I’ve always loved the combination of dance and travel. To me, there is nothing more exciting than seeing different cultures come together through dance. Whether it’s a wild street party in Columbia or a traditional wedding in Turkey, there is always a reason to get up off your feet for a little boogie!

Most cultures have a style of dance that has been passed down from families and ancestors. The reason dance is so important in so many cultures is because of the significance it holds to their country and loved ones. No matter how old or how young, the movement of dance is a way of connecting together and forming a bond with the tradition, family and friends. Just like food, it’s a way of bonding and enjoying where you come from through different beats and rhythms.

Though some dances are fun and others are energetic, there’s a common trend of exotic dances that go through many cultures. Here are 5 of the most exotic dances around the world.

Flamenco

Flamenco dance is probably one of the most exotic and beautiful dances I’ve ever witnessed. Backpacking through Granada, Spain, I came across a small bar that was promoting a live Flamenco show. Unsure of what to expect, I ended up going in. They led me to a small cave, poured me a glass of ice cold tinto de verano (red wine and lemonade) and dimmed the lights. That’s when the show began.

Flamenco dancing is not only exotic, but it’s quite traditional in the south of Spain. It consists of about 6 core movements which include guitars, the dance, singing, clapping, vocals and clicking. The dancing is very passionate and combines with all the other elements to create a show stopping performance. Women flamenco dancers will usually wear a traditional long dress with their hair in a neat bun as they express dance through the stomping of their feet and sharp arm movements.

Polynesian Dancing

I couldn’t pick just one island so I had to keep this one broad. Polynesian islands have this beautiful kind of dance that usually involves grass skirts, floral headpieces and shell necklaces. With the sound of ukuleles and drums, island dancing is fast, with hips moving to the beat of the drum. Skin is lathered in coconut oil and energy is full on from the get go.

Every island has their own version. You’ve got Hawaiians who perform the hula, Tahitians who have the Ori Tahiti, Maoris and the Poi dance, Samoans with the siva and Tongans who have the Tau’olunga, to name a few. Each culture has special movements that connect to the land. For example, a lot of the dances can relate to nature. The women will move their bodies to represent wind, flowers and the water.

Depending on the island, these dances can consist of fire acts, fans, spears, crowd involvement and other props that make island dancing so entertaining. When traveling to any of these islands, watching a live Polynesian dance is a must. Throw in a traditional meal and you’ve got yourself a perfect Poly night!

Bachata

Latin America is full of exotic dances. From the mambo in Cuba to the bomba in Puerto Rico, there are no shortages of dance styles when traveling through South America or the Caribbean. One of most exotic dance styles from here would have to be the bachata.

Originally from the Dominican Republic, bachata is a very sexy, and a slower style of dancing then the ones we have already mentioned. The name comes from bachata guitar music which is played when dancing bachata.

Though originating in Dominican, this dance has been taken all over the world. It’s usually three steps to every four beats, with a pause or a tap. The bachata is a forward to back, rather than side to side. But it’s much more than a few basic movements. Bachata is all about the way the dancers move their hips and incorporate the style into their own. It can be very sexy or very fun depending on whether you’re at a street party or a night club!

Zaouli

Africa is another continent that is full of incredible and exotic dances. Each country has it’s own special take on different movements that connect them to the history of their country. One of the most exotic ones has to be the Zaouli dance.

The Zaouli dance is done by the Guro people from the Ivory Coast in West Africa. During the performance, a Zaouli mask is worn, where each mask has it’s own story but all are inspired by a girl named Djela Lou Zaouli.

Each Guro village has it’s own dancer who will perform at events like parties or funerals. Once the mask has been show to the audience, the dancer will perform a fast routine to the sounds of a flute. The dance is usually improvised but consists of quick hand and feet moves.

Samba

The word samba alone already sounds exotic. With an African origin but a Brazilian influence, the samba is one of the most popular dance styles to come out of Brazil, mostly because of it’s association with the Rio de Janeiro carnivale.

The samba is a dance that is supported by Brazilian musical instruments and consists of fast beats and even faster footwork. There are different styles of the samba, such as ballroom style and street style vs solo samba and partnered samba.

The one thing all styles have are the sexy sways and quick struts that make the samba so recognizable. The fast energy of the samba makes it a perfect, exotic dance, especially in the streets of the Rio carnival when everyone is dressed in bright colours and surrounded by good vibes. When traveling through Brazil, the samba is a fun dance to learn or partake in after a few caipirinhas!

Dance is something that brings people together. No matter the country, there is something about getting up and dancing that can shift moods, create an incredible energy and bring value to a culture. No matter where you go, you’ll be sure to find an exotic dance, but if you’re stuck, start with these five and soon enough, you’ll be dancing your way around the world!