If you’re a new dancer or dance parent, it might be you only picture ballet shoes and tutus when you think of dancing. Dancing is actually a much broader discipline than many people think. Different dance schools will have their own focus, for example there are dedicated ballet schools and others which will teach several types of dance. Here we’re going to outline some of the most popular types of dance in Canada and hopefully give you a sense of each one to decide if it’s for you.
Ballet is one of the original forms of dance and the image most people think of when they consider attending dance school. The form lends characteristics to many of the other styles of dance that came after.
Classical ballet is characterized by flowing, graceful movements and a strong focus on balance and symmetry. The classical form emphasised turned-out legs and pointe work (supporting the body on the tip of your toes in pointe shoes). There was originally a strong focus on narrative, so sets and costumes would be elaborate.
Neo-classical ballet came into its own in the 20th century and updated the classical form with more fast-paced, energetic dancing that was beautiful in and of itself with less of a narrative focus. The look of ballet changed too, with sets and costumes being stripped back.
Contemporary ballet has a strong modern dance influence. Dances feature more floorwork, turned-in legs, and a greater range of movement and body line. Pointe shoes are worn but bare feet often feature as well.
Related: How to Choose the Right Dance School
You’ve probably seen hip hop dance in movies and TV shows over the last decade or so. The image of street dancers improvising their own moves and battling it out to hip hop, rap, and urban music is now somewhat iconic. Hip hop is performed in looser fitting clothes and dance sneakers. While classes now teach specific steps and styles of hip-hop dance, its freestyling origins make this an improvisational and expressive form.
Contemporary features expressive movements combining elements of many other types of dance including classical ballet, modern, lyrical, and jazz. The form has a strong basis in floor work, improvisation, and versatility. Contemporary dancers often perform barefoot. Early pioneers of this dance style championed freedom of movement and expression through unrestricted movement.
Highland dancing can be confused with Irish or Scottish Country but is its own form with history and style. While Irish dancing is progressive, Highland is traditional. Dancers wear ghillies which are a softer type of dance shoe. Highland dance is often performed at weddings and sporting events such as the Highland Games. It involves not only a combination of steps but also some integral upper body, arm, and hand movements. You’ll need to build your stamina if you want to be successful at Highland dancing.
Irish dancing is often done socially, although it is still a performance art. Dancers wear intricate costumes, wigs and makeup, as well as soft or hard shoes depending on the style of dance being performed. The form is characterized by contrasting stationary arms with fast leg and foot movements.
Modern dance began as something of a rebellion against the strict nature of classical ballet. It has since become incredibly popular and is offered as a class at most dance schools. While classical ballet follows practised, prechosen steps, modern favours interpretation and self-expression through movement. There are a range of dance shoes used in modern, with dancers often choosing between leather or canvas ballet shoes or going barefoot.
Jazz takes influence from countless other types of dance including tap, hip hop, ballet, modern, and more. Jazz is continually evolving based around contemporary music and is performed to the most popular music of the moment. Jazz dancing is generally performed to upbeat music with dramatic themes and choreography that encompasses power and confidence. Jazz shoes generally have a leather split sole so the dancer’s foot can freely bend and move. Although immensely freeing, jazz still requires intense practise and refined technique.
Tap turns each dancer into a musician. Tap shoes make a percussive sound with each movement and skilled dancers can use them to stunning effect. Rhythm Tap and Broadway Tap are the most popular forms. Broadway Tap focuses on movement while Rhythm Tap is more musical.
Lyrical dance is a genre that’s booming in popularity. A dancer’s movements will be in response to and inspired by song lyrics to express a feeling. The music will generally feature deeper themes than the upbeat music of jazz or hip hop. The dance was originally a cross between ballet, jazz, and modern but is now a firmly established genre. Dancers focus on precision as their movements have to convey emotion and tell the story of the song. Lyrical shoes protect the dancer’s feet but allow them to feel the floor beneath them.
So, now that you have a brief intro to all of these styles of dance, which one speaks to you? Choosing the right type of dance to dedicate yourself to can change your life in so many ways, improving your health and confidence, and letting you express yourself.
Thanks for reading. If the only thing holding you back now is a lack of high-quality clothes, check out our dance shop for the best dancewear in Canada. Struggling to find a good dance store near you? Our dance shoes, bodysuits, leotards and other clothing and accessories are available Canada-wide.