Top 10 Most Difficult Dance Styles to Learn

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Top 10 Most Difficult Dance Styles to Learn

VOICE OVER: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Sarah O'Sullivan
There are so many awesome dance styles, we had to leave out a few! For this list, we'll be looking at some of the most challenging dances from cultures around the world! Our countdown includes Swing Dance, Tap Dance, Ballet, and more!
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Top 10 Most Difficult Dance Styles to Learn


Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Most Difficult Dance Styles to Learn!

For this list, we’ll be looking at some of the most challenging dances from cultures around the world! There were so many awesome possibilities, we had to leave out a few - for instance, dances involving swimming, swords, and sticks - but we think you’ll still be impressed!

Know another super hard dance to learn that we didn’t mention? We’d love to hear about it, so please post in the comments!

#10: Tap Dance

Tap dance may be the only kind of dancing where the way you sound is as important as the way you look! It emerged in the US in the 1800s as a fusion of dance styles from West Africa and the British Isles - including Irish jigs and English clog dancing. It’s been featured in American plays, musicals, and movies ever since. Tap dancers wear shoes with metal plates on them, which can produce not just regular tapping sounds, but also rolling like drums, hissing slides, and complex rhythmic patterns. And meanwhile, you also have to remember to look pretty! It’s sort of like patting your head and rubbing your belly at the same time... except there are about a hundred more movements involved.

#9: Irish Stepdance

This style of dancing was made famous in the US by “Riverdance.” In step dancing, dancers must keep their arms to their sides and their upper bodies fairly motionless, while their legs and feet move like crazy! Although it tends to make noise, step dancing differs from tap dancing in that it’s a group effort, where dancers must work together to form complex patterns and position changes. Since your upper body isn’t allowed to move, you can’t turn your head to look where you ‘re going; so as you can imagine, the dance requires intense concentration, and many hours of practice, to prevent a painful collision with fellow dancers!

#8: Swing Dance

Like some of the other dances we’ll be talking about, swing dance is actually an inclusive term for a whole lot of different styles and moves. It was developed in the US during the Jazz Age of the 1920s, and what makes swing dancing especially difficult is that, unlike most partner dances, it’s improvised. There’s a set rhythm for each style - East Coast, West Coast, Lindy Hop, and so on. But besides that, you must depend on cues from your partner to know what’s going to happen next. Add in the fact that it’s usually set to fast-paced music and incorporates spinning, jumping, and even aerial moves, and you’ll understand why learning swing dance takes a lot of work!


#7: Sayaw Sa Bangko

This notoriously difficult folk dance from the Philippines is the only style on our list that requires an outside object. In Sayaw Sa Bangko, which translates as “Dance on a Bench,” dancers must do exactly that: in partners, they contain their movements to a narrow bench, which usually gets added to or made taller as the dance goes on. As you can imagine, the main idea is to dance without falling off! Partners can help each other in this, but on something six inches wide - only a little wider than an Olympic gymnastics balance beam - it’s a dance that requires exceptional balance and agility.

#6: Atilogwu

Invented by the Igbo people of Nigeria, Atilogwu roughly translates to “Is this magic?” because early viewers watching it were so impressed! Atilogwu is a bit like US cheerleading, as it involves a small group of people performing acrobatics and climbing on top of each other; however, it’s even more complex than that. Dancers must swing and flip from “human trees,” make bridges on top of other dancers, and perform dangerous stunts, all while wearing elaborate costumes and headdresses. Generally, students learn the basics of the dance when they’re children, because it is only performed by young, strong, and agile individuals - for obvious reasons!


#5: Breakdancing

Also known simply as “breaking,” breakdancing is the oldest known style of hip-hop dance. It was developed in the Bronx, New York, mostly by African-American and Puerto Rican kids, who rebelled against more traditional, formal dance styles. Breakdancing is meant to be done on the floor (or the street) as much as on your feet, so it involves moves like spinning on your head or back, circling leg flares on your hands, and jumping into the air for twists, before landing back down on your body.Breakdancing was recently accepted into the Olympics, which gives you some idea of the necessary skill involved!

#4: Capoeira

Is it martial arts? Is it gymnastics? Or is it a dance? It’s all of them! This Brazilian dance has a fascinating history. Africans who were brought to Brazil as slaves in the 16th century were forbidden to practice fighting of any kind, so they disguised their martial arts as a dance, even adding music and singing to it. Although it may look like a dance, Capoeira is and has been used for real self-defense; and like any martial art, it requires intense training to excel. The dancers form a circle, and those in the middle alternate punches and kicks with moves on their hands, like handstands and cartwheels, trying to knock their opponent off their feet.

#3: Animation

Animation is another style of hip-hop dance, like breakdancing. However, animation is derived from the “popping” and “boogaloo” styles of dance. Walt Disney himself inspired the name, based on the twitchy movements of “Steamboat Willie” in his first animated feature. The dancer imitates that sort of character, animated frame-by-frame, with jerky or robotic motions at a variety of different speeds; often, one or more body parts seem to move independently of the rest. It looks easy when an accomplished dancer does it, but if you try the animation dance yourself, you’ll soon realize why it takes years of practice!

#2: Salsa Caleña

There are many different forms of salsa dancing, but for this list we had to go with Salsa Caleña, or Colombian Salsa. It’s also known as Cali-Style Salsa, due to its connections to the Colombian city Cali. Like most salsa styles, it’s usually danced with a partner. Influenced by Caribbean rhythms, it tends to eschew cross-body leads in favour of rapid, intricate footwork in place. As in Irish step dancing, you aren’t supposed to look at your feet - more often, you’ll be making eye contact with your partner. So chances are, an untrained dancer doing the Salsa Caleña will quite literally be stepping on your toes!

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions!

Aerial Dance
As the Name Suggests, This Is a Dance Done in Midair!

Kuchipudi
An Indian Style of Dance Linked to Religious Art

Tango
A Sensuous South American Dance Between Partners in Close Physical Contact

Zaouli
An Ivory Coast Dance Performed in a Mask

Krumping
An Energetic American Street Dance That Emerged in the 2000s

#1: Ballet

It may seem odd that ballet is the hardest dance on the list; after all, we see little kids learning it all the time. But while most people could probably attempt the simpler ballet poses, to master ballet takes a lifetime of dedication. Ballet requires strength, for a dancer must leap, bend, lift, and be lifted; balance, when a dancer is on their toes, on one foot, or spinning rapidly; and flexibility, as both male and female dancers must be able to do a split from standing or in the air. A ballet dancer is strong, yet looks delicate; has great endurance, but is always graceful. It is truly worthy of being named the hardest dance to learn on our list.
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