Dance Tidbits – Dances of Australia

When most people think of Australia, they automatically think of the term “down under.” Well down under there are a broad variety of dance styles coming from Australia. The dances range from indigenous Australian bush dances to ballet, ballroom, contemporary and multicultural dances. There are over 200 national backgrounds represented in Australia.

The traditional indigenous Australian dances are greatly associated with song and telling stories. In some cases, animals are even imitated.  The story telling process reflects the roles, responsibilities, geography and rituals of these indigenous people in their society and environment. Many of these indigenous Australian groups hold their dances in a secret and sacred manner.  And sometimes men have separate dances from the women.

There is a term Corroboree used in general Australian culture to refer to Australian Aboriginal dances. It is quite common in Australia for the Aboriginal people to perform Corroborees for tourists. Since the latter part of the 20th century, the influence of indigenous Australian dance traditions has been developed as a concert and used in contemporary dance particularly with the National Aboriginal Islander Skills Development Association and the Aboriginal Center for the Performing Arts.

You could say that Bush dancing has developed in Australia as their form of traditional dance. Bush dancing’s origins

are from England, Ireland and Scotland with other European countries thrown into the mix. A favorite European dance that is done a lot in Australia originated in Ireland called the Céilidh aka “Pride of Erin.” Céilidh is a traditional Gaelic

(Irish) social gathering that involves Gaelic folk music and dancing. These Irish folk dances are still very popular in Ireland, Scotland and Australia! Another dance that is quite popular in Australia is the historic dance known as Quadrille. Quadrille is performed by four couples in a rectangular formation. It is also the introduction to traditional square dancing and can also be known as “The Lancers.”

The Lancers got its name during the 1820s because the lance was becoming a very popular cavalry weapon in the military. The real name of the Lancers dance (or Lancier) was originally called the Quadrille of the Lancers and later shortened to just Lancers. It is quite common to also see dances from the Baltic region, India, Indonesia and Africa. These dances are frequently taught in community centers and dance center schools in Australia. Some of the locally originated dances of Australia include the Waves of Bondi, which is an authentic Australian dance with Irish influence. It starts out with women on one side and men on the other side with various line dancing technique type steps with the women and men eventually ending up as partners performing the steps together.

Another Australian favorite is the Melbourne Shuffle also known as Rocking. It is a dance that originated in the late 80s in the underground rave music scene in Melbourne, Australia. The basic movements in the dance are a fast heel-and-toe action with a style that fits various types of electronic music in clubs. People who dance the Shuffle are often referred to as Rockers. The last dance of Australia I would like to tell you about is the New Vogue. Interestingly enough, this dance originated in the 1930s. Since then, it has become an important part of the Australian ballroom scene. The New Vogue holds as much importance in social and competition dancing as Latin or International Standard dances. The New Vogue is made up of Sequence dancing. Sequence dancing is a form of dance in which a preset of dance movements are followed and usually done to music. Sequence dancing can include dances of many different styles. However, the term mostly refers to ballroom dances.

The Australian Ballet is the foremost classical ballet company in Australia. It is based in Melbourne and performs works from the classical repertoire as well as contemporary works by major Australian and international choreographers. Regular venues include the Melbourne Arts Center, Sydney Opera House, Sydney Theatre and Adelaide Festival Center, to name a few of the most popular places to go to see dance being performed in Australia. Baz Luhrman’s popular 1992 film, ‘Strictly Ballroom’, starring Paul Mercurio, contributed to an increased interest in dance competition in Australia. Another popular influence in dance competition was the television show, ‘So You Think You Can Dance.”

So, if you are ever in Australia, you will not have to look very far or “down under” to find dancing everywhere in almost any capacity. Australia is for sure a dance-diversified country!

Thought Of The Week:

“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give” – Winston Churchill


Recent Posts

See All


Shane Meuwissen is the Media Specialist for Fordney Foundation.  He is a former dance instructor who know works with his company Slow Motion Dance Videos capture the beauty of dancing. If you would like to learn more about Shane and his video work, visit his website