The Music of Folk Dance

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


The Music of Folk Dance explores the traditional music that accompanies various folk dances from around the world. From square dancing in the American south to Celtic reels in Ireland, this blog takes a closer look at the tunes that make these dances so special.


Folk dance is a form of dance that is usually performed by a group of people, often to traditional music. Folk dances can be found all over the world, and they often represent the culture of the region where they originated.

There are many different types of folk dances, including square dancing, line dancing, contra dancing, and Morris dancing. Some folk dances are quite energetic, while others are more relaxed. Folk dances can be performed indoors or outdoors, and they can be performed by people of all ages.

Most folk dances are danced in groups; however, there are some that can be danced solo or in pairs. Folk dances are often accompanied by traditional music, which can be played on a variety of instruments, including drums, fiddles, guitars, and accordions.

Whether you’re looking to learn a new dance or just want to enjoy watching others perform, folk dance is a great way to get involved in the local community and learn about other cultures.

What is Folk Dance?

Folk Dance has been around since the beginning of time. It is a form of Dance which includes all forms of traditional, ethnic, and regional Dance. Folk Dance is usually performed to a piece of music that is either traditional or composed specifically for that Dance. Folk Dances can be performed either solo or in a group.

Characteristics of Folk Dance

Most folk dances originated in the villages and countryside of Europe, and many of them are still danced there today. They were generally created by the people who danced them and were passed on from generation to generation by word of mouth. Folk dances vary greatly in style, but they often have certain characteristics in common:

-They are usually danced in groups, with couples or sets of dancers facing each other.
-The steps are usually simple and easy to learn.
-The music is usually live, with instruments such as fiddles, guitars, accordions, or bagpipes playing folk tunes or popular songs.
-The dance steps often follow the patterns of the music (such as square dancing).
-They are often danced at festive occasions such as weddings, fairs, and local festivals.

Types of Folk Dance

There are many different types of folk dances from all around the world. Folk dances often originated within a certain culture or community and were passed down from generation to generation.

Some folk dances are simple and easy to learn, while others may be more complicated and require more practice. In some cases, folk dances may be used to tell a story or express certain emotions.

Below is a list of some different types of folk dances:
– square dance: A type of American folk dance that includes 4 couples arranged in a square. The couples will dance together, often swapping partners during the dance.
– Morris dancing: A type of English folk dance that is often performed by groups of 6 dancers. The dancers will use handheld sticks or swords and often wear bells on their feet.
– Irish step dancing: A type of Irish folk dance that is usually performed by solo dancers. It is known for its fast paced tapping movements.
– polka: A type of Czech folk dance that is usually performed by couples. The polka is considered a lively dance with quick turns and steps.
– flamenco: A type of Spanish Gypsy folk dance that is usually performed by solo dancers or couples. Flamenco is known for its passionate, expressive movements and sharp turns.

The Music of Folk Dance

Folk dance music is music accompanying traditional dance and may be contrasted with historical/classical, popular/commercial music. Folk dance music is often anonymous and is heard in communities where music making is a shared, participatory activity; it is an important part of the culture of these communities. The music of folk dance is often created for specific dances, and is therefore highly appropriate to the dance. This makes it different from other genres of music, which may be created for other purposes.

The Instruments

Musical instruments are commonly used in folk dances. The type of music played depends on the type of dance being performed and the region where the dance originated.

Common instruments used in folk dances include:
-Snare drums

The Role of the Musician

In folk dancing, the musician plays an important role in providing the music for the dancers. The type of music depends on the type of dance being performed.

For example, square dances and contra dances are often accompanied by fiddle music, while Morris dancing is usually accompanied by pipe and tabor, or accordion music.

The musician must be able to keep a steady beat, which the dancers use to keep their steps in time with the music. In some cases, such as Morris dancing, the musicians also provide cues to the dancers for when to start and stop dancing.

Folk musicians must also be able to improvise, since many of the tunes they play are not written down. This allows them to add their own personal touch to the music.

Overall, the musician plays an important role in folk dancing by providing the right type of music and keeping a steady beat for the dancers.

The Relationship Between the Dance and the Music

Folk dances are danced to folk music, which is music that has been created by the common people of a country or region. The relationship between the dance and the music is specific; the music must match the steps and movements of the dance exactly. Folk dances are often unique to a particular region or country, and they are usually learned by watching other people dance and then imitating them.


Folk dancing is a great way to get moving and enjoy music from around the world. You don’t need any special skills or training, just a willingness to have fun. You can find folk dances to suit any taste, from energetic reels and jigs to slower, more graceful waltzes and polkas. And there’s always room for improvisation, so you can put your own spin on things.

So put on your dancing shoes and let the good times roll. You’re sure to work up a sweat – and a smile – with folk dancing.

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