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Get out those dancing shoes and tap those toes because it’s time for National Dance Day!

History of National Dance Day

It’s possible that the history of dance goes back as far as the history of humankind. Dancing seems to be an innate part of life–just look at how the smallest of toddlers love to bop to the beat when they hear music!

The first record in human history of dance seems to be from cave paintings in India as far back as 8000 BC. Paintings of Egyptians dancing on the insides of caves and rock shelters have been discovered from 3300 BC. Kathak from the 1600s is one of the eight forms of classical dances originating from India, tracing its history from temple and ritual dances.

At the same time, in the 1600s, dance was becoming more popular in Europe. Louis XIV was so enamored by it that by 1661 he had started the first official dance school in France, the Royal Academy of Dance.

The 1800s brought about modern dance, with its western theatrical or concert dance arising out of Germany and the United States. Some consider modern dance to have been a rebellion against the most classical ballet.

Classical dances like the waltz moved toward jazz, tap, salsa, contemporary and even hip hop have all made their way as dance has evolved over time

National Dance Day was launched in 2010 and one of its co-founders is Nigel Lythgoe, who was also one of the co-creators of the show So You Think You Can Dance. The other co-founder of National Dance Day was a Congresswoman who has represented the District of Columbia, Eleanor Holmes Norton.

The idea of National Dance Day is to encourage anyone and everyone to express themselves through dance. It celebrates the joy of dance and movement and attempts to raise awareness about the importance of dance to everyone’s life. And now it’s time to celebrate!

National Dance Day Timeline

8000 BC

Dance is first recorded 

Cave depictions of dances in India go as far back as 10,000 years.[1]

13th Century

The waltz begins 

The oldest of current ballroom dances, the waltz began in what is now Austria and Germany.[2]


First ballet school is established 

King Louis XIV has the Royal Academy of Dance opened in France.[3]

Early 1970s

Hip hop dance begins

In the Bronx, a borough of New York, Hip hop dance became popular when DJs started extending song instrumentals, injecting it with their personal style.[4]


National Dance Day is first celebrated

Dance Day is co-founded by Nigel Lythgoe and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton.[5]

How to Celebrate National Dance Day

Get up and dance! Celebrate National Dance Day by moving to the beat and enjoying the fun of dance in any and every form. Try out some of these ideas for paying honor to the day:

Start Dancing

Choose your style and just start dancing! It might just be a little impromptu boogie dance in the living room or it could be getting dressed up to go out ballroom dancing. Or hop over to a local dance club and go freestyle! Cha-cha, salsa, ballet, or even breakdancing offers a fun way to relax, get some exercise and keep that body (and soul!) moving the way it needs to.

Watch a Film About Dancing

Perhaps getting moving on National Dance Day requires a bit of inspiration and watching a movie about dancing is a great way to do it! Even if the film doesn’t have much of a plot, it’s a great way to get started with dancing. Try out one of these dancing films to get started:

  • Dirty Dancing (1987). This classic eighties film starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey tells the story of a rebellious dance instructor and an innocent vacationing teenager who learns to dance.
  • Billy Elliot (2000). A British coming-of-age movie, set in the mid-1980s miners’ strike of North East England, this film features the character of Billy Elliot, a working-class boy who discovers a love for ballet dancing. It was also made into a West End and Broadway musical.
  • Black Swan (2010). Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis star in this psychological thriller film that reveals the competitive struggle behind the lead dancers in Tchaikovsky’s classic ballet, Swan Lake.
  • Footloose (1984). What could go wrong when bad-boy Kevin Bacon’s character moves into town and starts dancing – in a place where dancing is forbidden by his love interest’s father, the local pastor? Watch it and see!

Take a Dancing Class

Those who don’t feel great about their dancing skills need not worry. That’s what a dancing instructor is for. Grab a partner and sign up for a dancing class at a local YMCA, dance studio or gym. Try jazz, tap, classical, hip-hop, modern and more!

Not sure which type of dance to try to learn first? Head on over to the library first and do a little reading, and then do a bit of research to find out what options for lessons are available in the local area.

Learn About the Benefits of Dancing 

One of the reasons that National Dance Day is so important for everyone to celebrate is that dancing is just good for you! As a form of exercise, dance can improve the physical tone of the body and help people get into shape with better flexibility, balance, coordination and spatial awareness.

Not only this, but dancing on a regular basis also has these other health benefits:

  • Improved Heart and Lungs

    Dancing offers aerobic exercise which allows the heart and lungs to get worked out. In fact, people with cardiovascular disease are encouraged to dance to improve their heart and lung function.

  • Better Mental Health

    The physical activity of dancing releases beneficial hormones that reduces tension, decreases stress and anxiety, and may even ward off depression.

  • Boost Memory and Prevent Dementia

    Aerobic exercise, including dance, can help to reduce the loss of volume in the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain that is responsible for memory.

  • Greater Confidence

    People who spend time dancing often develop a greater amount of self-confidence and self-esteem. They become more confident in their ability to perform physical tasks, and they are often also likely to make friends throughout the process.

See a Dance Show

The options for catching a dance show in honor of National Dance Day are almost endless! Whether it’s heading to a classical ballet, a musical theater production with dancers, a Hip Hop and Jazz dance festival. It might even be fun to catch a dance recital performed by one of your kids or the neighbors’ kids.

But even though watching people dance is loads of fun, be sure to not simply spend the whole day watching other people dance. Because the day is about inviting everyone, single person, professional or amateur, young or old, to get off the couch and start dancing!

National Dance Day FAQs

Is dance a sport?

Yes. Dance is an art form as well as an activity that involves skill, competition and entertainment.[1]

Can dance be a career? 

Dancing can certainly be a career. Other related careers include dance instructor, choreographer and even dance medicine specialist.[2]

Do dancers get paid?

People who work as professional dancers can get paid, although they usually work as independent contractors it is often not a very high paying job.[3]

How does dance reflect culture?

Especially in the past, dance has provided expression for social, tribal, national, and even religious purposes.[4]

Should dance be an Olympic sport?

This is a question that many people disagree on, but the conversation is mostly about whether breakdancing should be included.

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