I thought about it the other day - Virtually all popular music in the 20th century was written for the dance floor.

Is there any classical music written specifically for dances? I think I don't know any. I mean music that the composer intended people to actually dance to. Dance and movement is such a primal thing, so it's weird to me that I can't think of examples.

I don't count things like Bach suites for violin, cello etc. - these are dance forms, But I don't think he really meant for people to dance to this, same goes for Chopin waltzes and Mazurkas IMO. Also not Tchaikovsky ballets - it's dance alright, but not for the audience to dance.

Surely some composers composed music for the dance floor of their patron... Do you know any examples?

  • 4
    Why don't you think that Bach's movements which were named as dances were actually to be danced to? What do you think people did dance those dances to?
    – danmcb
    Nov 18 '19 at 9:13
  • 3
    Sarabandes, gavottes, minuets, galliardes, the list is long. How are you classifying 'classical'?
    – Tim
    Nov 18 '19 at 9:13
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    Where do you get the idea that "Virtually all popular music in the 20th century was written for the dance floor."? That is just so patently incorrect as to be risible.
    – Tetsujin
    Nov 18 '19 at 9:14
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    I don't know if Johann Strauss composed specifically for the dance floor, but his waltzes are quite danceable ( youtube.com/… )
    – NickQuant
    Nov 18 '19 at 9:17
  • 2
    @NickQuant Not to mention the rest of the Strauss dynasty!
    – JimM
    Nov 18 '19 at 9:39

Is there any classical music written specifically for dances? I think I don't [know] any.

You have essentially answered your question - albeit, by excluding much of the classical music that was composed specifically for the purposes of dancing to it... Also, there are quite a few misconceptions in your question.

For starters, you seem to have a misunderstanding of the meaning of "Dance Forms." These are compositions that are made for a specific type or style (or "form") of dance... The word form in this case refers to a dance and not a 'musical form,' such as Strophic form or Binary form; of which a 'dance form' may or may not be composed. Composers MOST DEFINITELY intended for people to dance to these compositions. And, patrons would commission composers for the explicit purpose of writing dance music for their courts.


ballets - it's dance alright, but not for the audience to dance.

While this may be arguable in our modern age, ballet was very much intended for audience participation during the classical period. From this article:

The origins of ballet dancing can be traced to the Italian Renaissance courts of the 15th century. Dance masters would teach the steps to nobility and the court would participate in performances as a form of social entertainment. This practice continued for several centuries.

Finally, what you consider as "dance-y" is a subjective perspective likely due to circumstances of our modern society. Just as music that is 'popular' has changed since the 15th century, it is simply natural for preferences to change over time about music with which to dance, as well... For example, much jazz was originally created for the purpose of dancing to it. But, I would agree with someone that argued that a lot of that music doesn't feel or sound "dance-y" at all - even though the "Jazz Age" is barely 100 years old and much of that music is made with a drum-kit/trap-kit which is (arguably) THE instrument needed for making modern dance music.


I think you make good point to exclude stylized dances like Baroque keyboard suites where the music fits the general meter and tempo of dance styles, but wasn't actually used for dance accompaniment and ballet where the audience did not dance.

Having acknowledged that there was classical music written with the intention to accompany actual social dancing. Mozart's various German dances and sets of minuets come to mind. Waltzes from many composers also.

I think the important thing to look for are orchestration where a large ensemble was used to provide enough sound to fill the dance space, and dances in a set where the composer created enough material to cover the length of a dance event. This was the kind of material used to accompany social dancing.

Also, you can find lots of collections of dance tune which were published simply on piano staff, often figured bass with melody in the treble. I've seen such sets title like "for flute or violin" or something similar. That kind of material would have been used for actual dancing, but probably for smaller events.


There is not a whole lot of music for Viennese Waltz in formal or ballroom settings that is not both actively used for dancing as well as considered classical music.

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