Dance music

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For the 1935 Austrian film, see Dance Music (film).
This article is about music for dancing in general. For electronic genres, see electronic dance music and its subgenre dance-pop.

Dance music is music composed specifically to facilitate or accompany dancing. It can be either a whole musical piece or part of a larger musical arrangement. In terms of performance, the major categories are live dance music and recorded dance music.


Folk dance music is music accompanying traditional dance and may be contrasted with historical/classical, and popular/commercial dance music. An example of folk dance music in the United States is the old-time music played at square dances and contra dances.

Historical dance music[edit]

While there exist attestations of the combination of dance and music in ancient times (for example Ancient Greek vases sometimes show dancers accompanied by musicians), the earliest Western dance music that we can still reproduce with a degree of certainty are the surviving medieval dances such as carols and the Estampie. The earliest of these surviving dances are almost as old as Western staff-based music notation.

By period[edit]

The Renaissance dance music was written for instruments such as the lute, viol, tabor, pipe, and the sackbut.

In the Baroque period, the major dance styles were noble court dances (see Baroque dance). Examples of dances include the French courante, sarabande, minuet and gigue. Collections of dances were often collected together as dance suites.

In the classical music era, the minuet was frequently used as a third movement in four-movement non-vocal works such as sonatas, string quartets, and symphonies, although in this context it would not accompany any dancing. The waltz also arose later in the classical era, as the minuet evolved into the scherzo (literally, "joke"; a faster-paced minuet).

Both remained part of the romantic music period, which also saw the rise of various other nationalistic dance forms like the barcarolle, mazurka and polonaise. Also in the romantic music era, the growth and development of ballet extended the composition of dance music to a new height. Frequently, dance music was a part of opera.

Popular dance music[edit]

Modern popular dance music initially emerged from late 19th century's Western ballroom and social dance music.

By genre[edit]

Dance music works often bear the name of the corresponding dance, e.g. waltzes, the tango, the bolero, the can-can, minuets, salsa, various kinds of jigs and the breakdown. Other dance forms include contradance, the merengue (Dominican Republic), and the cha-cha-cha. Often it is difficult to know whether the name of the music came first or the name of the dance.

Ballads are commonly chosen for slow-dance routines. However ballads have been commonly deemed as the opposite of dance music in terms of their tempo. Originally, the ballad was a type of dance as well (hence the name "ballad", from the same root as "ballroom" and "ballet"). Ballads are still danced on the Faeroe Islands.


Main article: Dansband

"Dansband" ("Dance band's") is a term in Swedish for bands who play a kind of popular music, "dansbandsmusik" ("Dance band music"), to partner dance to. These terms came into use around 1970, and before that, many of the bands were classified as "pop groups". This type of music is mostly popular in the Nordic countries.


By 1981, a new form of dance music was developing. This music, made using electronics, is a style of popular music commonly played in dance music nightclubs, radio stations, shows and raves. During its gradual decline in the late 1970s, disco became influenced by computerization (the first notable fully synthesized disco hit was "I Feel Love" by Donna Summer). Looping, sampling and segueing as found in disco continued to be used as creative techniques within trance music, techno music and especially house music.

Electronic dance music experienced a boom after the proliferation of personal computers in the 1980s, manifest in the dance element of Tony Wilson's Haçienda scene (in Manchester) and London clubs like Delirium, The Trip, and Shoom. The ongoing influence of Shoom can be seen in its 25th anniversary party, held at Cable Nightclub on 8 December 2012, which sold out in four days. The scene rapidly expanded to the Summer Of Love in Ibiza, which became the European capital of house and trance. Clubs like Sundissential and Manumission became household names with British, German and Italian tourists.

Many music genres that made use of electronic instruments developed into contemporary styles mainly due to the MIDI protocol, which enabled computers, synthesizers, sound cards, samplers, and drum machines to interact with each other and achieve the full synchronization of sounds. Electronic dance music is typically composed using computers and synthesizers, and rarely has any physical instruments. Instead, this is replaced by digital or electronic sounds, with a 4/4 beat. Many producers of this kind of music however, such as Darren Tate and MJ Cole, were trained in classical music before they moved into the electronic medium.

