Culture and traditions

Typical dances of the United States

In the United States we find different typical dances. Some of them come from the slaves existing in the country in the s. XIX, while others derive from the traditional dances of European settlers. We explain the most outstanding.

Below you have an index with all the points that we are going to deal with in this article.


This musical style, also known as country and western or country music, is a combination of folk music of the British Isles with African-American music such as blues and gospel.

Its origins are located in the eighteenth century, in the rural regions of the southern United States. Already in the nineteenth century, dance halls began to be built on large farms. In the smaller houses, it was danced in the kitchen.

It is in the twenties when the country is born commercialized, as we know it today. The traditional country is interpreted by string instruments (banjo, guitar, violin and double bass), while in the modern one other instruments such as the electric guitar are introduced.

Typical dress of country dancers

As for the dance, it can be done as a couple (couple dancing) or in a group (line dancing). There are different types of dance within this genre, which we find in the following list:

  • Two step
  • Waltz
  • Cowboy or Traveling Cha Cha
  • Polka
  • Have step
  • Scottische
  • East coast swing
  • West coast swing
  • Nightclub Two Step

This dance is informal and festive atmosphere. To dance it usually wear cowboy boots. The style Cowboy It is done by sliding the boots: none of the feet are lifted off the ground.

Hip hop

Hip hop is not just a dance, but a whole culture which includes different styles of music (rap, funk, DJing …), painting (graffiti, spray, murals …) and dance (break dance, locking, krump …).

Graffiti: a key element of hip hop culture

It emerged in the 1970s within the African-American and Latin American communities of the New York neighborhoods of the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn. It quickly became popular among young Americans.

Inside the dance, we found different currents. The best known is the B-boying or break dance. It is interpreted through movements acrobatic and rhythmic.

Other popularized branches that are also part of hip hop are the following:

  • Popping: Born in Fresno, California. It is a street style that is combined with funk dance. It consists of robotic movements.
  • Locking: originally from Los Angeles, California. Its shape is very similar to that of popping, but in this one the interpreters endure the robotic positions during more time.
  • Krump: also from Los Angeles. It is a free dance in which sudden movements are performed.

All these dances are usually performed in groups: the so-called dance crews. It is common for them to carry out competitions or street battles, in which improvisation or freestyle to surprise

United States dances

At present, hip hop culture has spread outside the USA, so it has reached continents such as Europe and Asia, partly thanks to the Internet and television programs such as America’s Best Dance Crew .


The Charleston began to be developed in 1903 by the black community of South Carolina. Its origin is in an African dance called «Juba». It is considered a variety of foxtrox, a dance as a couple.

His name comes from the song «The Charleston«, Produced by James Johnson in 1923, who helped to make this extravagant dance more popular. In the following video you can listen to the song in its version without lyrics:

This dance is part of the culture of the twenties, a time of prosperity characterized by social changes and unconcern after the First World War.

The women who danced the Charleston wore a particular wardrobe: fine dresses with fringes that accentuated their movements and turbans on the head.


It was danced individually or in groups. It was also common for competitions to be held, in which one person danced in the middle while the rest of the dancers watched him in a circle.

The dance has a beat of four times. The movements of the arms and legs alternate with that of the feet. It is distinguished by its improvisation and spontaneity. In this excerpt from the movie «Don’t knock the rock»You can see a demo:

The Charleston enjoyed great popularity for several years, it even expanded throughout Europe. However, its decline began in 1927, when other styles began to emerge.

Tap dance

This typical dance, known in Spanish as claque, began to grow from 1830 in New York. It is a fusion between Irish, Scottish and English dances, as well as African-American dances.

Its original name, ‘tap’, comes from sound what shoes do when hitting the ground. The idea of ​​making noise with their feet came about because slaves were forbidden to use percussion instruments.

Tap or tap dance shoes

Another denomination for this style is «jazz dance», since it is the music used to dance it. It has two variants: the tap rhythm, which focuses on musicality, and the Broadway tap, who does it at the dance.

He claque it became popular in North America from 1900, at which time it was included in the shows of Vaudeville and Broadway, two theatrical genres of the United States of America.

Dancers of this genre use syncopate, that is, they change the natural accent of music. In addition, the choreographies begin on the eighth stroke. To the people who dance tap dance with a louder style they are known as hoofers.

In the following video we can see a demonstration of tap dance carried out by two of his most famous performers, Eleanor Powell and Fred Astaire:

Rock And Roll

This typical US dance is characterized by its Fast pace. It is a mixture of various American folk music: blues, rhythm, boogie woogie, etc. It began in the first half of the twentieth century and spread from the fifties.

The instruments used are the electric guitar, double bass, bass, drums, piano and saxophone. The two most representative artists in their history are Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry on guitar.

Statue of Elvis Presley in Tupelo, Mississippi

The term Rock And Roll It was used in the past by sailors to designate the movements made by the ship. The first to coin it was Alan Freed in 1951, an acquaintance disc jockey from Cleveland.

It is a genre that caused fury among young people and adolescents, both for their rhythm and for the theme of their songs, which talked about cars, dates, clothes and even sex, a taboo subject until then.

It is a six-stroke dance. You can dance individually or as a duo. In this case, the couple is held by the hand, and one person starts with a kick with the left foot and the other with one with the right foot.

Rock and Roll dance

It is a complicated dance to perform due to the rapidity of its movements. Its base consists of the movement of the arms and legs, which must be flexed to move them back and forth.

Square dance

He square dance It is a traditional dance with a long history. It emerged in the seventeenth century in England and arrived in the US through settlers. It is part of American folklore and is the official dance of 22 states.

This dance is carried out with four couples, a total of eight people, and is used so that the neighbors of an area know and socialize. A square must be formed, so each duo is located at one end.

It is a choreographed dance, in which all participants know the steps of memory. Traditionally, there is a shut up, a person who is dictating the rhythm. It can be one of the musicians or dancers, or an external person who watches couples from a stage.

Depending on the region, the costumes you dance with are different. It is a popular dance, especially in rural areas. There are two different types: the square dance Traditional and modern.


The swing is a jazz style with influences of European music that began to develop in the United States in the late twenties and reached its popularity in the thirties, in the so-called «swing era«.

Young people dancing during the thirties, the era of swing

He brought some innovations to jazz, as the bands became more musicians and the drums became more relevant, becoming the engine of music.

The dance arose in the southern United States, mainly in the African-American communities of New Orleans, Chicago and New York, where dancers improvised with jazz music.

There were hundreds of genres derived from the swing, although the ones that have remained the most have been Lindy hop, Balboa, Collegiate Shag and Lindy Charleston. In the case of Lindy Hop, it emerged in Harlem, New York, in the thirties.

The styles coming from the swing are fast and acrobatic. Several modalities and the dancers of these are known as Jitterbug, which means "nervous bug."

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