Dance Styles and Which One You Have to Choose

dance styles

There are many types of dance instruction. The challenge is finding the dance style that is best for your child and deciding when he or she should begin training. The answers to these and other questions depend on what you and your child want out of their dance education. Some parents feel the decision to enroll their child in dance lessons is their choice and theirs alone, yet the success of the student depends as much on this or her own dedication to the classes as on natural ability.


Ballet is a style of dance that stresses specific techniques that have been developed through the centuries and are infused with adaptations from different countries and different masters. It is recognizable by its precise movement, grace, classical steps, and poise. The first ballet school was founded in Paris, France, in the late 1600s. Ballet has become the basis for most forms of dance other than folk dancing.

Ballet provides the technical foundation that facilitates mastery of other dance forms. The strength, flexibility, balance, coordination, and musicality fundamental to ballet are also required in other forms of dance, including modern, lyrical, and jazz. Ballet, therefore, is a practical place for students to begin their training, regardless of the dance form they might later choose to pursue. Ballet class is also an appropriate place for young children, as it complements their innocence and wonder. Many studios offer classes for students as young as four years old.

Character Dance

Character dance is stylized folk dance for ballet dancers. It has been refined and adapted for performance, and it plays a major role in many classical ballets. For instance, one can see it in the Spanish, Hungarian, and Neapolitan dances in Swan Lake or the mazurka and czardas in Coppélia. Character dance communicates the style, mood, or quality of movement and musical characteristics of its place of origin, but it is enhanced for the stage. Character dance classes are an important part of a ballet dancer’s training; they help the student develop a deeper understanding of various styles of dancing. Girls wear skirts and shoes with heels, and boys wear either boots or shoes with low heels for class.


Modern dance places an emphasis on a dancer’s own interpretations instead of on structured steps. Modern dancers favor movements derived from the expression of feelings. Generally, modern techniques emphasize movement in the torso, suppleness of the spine, and a more weighted quality of movement. They often incorporate “fall and recovery” series that take the dancer down to the floor and up again, teaching the student to work with and against gravity.

During the 1900s, dancers began exploring and showcasing this form of dance. The classical tutus were gone; dances were often staged without scenery, and shoes were abandoned in favor of bare feet. Silence, or a mere drum beat, replaced the classical music that characteristically accompanied ballet.

Modern dance, like character dance, is often offered as part of a complete ballet program for established students. Many times, contemporary ballet choreography includes modern dance techniques.

Modern dance studios in many metropolitan cities rival ballet studios. It is possible to study modern dance without ballet training. Nevertheless, just as modern dance training is essential to present-day ballet study, ballet training enhances a student’s ultimate success in modern dance.

Some modern dance studios offer creative movement classes for very young students. This is another appropriate route for starting a young student’s dance training.

Jazz Dance

Jazz dance is inspired and developed by the rhythms and techniques of jazz music. As the music itself changes to represent popular culture, so too does jazz dance change. A handful of dancers/choreographers names shaped jazz dance, a uniquely American-born dance form.

Jack Cole, Max Mattox, Luigi Faccuito, Gus Giordano, and Bob Fosse are a few of those who helped take jazz out of the clubs, into the dance studios, and onto the stage.

Jazz music is subtly infused with sexual tensions and innuendo, and so is the dance style it inspired. The movements often have a slinky or sensual quality. For this reason, jazz dance may not be an appropriate starting point for a young dance student. Jazz dance, however, is a useful and important genre to study as an older dancer involved in ballet or modern dance. It teaches a relaxed and casual quality often used by choreographers from all backgrounds of dance. Along with ballet, classes in both jazz and tap are necessary for anyone who dreams of dancing on Broadway.

Lyrical jazz dance is not as impulse driven as jazz dance; it is more expressive, using the balletic sentiment but not classical ballet steps. It is usually offered in conjunction with jazz classes beyond beginner levels.

Tap Dance

Tap is a form of dance distinguished by the use of metal taps attached to the toe and heel of the tap shoe. The dancer uses the shoes as percussive instruments, striking the floor to produce rhythms. These beats can be in sync with accompanying music, or they may involve a rhythm of the dancer’s own making. Tap is unique in that it does not require a foundation in other dance forms although they can be helpful. Students can begin and enjoy tap dancing at any age. For students looking to dance on Broadway, in Las Vegas shows, or with the Rockettes, tap is a necessary skill to add to their ballet and jazz training.


Hip-hop is a relatively new form of dance to make its way into the dance studio. It originated on urban street corners. Hip-hop is often accompanied by rap music or beats. It involves a mix of pulsating bodies, gliding movements, and acrobatics. For those hoping to dance in music videos or some of the more contemporary Broadway shows, hip-hop is essential. Middle school, high school, and college students who like to be the life of the party also enjoy it.

Folk Dance

Irish, Flamenco, Russian, Indian, Chinese, and American Indian cultures each have defined styles of folk dance that can be studied in a classroom setting. Students of these dance styles can find performance opportunities in both competitive settings and professional companies. These classes may occasionally be found in general dance studios, but they also appear at cultural centers, community centers, and specialty schools.

Choosing a Dance Style

When you begin the search for the right dance class for your child, it is important that you consider your child’s personality, the goals you want him or her to achieve while studying dance, and the level of commitment you and your child are willing to make.

If you want to calm a wild child, an age-appropriate ballet class may be a good place to start. If you want to encourage a young child’s imagination, perhaps you should seek a creative dance class. Want to get rid of excess energy? Jazz or hip-hop may be a good fit. Tap is full of aerobic exertion but requires the same level of discipline and concentration as ballet.

Bear in mind, one can never predict whether or not a child will fall in love with dance and strive for a professional career. Beginning training with ballet will facilitate this possibility. When a child starts at seven or eight years old, ballet provides a solid basis for any other dance discipline the student may later choose to pursue.