Types of Dance Steps

by Derek M. Kwait
Dance often is used as a way of expressing feelings of deep love.

Dance often is used as a way of expressing feelings of deep love.

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More even than ability to dance, the innate urge to dance is one of the defining features of humanity. Over time, some cultures have embraced and glorified that natural urge, others have vilified it, but all have channeled and codified in one way or another the practice into a teachable set of steps. In every culture, types of dance steps and their meaning illustrate a culture's beliefs and social status levels.


Group-type dance steps, or those planned-out dances meant to be co mpleted by or among large groups of people for entertainment, are perhaps the most common type. Group dances include waltzing, ballroom dancing, line dancing, the rumba, the foxtrot, swing dancing and square dancing, even salsa dancing. Group dances can be learned through dance classes and performed at occasions such as weddings and banquets. They can sometimes get complicated and leave little room for improvisation.


Ritual dance steps are performed by religious or cultural groups to teach some action or to perform some metaphysical action. Native American rain dances are ritual dances. Other examples of ritual dance can be found in Asian Indian culture: Mohini Attam is a type of ritual dance that incorporates circular movements, delicate footsteps and subtle expressions to evoke feelings of love and devotion to a god, usually Krishna or Vishnu. Each step is highly ritualized with a traditional name. Traditional makeup and costumes also add to the effect.


Interpretive dance steps are the kind performed to convey emotions or tell a story through bodily motion in a way words or even music alone could not. Interpretive dance most often is performed by actors and ballerinas on stage during a ballet, opera or musical. The dance steps are highly choreographed and meant to add to the story being told in an artistic way, either as an expression, extension or explanation of, or commentary on the narrative action.

Hip-Hop and Competitive

Hip-hop dance steps are like group dance steps in that they are meant for entertainment and can be taught, but a difference exists. Whereas group dance steps are meant to unite a group, hip-hop dance steps often are highly individualistic and performed competitively. A good example of this type is Jit dancing in Detroit. Jit dancing is performed to hip-hop music. The dance consists of spins, leaps and fast-and-furious footwork. Young people jit dance competitively, with dancers improvising moves and dancing as fast as they can to settle a score.

About the Author

Derek M. Kwait has a Bachelor of Arts in English writing from the University of Pittsburgh and has been writing for most of his life in various capacities. He has worked as a staff writer and videographer for the "Jewish Chronicle of Pittsburgh" and also has training writing fiction, nonfiction, stage-plays and screenplays.

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