Dance-punk (also known as punk-funk[citation needed]) is a post-punk subgenre that emerged in the late 1970s, and is closely associated with the disco, post-disco and new wave movements.[2] The genre is characterized by mixing the energy of punk rock with the danceable rhythms of funk and disco. It was most prominent in the New York City punk movement.


Many groups in the post-punk era adopted a more danceable style. These bands were influenced by funk, disco, new wave, and other dance music popular at the time (as well as being anticipated by some artists from the 1970s including Sparks and Iggy Pop). Influential bands from the 1980s included Talking Heads, Public Image Ltd.,[3][4] New Order[5] and Gang of Four.[2][4][6] New York City dance-punk included Defunkt, Material,[7] James Chance and the Contortions,[2] Cristina Monet, Bush Tetras, ESG, and Liquid Liquid.[8] German punk singer Nina Hagen had an underground dance hit in 1983 with "New York / N.Y.", which mixed her searing punk (and opera) vocals with disco beats.[2]

History and themes

In the late 1970s, as the no wave movement grew in reaction to commercial new wave, punk bands such as James Chance and the Contortions, ESG and Liquid Liquid began to experiment with a more dance-friendly sound. Dance punk peaked in the early 1980s and then began to decline until the late 1990s, when it experienced a resurgence. Among the first relevant bands to exploit the genre were Leeds' Gang of Four, New York's Talking Heads, New Order (formerly Joy Division) and Public Image.[9]

Late capitalism and the accompanying ideology of neoliberalism played significant roles in shaping the emergence of dance-punk in the 1970s and its resurgence in the 2000s, providing the overarching framework within which the genre evolved.[10]

The intellectual and aesthetic context of the late 1970s and early 1980s coincided with the birth of dance-punk. During this period, aesthetic theories like postmodernism and poststructuralism gained prominence, challenging the assumptions, grand narratives, and prevailing ideologies of the modern era, all of which influenced the lyrics of dance-punk.[10]

While these excursions into cultural and socioeconomic theory may not immediately seem connected to the realm of dance-punk, they undeniably permeate the genre.[10] Dance-punk emerges as a compromised genre. Its first wave came about in response to the systemic shifts caused by late capitalism and neoliberalism. Its primary objective was to create a communal and alternative scene as a critique of the growing emphasis on neoliberal competition and private accumulation. The second wave of dance-punk materialized in an urban landscape characterized by the presence of the hipster figure, deeply entrenched in creative industries, operating in the symbolic realm rather than the manufactured, and accumulating subcultural capital.[10]

Emerging from the convergence of disco and punk influences, dance-punk exhibits a strong affiliation with urban environments, particularly in the way they are romanticized and portrayed. These spaces, whether they exist in the realm of imagination or reality, conjure up a sense of cosmopolitanism, artistic liberation, and a spirit of defiance against the confines of conventional mainstream culture.[10]


The dance-punk genre, spanning both its first and second waves, occupies a nuanced position along a stylistic spectrum rather than adhering to a rigid set of defining characteristics.[11]

Categorizing dance-punk becomes increasingly complex as certain bands proclaim allegiance to a punk "attitude" while crafting music that leans more towards electronic dance genres. Notably, as a subgenre emerging from the broader post-punk movement, dance-punk shares several common features. These features include "dour (male) vocals with erudite or self-conscious lyrics, accompanied by metallic-sounding, distorted electric guitars playing texturally, not melodically; an accelerated disco beat or dance groove; a melodic bass line; and echoing sound effects borrowed from dub-reggae."[10]

One of the most notable features of dance-punk is a deliberate emphasis on the effective use of space and silence. This approach involves creating minimalist rhythms, avoiding extended guitar solos and deliberately 'stripping back' the sound. [page 103] Within dance punk, minimalism is not just about simplicity; it signifies a sense of directness and systematic order, often drawing parallels with the purity associated with the clean lines and abstractions of modernist art.[10]

The guitar sound in dance punk takes on a unique quality characterized by angularity - a clean and brittle spikiness that departs from traditional riffing or bluesy chords. [page 107] This sonic approach aligns the guitar sound with abstract shapes and architectural elements reminiscent of Constructivism, Suprematism and the Bauhaus movement.[10]

Prominent groove and syncopation are integral to the rhythm of dance punk. The genre strives to create a groove that is fluid, smooth and trance-like, offering an escape from the metrical constraints of capitalism. The groove, with its syncopations, introduces elements of human flexibility and unpredictability, giving the music an affective dimension that is felt rather than intellectually grasped. [page 111] Syncopation, a key component, involves shifting and eliminating predictable accents, aligning rhythms more with speech and orality, emphasizing the human element over mechanistic precision.[10]

