We’re all big fans of dance – actively as we move to Happy or Gangnam Style. Or passively as we’re glued to the latest edition of Strictly Come Dancing. Whatever the music, move or rhythm, dance is universally popular and often has a unique cultural identity. Holidaylettings brings you a guide to some of the world’s most popular ways of moving to the beat:
Originally created in Italy during the 15th century, ballet (from the Italian ballare meaning ‘to dance’) is perhaps the most classical form of dance and definitely the most technical. Many young children take classes, but few have the talent and determination to become prima ballerinas and perform the world’s great ballets such as Swan Lake and Romeo and Juliet.
Best places to see it: Top ballet venues include the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, the Royal Opera House in London and the American Ballet Theater in New York.
These sensual, complex movements probably have their origin in Ancient Egyptian social dances and Indian dance styles. Popularised in Europe during the 19th century obsession with the harem culture, belly dancing became popular worldwide in the 1940’s when immigrants took the dance to America. Nowadays, it’s also a form of keeping fit.
Best places to see it: Cairo, Istanbul and London all have restaurants offering top belly dancing performances.
This martial art has its roots in African dance and Brazilian war fights, combined in 17th century Brazil as a form of combat. This fast-moving and complex dance form involving acrobatics as well as high kicks is hugely popular in Brazil and forms part of the national identity.
Best places to see it: Most Brazilian cities put on excellent performances, but among the best take place in Salvador de Bahía, the birthplace of modern capoeira.
Brought to Andalucia by gypsies from the east, flamenco is Spain’s most iconic dance and a national symbol. Characterised by fast foot-stomping, clicking castanets and finger flourishes, the dance is accompanied by guitars and sometimes singing.
Best places to see it: Flamenco festivals take place year-round in Andalucia with the best in Jerez, Cordoba and Seville.
This jerky, acrobatic dance style appeared for the first time on New York dance floors in the 1970’s and quickly took off as dance crews formed and competed against each other. It combines break-dancing, locking and elements of pop dance, although there are no formal moves and each crew of b-boys and b-girls evolves their own style.
Best places to see it: Head for New York, Chicago or Houston for some of the world’s best, although any big city in the United States has a hip hop venue to be proud of.
One of the classic Indian dance forms, Kathak (from the Hindu word ‘katha’ meaning story telling) brings together dance, mime and music as the performers play out great myths and legends in Indian culture. Technically difficult – Kathak is all about skilled footwork and controlling the ankle bells – performances are colourful and often long.
Best places to see it: The Chhandam School of Kathak is one of the best and puts on regular performances in Mumbai and Calcutta as well as abroad.
Exported to New York by Cuban emigrants, salsa combines several different musical styles including the rumba and cha-cha-cha. Always danced by two and accompanied by an orchestra and vocals, this flowing dance includes twists and spins, and counts as one of the most technical and precise.
Best places to see it: The Jimmy Anton Social (held at Dance Manhattan) is one of the best venues in New York. London and Miami also have some excellent salsa clubs.
First danced in Buenos Aires in the mid 19th century, tango is thought to have its roots in African and Cuban dance, and European music. Its popularity reached its height a century later when this sensual dance for two arrived in Europe and North America. Tango relies on harmony between the dance couple whose movements and changes of direction match the rhythm to perfection.
Best places to see it: As you might expect, Buenos Aires is packed with venues to watch (and dance) tango. The best open in the summer and attract professionals as well as aficionados.
It’s the oldest ballroom dance and originates from a German folk dance. The closeness of the dancing couple caused considerable scandal when it first hit the ballrooms in early 19th century Europe, but it quickly became very popular, due in part to Strauss whose Blue Danube is probably the most famous waltz music.
Best places to see it: Vienna is the world’s waltz capital and the city celebrates a year-round ball calendar where you can whirl your partner round the floor. Or just watch.