy Hop. It is a simpler form of this social dance, which allows it to be danced to fast music, usually in the 150-200 beats per minute range. It is a partnered dance that is improvised in practice, but is choreographed for the purposes of teaching.


Flamenco is Spainís national dance that can be practised as a partnered or non-partnered dance. It is an intense, passionate dance form with a strong emotional focus that feeds on improvisation. As such, each performer and performance is unique.

Folk dancing:

Folk dancing is to be found all over the world and incorporates many different types of traditional dance. Barn dancing, Country dancing and Morris dancing all come under this category. This means that the term Folk dancing encompasses various types of partnered dance, formation dance, social dancing, choreographed dancing and performance dances.

Formation dance:

Formation dance is a partnered dance that consists of a circular or linear arrangement of couples who perform a choreographed routine as part of a larger team. The routine is often based upon another dance style, such as jive, cha-cha, or tango.


Jive is a form of partnered dance that has its origins in Lindy Hop, but shares moves from many other dance styles. It is a social dance that can be practiced to a broad range of popular music, making it highly versatile, which adds to its appeal. It is easy to learn and has simple footwork, making it accessible for beginners, but it is tricky to master.


Lambada is a Latin partnered dance that has a slow-quick-quick rhythm, danced to a 1---3-4 beat. When dancing Lambada, the dancer's hips are closely positioned and create a fast-paced swaying action from side-to-side. In practice, it is an improvised social dance, but choreographed sequences may be taught in classes.

Lindy Hop:

Lindy Hop is an African-American dance that originated in New York City in the late 1920s. It is a form of swing dance that can be danced either solo, or with a partner, with a core tempo range of 120-180 beats per minute. It is primarily a social dance, but is also a popular competitive dance and performance dance.

Modern Jive:

Modern Jive is a form of partnered dance that has its origins in Lindy Hop, but shares moves from many other dance styles. It is a social dance that can be practiced to a broad range of popular music, making it highly versatile, which adds to its appeal. It is easy to learn and has simple footwork, making it accessible for beginners, but it is tricky to master.


Merengue is the national dance and music of the Dominican Republic. For the basic step, partners are in the closed position and step from side-to-side in what is known as 'paso de la empalizada'. This, in turn, moves the hips accordingly. Merengue is essentially an easy and fun dance to learn, which makes it a popular social dance.

Morris Dance:

Morris dancing is a British folk dance that is often accompanied with live music. It is a lively and high-impact form of choreographed dance, which is performed through the rhythmic stepping and implementation of a series of figures by a team of dancers. It is an example of a non-partnered dance and is primarily a performance dance.


Reggaeton is an example of a partnered dance that originated from Panama and is now very popular in Puerto Rico. It has its very own distinctive rhythm known as 'dembow', and is a similar dancing style to that seen in the film 'Dirty Dancing', but with more of a Caribbean influence. It is simple and easy to learn making it a popular social dance.

Rock and Roll:

Rock and Roll dance emerged in America from the partnered dance Lindy Hop in the 1950s. More recently, acrobatic rock and roll has become popular, which requires a lot of skill and stamina. Although it may have started off as an improvisational and social dance, it is now mainly a performance and competition dance, where routines are choreographed either in pairs or in formation.


Rumba is one of the most erotic and sensual of all the Latin dance styles due to its slow rhythms and hip movements, making it a popular social dance. It is generally a partnered dance and has evolved into several variants over the years, which are split in to: Ballroom Rumba, Early American Rumba and Cuban Rumba.


Salsa is the collective term used to describe a variety of partnered dances from various Hispanic sources. It is generally danced in 4/4 time in two bar phrases with a pause on the 4th and 8th beats, which gives a quick-quick-slow rhythm. In classes a choreographed sequence is generally taught, but in practice it is an improvised dance.

Scottish Country Dancing:

Scottish Country Dancing is a choreographed partnered dance where participants are grouped into sets, typically of 3, 4, or 5 couples arranged either in two lines (men facing ladies) or in a square. As the couples dance a sequence of formations, their order will be changed. The dance is then repeated enough times to bring them back to their starting point.

Tap dance:

Tap dance is an example of a non-partnered dance that is generally choreographed, with one or more participating dancers. A rhythmical tapping sound is attained by the dancer from the small metal plates on the dancer's shoes. It is in his way that the dancer also becomes a percussive musician.

Traditional dancing:

Traditional dancing can be another term for folk dance, or sometimes even for ceremonial dance. The term "traditional" is used when the emphasis is on the cultural roots of the dance. It is generally more of a social activity rather than competitive, but it is normally choreographed.

West Coast Swing:

West Coast Swing (WCS) is a regional variation of Lindy Hop that was made popular in the 1940s along the West Coast. The main difference between WCS and other Swing dances is its capacity to evolve with the music trends over time. As one of the most improvisational and versatile of all partnered dances, WCS is also a popular social dance.

Editor: Nichola Manning