The History of Dance

Dance can mean many different things depending on the society in which you were raised.  Around the world, the variety of what is considered “dance” is astounding. The general consensus is that dancing evolved as a response to such natural rhythms as the beat of the human heart.  We don’t have an exact date or time reference as to when dance first came to be, but it is believed that dance has been around as long as people have.  Dance can be an expression of feeling, it can represent a story, or it can simply come about by someone getting lost in the music.  Dance isn’t always accompanied by music; it doesn’t even have to be accompanied by a beat – it can constitute of simple movement by an individual or group.


There are often specific dances that are performed in relation to a certain ritual.  In ancient Egypt during temple rituals, priests and priestesses danced to harp and pipe music, detailing the events in a god’s life cycle.  The Games at Olympia in ancient Greece were heralded in by the dances of temple virgins.  Around the world, dances were and still are performed by people to show the importance and significance of annual rituals.

A little on the wild side

You might think that the drunken atmosphere of your local bar or pub, along with the sometimes crazed movements of dancers, is something completely modern, but you’d be mistaken.  In ancient Greece, after the grape harvest, villagers gathered to celebrate and dance together, often inebriated to the point where violence wasn’t a rarity.


Dancing to entertain an audience is still common today, although the practise evolved from long ago.  Dramatic ballet (in which a story is told through the dance patterns and movements) came about in the 16th century, and we still flock to theatres today to enjoy these types of performances.

Some dances and their origins

Below we’ve listed some of the most popular and commonly known forms of dancing, along with their known origins.

Ballet – often seen as an art form that requires strict dedication, ballet originated in Italy but has grown to almost every corner of the world.

Polka – it is thought by some historians that the polka was created by one Anna Slezak simply for her own pleasure.  Anna was a peasant girl that lived in the Czech Republic in the 19th century.

Waltz – this lovely dance originated in Vienna and Austria.  Another version, the Viennese Waltz, was known even back in the mid 1500’s.

Swing – this lively dance is said to have originated from the black community in the 1920’s.

Salsa – originating in the Caribbean, the salsa has its roots intertwined with the Cha-cha-cha, the Mambo, and the Bomba & Plena.

Hula – the Polynesians who settled the Hawaiian Islands are the creators of the hula dance – there are two main types of this dance; the Hula Auana and the Hula Kahiko.

Whatever dance you prefer, old school or some newer variety, dance can be a way to celebrate, to explore, and to join a long standing tradition of movement.