Twist and Shout: A short history of dance, in pics

Have you ever wondered where dancing originated, or what inspired people to start moving their bodies in time to music? Well, you aren’t alone. The origins of dance have intrigued people for ages, and yet no one is completely sure about the hows and whys of its beginning. What we can be sure of is that it’s one of humanity’s most captivating forms of expression — beautiful to watch, fun to do, and a nearly universal pastime for cultures around the world and throughout time, with evidence of dancers even dating way back to prehistoric times. Let’s take a look at a few photos that show just how amazing dance and all of its variations can be.


Paintings of leopard skin-clad dancers from excavations at Chatal, Hüyük in Turkey dating to around 6,000 BCE.

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egyptian dancing figurine, roman era

An Egyptian bronze figurine dancing his heart out, dating from the Roman period (30 BCE – 395 CE).

dancing mania, 1642

A 1642 engraving by Hendrick Hondius depicting “dancing mania,” a mysterious social phenomenon that involved people dancing until they dropped from exhaustion.

Dancing children by Lorens Pasch the Younger, 1760

Dancing Children by the Swedish painter Lorens Pasch the Younger depicts the Minuet in 1760.


Hawaiian Hula dancers in a 1856 ambrotype.


A hand-colored print titled Dancing Party, by Japanese artist Kusakabe Kimbei (1841-1934).

Flamenco, Emilio Beauchy, 1885

Flamenco dancers by photographer Emilio Beauchy, c. 1885.

Nutcracker ballet, 1892

Ballet dancers from the first performance of The Nutcracker at the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia, 1892.

Bourrée dance, France c. 1906

An animated couple dances the Bourrée in France, c. 1906.


An image depicting cakewalk lessons, early 20th century.

dancers, 1915

Dancers in the United States, 1915.

Josephine Baker dances the Charleston, 1926

Josephine Baker does the Charleston at the world-famous Folies Bergère in Paris, 1926

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A couple dancing the Jitterbug in a juke joint near Clarksdale, Mississippi, 1939. Photo by Marion Post Wolcott.


Tap dancing class at Iowa State College, 1942, by Jack Delano.


Ballerina Jocelyn Vollmar as Myrthe in Giselle, San Francisco Ballet, 1947.

Jimmy Carter squaredance, 1977

US President Jimmy Carter square dances during a Congressional Picnic in 1977.

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