Russian Dance

Russian dance, like dances in many other cultures, is an integral part of Russian culture and has been for a long time. In fact, many types of Russian dance date as far back as the 10th century. Because of Russia’s size as a country, there were many invasions and contacts with other countries and as such, a mix of different European dances and music influenced and helped create Russian folk dances. Traditionally, it was lower class Russian citizens and members of Russian society who would perform for the upper class who would watch the performances and not participate in the dance.

Today, Russian folk dances still play a role in the culture but the various Russian dances are no longer part of the lower class, mid and upper class can and do all participate in Russian dances whether for recreational or competitive purposes. There are even Russian ballets that are world famous.

The unique characteristics of Russian dance include furious and gentle music that the choreography is set to and performed to.

In addition, the squat work and the infamous knee bend and musical and rhythmic foot stomping are unique and differentiate Russian dance from many other styles of dance. The squat work is impressive as the squats are done at varying tempos as music speeds up and slows down and require serious balance and coordination.

The costumes are detailed and traditionally were handmade. The clothing is designed depending on the occasion as often special dances are done for different special occasions. Headdresses (called Kokoshnik ), embroidered shirts, aprons and even belts are also common costume elements for women. Red is one of the most common and important colours in these dances as it associated with the idea of beauty and being beautiful.

Costumes are beautifully designed with detail. Typically, the clothing for the dances is based on specific events, such as holidays, and varies between these events. Women wear holiday headdresses, embroidered shirts, belts, and ornamented aprons. Men wear shirts, a belt, narrow pants, and high boots. Red is incorporated in many of the costumes because it is associated with beauty in the Russian tradition. In Russian dances woman and girls often carry a pocket square with them. Girls and women often wear the traditional Russian headdress during performances.

There are several types of traditional Russian dance;

  • Barynya
  • Kamarinskaya
  • Khorovod
  • Kozachok
  • Squat Dance
  • Troika
  • Tropak
  • Yablochko

Russian dance is celebrated, observed and participated in all over the world by more than just those of Russian descent or with Russian roots. There are many ways to enjoy Russian dance styles. It is not an easy form of dance to learn as it is deeply technical.

Irish and Celtic Dance

Irish dance is not just one type of dance but rather a grouping of traditional dances that originated and are rooted in Irish culture. The dances can be and are danced solo, in small groups and in large groups as well. Performances are both recreational and competitive. These types of dances, in their original form and as they came to fruition, were influenced by French and English dancers in the 18th as well as the 19th century. Dance teachers were travelling experts who taught dancers and moved from city to city to do so, meaning that the dances continued to evolve as teachers experienced and were influenced by more culture and people.

Irish dance became and still is an integral part of Irish culture, especially for those who were Irish nationalists and those who participated in nationalist movements. The 20th century brought the commercialization of Irish dance, introducing competitive styles and concepts.

Some types of Irish Dance include:

  • Irish Step Dance; this type of dance became popular around 1994. Irish step dance is characterized by quick foot movements and rigid upper body. There are several types of Irish step dance but most use similar technical elements that involve performing on the balls of one’s feet and toes pointing outward as well as complex foot work and rigid torsos and upper bodies. These dances can also be performed in groups of two or more.
  • Sean-nós is unique and known for footwork that can be described as low to the ground as well as improvised movement, free arm movement and steps that are known to be “battering”. This type of dance, compared to other Irish dances, follows the beat and rhythm of music more closely.

Spontaneity is the key to this dance, with less focus on practiced and taught choreography.

Because of this, groups tend to dance one at a time and play off each other’s energy.

  • Ceili Dance is a social and competitive dance that is performed by groups small and large alike. This dance is more traditional in nature and demonstrates some of the most traditional elements and influence of Irish dance. It is a structured form of dance.
  • Set Dance is a social dance that is practiced in groups and involves complex and intricate footwork.

