What dance looks like in 20 countries around the world

  • Dance has evolved into a cultural staple in many parts of the world.
  • Many of these popular styles were once frowned upon, banned, or came about through unfortunate circumstances.
  • We take a look at 19 different countries and the popular dance styles that originated there.

Following is a transcript of the video.

Naja Newell: Dance. It's a universal language connecting people with each other from all around the world. Just look at TikTok. Dance is used to communicate and express culture, identity, and emotions. And, personally, dance has saved my life. So let's check out some dance styles in countries around the world.

Originating from the Angolan word "semba," meaning "invitation to dance," samba is the dance of Brazil's Carnival. Samba was born in the 17th century in a popular meeting spot for Afro Brazilians. Much of the movement is rooted in West African cultural traditions, music, and the dance style batuque. The fast footwork and hip movements found in samba are a staple of Brazilian culture, and you truly can't have Carnival without it.
Capoeira is a martial arts-dance hybrid many people believe originated in Brazil. However, its birthplace lies in Angola. Africans brought to Brazil by Portuguese colonizers used the style to escape the mental and physical bounds of slavery while also connecting them back home. Performed in a roda accompanied by a berimbau, pandeiro, and the atabaque, capoeira is about connecting to nature, your body, and music.

Raqs sharqi, or belly dancing, as it is known in the West, originated in Egypt by a group of nomadic female dancers called the Ghawazi. It was practiced by women for women to celebrate events such as fertility and entering womanhood. It involves extreme control of multiple body parts at once.

From the 19th century to today, the form has evolved to incorporate Eastern and Western styles like ballet and Latin movement and is now observed by coed audiences. Kabuki, originally performed by only women, incorporates not only dance, but drama, singing, and art. The style was created by Izumo no Okuni in the 17th century and was very controversial. The government questioned its morality, leading to a ban on the form. It wasn't until kabuki started to represent truthful stories and accurate historical depictions that it was recognized as an art form. Kabuki today is known to give tourists educational entertainment about Japanese culture.

Similar to the Japanese kabuki, khon incorporates music, drama, and art into the dance style. It is estimated that this highly gestural dance form originated in the 16th century or earlier. Khon is based on the classic Hindu story the "Ramayana."

Hip-hop is not just a dance style; it is a culture and a movement originating in the Bronx, New York, by black and Latino youth in the '60s and '70s. Hip-hop dance is an expression of that culture. The social dance came about in the '80s and has become its own entity, evolving a lot over the years with hip-hop music. Though breaking was predominantly the style labeled as hip-hop at the time, through mainstream media, other street styles, like popping and locking, quickly fell under the hip-hop umbrella. Today, hip-hop has made its way into formal dance instruction, where it is typically more structured than the freestyling foundation, groove, and attitude at the heart of the style. I polled all my Dominican friends on which style to feature on behalf of DR, and I think I came to the right conclusion. It was tough to narrow down dance styles for the Dominican Republic, as both the bachata and merengue are popular. Both are influenced by Cuban hip motion, both are partner dances, both born and integral in DR. But these two styles are different in many ways. Bachata fully developed in the '60s and was influenced by the Cuban bolero, also known as the Cuban dance of love. Under Rafael Trujillo's dictatorship, bachata was banned while merengue was celebrated. The origin story of merengue isn't clear, though an interesting theory is that the limping nature of the dance came from slaves chained together. What is clear is that though the dance transformed under Trujillo's rule, it was led back to its roots thanks to musicians like Johnny Ventura, Milly Quezada, and Fefita la Grande.

A form developed during the Italian Renaissance, ballet spread to France by Catherine de' Medici and was popularized by Louis XIV. The king inspired the structure, technique, and vocabulary still used in ballet today. In the 1800s, the style shifted from a male-focused form to being all about the ballerina. Tutus went from below the ankle to short, stiff pieces, and, funnily enough, pointe shoes, once seen as ungraceful, are one of the most challenging and integral parts of the technique today.

Flamenco is thought to have been created through the intermingling of two cultures, those of northwest India and southern Spain. Through commercialization and undergoing changes enforced by Francisco Franco's dictatorship, flamenco became the identity of Spain. Flamenco dance is extremely passionate, with music carrying the dancer through the story. The dancer incorporates facial expressions, hand clapping, foot stomping, and arm movements that resemble those of classical Hindu dances.

