10 Iconic Dances to See Around the World

CUL_Map_Dance_457531357_Banner
GURCAN OZTURK/AFP/Getty

From Brazilian martial-arts dancing to Turkish twirling meditation and Kenyan warriors jumping, the world moves in mysterious ways. Whether you know the language or not, watching—or better yet participating if invited—in a traditional dance is a powerful way to experience and connect with another culture. Take a whirl around the globe to see some of the most iconic dance moves.

52_191227_CUL02_Map_Dance
Newsweek

1. Hula
Hawaii

CUL_Map_Dance_01_86480671
Thinkstock Images/Getty

Not just a way to greet tourists, hula dancing was brought to the islands by the Polynesians that settled them and was used to pass down stories and culture before the time of written word. Today, it is used to connect with the islands and share the culture of Hawaii with others.

2. Second Line Dancing
Louisiana

CUL_Map_Dance_02_112828375
Chris Macias/Sacramento Bee/Tribune News Service/Getty

The second line is one of the most iconic traditions in New Orleans—a parade of brass horns, twirling parasols and fancy footwork. The distinctive dance moves in these often impromptu street celebrations are quick, forward-strutting steps.

2. Capoeira
Brazil

CUL_Map_Dance_03_93309082
Ryan Pierse/Getty

A mix of martial arts and dance, this Afro-Brazilian combat dance is a blend of strength and grace, and it includes lots of leg sweeps. It's believed that this athletic acrobatic dance inspired modern breakdancing.

4. Irish Step Dancing
Ireland

CUL_Map_Dance_04_466388259
darkbird77/Getty

Made famous by the likes of Michael Flatley, the "Lord of the Dance," Irish step dancing has a long history, linked both to European social dancing and ancient Celtic and Druid traditions. Step dancing is easily identifiable by the dancers' stiff arms and upper body, and lightning-fast tapping footwork.

5. Flamenco
Spain

CUL_Map_Dance_05_608024374
Aitor Alcalde Colomer/Getty

With its signature foot stamping and hand clapping, flamenco is synonymous with Spain. Brought to the country by gypsy Romas between the 9th and 14th centuries, flamenco is a passionate, expressive dance that oozes with emotion.

6. Viennese Waltz
Austria

CUL_Map_Dance_06_109752972
JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty

What was initially a peasant folk dance in Vienna became the first form of the waltz, and it eventually evolved into a formal high society dance throughout Europe. Due to its close holds and quick spins, waltz was once considered the "Forbidden Dance," though it is now synonymous with highbrow ballroom dance.

7. Whirling Dervish
Turkey

CUL_Map_Dance_07_117088294
Marco Secchi/Getty

Watching the mesmerizing whirling dervish ceremonies is an iconic part of Turkish culture. Begun as a form of meditation by the Sufi mystic and poet Rumi in the 13th century, this spinning dance known as sema blurs prayer, dance and trance. The dervishes are followers of Rumi and honor him with this practice.

8. Maasai Jumping Dance
Kenya

CUL_Map_Dance_08_536213738
In Pictures Ltd./Corbis/Getty

Known as adumu by the Maasai tribe in Kenya and Tanzania, this jumping dance is a tradition performed by young men at a coming-of-age ceremony. The dance serves as a competition for young men to showcase their strength and even attract the attention of potential brides. It's said that the one who jumps the highest will be chosen as chief.

9. Bhangra
India

CUL_Map_Dance_09_1035463902
Creative Touch Imaging Ltd./NurPhoto/Getty

This high-energy dance started as a folk celebration to rejoice in the harvest season in Punjab, India. Following the beat of the dhol, or the Indian drum, dancers are dressed in colorful free-flowing fabrics. Now, the dance has spread all over the world and made its way into fitness classes and TV shows such as America's Got Talent.

10. Kabuki
Japan

CUL_Map_Dance_10_1029379722
Valery Sharifulin/TASS/Getty

A classical dance drama that began in Kyoto more than 400 years ago, kabuki incorporates theatrics and mime with spectacular costumes and staging. But the heart of this traditional art form is the dramatic dancing that tells the story through stylized movements.

10 Iconic Dances to See Around the World