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Vernacular dances from various cultures

Blog
Vernacular dances from various cultures

02.05.2019

Text: Yetkin Nural

Since 1982, International Dance Day is celebrated every year on 29th April, the anniversary of the birth of Jean-Georges Noverre, the creator of modern ballet. As we celebrate this year’s Dance Day, we take look at different dance styles that have emerged from the streets as an extension of different local cultures.

Salsa
A social form of dance originating from Cuban folk dances, salsa, has its roots in Afro-Cuban dances like son, cha-cha-cha, mambo, and rumba. Emerging as a combination of these dance forms that were popular among Latin American communities in 1940s New York, salsa dance saw major development in the 1970s, along with salsa music. Today there are different styles of salsa in different regions. Relying heavily on improvisation, salsa is based on dancers moving their hips by shifting their weight with every step.

Tango
One of the most famous and passionate forms of Latin American dance, tango was added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists in 2009. It originated in the 1880s in the impoverished areas along the River Plate, the natural border between Argentina and Uruguay. Tango is a combination of various dances like the German Waltz, Czech Polka, Polish Mazurka, Spanish-Cuban Habanera, and African Candombe. It was frequently practiced in brothels and bars around the ports in its early years, and today its variations are popular around the globe. Regardless of style, however, tango is based on a fast and complicated set of steps, and a passionate performance.

Swing
Formed around the swing style of jazz in the 1920s, swing is in fact a group of dances whose origins predate the swing era. There were hundreds of styles of swing dancing during that period. Some of those that have survived until today are Lindy Hop, Balboa, Collegiate Shag, and Charleston.

Dancehall
Bearing the same name with the popular musical style of the 1970s, Dancehall is perhaps the most energetic style of dance on our list. Dancehall music was originally a version of Reggae music, but gradually it went on to include digital sounds and faster rhythms. Named after Jamaican dance halls where local sound systems were set up, Dancehall is also the point of origin for many dance moves that we see in contemporary hip-hop videos.

Step
Step dance is a form of dance where dancers use their bodies and their movements as a sort of percussion instrument to create complex rhythms and sounds. Made up of emphasized steps, clapping, and spoken word, it is generally practiced in groups. Step includes moves from African and Caribbean dances as well as gymnastics, break dance and tap dance, and it is based on the dance and music rituals of African-American students of the early 20th century.

Rumba
Originating in the 19th century, in northern parts of Cuba like Havana and Matanzas, rumba combines dance, percussion and music. Relying on African dances like “abakuá” ve “yuka” in terms of movement, it was created by poor African workers dancing on the streets of Cuba. Based on improvised vocals, sophisticated moves, and multiple rhythms, rumba is a dance that has various versions around the globe today.

Samba
Originally the combined name for various duet dances in Congo and Angola, samba is known today for its fast rhythms, high energy and Brazilian style, created by Afro-Brazilians. Brazilian samba consists of a number of dance styles and thanks to the carnivals, it is one of the cultural symbols that have identified with the country’s name across the globe. Brazilian samba is based on 2/4 rhythms and fast paced foot and hip moves, and men perform it with bare feet while women usually wear high heels.

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