Unsurprisingly, Irish dance often accompanies Irish music. Interestingly, these dances became popular as dancers showed off the movements on top of barrels, bars, tables and other impromptu and make shift stages which is part of the reason that the dances involve such a rigid torso as these dancers tried to balance and concentrate their movements. As venues became more stages, and less bar top, the dances evolved and started to include the upper body more and more.

Tap Dance

Tap dance is a unique type of dance that is characterized and identified by the sounds of the shoes striking the floor as the performer/dancer moves and creates percussion sounds. The metal on the bottom of tap shoes is what makes this sound.

The major types of tap dance include:

  • Flamenco
  • Jazz tap; this is a type of tap that lines up directly with the music and the rhythm
  • Classical tap; this is a type of dance that marries the classical music with foot drumming and tapping.
  • Broadway tap; this tap is of English influence and focuses more on formations and group dynamic than complex rhythms and moves.
  • Post modern tap; this type of tap is new and hard to define as it tends to not fit into one box with one set of characteristics.

There are different shoes for the different types of tap mentioned above. For example, a softer shoe does not make as much sound whereas other shoes are intended and designed to make a louder, more aggressive noise for impact.

There are classes for dancers of all ages and levels who want to learn how to tap dance and it requires a separate set of skills and technique unique to this style of dance.

Dance Through the Decades

Dance has been a popular form of expression since records began, with different cultures adopting their own particular movements, often telling a story. The earliest mention of dance comes from Indian and Egyptian paintings. Throughout the centuries, dance has evolved in many ways, some of them controversial at first, but always entertaining. It can be performed as a solo individual, a duo or as a group.

The 1920s

Following the end of the First World War, people were looking to escape the horrors of that era, and dance played a significant part in finding this escapism. Popular dances of this time included the Charleston, the Foxtrot, the Shimmy, the Tango and the Waltz. Some of these dances require that couples hold each closely, which was considered somewhat scandalous, particularly by older generations.

The 1940s

The rumba was first introduced in this decade and was an instant hit with its seductive Latin tempo. There are two distinctive styles of the rumba, American and European, and it is often featured in international competitions. Swing and jazz also came to the forefront in the 1940s and encompassed the Lindy Hop, also known as the Jitterbug. US servicemen are said to have popularised this style of dance during WWII

The 1950s

Rock ‘n Roll both describes the music and the dance style of the 1950s. The beat of the guitar is akin to that of a blues style rhythm and has accompanying fast dance movements, widely adopted by teenagers. The style of dress was particularly essential and gave rise to the term “teddy boys” who often were involved in gang fights. In cases of injury, they had to rely on old fashioned doctors, as opposed to today’s generation who can find the useful livi app to get medical advice. The hand jive is a popular 1950s dance and was often performed by synchronised groups of youngsters at high school dances.

The 1960s

The 1960s were a period of unrest and rebellion and strangely led to a series of dance crazes with odd names, including the Mashed Potato, the Hully Gully and most famously the Twist. These were usually formed as a line dance, with each individual performing the controlled movements at the same time as the others. The end of this decade saw the rise of flower power, with youngsters dancing as though seemingly in a trance.

The 1980s

This decade heralded the arrival of rap, hip-hop and as made famous by Michael Jackson, moonwalking. This iconic pop star was also responsible for the video of his hit single Thriller, which led to hordes of people emulating zombies and graveyard ghouls. A dance which was often attempted but with less than successful results was that of the Robot.

It remains to be seen as to which dance craze will be seen in the future, but more than likely it will be introduced by the younger generations.


Ballet is a type of dance that dates to the Italian Renaissance in the 15th century. The dance quickly spread to France and Russia and then became popular all over the world. This is now one of the most popular forms of dance across the world in terms of those who participate and those who enjoy watching or observing. Since its debut and over time, ballet has evolved and has been influenced by those all over the world. This type of dance has not only drawn a lot of inspiration but has also generated inspiration and influence, having helped create the foundations and technical basis for other types of dance all over the world. The dance is so popular that there are schools dedicated entirely to teaching this form of art at the elementary level and all the way to post graduate levels.

