Dancing has always been an important part of culture all around the world. American dance has been influenced by Africa, Europe, Australia and many more diverse cultures. Modern dance started to be most prevalent in the 1920’s when the jazz era broke through, though dance has been a part of human nature for hundreds and hundreds of years. According to, livescience.com, “dancing was a way for our prehistoric ancestors to bond and communicate.” Dancing has evolved through many phases and eras and still is changing everyday.
Starting in the early 1920’s carefree and wild dances like the Breakaway and the Charleston, popular dances became the waltz and tango. Almost a century later, people still dance the tango and waltz. The 1920’s were a time of dramatic social change shifting women’s roles in society. America was just coming out of World War 1 and times were cheerful and wild just like the dances.
Later in the 30’s and 40’s dancing was an escape from the poor economy. The Great Depression lasted from 1930-1940 and the economy was still rebuilding for several years after. Popular dancing was swing dancing including the Jitterbug and the Lindy Hop. People danced to Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, and Louis Armstrong. Dance marathons were also a widespread form of entertainment which brought people to dance for an extended amount of time and would have contests.
The 50’s are most known for the breakthrough of dirty dancing. The 50’s era inspired many movies like grease or hairspray. Everyone listened or danced to Elvis, who was a big influencer for dance throughout this time period. The odyssey says popular dances with the bop and the twist. In the well-known movie Pulp Fiction, you can see them doing the twist in the dance competition.
During the 60’s music took a big turn and so did dance. The Beatles took over the nation and dancing was now less of partner dancing and more of just dancing with yourself. Dances included the Funky Chicken and the Mashed Potato.
The 70’s were a bright color decade full of disco and peace signs. Dances like the Hustle or the YMCA were very popular. The 70’s paved the road for the 80’s which was the era of break dance. The 80’s also made way for punk and heavy metal. Music was now divided into different groups or genres causing different styles of dance as well. Street dance was also born in the late 80’s.
The 90’s is very well known for the birth of hip-hop which originated from street dance in the 80’s. People danced the tootsie roll, the iron man, and the macarena. According to Britannica, there are four parts of hip hop, breaking dancing being one of them. Dance contributes to culture and music and becomes an art form.
Later in the 2000’s popular singers like Brittany Spears and Beyonce brought in modern dance which is similar to dance trends now on platforms like tik tok. Popular dances were danced to songs like “Crank that Soulja boy” or the Cha Cha Slide.
Story by Liv Suydam