Dance hall in its general meaning is a hall for dancing. From the earliest years of the twentieth century until the early 1960s, the dance hall was the popular forerunner of the discothèque or nightclub. The majority of towns and cities in the West had at least one dance hall, and almost always featured live musicians playing a range of music from strict tempo ballroom dance music to big band, swing and jazz. One of the most famous dance hall musicians was Glenn Miller.
Other structural forms of dance halls include the dance pavilion which has a roof but no walls, and the open-air platform which has no roof or walls. The open air nature of the dance pavilion was both a feature and a drawback. The taxi dance hall is a dance hall with a specific arrangement, wherein the patrons hire hall employees to dance with them.
Starting in the early 1930s, The Savoy, a dance hall in Harlem (an African-American neighborhood in New York City) was the first truly integrated building in the United States — for both the dancers and the musicians. "We didn't care about the color of your skin. All we wanted to know was: Can you dance?"
The early days of rock n' roll were briefly played out in dance halls until they were superseded by nightclubs.
Until the early 20th century, Irish music was usually only played in people's homes, but after 1922 (when Ireland gained its independence from Great Britain), Irish music flourished, and crossroads dancing became very popular. It drew together larger groups of people and were main social events, particularly in western areas.
During the 1930s, the dance hall became the place to enjoy Irish music and dance. The 'Ceilí Band' also emerged during this time. From the 1950s until the 1990s, Irish showbands became the most popular form of entertainment across the island. Showbands like the Dixies, the Royal, the Miami, Dickie Rock, Big Tom, Gloria, Mama's Boys, Mick Flavin and hundreds of other bands traveled throughout Ireland, often performing in ballrooms, hotels, dance halls, marquees and parochial halls.
Most of today's popular music in Ireland can trace its roots back to the country's "showband era". Prior to the showbands, most "bands" in Ireland in the early 1950s were similar to the big bands of the 1940s. They usually had ten or twelve musicians who sat behind music stands led by a band leader. They played the Irish dance circuit which was mostly made up of some ballrooms and the parochial halls that dotted the island.
At the high point of popularity, there were hundreds of ballrooms, not only located in the cities, but spread across the country, often located "in the middle of nowhere" or often just where two country roads crossed paths. Some traditional Irish dance halls are popular venues for the Irish in large cities such as London.
In Sweden and Finland
In Sweden and Finland, open air dance pavilions have been used mostly in summer, but especially in Finland some have also been built to be used throughout the year. Especially formerly the dance pavilions were often built at sites with beautiful landscape, for example by the lakes.
- Dance club, the successor of the dance hall
- Scheideck, California, town noted for its dance hall
- Burns, Ken. Jazz (2001), TV documentary
- Folkins, Gail. "Texas Dance Halls: History, Culture, and Community", Journal of Texas Music History, Volume 6, Issue 1, 2006.
- Whitson, Krista. Alter, Kevin, ed. "Dance Halls of Central Texas: Pre-World War II Wooden Structures". Austin, 2005. First in-depth survey of the dance halls populating central Texas. Documents 72 of these structures within a 150-mile radius of Austin through photographs and drawings
- Treviño, Geronimo III. Dance Halls and Last Calls: A History of Texas Country Music. Republic of Texas Press, 2002.
- Kolar, Roger Henry. Early Czech dance halls in Texas, 1975.
- Austin County Historical Commission, ed. Dance Halls of Austin County, Bellville: Austin County Historical Commission, 1993.
- Hakulinen, Kerkko; Yli-Jokipii, Pentti. Tanssilavakirja: tanssista, lavoista ja lavojen tansseista. Helsinki: AtlasArt, 2007. ISBN 978-952-5671-07-0 (Finnish)
- Yli-Jokipii, Pentti. "Changes in local communities: The cultural geography of Finnish open-air dance pavilions". Fennia 174:2. Helsinki: Geographical Society of Finland, 1996.
- Dance Halls at Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture