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15 Dances to Learn Around the World

By Viator.com
January 12, 2022
hula girl dancing at a luau oahu hawaii
Courtesy <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/15132846@N00/5932957728/" target="_blank"> Ray_from_LA/Flickr</a>

This article was written by the Viator Travel Team on behalf of Viator.com.

Great art isn’t always found in museums. Dance varies from place to place, yet remains a constant way for people to express themselves. Whether performed in a grand theater or on a street corner, dance can be emotional, tell tales, or be a way to celebrate. Whatever the reason or venue, the rhythm is out to get you. Grab your passport and take on a calorie burning challenge with these dances to watch and learn around the world.

Samba in Brazil

Brazil’s national dance, the Samba is actually African in origin, brought to the country by slaves. It has many variations, but the samba is lively, rhythmic, and often colorfully costumed. Its speedy steps can make the learning curve a bit steep. Samba is popular in Rio, especially during Carnival, but performances like the Plataforma Samba Show in Rio de Janeiro take place throughout the year.

Flamenco in Spain

Fast and lively, this Spanish dance is said to have originated in Andalusia. Vigorous hand clapping, heel clicking, and arm movements come together to create flamenco’s expressive identity. The rhythms and moves are challenging for most first timers, but at the same time typically a whole lot of fun. Experience Seville: Learn How to Dance Flamenco is open to dance enthusiasts with or without a partner. One-on-one coaching will enable even beginners to hone their skills and take home a new talent.

Tango in Argentina

It takes two to Tango. An Argentinean dance, couples need good balance to make long pauses in difficult positions. It’s believed the Tango got its start in the poorer neighborhoods of Buenos Aires, Argentina, in the late 1800s. Timing is key; knowing when and how fast to walk, and just as important, when to freeze. Buenos Aires Tango Shows will get you excited, but a Buenos Aires Tango Show, Dinner and Dance Lessons will give you a first-hand taste.

Mexican Hat Dance

Sometimes called Jarabe Tapatio, the famous Mexican Hat Dance is a courtship folk dance. At first the woman is not interested, but with time warms up to the convincing suitor. Men traditionally dress as a charro, in black with decorative silver trim. Women wear blouses and long, full skirts that are also heavily decorated or embroidered. The dance and the costumes have become easily recognizable and representative of Mexico. The Mexican Hat dance can pop up when you least expect it; seemingly easier to pick up than other dances from around the world, onlookers are sometimes encouraged to join in.

Kecak Dance in Bali

A combination of dance, drama, and chanting, the Kecak dance was created to entertain tourists. Always performed just before sunset, it tells the Hindu story of Prince Rama and how he defeats an evil king to rescue his princess. As storytellers weave the tale, a choir of sometimes 100-plus men sitting in circles chant while swaying back and forth and waving their arms and hands. Visit Bali and you can see the Kecak dance at many locations, but the performance at Uluwatu Temple gets rave reviews.

Waltz in Vienna

There are many variations of the waltz, but one could argue the whirling Viennese waltz is the most famous. Continuously turning left and right while moving counterclockwise around the dance floor, dancers move fluidly to slow, melodic music. “The Waltz King,” composer Johann Strauss was famous for his Viennese waltzes. He wrote nearly 500 dance pieces during his lifetime in Vienna, of which more than 150 were waltzes. Studios around the world offer dance lessons, but traveling couples can learn the basics of the dance Strauss helped make famous when in Vienna by taking Viennese Waltz Dance Lesson for Couples.

Irish Step Dance

Riverdance and Lord of the Dance helped modern Irish Step Dance gain popularity and recognition. Done solo or by a group, dancers keep their upper bodies stiff while performing quick and fancy footwork. Costumes play a large part, and girls costumes are known for being decorative and costly. Two types of shoes are worn, soft and hard. When hard shoes are worn, a noise similar to that of tap dancing is made. You don’t have to be in Ireland to see a show. Due to the dance’s popularity, performances can be seen all over the world.

Belly Dancing in Egypt and Turkey

Performed on stages and restaurants around the world, belly dancing is said to be a Western coined phrase for the Middle Eastern dance Raqs Sharqi. Though it can be performed by men, it’s most commonly done by women; it’s a sensual dance in which abdominal movements typically wow the crowd. Shakira makes it look easy, but if you’re up to shaking your hips, you can learn the stomach ripple too. Dancers of all levels can shake up their vacation with a Belly Dancing Lesson in Istanbul with Optional Dinner and Show.

Fandango in Portugal and Spain

Believed to be a Spanish courtship dance with Moorish origins, Fandango is popular in Portugal and Spain. It’s lively and upbeat; dancers tap their feet and quickly change positions. It can also be danced by two men as a contest of skill. The first dancer sets the rhythm and steps, then the second tries to take the dance up a notch.