A ballet performance itself is made of a combination of a choreographed set of movements and music. These numbers are performed by those trained in this dance type, and the dancers are referred to often as ballerinas. The music varies but it is often classical pieces. The costumes, stage design and other elements vary immensely depending on the mind behind the piece of art. Traditionally, the outfits have been simple so not to restrict the movement of dancers. This resulted from large, impressive costumes being a hindrance to dancers’ performances.

There are several different types of ballet today, some of which include:

  • Classical ballet; this is one of the most longstanding types of ballet and it stays relatively true to its roots. There are different classic styles in countries such as France, Italy and Russia but the fundamentals remain similar at the core. These ballets pay homage to the rich history and technical elements of ballet.
  • Romantic ballet; this was a movement that derived from classical ballet and focused heavily on the “pointe” work of the dancers. The dancers who mastered and performed this type of ballet were predominantly female who worked to create a feeling of softness and delicateness.
  • Neoclassical ballet; this is a more abstract form of ballet. Whereas other forms of ballet tell stories and follow a plot from start to finish, neoclassical ballet is much more abstract with no plot and often very minimal costumes and stage design, if any. The focus is intended to be on body movement alone.
  • Contemporary ballet; this is another alternative form of the dance. Unlike many and most other forms of this dance, this is a type of ballet often performed and executed barefoot. Technique is key in performing and executing this type of ballet, but otherwise, it does not fit in the box of what one would be used to if they were familiar with more classical types of ballet.

Contemporary Dance

Contemporary dance is a type of dance, a performing art that evolved and came to be in the middle of the twentieth century. Since making its worldwide debut, contemporary dance has become one of the most prominent and popular forms of dance all over the world. There is an especially large following of this type of dance in North America and in Europe. The genre as a whole draws inspiration from almost every other type of dance, including classical, modern and jazz styles. Contrary to popular belief, it is not a type or sub genre of modern or neoclassical ballet.

The technique of contemporary dance requires controlled leg work and a flexible, loose and delicate torso. There is a lot of floor work and falling that requires what dancers know to be a technical skill called fall and recovery. In addition, those who perform and dance this genre are also well versed in acting and being able to embody and present a character and a story to an audience. One of the trickiest elements of this dance, making it one of the most challenging to be trained in, is the lack of consistent rhythm or speed, with different beats, songs, sounds accompanying the routines.

The history of contemporary dance involves the blending of classic ballet and modern dance. The first known or considered contemporary choreographer, one of the pioneers of this beautiful type of dance is Merce Cunningham. He developed his first contemporary routine in 1944 which was considered non-linear in terms of movement and plot. It was compared to the dance form of an abstract painting with expressive movements that spoke loudly and portrayed clear messages.

Interestingly, contemporary dance came to fruition when the pioneers of the genre decided to, against popular opinion and advice, go against and break the strict rules of classical ballet and move towards expressions and passion told in different ways. This genre broke the boundaries and paved the way for several creators and dancers across the world who used the dance for expression but also for important initiatives like sending political, economical and other strong messages.

To get trained in this type of dance, dancers will require formal training but also training in flexibility, sometimes even acting and often, to become the most well-rounded version of themselves, dancers also train in other genres before contemporary.

Bollywood Dance

Bollywood as a term was the blending of two words, Bombay (a city in India now known as Mumbai) and Hollywood, a city in the United States that requires no explanation. Bollywood refers to an Indian genre of music, dance, movies and acting.

The form of dance is a unique type of dance that is no longer practiced and taught exclusively in India. The dance is practiced at competitive and recreational levels all over the world. This genre of dance is characterized by facial expressions, overstated body language and movements and other cinematic and dramatic elements that make the story easy to follow for viewers.

