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What music is used for contemporary dance?

When we think about contemporary dance, many images come to mind, and one of them is the powerful and emotional music that accompanies the movements of the dancers. From the soft sound of a piano to the roar of an electric guitar, contemporary dance music can be complex, diverse, and multi-genre.

In this blog post, we will explore the music used for contemporary dance and the various styles and genres that dancers and choreographers employ to elevate their performances. Whether you’re a dance enthusiast, a music lover, or both, this post is for you.

The Basics of Contemporary Dance Music

Contemporary dance music includes a broad range of styles and genres, but it is typically characterized by its emotional depth, complex rhythms, and dynamic instrumentation. Dancers and choreographers use music to convey a range of emotions, from joy and love to sorrow and loss.

At its core, contemporary dance music is designed to evoke emotions and complement the movements of the dancers. It may include vocals, instrumental arrangements, or a combination of both. The tempo and rhythm of the music may be slow and soft or fast and upbeat, depending on the mood and style of the dance.

The Genres of Contemporary Dance Music

Contemporary dance music often borrows from a range of genres, from classical to electronic. Here are some of the most popular genres and styles used in contemporary dance.

Ballet music

Ballet-inspired movements are a common element in contemporary dance, and ballet music is often used to provide the rhythmic backbone for these performances. Classical ballet music may be accompanied by an orchestra or a solo piano, and it tends to feature precise and delicate instrumentation that complements the grace and fluidity of the dancers.

Jazz music

Jazz music is a common choice for contemporary dance, thanks to its lively and energetic rhythms. Jazz music often includes a range of instruments, including brass, percussion, and woodwinds. The improvisational nature of jazz can also provide dancers with the opportunity to express themselves in unique and creative ways.

Pop and rock music

Pop and rock music are popular genres for contemporary dance, thanks to their upbeat and dynamic rhythms. Pop music often features clear vocals and catchy melodies, while rock music is defined by its electric guitar riffs and pounding drums. Both styles are great for energetic, high-impact performances that showcase the physical strength and athleticism of the dancers.

Electronic music

Electronic music is a more recent addition to the world of contemporary dance, but it has quickly become a popular choice thanks to its diverse instrumentation and innovative rhythms. With everything from techno and trance to dubstep and ambient, electronic music provides a wealth of options for choreographers and dancers looking to push boundaries and experiment with their movements.

Selecting the Right Music for Contemporary Dance

Choosing the right music is crucial to the success of any contemporary dance performance. Choreographers and dancers need to consider a range of factors when selecting music, from the mood and style of the performance to the technical ability of the dancers.

In some cases, choreographers may choose music that is already well-known, allowing the audience to connect more readily with the performance. In other cases, they may opt for lesser-known tracks that allow them to showcase their creativity and push the boundaries of what is possible with dance.


Contemporary dance music is as diverse and dynamic as the dance form itself. From classical ballet music to pop hits and electronic beats, there is no limit to the genres and styles that can accompany a contemporary dance performance.

Whether you are a choreographer, a dancer, or simply an admirer of the art form, there is something truly special about the connection between music and movement in contemporary dance. With the right music as a guide, dancers can transcend the limits of the physical body and create something truly magical on stage.


What are examples of contemporary music?

Contemporary music is a broad term that encompasses various music genres that have emerged since the mid-20th century. Some of these genres include but are not limited to blues, country, electronic/dance, experimental, folk, funk, hip hop, jazz, metal, pop, rock, roots, and world music. Each of these genres comprises their own unique sound, instruments, and lyrics.

Blues music is one of the earliest forms of contemporary music, originating in the United States in the late 19th century. It is characterized by the use of the blues scale and the call and response pattern. Some famous blues musicians of the 21st century include B.B. King, Buddy Guy, and John Mayer.

Country music, on the other hand, originated in the southern United States and has evolved over the years. It is characterized by its storytelling and use of instruments such as the acoustic guitar, banjo, and fiddle. Some contemporary country artists include Blake Shelton, Luke Bryan, and Miranda Lambert.

Electronic and dance music emerged in the 1970s and is characterized by its use of electronic equipment to produce sound. It is often played in nightclubs and is popular among young adults. Examples of electronic and dance music include techno, house, and trance. Some contemporary electronic and dance artists include Deadmau5, Calvin Harris, and David Guetta.

Experimental music is a genre that often defies categorization as it pushes the boundaries of traditional music. It is characterized by its unconventional sounds and use of instruments. Some contemporary experimental musicians include Björk, Radiohead, and Aphex Twin.

Folk music is a genre that has been around for centuries and is characterized by its storytelling and use of instruments such as the acoustic guitar and banjo. Some contemporary folk artists include Mumford & Sons, The Lumineers, and Bon Iver.