Hopak in Ukraine / Gopak in Russia

This Ukrainian folk dance is full of improvised acrobatic feats including jumps, spins and squats. Traditionally danced in the Ukraine and Russia by men, modern versions can include all. Energetic and almost infectious, it’s hard to sit still during a performance. Lessons can be found, but strength and fitness are essential.

Zulu Dance in South Africa

There are more than half a dozen types of Zulu dances, each steeped in culture and tradition. The dances represent many aspects of daily Zulu life; hunting, war, coming of age, or weddings. Drums and whistles often accompany the dances. Local tribe dancing is performed at the Shakaland—Zulu Cultural Center in South Africa.

Haka in New Zealand

Sports fans may know this dance as part of the pregame preparations of New Zealand’s rugby team the All Blacks. A traditional Maori dance, the Haka can be performed in times of war and peace. There’s foot stamping, loud chanting and body slapping. In addition to All Blacks rugby games, the Haka is performed at villages and museums throughout New Zealand, along with city sightseeing tours in Auckland.

Hula in Hawaii

Hula has come to symbolize Hawaiian culture. Like other dances, there are many types and styles. Along with festivals and competitions, Hula performances are held regularly at hotels and resorts. Hula lessons, often free, are a fairly common activity in Hawaii’s popular tourist areas and brave guests at Maui Luaus are often brought on stage to show off their dance skills.

Clogging in the Netherlands

Most people in the Netherlands, dancers included, don’t wear clogs anymore. Clogging was once done in wooden shoes, but today a more modern, yet equally noisy shoe is used. Clogging involves fast footwork and is somewhat of a mix of tap and line dancing.

Polka in Czech Republic and Poland

American bandleader Lawrence Welk introduced fans to all types of easy listening music; from his famous champagne music to upbeat polkas. A lively dance with Bohemian origins, its history differs depending on who is doing the telling. Though many believe the polka is polish, the dance did not originate in Poland. Some say it is a Czech folk dance, but refers to a Polish woman. Polish immigrants who moved to the U.S. after World War II adopted it as their own, helping it become fashionable in America. Either way, its popularity spread throughout the world and is still being danced today.

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Inspiration

Take a Day Trip to Historic Hudson Valley

As a little boy growing up in the Bronx, my first-ever class trip was to Sunnyside, the home of Washington Irving. There, on the banks of the Hudson River in Tarrytown, NY, my second-grade class toured the grounds of Irving's estate, learned how a 19th-century home operated, and, most inspiring for me, peeked into Irving's office and saw the writing desk that once belonged to the author of "Rip Van Winkle" and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." I remember being enchanted by Irving's funny-creepy stories and not wanting to leave the back porch, with its views of the river. These days, my family and I live just about a mile from Sunnyside and I'm still a regular visitor to the historic site, maintained by the nonprofit group Historic Hudson Valley. Over the years, I've had the opportunity to visit a number of other nearby sites—less than an hour's drive from Manhattan—that are worth a day trip. I can't promise that every site will inspire a career choice, but you'll immerse yourself and your little ones in colonial history, world-class art, and literature. Here are the standouts, all of them within a few miles of Tarrytown, NY, and the brand-new Governor Mario Cuomo Bridge across the river. For details about hours and admission prices and policies, visit hudsonvalley.org. Sunnyside, in Tarrytown, is a beautifully landscaped estate, much of which was designed by Washington Irving himself. The creator of the Headless Horseman and other iconic literary characters loved this spot enough to settle here after traveling the world and establishing a career as America's "first man of letters." You'll watch a video about Irving's life, tour the estate and home, and you should spend some time in the exceptional gift shop, where you'll find imaginative crafts and a great collection of books about local history. (After you visit Sunnyside, take a short walk up the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail to see another amazing estate—Lyndhurst, a castle-like mansion and 67-acre park maintained by the National Trust.) Kykuit, in Pocantico Hills, was home to John D. Rockefeller, the founder of Standard Oil and one of the richest people in history. Here, you'll tour the gorgeously furnished six-story house and see how the other .00005% lived. The highlight of the site is its gardens that feature a collection of 20th-century sculptures that once belonged to New York Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller, including works by Pablo Picasso and Henry Moore. Philipsburg Manor, in Sleepy Hollow, transports you back to the year 1750 to see a working farm, mill, and center of local trade. (And, yes, it's in the village of Sleepy Hollow, where the Headless Horseman is still known to gallop by every year as Halloween approaches.) Visitors can participate in hands-on farming activities such as shelling beans or working flax into linen, tour the gristmill with its immense stone, and learn the little-known stories of the enslaved Africans who made the estate run. Across Route 9, you'll find Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, where Washington Irving is buried—and seasonal lantern-lit evening tours will test even the steeliest nerves. Union Church of Pocantico Hills is a humble little country church along a winding road near the Rockefeller estate. Oh, but turn into the parking lot and peek inside and you'll notice that this charming little stone building holds Henri Matisse's final work of art—a typically colorful rose window—and a series of stained-glass windows by Marc Chagall, including his massive Good Samaritan. TALK TO US! I feel lucky to live a short distance from these great historic sites. Tell us about your favorite tourist sites in your own backyard—we just might feature them in an upcoming story!

