10 Iconic Dances to See Around the World


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.


1. Hula

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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

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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

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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


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

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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


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

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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

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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

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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

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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.