Classical dance styles: A guide to the origins of dance

by frank-stuart

People have danced for thousands of years, using the art form not only as a means of self-expression, but also to bring groups together, and for ceremonial purposes. As one of the oldest art forms, dance has a very central part to play in our society. Dance styles have changed over the years, and many forms of dance are still evolving. Here is a guide to some of the main classical dance styles:


Ballet as a dance form is believed to have been around since the 14th century, when it was used as a form of entertainment at court balls in Italy. Although the term balletto was used in Italy, ballet as we know it originates mainly in France, and formal ballet instruction started with Louis XIV. Over time, ballet has evolved and been influenced by Russian and American dancers. The style and outfits worn for ballet have also evolved from cumbersome heavy headdresses, masks and costumes, to lighter more moveable attire.

Ballroom dancing

The history of ballroom dancing stretches back to the end of the sixteenth century when the aristocracy used to hold balls as social gatherings and dance at them. Ballroom dancing evolved over the years, and now there are many different ballroom dance styles, such as tango and swing. Ballroom dancing as we know it today is done by couples and the different styles are based on a series of different movements performed by the couples.

Contemporary dance

Contemporary dance is a modern form of dance that was developed early in the 20th century as a rebellion against the more restrictive forms of dance such as ballet. Allowing for self-expression and free flowing movement, contemporary dance can combine many other dance styles and techniques.

Tap dancing

This style of dance was developed in the US around the 19th century. Tap dancing is a unique form of dance where dancers tap out a rhythm on the ground wearing special shoes with metal soles. Tap dancing can be done to music or without accompaniment.


This more recent but increasingly popular dance style was developed in the US and derives from hip hop music and hip hop culture. Hip hop dance started around 30 years ago. Hip hop dancing incorporates a number of different moves and can include breakdancing.

There are many difference dance styles and variations to be learned. If you are interested in dance and would like to learn more about the different styles of dance, why not consider an ACPE dance course? Whether you want to be a performer or teach others to dance, formal training and tuition can help you achieve your potential.

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