Inspiration

Don't Miss These Summer Travel Sales!

Tour packages, hotels, cruises, and train travel are all on sale this summer. Here's what you need to know. HOTELS • Room rates start at just $99 a night this summer thanks to the Stay &amp; Play Longer package, part of the Hilton Worldwide Caribbean Summer Sale happening now thru Aug. 31st. You'll get a fourth night free, a $100 resort credit per room per stay, and best of all, kids stay free. Participating hotels and resorts includeHilton Barbados Resort; British Colonial Hilton Nassau; Hilton Curaçao; Caribe Hilton, San Juan; Condado Lagoon Villas at Caribe Hilton;  Hilton Ponce Golf &amp; Casino Resort; The Condado Plaza Hilton; Embassy Suites Dorado del Mar Beach Resort; Embassy Suites San Juan Hotel &amp; Casino; El San Juan Resort &amp; Casino, A Hilton Hotel; El Conquistador Resort, A Waldorf Astoria Resort; Las Casitas Village, A Waldorf Astoria Resort; Hilton Santo Domingo; Embassy Suites by Hilton Santo Domingo; Hilton Trinidad &amp; Conference Centre; and Hilton Cartagena. • Marriott Hotels &amp; Resorts want you to Celebrate Summer! Book your stay at one of 34 participating properties on the east coast, west coast, Hawaii, or in the central U.S. by Sept. 7th and enjoy room rates from $129 a night and up to $100 in resort credit per night that can be used towards dining, golf, spa services, and other on-property perks. Valid on stays thru Sept. 30th. • The Ka’anapali Beach Hotel in Maui is offering a special package this summer that gives you three nights' accommodations in a courtyard/pool view room, buffett breakfast for two at the hotel's Tiki Terrace Restaurant on the morning of your choice, daily rental car from Budget Rent A Car, and dinner for two at the Tiki Terrace Restaurant on the evening of your choice, from $757 per stay (based on single/double occupancy), a savings of 20 percent per person. Please refer to the Simply Simple package, valid now thru Jan. 4, 2016. • Planning to check out Orlando's legendary theme parks this summer? Save by staying at the Hilton Orlando, where family-friendly rooms start at $109 a night and give you access to special kid-friendly glow-in-the-dark games and other poolside activities now thru Labor Day. • You can save 65 percent on standard rates this summer at the Marigot Beach Club in St. Lucia. The Caramel Kiss Package starts at $99 a night and includes a spa treatment for two (caramel sugar scrub, chocolate facial, and caramel kiss pedicure), and daily breakfast. Valid from Aug. 1-31, 2015. • Don't miss the Experience El Yunque package from the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel &amp; Casino that gives you 30 percent off overnight accommodations at the resort, a half-day guided excursion to nearby El Yunque National Forest for two, two bottles of water, snacks, and late checkout, from $279 a night. • The W Scottsdale in Scottsdale, Arizona, is offering special rates from $179 a night, a savings of 73 percent off regular high season rates. You'll get overnight accommodations at this luxe hotel, a W Scottsdale tote bag, sunblock and sunglasses, and a pitcher of Vitamin W, the hotel's signature cocktail, to celebrate. Refer to promo code VITAMINW when booking this deal online or call 877/822-0000 to book by phone. • Get ready for great views and savings in Arizona this summer. Room rates at the newly renovated Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock, located along the 7.5-mile Red Rock Scenic Byway, start at $168 a night. • Visitors to Greater Williamsburg, Virginia, can take advantage of several specials this summer. Offers include accommodations at the Best Western Historic Area with breakfast and two passes to Busch Gardens Williamsburg from $99.99 a night (available now thru Sept. 7th), and savings on stays of at least two nights at the Days Hotel Busch Gardens Area from $69.99 a night including complimentary daily breakfast (valid now thru Oct. 31st), among others. • Get to know Baltimore with the Best of Baltimore package by Hampton Inn &amp; Suites Baltimore Inner Harbor. You'll get overnight accommodations, complimentary WiFi and daily breakfast, and a 'Baltimore's Best' goodie bag that includes local treats. The best part: 10 percent of the money earned from this package will be donated to the local food bank at St. Gregory's Church. 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Inspiration

The World's Cleanest Airlines

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Inspiration

This Weekend: A new park in Washington State

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