19 Of The Best Songs About Dance And Dancing

Written by Dan Farrant
Last updated

Dance is a universal language. Two people may not be able to communicate through words, but dancing can break language barriers.

Various demographics come together when a good dance song comes on. Whether it’s upbeat songs that give us a rush of endorphins or slow songs for romantic moments, there’s a wide range of songs perfect for dancing.

So if you find yourself looking for something to dance to, check out our list of 19 of the best songs about dancing.

1. “Sway” By Dean Martin

There’s no better way to start our list than with Dean Martin‘s “Sway.” The song was included in the singer’s 1964 album Hey, Brother, Pour the Wine. Despite how old the song is, it transcends time with its bouncy melody and feel-good lyrics.

Originally, “Sway” was titled “Quien sera?” and had Spanish lyrics about a Mexican man who is down about his failed love life. The modern American version is decidedly more positive, though it retains a sensual dance-floor atmosphere.

In the lyrics, the narrator sings of the spellbinding hold his dance partner has over him. He thinks their sway is like the movements of “a lazy ocean” or “a flower bending in the breeze.” She must be a great dancer to be able to keep his eyes on her despite the presence of other dancers.

2. “Footloose” By Kenny Loggins

There’s hardly an American who was alive in the 1980s and doesn’t recognize the opening strains of “Footloose” by Kenny Loggins. From the very beginning of the track, the guitar riff and drumbeat compel you to get up and move.

The lyrics describe a guy who’s been working hard and is ready to have some fun after his week finally ends. The theme fits the 1984 film Footloose starring Kevin Bacon. His character leads a buttoned-up community to loosen up and find joy in dancing.

Though the song is nearly 40 years old, people today can still do the traditional steps to this tune when it plays at weddings or parties.

3. “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)” By Whitney Houston

This catchy song was released in 1987 as the lead single from Whitney Houston’s second album, Whitney. In the following decades, “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)” has become a pop classic. It stands as a dance favorite as well as a popular choice at karaoke bars.

The lyrics find the singer feeling lonely as the night comes, wishing she had someone to dance with. But not just someone who knows how to dance. She’s looking for a person to connect with and who loves her.

“I Wanna Dance” won a Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and climbed to the top of the charts in 18 countries after its release.

4. “Boot Scootin’ Boogie” By Brooks & Dunn

The American country music duo Brooks & Dunn took over the ’90s’ two-step scene with “Boot Scootin’ Boogie.” A sassy fiddle and honky-tonk piano accent the syncopated rhythm. It virtually begs any cowboy to get up and strut his stuff.

The message of the song comes from the perspective of a hardworking, blue-collar guy. He’s clocked out of work for the day and plans to go to a nearby honky tonk.

According to him, the bar has “whiskey, women, music and smoke.” Just what he needs after a hard day at work. So he heads downtown to do-si-do with his sweetheart, leaving his worries behind.

This country staple introduced one of the most popular line dances in American culture. It flows to an 8-count and includes plenty of flamboyant Western kicks and spins.

5. “You Should Be Dancing” By Bee Gees

Our next song with “dancing” in the title is one that launched Bee Gees into fame. “You Should Be Dancing” catapulted the group to the top of the Billboard charts at a time when disco was king. That’s thanks to the song appearing in the movie Saturday Night Fever.

In the verses, the singer describes the attraction he has for his girlfriend, an alluring but dangerous woman. The chorus goes, “What you doin’ on your bed on your back?” “On your back” could mean doing nothing.

So the song urges the listeners to stop being lazy and inject some movement into their life, presumably, on the dance floor.

6. “Rock Steady” By Aretha Franklin

The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, deserves her nickname more than ever with “Rock Steady.” Right away, the funky groove puts a wiggle into your shoulders and transports you to a vision of a dance venue where you can release some tension.

Unlike other songs, there isn’t much to analyze in “Rock Steady.” At its core, the song is all about listening and grooving to the music.

The singer urges her listeners to “move your hips from left to right” and do the “funky dance all night.” And when you go for a drive, “while you’re moving, rock steady.”

7. “Just Dance” By Lady Gaga

With Lady Gaga’s massive international success, it’s strange to remember that once upon a time, she was new on the scene, just like everybody else. “Just Dance” marks her very first hit single before her rise to global celebrity made her a household name.

This track refers to dancing at the club and all the hot mess of partying that can surround those plans. Though she’s lost her phone and keys and isn’t sure what else the night holds, she decides to stop worrying about it and dance.

The music is a mix of synth-pop, dance beats, and electro-pop. It’s often played at clubs now, just as during its initial popularity in 2008.

8. “Shake Your Body (Down To The Ground)” By The Jacksons

This 1978 dance hit by the Jacksons borrowed from two other classic funk tunes. The rhythm of “Shake Your Body” comes from a Teddy Pendergrass song called “Get Up, Get Down, Get Funky, Get Loose.” The chorus was inspired by Marvin Gaye’s improvised line in “Got To Give it Up.”

The lyrics are a motivational speech for dancing. Michael Jackson, on lead vocals, is trying to encourage the girl he’s interested in to get out on the dance floor with him, even though he doesn’t know the future of their relationship.