The genre is more than just dramatic cinematic elements and is deep rooted in history and tradition. India has long practiced this and similar types of dance. Bollywood dance tends to be a more modern and hybrid version of traditional Indian dances such as Bharatnatyam, Kathak and Bhangra.

The basic elements of Bollywood dance include:

  • Hand Movements; Bollywood is rich in hand movements that serve as a type of sign language that are an integral part of telling a story and portraying the message that the routine aims to convey. Interestingly, different historic Indian dances have different hand movements that mean different things, for example hand movements (known as hastas) for certain types of dance are done with one hand and others with two.
  • Costume; another integral part of Bollywood dance is the costume. You may be familiar with the bright costume colours as well as the large number of accessories that tend to accompany outfits. These bangles and bracelets and other namely metal accessories make noise that enhance the experience.

Latin Dance

Latin dance as we know it today is a loose term that encompasses several dances from Cha Cha Cha to Flamenco to Caribbean dances that are lesser known to western and European audiences. These dances draw influencesand originated from a variety of influences and cultures, some of which include:

  • Indigenous Roots

Many Latin dances have indigenous roots, drawing inspiration from native Mexico, South and Central America as well as the Caribbean. Dance was essential part of these native and indigenous cultures. Not only was dance a form of entertainment but also symbolism of beliefs, combats, and large events.

  • European Influences; Spanish and Portuguese colonists moved into indigenous empires and eventually brought their fancy and forward-thinking dances with them in the 17th and 18th century. These dances moved across Latin America and were incorporated into existing dance forms.
  • African Influence; Fast forward to the 19th century, dances were a symbol of elite societies and different dances had different meanings and status associations. African slaves started having an influence on Latin dance as people became fascinated with polycentric rhythms and movement as well as whole foot steps and other dance elements.

Dancing for fitness

Dancing is a cultural and social activity that is practiced in cultures and countries all over the world and it is an activity that some even treat as a competitive sport, but did you know that it is also a fitness activity? There are many types of fitness dance classes some of the most popular include:

  • Jazzercise; this dance class incorporates Pilates, yoga, kickboxing and strength training with the rhythm, choreography and beat of dancing. The choreography is not just dance moves, but also body weight exercise and sometimes also incorporates resistance bands and weights as well. It is high intensity and the intense combination of bodyweight training with cardio make it a calorie burning powerhouse.
  • BARRE; Unlike what you may think of when you think of traditional dance fitness classes, barre classes aim to isolate muscles through holding and extending different positions. You will find some similarities and influences of Pilates, yoga and strength training. This workout is also a great strength and flexibility builder.
  • Pole dancing; there is sometimes a stigma, and not necessarily a positive one associated with pole dancing. Pole dancing, however, is offered at many fitness cubs and there are even some fitness studios dedicated entirely to pole dancing. This is a great way to burn calories and build impressive body strength.
  • Zumba; an upbeat full body workout, and a fun way to shed fat and burn calories. The music is upbeat, and the moves are not overly complicated, making it easy for those of all fitness levels to enjoy and partake in. Zumba is also a popular past time, it is easy and affordable to sign up for, once or on a regular basis.

Dance for increased flexibility and agility

There are many types of dance, most of which are great options for physical exercise and movement and a great way to stay healthy and keep your heart rate up. One of the other main benefits of dance is its ability to increase your flexibility and agility. Some types of the dances that you can try to help improve your flexibility drastically include:

  • Ballet; the movements in ballet require a high level of technicality and isolation of muscles and body parts and stretching of different muscles.
  • Latin Dance; Latin dance can help you loosen up your hips and lower body. It is a great way to get your body to move in ways that you may not have thought possible.
  • Hip hop; Hip Hop requires you to get on and off the floor, helping increase your agility and flexibility.

There are dance options to help with everything from injury recovery to regaining range of motion after injury. It is also a great way to increase agility for other sports too, like soccer and football, where light feet and quick movements are a key requirement for success.