Associated with dance music are usually commercial tracks that may not easily be categorized, such as "The Power" by Snap!, "No Limit" by 2 Unlimited, "Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)" by C+C Music Factory, and the Beatmasters' "Rok Da House" but the term "dance music" is applied to many forms of electronic music, both commercial and non-commercial.

Some of the most popular upbeat genres include house, techno, drum & bass, jungle, hardcore, electronica, industrial, breakbeat, trance, psychedelic trance, UK garage and electro. There are also much slower styles, such as downtempo, chillout and nu jazz.

Many sub-genres of electronic dance music have evolved. Sub-genres of house include acid house, electro house, hard house, funky house, deep house, tribal house, hip house, tech house and US garage. Sub-genres of drum & bass include techstep, hardstep, jump-up, intelligent D&B/atmospheric D&B, liquid funk, sambass, drumfunk, neurofunk and ragga jungle. Sub-genres of other styles include progressive breaks, rave breaks, booty bass, goa trance, hard trance, hardstyle, minimal techno, gabber techno, breakcore, broken beat, trip hop, folktronica and glitch. Speed garage, breakstep, 2-step, bassline, grime, UK funky, future garage and the reggae-inspired dubstep are all sub-genres of UK garage.

By decade[edit]


During the early 20th century, ballroom dancing gained popularity among the working class who attended public dance halls.


Dance music became enormously popular during the 1920s. Nightclubs were frequented by large numbers of people at which a form of jazz, which was characterized by fancy orchestras with strings instruments and complex arrangements, became the standard music at clubs. A particularly popular dance was the fox-trot. At the time this music was simply called jazz, although today people refer to it as "white jazz" or big band.


Main article: Swing era

Genres: Swing music, Western swing


Genres: Rock and roll


The late 1960s saw the rise of soul and R&B music which used lavish orchestral arrangements.

Other genres: Funk


It was with the rise of disco in the early 1970s that dance music once again became popular with the public. Disco was characterized by the use of real orchestral instruments, such as strings, which had largely been abandoned during the 1950s because of rock music. In contrast to the 1920s, however, the use of live orchestras in night clubs was extremely rare due to its expense. Disc jockeys (commonly known as DJs) played recorded music at these new clubs. The disco craze reached its peaked in the late 1970s when the word disco became synonymous with "dance music" and nightclubs were referred to as discos.

Other genres: Funk, R&B, hip hop


Genres: New Wave, Italo disco, Euro disco, synthpop, dance-pop, funk, contemporary R&B, hip hop, new jack swing, house, acid house, techno, freestyle, Miami bass, electro, Hi-NRG, Madchester, EBM, cosmic disco, balearic beat


Genres: Italo dance, Italo house, Eurodance, Europop, progressive house, French house, techno, trance, alternative dance, new jack swing, contemporary R&B, dancehall, hip hop, G-funk, drum and bass, big beat, breakbeat, breakbeat hardcore, rave, hardcore, happy hardcore, speed garage, UK garage, soca, reggaeton


Genres: Trance, electropop, dance-pop, snap, crunk, dancehall, dance-punk, nu-disco, electro house, minimal techno, dubstep, grime, bassline, UK funky, contemporary R&B, hip hop, drum and bass, progressive house, hardstyle, funky house


Genres: Electropop, synthpop, glitchpop, hip house, nu-disco, New Wave, new rave, trance, house, Hi-NRG, dance-pop, electroclash, electro-industrial, deep house, drum and bass, dubstep, glitchstep, liquid funk, electro house, glitch house, progressive house, breakbeat, hardstyle, dubstyle, drumstep, technopop, hip hop, Baltimore club, trap, moombahton, Chillwave, Seapunk, Vaporwave

Radio formats[edit]

The Dance/Mix Show Airplay chart tracks the most popular tracks played by radio stations using a "dance music" format. A good example of a dance music radio station would be Dance music is also part of the mix of related formats, such as rhythmic adult contemporary and rhythmic contemporary.

Dance clubs[edit]

The Hot Dance Club Play chart tracks which songs are currently most popular in nightclubs.

See also[edit]