The evolution of dance in clubs

The evolution of dance in clubsDancing as an art form is deeply, irrevocably ingrained in our culture, having played an important role in rituals, ceremonies and entertainment throughout human civilization.And while dance may be very different today to the forms documented in ancient cave and tomb paintings, it is without doubt one of the world's most popular cultural activities.

Across the globe, there's nothing people love more than donning their glad rags, doing their hair and heading out to bust a groove at the local club.

The many forms of dance

The variety of different dance forms is almost limitless, and ever increasing. Whether you're into ballet or Latin, street or folk, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

New styles are forever coming into vogue, responding to social and cultural change, new musical styles and the arrival of the next big chart act.

This is perhaps best evidenced by the evolution of dance in clubs - a discipline which has changed beyond all recognition in the course of the last century.

It certainly wasn't always glow-sticks, megaphones, strobe lights and DJ mixes…

Early dancing in the clubs

By the early 1900s, the dance club was becoming well established as a focal point for the local social scene. The Ballroom style was highly fashionable, and became even more so as traditional sequenced moves were replaced by greater freedom of expression.

The arrival of jazz music in the inter-war era cranked things up a notch, and the
Roaring Twenties witnessed a number of dance crazes.

The Charleston is perhaps the most famous of these, but the Shimmy, Black Bottom and Varsity Drag are also worthy of a mention.

Big bands were still the centerpiece of most clubs, which themselves were filled with a younger, more raucous crowd than the ballrooms. In others, dancing took place around a piano or a jukebox.

When the Great Depression arrived in the 1930s, many people viewed dance as an outlet. The Foxtrot - an elegant dance similar in look to the waltz - and the Lindy
Hop were very much in vogue during this age.

Dancing in the post-war era


Swing came to the fore in the 1940s, while the popular Hollywood films of Fred Astaire and later Gene Kelly brought tap to a worldwide audience.

The tango also emerged from Latin America, striking a chord with dancers across multiple continents. 

By the 1950s, a wave of young, exciting American singers were making their mark, unleashing rock 'n' roll on the unsuspecting masses.

Youngsters danced to the songs of Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly and Little Richard - even if their parents didn't always approve. And so came about the Bop, the Boogie-Woogie and eventually the Twist.

The 1960s was all about the bands - The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Beach Boys - and the hysteria brought about frenzied, energetic dance floor movement.

Towards the end of the decade, the hippie movement exerted some influence on the clubs, but the next big craze was already on its way.

Dancing in the late 20th century

D.I.S.C.O arrived with a bang in the 1970s, bringing color, groove, and a pulsing beat.

When 'Saturday Night Fever' hit the cinema screens, the masses flocked to the night clubs - cue the glitter balls, flared trousers, platforms and hot pants.

Early disco dances were partnered, but individuality quickly came to the fore, culminating in the legendary freestyle dance-off.

By the early 1980s, a variety of different musical movements were in full flow - and dance clubs aimed to cater for each of them.

Hip-hop and punk emerged out of the US, reggae and ska had emerged from Jamaica, and the UK introduced the New Romantics.

The launch of MTV meant new moves could be taught to a global audience through music videos - we're talking Break Dancing, The Robot, Moshing and the Lambada.

New styles were quickly adopted and trotted out in the clubs - often thousands of miles from their origins.

By this point, DJs, turn tables and dance music were coming to the fore at the expense of live music.

Many club-goers were dedicated to the rave scene in the late 80s and 1990s, but for the majority, the era of dance-pop had arrived.

Radio-friendly hits from the likes of Madonna, Kylie Minogue and George Michael drew youngsters to the floor, before making way for Rihanna, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry in the 2000s.

But with less well-defined moves than in the past, dancing has not changed as much as the artists in the charts.

Dancing remains as popular as ever

Dance is nothing if not evolutionary, with styles constantly coming in and out of fashion.

The various types of dancing may be tied to era and context, and the type of clubs in fashion at the time, but they remain alive so long as people wish to experience them.

Providing you've got a decent pair of shoes and the rhythm to match, there's a whole century of different styles to choose from.

But which is your favorite? And what do you think is the golden era of the night club?