"Dryness” is a term often used to describe the sonic quality of dance punk. It denotes a lack of sweetness, warmth, emotion and softness, and conveys a reserved, sardonic and ironic manner. This sense of dryness extends beyond the sound to the lyrics and vocals, particularly in the dance-punk of the 2000s, where it becomes a defining sonic quality, characterized by ironic lyrics and flat vocal delivery.[9]

The lyrical aspect of dance punk sets it apart from many other dance genres. It often adheres to verse-chorus or narrative structures more common in rock music. At its most dance-influenced, however, dance punk uses repetitive phrases to create a trance-like, transcendent effect. This approach has similarities to disco singing, where the repetition of phrases serves to empty language and open the self to divine inspiration through heightened emotional expression.[10]

Dance style

In the 70s, when dance punk emerged, punk bands tried to rebel against society. In the punk scene, rebellion was often expressed through violent dance styles such as thrashing, characterized by head bobbing, flailing arms and exaggeratedly aggressive and energetic movements, and pogo dancing, characterized by jumping in a crowd by throwing oneself against other people. Punk dancing was an amalgamation of these two styles.[12]

Contemporary dance-punk

Although dance-punk faded with the rise of new pop in the early 1980s, it made a comeback in the late 1990s and early 2000s as part of the post-punk revival. Dance-punk bands emerged from the pop-punk and garage rock revivals of the late 1990s.[13] Well-known are acts such as LCD Soundsystem, Clinic, Death from Above 1979, !!!, Hockey, Liars, Franz Ferdinand, Hot Hot Heat, Foals, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Le Tigre, Bloc Party, Kasabian, You Say Party, Electric Six, the Faint, Arctic Monkeys, the Rapture, Shout Out Out Out Out, and Radio 4, joined by dance-oriented acts who adopted rock sounds such as Out Hud.[14] In the early 2000s Washington, D.C. had a popular and notable punk-funk scene, inspired by Fugazi, post-punk, and go-go acts like Trouble Funk and Rare Essence, including bands like Q and Not U, Black Eyes, and Baltimore's Oxes, Double Dagger, and Dope Body. In Britain the combination of indie with dance-punk was dubbed new rave in publicity for Klaxons and the term was picked up and applied by the NME to bands[15] including Trash Fashion,[16] New Young Pony Club,[17] Hadouken!, Late of the Pier, Test Icicles,[18] and Shitdisco[15] forming a scene with a similar visual aesthetic to earlier raves.[15][19]

See also


  1. ^ Warwick, Kevin (22 June 2016). "All that sass: The albums that define the '00s dance-punk era". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 9 February 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d Rip It Up and Start Again: Post Punk 1978-1984.Simon Reynolds.Faber and Faber Ltd, April 2005, ISBN 0-571-21569-6 (U.S. Edition: Penguin, February 2006, ISBN 0-14-303672-6)
  3. ^ "Metal Box – Public Image Ltd. | Songs, Reviews, Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 7 January 2021.
  4. ^ a b Swaminathan, Nikhil (25 December 2003) – Dance-punk ends scenester dormancy Archived 22 November 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Billy Corgan joins New Order[usurped]; in, 2004. Access date: 11 December 2016.
  6. ^ "Gang of Four | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 7 January 2021.
  7. ^ "Material | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 7 January 2021.
  8. ^ "Talking Heads | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 7 January 2021.
  9. ^ a b "Dance-Punk Music Guide: 5 Notable Dance-Punk Acts". MasterClass.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Wodtke, Larissa (2023). Dance-Punk. 1385 Broadway, New York, NY 10018, USA: Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 12–21. ISBN 978-1-5013-8186-7.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location (link)
  11. ^ Wodtke, Larissa (2023). Dance-Punk. 1385 Broadway, New York, NY 10018, USA: Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 101–124. ISBN 978-1-5013-8186-7.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location (link)
  12. ^ Louis, Jenny (24 December 2022). "How Does Music Affect Dance Punk". Julie Anne San Jose.
  13. ^ "Dance-Punk Music Guide: 5 Notable Dance-Punk Acts". MasterClass. Retrieved 17 August 2022.
  14. ^ M. Wood, "Review: Out Hud: S.T.R.E.E.T. D.A.D.", New Music, 107, November 2002, p. 70.
  15. ^ a b c K. Empire, "Rousing rave from the grave" The Observer, 5 October 2006, retrieved 9 January 2008.
  16. ^ P. Flynn, "Here We Glo Again", Times Online, 12 November 2006, retrieved 13 February 2009.
  17. ^ J. Harris, "New Rave? Old Rubbish", The Guardian, 13 October 2006, retrieved 31 March 2007.
  18. ^ O. Adams, "Music: Rave On, Just Don't Call It 'New Rave'", The Guardian, 5 January 2007, retrieved 2 September 2008.
  19. ^ P. Robinson, "The future's bright...", The Guardian, 3 February 2007, retrieved 31 March 2007.