Dance Subject Headings

Dance Subject Headings

ANSS Subject and Bibliographic Access Committee

Question/Answer on Cataloging Issues – September 2013

Question: What subject headings are used for materials on dance?

By Carolyn J. McCallum, Wake Forest University

In the Routledge Encyclopedia of Social and Cultural Anthropology, dance is defined as “human behaviour comprising purposeful, intentionally rhythmical and culturally patterned sequences of non-verbal body movements. Distinct from ordinary motor activities, this motion (in time, space and with effort) has inherent and ‘aesthetic’ value and symbolic potential” (Hanna, p.180).

“The anthropology of dance crosses over the anthropology of cultural studies, gender, the body, medical anthropology, music, politics and religion” (Hanna, p.180)

Within the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH), numerous general and specific terms are applied to the subject of dance. Listed below are some examples incorporating the main subject heading Dance, which can be subdivided geographically, topically and by genre in a variety of ways:

Dance—Anthropological aspects

  • Dance—Anthropological aspects—Latin America
  • Dance—Anthropological aspects—Hawaii
  • Dance—Anthropological aspects—Cross-cultural studies

Dance—Cross-cultural studies

  • Dance—East Asia—Cross-cultural studies

Dance—Folk and national dances


  • Dance—Africa—Folklore 

Dance, Prehistoric (may subdivide geographically)

Dance—Religious aspects

  • Dance—Indonesia—Bali (Province)—Religious aspects
  • Dance—Religious aspects—Nepal
  • Dance—Religious aspects—Shamanism

Dance—Social aspects

Dance—Sociological aspects

Specific types of dancing are represented by the following subject headings:


Ballroom dancing – Narrower subject headings for individual dances associated with the world of ballroom dancing are provided by LCSH.

  • Bolero (Dance)
  • Cha-cha (Dance)
  • Foxtrot (Dance)
  • Mambo (Dance)
  • Merengue (Dance)
  • Paso doble (Dance)
  • Quickstep (Dance)
  • Rumba (Dance)
  • Salsa (Dance)
  • Samba (Dance)
  • Tango (Dance)
  • Waltz

Belly dance

Break dancing

Charleston (Dance)

Clog dancing

Disco dancing

Folk dancing

Hip-hop dance

Krumping – “A style of dance that originated in the African American community of South Central Los Angeles, California, and that involves elaborate face-painting and fast and aggressive freestyle dance moves” (LCSH Authorities).

Line dancing

Minuet (Dance)

Moshing – “Refers to the act in which audience members at live music performances push and/or slam into each other for the purpose of fun activity and in a non-hateful way most of the time; a precursor to moshing, called “slam dancing”, can be traced back to 1970s in the form of “the pogo” and was later developed into moshing by the hardcore punk subculture of the early 80s; while many use the terms slam dancing and moshing interchangeably” (LCSH Authorities).

Religious dance

Shag (Dance)

Square dancing

Tap dancing

Voguing (Dance)

Wedding dances


For works on dances performed by Native American tribes, subject headings list the tribe’s name first followed by dance (e.g. Choctaw dance, Apache dance, etc.). With dancing often accompanying or being core to a specific rite or ceremony, one may also want to do a broader search using a specific tribe’s name followed by the free floating subheading Rites and ceremonies (e.g. Cherokee Indians—Rites and ceremonies).

Examples of dances indigenous to specific cultures and represented in LCSH’s thesaurus include:

Dragon dance


Hula (Dance)

Lion dance

Polka (Dance)


Subject headings used for events where dancing takes place:

Dance festivals (may subdivide geographically)

For works dealing with informal dances, the subject heading Dance parties is utilized, whereas Balls (Parties) is reserved for works concerned with formal dances.

Gay and lesbian dance parties (may subdivide geographically)

Sock hops


Dancing that takes place in strip clubs and gentlemen’s clubs is represented by the subject headings Lap dancing and Pole dancing.

In closing, this is just a sample of the numerous Libraryof Congress Subject Headings assigned to the subject of dance.



Hanna, J. L. (2010). Dance. In A. Barnard and J. Spencer (Eds.), Routledge encyclopedia             of social and cultural anthropology (2nd ed.).