Hip hop music, which originated in the Bronx in the 1970s, is characterized by its rhyming lyrics and use of beatboxing. Some contemporary hip hop artists include Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar, and Drake.

Jazz, which originated in the United States in the early 20th century, is characterized by its improvisation and use of instruments such as the trumpet and saxophone. Some contemporary jazz artists include Kamasi Washington, Christian Scott, and Esperanza Spalding.

Metal music evolved from rock music in the 1970s and is known for its heavy guitar riffs and powerful vocals. Some contemporary metal bands include Metallica, Slipknot, and Iron Maiden.

Pop music is a genre that has been around since the 1950s and is characterized by its catchy melodies and simple lyrics. Some contemporary pop artists include Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift, and Ed Sheeran.

Rock music is an umbrella term that encompasses a wide range of sub-genres, including punk, alternative, and grunge. It is characterized by its use of electric guitars and drums. Some contemporary rock artists include Foo Fighters, Imagine Dragons, and The Black Keys.

Roots music is a genre that incorporates various traditional music styles, including blues, country, and folk. It is characterized by its storytelling and use of acoustic instruments. Some contemporary roots artists include The Avett Brothers, Sturgill Simpson, and Margo Price.

World music is a genre that incorporates various music styles from different cultures around the world. It is characterized by its use of traditional instruments and unique rhythms. Some contemporary world music artists include Tinariwen, Bombino, and Angelique Kidjo.

Contemporary music encompasses various genres and styles that have emerged since the mid-20th century. Each genre has its distinct sound and characteristics and is constantly evolving as new artists and sounds are introduced into the mix.

Is contemporary dance the same as hip hop?

Contemporary dance and hip hop are two distinct styles of dance with unique origins, techniques, and focuses. While they both involve physical movement to music and can be performed in a choreographed routine, contemporary dance and hip hop have different influences and goals.

Contemporary dance is a style that emerged in the mid-20th century as a response to the traditional forms of dance that had been dominant in the Western world for centuries. It is characterized by an emphasis on fluid, expressive movement that is often inspired by emotions or stories. Contemporary dance is often performed barefoot or with modern dance shoes, and the music used can range from classical to electronic. At its core, contemporary dance is about pushing boundaries, expressing emotions, and exploring new ways of movement.

On the other hand, hip hop is a style that emerged in African American and Latino communities in the United States in the late 20th century. It is characterized by a syncopated rhythm and a focus on individual expression and creativity. Hip hop incorporates elements of multiple dance styles, including breaking, locking, and popping, and is often performed to rap or hip hop music. Hip hop culture involves more than just dance, encompassing music, art, fashion, and language.

While contemporary dance and hip hop have some similarities, they are ultimately two different styles. Contemporary dance is more focused on artistic expression, while hip hop is about individuality and cultural expression. The technique used in contemporary dance is often more fluid and in contrast, hip hop requires more sharp and strong movements.

While contemporary dance and hip hop may share some similarities, they are fundamentally different styles of dance that appeal to different audiences and serve different artistic purposes. Dancers who are interested in exploring the potential of the human body and emotive expression might enjoy contemporary dance more, while those who are interested in urban culture and individuality might prefer hip hop.

Where to start with contemporary dance?

If you are interested in getting involved in contemporary dance, the first step is always to enroll in a class for beginners. Contemporary dance is a style of dance that emerged in the mid-20th century and is characterized by a fusion of different dance techniques, including ballet, jazz, and modern dance. As a beginner, you will learn the foundational techniques and movements of contemporary dance.

In your first few classes, you may find that your movements may not be as fluid or graceful as you desire- this is perfectly normal! The key to improving is to practice consistently, so try to attend classes regularly. You should also invest time in practicing your movements outside of class.

Aside from classes, it is also essential to prioritize building your strength and flexibility. This involves committing to a regular workout routine to help you develop the physical skills required for contemporary dance. Focus on exercises like squats, lunges, and planks, which will help you develop the core and leg strength needed for contemporary dance.

As you gain more experience in dance, you may want to progress to more advanced techniques, such as turns and leaps. Some dancers may start with learning acrobatic skills that translate well in contemporary dance, such as backbends and cartwheels.

If becoming a professional dancer is your goal, enrolling in an advanced dance program at a university or dance school is the next step to take. Such programs will provide you with the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the technical aspects of contemporary dance, including composition and choreography. Once you have completed your dance training, the final step is to start practicing and honing your craft, as you work on getting your foot in the door of the professional dance industry.

Starting your journey with contemporary dance is relatively simple, as long as you take the necessary steps. Enroll in a beginner’s class, practice consistently, build your strength and flexibility, progress to more advanced techniques and enroll in an advanced dance program if you want to go professional. With time, dedication, and hard work, you can become an accomplished contemporary dancer capable of delivering captivating performances on stage.