The Phrontistery

Books by Stephen Chrisomalis
Numerical Notation: A Comparative History Human Expeditions: Inspired by Bruce Trigger


Dance Styles

I'm not a particularly good dancer, being part of that generation for which dancing involves shuffling one's feet about randomly while gyrating in provocative ways. I do manage to keep my feet off my wife's, though (well, most of the time). This list of 105 dances won't actually turn you into a master of the ballroom, but it may help you recognize and understand the differences between certain dances. Dance styles vary immensely both by time period and by region, so please let me know if you know of other styles that I haven't listed. Please note that it's rather difficult to define a complex dance in one line, and so I've avoided a lot of detail about specific steps, etc.

Word Definition
allemande courtly baroque dance in which the arms are interlaced
beguine vigorous Caribbean dance
bergamask country dance
bolero Spanish dance with sudden pauses and sharp turns
bossa-nova Brazilian dance similar to samba
boston waltz-like dance
bourrée French baroque dance with quick rhythm
bransle an old French follow-the-leader dance
buck-and-wing solo tap dance with many leg flings and leaps
cabriole curved furniture leg ending in a ball; exuberant dance or caper
cakewalk prancing stage dance with backward tilt
canary lively Renaissance courtly dance
cancan French woman's dance involving high kicks while holding up front of skirt
carioca variation of the samba
cha-cha fast rhythmic ballroom dance
chaconne Spanish baroque dance in triple time
Charleston fast-paced 1920s dance characterized by energetic kicking
cinque-pace lively medieval dance with five steps
conga Afro-Congan dance performed by a group in a single line
contredanse folk dance in which two lines of couples face each other
cotillion elaborate ballroom dance with frequent changes of partner
courante quick Italian baroque dance involving running steps
czardas Hungarian dance that increases in speed
doppio double meter Renaissance dance step
ductia vigorous stamping dance
dump obsolete English dance in 4/4 time
estampie vigorous rhythmic Provençal stamping dance
fandango lively Spanish dance performed by a couple
farandole lively Provençal dance in which men and women hold hands
farruca Spanish gypsy dance with sudden tempo and mood changes
flamenco vigorous rhythmic dance originating with Gypsies
fox-trot slow and complex ballroom dance
galliard sprightly Renaissance and Baroque dance
galop lively double-time dance
gavotte moderate tempo French peasant dance
gigue lively Baroque dance in triple time
habanera slow and seductive Cuban dance
hambo Swedish folk dance in three-four time
hora circle dance
hornpipe lively British folk dance
hula sinuous Polynesian dance with rhythmic hip movements
hustle lively disco dance derived from swing elements with a plus-like pattern
jig springy and sprightly dance
jitterbug jazz dance featuring vigorous acrobatic feats
jive fast dance done to jazz or swing music
jota fast Spanish folk dance in triple time
juba dance with clapping and leg slapping performed by Southern blacks
kazachoc Slavic fast dance in which dancer squats and kicks out legs alternately
kazatzka Slavic folk dance performed by a couple
ketjak traditional Balinese dance accompanied by male chorus
kolo Central European folk dance having a ring of dancers
lavolta lively bouncy dance for two persons
limbo dance of the West Indies where dancers pass under horizontal pole
lindy hop lively dance closely resembling the jitterbug and famous for its aerials
malaguena Spanish dance performed by a couple, similar to the fandango
mambo Cuban ballroom dance resembling the rumba or cha-cha
matachin Spanish ritualised sword-dance or battle dance
maxixe Brazilian ballroom dance resembling the two-step
mazurka Polish folk dance in moderate triple measure
merengue Caribbean ballroom dance in which feet are frequently dragged
minuet slow and stately Baroque dance in 3/4 time
moresco a Moorish dance or morris-dance
morris vigorous English dance performed by costumed men
one-step ballroom dance marked by quick walking steps
paso-doble quick Spanish one-step dance
passacaglia slow solemn Italian or Spanish dance
passepied Breton dance resembling a quick minuet
pavane stately English Renaissance court dance
polacca stately Polish dance; polonaise
polka lively Bohemian dance for a couple
polonaise stately Polish dance of moderate tempo
quadrille square dance for four couples; card game for four people
quickstep fast march-like dance
reel lively dance of the Scottish Highlands
rigadoon lively Baroque period dance
round dance in a ring
roundel anything circular; circle; disc; ring-dance
rumba Cuban ballroom dance with pronounced hip movements
salsa fast Latin American jazz-influenced dance
saltarello lively Italian dance
samba Brazilian dance of African origin
sarabande stately Spanish Baroque court dance
schottische old polka-like round dance
seguidilla Spanish folk dance
shag dance where participants hop energetically
shimmy jazz dance featuring rapid shaking of the body
shuffle dance featuring sliding or scraping of the feet
stomp jazz dance featuring heavy stamping of the feet
strathspey reel-like Scottish dance of moderate tempo
tango Latin-American (orig. Argentinian) ballroom dance with long pauses
tarantella fast violent Italian folk dance
tordion Renaissance dance similar to but slower than a galliard
tricotee lively old dance
twist dance featuring many gyrations of the hips
two-step ballroom dance with two main steps
varsovienne polka-like Polish dance
veleta English ballroom round dance for couples
volta old leaping dance
waltz ballroom dance in 3/4 time
zamacueca Chilean dance where partners move around each other
zambra Spanish dance
zapateado Latin-American dance with rhythmic tapping of the feet
ziganka Russian country dance
zoppetto medieval Italian limping hop dance
zouk Caribbean disco dance and corresponding type of fast rhythmic music


I hope you have found this site to be useful. If you have any corrections, additions, or comments, please contact me. Please note that I am not able to respond to all requests. Please consult a major dictionary before e-mailing your query. All material on this page © 1996-2013 Stephen Chrisomalis. Links to this page may be made without permission.

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