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Dance music is music that is made to be danced to. In a broader sense, an enormous amount of music sounds like dance music, even if it is not composed for dancing. The history of dance music is similar to the history of dance as well as to the history of music.
Dance music was probably the first kind of music there was. Thousands of years ago human beings must have discovered the joy of making noises by beating sticks in rhythm. They probably danced as they did this.
We know that the Ancient Greeks danced to music, although we do not know much about what that music was like.
In the Dark Ages (before the Middle Ages) dancing was very popular. The Christian Church thought that dancing was bad because it was always linked to the devil. This is why the church people thought that musical instruments were bad, because instruments were used for dancing.
The earliest Western dance music that we know are some of the medieval dances such as caroles and the Estampie. Composers started to write their music down on music staves. Dance music had to have a regular beat so that the dancers could dance in time. This is why barlines were invented. The music was divided into bars with a particular number of beats in each bar. This was different from church music which was based on plainchant which was very free in the way it was sung.
In the Baroque period many composers started to write pieces of music which were based on dance rhythms. Composers such as Johann Sebastian Bach wrote suites which were collections of dance movements. The most popular dances in a suite were: allemande, courante, sarabande, minuet and gigue. Even when not writing dance movements, a lot of Baroque music is based on dance rhythms, for example: the grand opening chorus of Bach’s St Matthew Passion is based on the rhythm of a sicilienne.
In the Classical music period composers wrote a lot of symphonies and string quartets. They had four movements. The third was normally a minuet, although it was not for dancing to. Composers such as Mozart and Schubert also wrote a lot of music which was for dancing or easy listening. This was the popular music of its time.
In the Romantic era the waltz became popular. Many waltzes were written to be danced to, but other composers simply wrote music (especially piano music) called “waltz”. Chopin wrote piano pieces called after several kinds of dance: waltz, polonaise, mazurka etc. Ballet had become very popular. There was a lot of dance music in operas, especially in French operas.
In the 20th century “dance music” was often thought of as meaning: music played by dance bands. This kind of music developed into rock and roll in the 1960s. Nowadays there is a wide variety of popular dance music, including hip hop. Spanish or Latin American dances such as the samba, tango and cha cha cha are popular all over the world. Towards the end of the 20th century, a form of dance music known as electronic dance music (EDM) arose. This is electronic music which is made in a specific way as to be danced to, usually in the setting of a nightclub, discothèque or a party. Genres of EDM include post-disco, techno, house and trance, amongst several others.