La Volta (1550s) (“the turn”) La volta was a 16th-century court dance for couples that called for intimate embraces and high jumps that tested the standards of propriety. It became more respectable after Queen Elizabeth I danced it.
The Waltz (1810s) Though tame by today’s standards, the close embrace and continuous looping feeling from the 3/4 meter were real head-turners back in those days.
The Cancan (1860s) The high kicks exposed petticoats and legs of the dance-hall girls who performed the cancan in 19th-century Paris, outraging the general public, who considered it scandalous.
The Charleston (1920s) Requiring a bouncy carriage, loose limbs and quick footwork, the Charleston captured the fun and fancy-free nature of the Roaring ’20s. It was the first social dance a woman could do unaccompanied by a partner.
The Twist (1960s) This dance—done by rotating the hips, knees and heels side to side—took off after Chubby Checker first performed it on “American Bandstand.” Doctors expressed concern that it could cause knee and back injuries.
Twerking (2010s) Lean forward and shake your hips and glutes really fast and you’re twerking. Though the move originated in West African dance decades ago, it was Miley Cyrus’ 2013 performance at the MTV Video Music Awards that cemented its place in mainstream pop culture.