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Dance Names: How To Choose A Name With Rhythm

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It’s not really so surprising that the names of dances would be strikingly rhythmic and melodic, but when I started to look into it, I was somewhat taken aback by the sheer number and variety—and by how many of them could conceivably be seen as baby names.

The following list cuts across time and space, from Italian Renaissance peasant dances and  stately minuets to complex international folk dances to Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers to 1960s line dancing to 1980s Brazilian zouk.

ABHIA—a ceremonial dance done by southern Sudan tribal women around a mango tree

ABRAXAS—a serpentine ritual dance of the Greek Gnostics to the deity of that name

ALEMANDER—folk dance performed in Germany and Switzerland

APARINA—a Tahitian dance for 60 men and women sitting in four rows

BARYNYA—a lively Russian folk dance; also the name of several Russian folk dancing ensembles

BEGUINE—a rhythmic native dance of Martinique, famous here via the Cole Porter song Begin the Beguine

BLAIZE—a dance around a fire done in early Britain to mark the two solstices

BOSTON—the original name of the American Waltz, introduced in that city in 1834

BRANSIE—an old French follow-the-leader dance

CALATA—an Italian town dance done in triple time

CARINOSA—Philippine dance of love

CARIOCA—a version of the samba choreographed by Fred Astaire for a duet with Ginger Rogers in Flying Down to Rio

CEROC—a simplified version of modern jive dance

CHACONNE—a slow, solemn dance of Spanish or Moorish origin; also a popular social dance in 17-18th century France

CHULA—a traditional dance from Portugal and southern Brazil; also means beautiful in Spanish

CRUZADA—a tango step

EISA—a folk dance unique to the people of the Ryuku Islands, danced by 20-30 young men and women in a circle

FARRUCA—a Spanish gypsy dance with sudden tempo changes

GAVOTTE—a French peasant dance of Baroque origin

GUABINA—Colombian fast-tempo dance done by couples with a kerchief held between them

HALAY—a national circle dance of Armenia and Turkey, in which the dancers held each other’s pinkie finger

JENKKA—a Finnish partner dance that evolved from a folk dance

JIBIRI—a lively Breton round dance done in circles

JOTA—fast Spanish dance done by couples facing each other to the rhythm of castanets

JUBA – a lively Southern plantation black 19th century dance involving clapping and leg slapping

KOLO—a Serbian folk dance performed by a group in a circle

LAMBETH Walk—Cockney dance of the 1930s, also the name of a song, two films, a market and a street in London.

LAVANI—Popular dance of India, where the lead dancer is accompanied by a group of background dancers

LINDY Hop—jitterbug dance popular in the 1930s and forties

LOURE –slow country dance that originated in France

LUNDU –a Brazilian song-dance with origins in the African Bantu tribe

MADISON—modern line dance popular in the 1950s and 60s, featured in the movie Hairspray

MALAGUENA—a genre of Spanish folk couple dances similar to the fandango

MAXIXE—a Brazilian ballroom dance resembling the two-step

MAZURKA—a lively Polish folk dance

MINUET—a slow, stately Baroque dance

MORESCA—a 16-17th century Moorish pantomime dance

MORNA—a dance to the tune of guitars on the Cape Verde Islands

MORRIS dance—a vigorous English dance performed by men in costume

NAZUN—an Indian Hindu-Moslem festival dance performed by men

ODISSI—Classical dance of India

OKINA—A Japanese ritual dance symbolizing a long life.

Bossa NOVA—Brazilian samba-like dance

PAOA—a Tahitian solo woman’s dance

PAVANE—a stately English Renaissance court dance

QUADRILLE—a square dance of French origin performed by four couples

SARBA—Romanian dance done by young men, with rapidly increasing speed

SARDANA—a moving circle dance of the Catalan region of Spain, representing national pride, unity and identity.

SERRA—an old war-like Greek dance done by men before entering battle (also name of famous California missionary and contemporary American sculptor)

SUZIE Q—Since 1937, a step in the Big Apple, Lindy Hop and other dances

TIRANA—a variation of the fandango, a Spanish dance done to the accompaniment of a guitar

TRATA—a chain dance done by girls in Greece on Easter Tuesday

VELETA—English ballroom round dance done to waltz music

VIRGINIA reel—a version of a French dance brought to the US by French dancing masters, in which a number of couples face each other in two parallel lines

VOLTA—an Italian Renaissance peasant couples dance also called Lavolta

ZAMBRA—a flamenco dance performed by the Romani people of Granada, which has some similarities to belly dancing

ZOUK— a style of dance and music originating in the Caribbean and Brazil during the 1980s. The term zouk means ‘party’ in the native Creole language, and is influenced by French, English and African language and culture

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