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2 types of dance shoes - FIND YOUR DANCE: Different Styles Explained and How to Choose the One for You

Always loved dance but not sure where to start? Not sure what the difference is between Ballet and Contemporary anyway? Our expert Maeve McGreevy takes us through the main dance styles with tips on how to find the right one for you

As with books, films, music and food, there are so many styles of dance. And as with books, films, music and food, everyone will have their own taste. Variety is, as they say, the spice of life!

At times the range of options can be welcome and at other times confusing. What genre do I like? Should I try something alone or with a partner? How do I know if I will remember the steps? Is all dance not just the same thing but with different music?

So, to help you discover what style might work for you, here is a brief breakdown of a few of the most recognisable genres.


  • A classical dance form with fairly strict parameters and set positions
  • Usually danced alone unless training at elite level
  • Often accompanied by piano
  • Builds stamina, flexibility and long, lean muscles 

Related post: Ballet? Me? 5 Reasons to Try Ballet Today

Contemporary Dance

  • Umbrella term for techniques including Cunningham, Graham, Release, Horton, Flying Low, Gaga and many more
  • Solo and partner work at tutor’s discretion
  • Often accompanied by percussion
  • Builds strength, fluidity and reiterates healthy, functional movement

To gain a better idea, some pioneers and prominent companies of contemporary dance you might want to look up are: Alvin Ailey, Pina Bausch, Merce Cunningham, Isadora Duncan, Trisha Brown, Michael Clark, CandoCo, DV8, Martha Graham, Helen Lewis, Akram Khan and Steve Paxton.

Related course: Introduction to Contemporary Dance

Contact Improvisation

  • Can be structured or open in that movement may be guided by certain instructions or left to be free
  • Can be danced in pairs or larger groups
  • Music is often varied to create different dynamics throughout a session
  • Builds stability, knowledge of body mechanics and connection to the environment

Hip-Hop / Street Dance

  • Emerged from a social dance culture with a trues essence of improvisation along with now ever evolving taught techniques
  • Free to be danced alone or with others
  • Modern music often with lyrics
  • Builds musicality, efficiency of movement, power and softness

Partner Dances

  • Huge area which encompasses salsa, tango, ballroom, latin and swing to name but a few
  • Danced with one other person in social settings and competitive environments
  • Music determined by roots of the dance
  • Builds confidence, coordination and connection to others

Related post: Feel the Dance Fear and Do it Anyway

Folk Dance

  • Another vast field ranging from Irish to Morris dance, Zamba to Malambo, South East Asian to Chinese Classical, and beyond
  • Danced alone, with a partner or in a large group at social gatherings
  • Music comes from the land of the dance and the instruments and voices will reflect this
  • Builds historical knowledge, community, rhythm and relationships

couple dancing

Still undecided? Here are a few tips to help you whittle down the options..

  • Ask yourself if you want to dance alone or with someone else
  • Do you enjoy learning sequences or do you prefer a more open approach such as improvisation?
  • Does the music you hear make you want to move? If so…..go for it!
  • Figure out why you want to dance, e.g. to meet people, to improve physical fitness, to find a creative outlet?

There’s no need to be afraid. Walking into a dance studio can feel daunting but with so many options online these days you can try classes at home to set you off on the right foot. Dance is there to be enjoyed. We all have the ability to dance and once you find your groove, you simply won’t want to stop!

Related post: 10 Reasons to Take an On-demand Online Dance Course

We’d love to hear about your experiences with dance – have you taken any classes online or IRL? Or are you a spectator and if so what stops you from putting on dance shoes? Share your stories in the comments below. 


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