Though dance is one of the oldest languages on Earth, its cultural significance has at times gotten lost in translation. But around the globe some dances are now being revived—and others are getting a fresh spin in the spotlight.
In 2011, for example, Beyoncé showcased Eskista—a shoulder-shimmying Ethiopian dance—in the video for her hit song “Run the World (Girls).” And in parts of the United States, interest in square dancing is kicking up again after years of decline.
Some revivals bend gender. Women-only clubs are now a trend in morris dance, the 500-year-old English pastime that was once mostly male. And men in Turkey are performing as belly dancers, as they did in the Ottoman Empire.
Dance has made comebacks before. During the Renaissance, dancing in general regained popularity as the church’s control of secular life waned. Even the waltz, now considered a classic, was once banned because it encouraged close physical contact between the sexes.
This story appears in the December 2017 issue of National Geographic magazine.
Lead image: The apsara dance dates from Cambodia’s medieval Angkorian civilization. The tradition nearly vanished in the 1970s when the Khmer Rouge regime selectively killed artists and intellectuals. But apsara performances have resumed recently, part of an effort to reclaim Cambodia’s cultural heritage. - Photograph by Imagebroker