Dance Music

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Dance Music


music intended to accompany dances. Dance music, one of the earliest forms of music, includes various musical pieces with distinctive rhythms and tempos corresponding to the movements of a given dance, for example, the waltz or mazurka. Folk dance music may be instrumental or vocal; vocal folk dance music is chiefly choral and may or may not have instrumental accompaniment. Professional dance music, which is derived from folk music, is predominantly instrumental. The movements of dance, including ballroom dance, closely resemble the compositional structure of light popular music and jazz. In ancient times, dances were often performed as theatrical presentations with a specific plot. Dance music is one form of ballet music.

Works intended for listening rather than for the accompaniment of dances have been an important element of dance music since the 18th century. A new instrumental form emerged—the suite—consisting of several dance pieces. Dance music has been used as one of the movements of sonatas and symphonies. For example, the minuet was employed by Haydn, Mozart, and, to some extent, Beethoven, and the waltz was used by Tchaikovsky. Dance rhythms are also frequently used in other movements of classical symphonies, usually the finale, and in other instrumental works composed as series of movements.

Beginning in the early 19th century, musical works inspired by dance music became more profound and poetic, culminating in the creation of such highly artistic concert pieces as Chopin’s waltzes, mazurkas, and polonaises for piano. At times, dance music resembled program music, for example, Weber’s Invitation to the Dance and Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz. All imaginable rework-ings of folk dances also became popular, for example, Brahms’ Hungarian Dances and Grieg’s Norwegian Dances. Masterful works based on folk dance music include Glinka’s orchestral piece Kamarinskaia and Balakirev’s piano fantasy Islamei.


Efimenkova, B. Tantseval’nye zhanry. Moscow, 1962.
Sachs, C. Eine Weltgeschichfe des Tanzes. Berlin, 1933.
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