As technology brings the world’s cultures together and choreographers continue to push the creative envelope, there are more types of dance classes than ever before. Don’t let all these options overwhelm you, but don’t limit yourself to stereotypes either! There are many different types of dance, but the fundamentals are often very similar. Read on to learn about each genre, and find out if any seem compatible with your personality and interests.
Graceful, precise, and gentle: if these words describe you (or you wish they did), ballet might be the perfect fit. With classical European roots (and a vocabulary that’s still completely French), ballet has a long tradition of developing dancers who look weightless and effortless as they pull off difficult spins, extensions, and footwork. But it’s far from easy, so if you fall in love with formal ballet, you’ll need to decide whether you want to make a serious commitment. Every professional ballet dancer has years of intense training behind him or her.
Even if you don’t have perfect posture or long, flexible legs, ballet’s structure and symmetry translates easily into other schools of dance. Ballet fusion, for example, takes musical and choreographic cues from wildly different genres, infusing traditional lines with influences that range from modern dance to Motown. Julia Stiles helped popularize this notion in Save the Last Dance (2001). Her character’s ballet dancing finally came alive when she borrowed moves from hip hop, winning fictional judges’ approval and sending kids scrambling to studios with alternative approaches.
Contemporary, Modern, and Jazz
Modern schools might look more casual than ballet, but these types of dances classes also incorporate very careful, specific choreography. Modern dance actually emerged a long time ago, when choreographers learned to treat the human body as a versatile tool that can be shaped and molded through dance. From Martha Graham’s whole-body breathing exercises to today’s high-concept, contemporary performances, modern dance continues to challenge traditional notions of movement and art. Meanwhile, jazz dance has also evolved throughout the decades, following and embodying popular music trends. From New Orleans jazz clubs to Michael Jackson’s iconic music videos, jazz dance is still a dynamic, current, and high-energy option that’s perfect for music lovers and natural athletes.
Singing and acting aren’t the only performing arts that can land you on a Broadway stage, and your mouth isn’t the only body part capable of telling a compelling story. If you’re a naturally expressive person, your friends have probably noticed that you “talk” with your hands and facial expressions, or even with your whole body. Tap dance is basically the same thing: acting out the details and emotions of stories with your feet. As you learn to control and coordinate the movement of your toes and heels, your internal rhythm and balance will transform for the better. No wonder Fred Astaire couldn’t get enough!
Theatrical instruction is an excellent way to channel physical energy and tap into your natural storytelling talents. It’s also a fun option for those who thrive on constant sensory stimulation; props, costumes, music, and backgrounds are important elements of the theatrical dance performance. Of course, choreographers also incorporate these to complement a ballet’s themes — or to highlight a jazz routine’s musical accompaniment — but for theatrical purposes, the colors and textures onstage are often just as important as the choreography.
Ballroom, Swing, and Other Pairs Dancing
From Dancing with the Stars to Silver Linings Playbook, ballroom dancing has officially arrived on the pop culture stage. If you’re revisiting your dancing shoes as an adult, this is a great place to start. As you learn foot sequences and how to lead or follow, your instructor will help fine-tune your posture and sense of rhythm. These lessons are usually more casual than solo sessions in a professional studio, and because students have to pair off to rehearse their steps, you get the added bonus of socializing. Classes can be romantic bonding experiences for couples, or give single students a chance to connect with new friends.
Some dance styles are perfect fits from the very first lesson, but your passion might be less obvious, so don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone. Cover your bases and sign up for two or three different types of dance classes, if you’re interested in several different styles. Improvisation exercises in modern dance class can unleash the creative potential and inner confidence of a quiet, reserved dancer. And the structured nature of ballet choreography can help restless dancers improve their focus and control. Have fun, and you’ll find your niche soon enough!