European dances refers to various dances originating in Europe. Since Medieval ages, many European dances tend to be refined, as some are based on the court dances of aristocrats.
In ancient times, European dances were performed as either sacred dances in religious ceremonies or for popular entertainment.
Greek dance included religious worship, education, religious or civil ceremonies and festivities. One famous Greek dance is the dithyramb, in honor of Dionysus.
Originally Rome had exclusively religious dances. As Rome gained dominance, including conquering Greece, more dance traditions were absorbed. The Bacchanalia and Lupercalia festivals highlight the importance of dance in Rome.
Under Christianity, dance fell under the control and condemnation of the Church. Records of Medieval dance are fragmented and limited, but a noteworthy dance reference from the medieval period is the allegory of the Danse Macabre.
During the Renaissance, dance became more diverse. Country dances, performed for pleasure, became distinct from court dances, which had ceremonial and political functions.
In Germany, from a modified Ländler, the waltz was introduced in all the European courts. Thus, group dance gives way to couples dance.
The 16th century Queen of France Catherine de' Medici promoted and popularized dance in France. Catherine helped develop the ballet de cour. The production of the Ballet Comique de la Reine in 1581 is regarded by scholars as the first authentic ballet.
In the 17th century, the French minuet, characterized by its bows, courtesies and gallant gestures, permeated the European cultural landscape.
In the 19th century, the French can-can (also spelled cancan as in the original French /kɑ̃kɑ̃/) is a high-energy, physically demanding dance that became a popular music-hall dance in the 1840s, continuing in popularity in French cabaret to this day. Originally danced by couples, it is now traditionally associated with a chorus line of female dancers. The main features of the dance are the vigorous manipulation of skirts and petticoats, along with high kicks, splits, and cartwheels.
Germany does not have an official national dance, but recognized dance styles include:
Irish Dance refers to a group of traditional dance forms originating from Ireland, encompassing dancing both solo and in groups, and dancing for social, competitive, and performance purposes. Irish dance in its current form developed from various influences such as earlier native Irish dance, English country dancing and later possibly French quadrilles, as it became popular in Britain and Ireland during the 19th Century. Dance was taught by "travelling dance masters" across Ireland in the 17th-18th century, and separate dance forms developed according to regional practice and differing purposes. Irish dance became a significant part of Irish culture, particularly for Irish nationalist movements.
Hungarian dance refers to the folk dances practised and performed by the Hungarians, both amongst the populations native to Hungary and its neighbours, and also amongst the Hungarian diaspora.
According to György Martin, a prominent folklore expert, Hungarian dances can be divided into two categories. The first refers to dances performed in the middle ages while the second relates to the 18th and 19th century. Hungarians have been noted for their "exceptionally well developed sense of rhythm". In the mid-19th century, Musicologist Theodor Billroth performed tests with troops of various nationalities stationed in Vienna and found that the Hungarian troops outperformed others in keeping time with music.
Improvisation and energetic movements are often mentioned as being characteristic of Hungarian dance.
Many Russian dances became known from the 10th century. Russia witnessed various invasions from other countries. Due to its location and size the country also came into contact with many different cultures through migration and trading. In turn, a Eurasian cultural mix of music and dance helped develop Russian folk dances.
Many of these early dances were performed and practiced by the lower classes. Typically the upper classes would watch performers rather than participate in the dances themselves.
The original Russian folk dance traditions continue to play an important part in the culture of the country and have been in constant interaction with Russia’s many ethnic groups. Russian folk dances are also in interrelations with other types of artistic expressions. One example can be seen in the Ballets Russes, which invokes Russian folk dances and music in its pieces.
The main dance genres of Ukrainian folk dance are round dance, as one of the oldest types of folk dance art, the performance of which is associated with calendar rites, and everyday dance, which includes metelitsa, hopak, kozachok, hutsulka, kolomyika, square dance, polka.