Famous Moves: 9 Iconic Dance Styles To Learn

June 5, 2014

Dance is one of the oldest forms of artistic expression and dates back thousands of years. It exhibits a bewildering array of styles and performs a variety of functions, from ceremony to entertainment – even the best dancers can master only a small subset of dance styles and forms, but learning various dance moves can make a dancer more versatile. Below is a guide to some of the most iconic dances and styles.

Dance Moves from the 1920s

The 1920s are known as the Roaring Twenties because of the rise of jazz and dance culture. Several iconic dances are associated with this period.

Iconic Dance Moves

The Charleston

Perhaps the most famous dance of the Roaring Twenties, the Charleston is complex. The first step is to walk backwards and then forwards, all the while kicking one’s legs out to the side. The second step is to move forwards and kick a front leg out, followed by moving backwards and kicking a leg back. The final step is to put both hands on both knees and move side-to-side by moving the knees apart and then together.

Steps for the Charleston

The Lindy Hop

Another iconic dance of the Roaring 20s, it is performed by two dancers who swing each other around while bouncing on one leg and then another. Some couples perform flips and even splits.

A Lindy Hop Competition

Hip-Hop Dancing

A more recent style of dancing was developed in the 70s and 80s in urban street environments. Hip-Hop dancing comprises three broad categories of dance: breaking, locking, and popping.


The distinctive feature of breaking, or break dancing, is that the dancer is often horizontal to the ground and maintains contact with the ground via the arms, torso, and head as well as the feet. The iconic move here occurs when a dancer spins on his or her head.

Break Dance Competition


This form of Hip-Hop dancing involves the dancer freezing momentarily, i.e., locking, and holding a pose. A simple locking move is the Up Lock, or muscle man pose.


Whereas locking involves a momentary pause, popping involves contracting the muscles to create a jerking motion, i.e., a pop. A common type of popping is sliding the feet, the iconic sliding move being the moonwalk, made famous by Michael Jackson.

Michael Jackson Popping and Moonwalking


Not for the faint of heart, moshing, sometimes known as slam-dancing, is an aggressive dance style in which dancers push one another into other dancers. Associated with hardcore punk, moshing involves full body contact between participants. Indeed, moshing has resulted in the occasional death. Moshing often takes place in a pit just below center stage.

Learn Dance Moves

The iconic move in moshing is crowd surfing. This occurs when someone is lifted in the air and passed around from one crowd member to another. A few entertainers engage in crowd surfing, but most do not.

Country Line Dancing

Line dancing takes many forms, but it is closely associated with country or western line dancing due to the popularity of the video for “Achy Breaky Heart” by Billy Ray Cyrus. In line dancing, dancers form a row, face forward, and dance in unison, emphasizing foot movement. WGNA, a country music radio station in Albany, New York breaks down some of the basic line dancing steps for beginners.

Types of Dancing

Recent Dance Crazes

Dance and popular culture often meet when a dance becomes trendy and a dance craze ensues. We’re in a new age where Internet memes drive popular culture, and there are no finer examples of this than the recent iconic dances featured in the Harlem Shake and Gangnam Style memes.

Harlem Shake

As a video meme, the Harlem Shake became viral in 2013. In a Harlem Shake video, one person freestyle dances while others go about their normal business, until a jump cut occurs, exposing a dance party made up of motley-dressed dancers freestyle dancing, often convulsively – hence the shake.

Harlem Shake – Ten of the Best

Gangnam Style

Gangnam style was made popular by Korean pop star Psy in his “Gangnam Style” video, which has received over two billion views to date. Although Gangnam Style is more than just a dance style, it denotes a foxtrot dance that mimics the riding of a horse which became one of the most iconic dances of 2012.

Dancing Gangnam Style

As we can see from just a few of these iconic dances, the artform appears in many guises. Although no one can master every dance, everyone can have fun trying out different dance styles and perhaps creating the next viral craze to sweep the net.