The traditional tinikling dance is said to be named after the tikling bird and its ability to dodge bamboo traps in the rice field. It originated in the Visayas region of the Philippines. One story says that it was born out of the Spanish rule and the punishment for working too slow in the rice field, so workers were told to stand between two bamboo sticks that would be hit against the workers' feet. In order to avoid this, workers started to practice dodging the strikes of the bamboo sticks, similar to that of the bird. The dance consists of only single steps, double steps, and hops, but the sequence and timing are what makes tinikling dance challenging, fun, and exciting to watch.

You probably saw this dance performed by Jason Momoa during his premiere for "Aquaman." Or, if you watch rugby, the All Blacks are famous for doing this before a game. The haka is a dance ritual originating from the Maori culture in New Zealand. Although many people know the haka to be a war dance, there are many variations today that are used to celebrate, welcome, and challenge.

Tango is the creation of a multitude of cultural influences. Born on the border of Uruguay and Argentina, the tango was influenced by European immigrants, the Cuban habanera, the Argentinian milonga, and the African population's candombe. This social partner dance is romantic and synchronized. Although frowned upon at first, tango eventually gained popularity with the upper class, who then brought the style to places like France and the US. Today, it is a staple in Argentina's culture and a highly competitive style in dance competitions around the world.

In saman, or "the dance of 1,000 hands," dancers kneel and create music through their synchronized hand movements and song, so training is a must. Traditionally, this dance was performed by men to celebrate the birth of Prophet Muhammad and national holidays.
In the late 19th century, bhangra was a dance performed by Sikh and Muslim men in Punjab, India. It was a celebration of the spring harvest. The main crop harvested during the season is bhang, hence the name. By the mid-20th century, Bhangra transformed into a style featured in weddings, birthday parties, and fairs. This energetic style is rich in diversity and culture, even through its evolution and popularity.

Jarabe tapatio, a romantic courtship dance, was actually banned under Spanish rule for being too sexual in the early 19th century. However, once Mexico gained independence in 1821, jarabe tapatio became not only the national dance of Mexico, but a popular way for Mexicans to celebrate their cultural pride. Also known as the Mexican hat dance, jarabe tapatio originated in Guadalajara and tells a story of a man romantically pursuing a woman. Although simple, it requires a lot of footwork and movement with costumes. From the bright-colored China poblanas and large sombreros to the musical accompaniment from the mariachi band, jarabe tapatio fosters tradition and unity.

The waltz dates back to Ländler folk dance popular amongst the lower class in Austria, Bavaria, and Slovenia. It quickly became popular throughout Europe in the 19th century. This smooth, twirling couples dance traditionally moves counterclockwise and now has many variations today, from the slow waltz to the faster Viennese waltz, which tends to be one of the more popular versions of the style.

Originally part of religious rituals, Irish dance was inspired by dances brought to Ireland by the Celts. Performed as solos or in large groups, the complex footwork of Irish dance is paired with a stiff upper body, allowing the audience to focus on the precision of the movements. There are six types of Irish dance. However, they all revolve around two techniques: ballet up, where most of the weight is on the balls of the feet, and flat down, where most of the weight is in the heels.

Salsa, though popularized in the Puerto Rican community in New York City, originated in Cuba. Salsa is a melting pot of styles with many variations, starting with the son Cubano and Afro Cuban rumba. Casino, marketed as Cuban salsa, was developed in the '50s and is much of the inspiration for today's salsa. The main difference in movement is casino is circular in motion, whereas Puerto Rican salsa is linear and incorporates jazz and other external cultural elements. The dragon dance is traditionally performed at the beginning and end of the Chinese New Year festival. In Chinese culture, dragons symbolize power, strength, and good luck, so the dance is used to scare off evil spirits and bring communities prosperity. The dance dates back to the Han Dynasty and was originally used to encourage rain for areas plagued by drought. Requiring very well-timed teamwork, an odd number of dancers each hold a pole connected to a part of the dragon and move it up and down and side to side, giving the dragon the appearance of dancing.

Dance has been an integral part of cultures all around the world for centuries. It is innate! So even if some of you may be thinking, "Nah, I can't dance," maybe you just haven't found the style that works for you. Let us know in the comments below which styles we missed and which you might be inspired to try.

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