The Jacksons took this single to the top of the charts in multiple countries. It resurfaced in many of their live shows over the years.

9. “Dancing Queen” By ABBA

The Swedish Europop group ABBA had numerous hits over the years, but none more enduring than “Dancing Queen.” It was a massive success, hitting #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also became a standard of dance-pop, which is only fitting for a song with “dance” in the lyrics.

The song finds a young woman who goes out on a Friday night in search of a place to dance. And perhaps a guy to dance with.

But as it turns out, she doesn’t find a guy but is in the mood to dance. The dancing queen enjoys herself and dances the night away. As the song goes, “You can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life.”

The 2008 film Mamma Mia, based on the Broadway stage play, introduced its charms to a whole new generation.

10. “Twist And Shout” By The Beatles

This goldie among oldies had already been released in the early 1960s. But it took The Beatles for “Twist and Shout” to become an iconic dance hit.

“Twist and Shout” is about nothing more than the act of dancing. The singer describes all the ways you can move around to the music. You can “shake it up” and “twist and shout.” If nothing goes well, then you can “work it out.”

The singer beckons his girl to join him as he has fun to the beat. It’s hard not to give in to dancing when the Beatles keep saying, “Come on, come on, come, come on, baby, now.”

11. “Safety Dance” By Men Without Hats

The Canadian synth-pop new-wave band Men Without Hats wrote this song when their lead singer was pogo dancing in a club and got kicked out. It’s become a tongue-in-cheek favorite for karaoke as well as silly dance moves with friends.

The lyrics are chock full of attitude, with the singer telling authority that he’s free to dance how and when he wants. He goes one step further by saying that his friends should all be dancers too. He tells everyone, “We can dance, we can dance… Safety dance.”

The lead singer explains that the song is a call for freedom of expression. It’s also a protest against bouncers keeping dancers from doing the pogo dance in clubs during that time.

12. “Hips Don’t Lie” By Shakira

Colombian singer Shakira is notorious less for her Latin music than for the way she moves to it. If you want to know what we mean, watch the video for her 2005 hit “Hips Don’t Lie” above.

In the song, she sings about the way she can work magic with her dancing. Rapper Wyclef Jean interjects various lines about how her dancing drives him crazy. We can tell it’s his first time seeing her on the dance floor.

But it’s not just him that she entrances with her dancing but everyone as well. He’s reduced to saying, “Nobody cannot ignore. The way you move your body, girl.”

13. “(Shake Shake Shake) Shake Your Booty” By KC And The Sunshine Band

Another song that you will not resist dancing to is “Shake Shake Shake” by KC and the Sunshine Band. This was their third #1 single, which charted in 1976 as part of the disco-boogie era.

According to the bandleader, the lyrics are strictly intended to be an invitation to get up and dance. There isn’t really much to the song lyrics-wise but the repeated, “Shake shake shake, shake shake shake, shake your booty.”

The band faced controversy when some listeners interpreted it to have sexual undertones. Despite this mishap, it remains one of the band’s most recognizable songs. It is fundamental to the establishment of the disco sound.

14. “Dancing On The Ceiling” By Lionel Ritchie

Our next song, “Dancing on the Ceiling,” is the title track to Lionel Ritchie’s 1986 album and third studio recording. It charted in the U.S. but also saw massive success in Sweden, Norway, and Belgium.

Quite simply, the lyrics describe a wild house party. The guests are having so much fun it feels like they’re dancing up the walls and upside down on the ceiling.

The singer continually urges them to lose control. He suggests that they should “go ’round and ’round and turn upside down.” He further encourages everyone not to hold back and keep the party going through the night.

15. “Let’s Groove” By Earth, Wind, & Fire

The American band Earth, Wind, & Fire was one of the pre-eminent bands in the 1970s and 1980s. Their fusion of funk, disco, pop, soul, and world music elements spanned multiple decades. They also gave the industry many dance hits in their heyday. One of which is “Let’s Groove.”

This tune is a feel-good anthem for anyone interested in dancing the night away. It celebrates the connection people have when they join together to move and groove.

And so the singer is urging his lover to “let this groove, get you to move.” He further urges her to “let this groove set in your shoes” so they can dance the night away.

16. “Let’s Dance” By David Bowie

Continuing with our list, we have a song that mentions “dance” but has a deeper meaning. This is not new when it comes to David Bowie‘s songs, which include “Let’s Dance.”

At first, it sounds like any other dance track, incorporating a catchy beat with Bowie’s eccentric vocals taking center stage. When you listen to the words, you’ll think that the singer is simply urging his lover to dance with him.

But according to the record’s producer, Bowie was referring to the dance that people do in real life. In particular, the line “put on your red shoes and dance the blues” refer to people feeling down inside but pretending to be happy.

17. “Canned Heat” By Jamiroquai

Quirky ‘90s group Jamiroquai is no stranger to danceable music, having put out “Virtual Insanity” just a few years prior to “Canned Heat.” The latter is a perfect blend of the band’s sound, which uses elements of acid jazz, funk, and electronica to create a unique aesthetic.

The lyrics to “Canned Heat” are complex and introspective. The singer muses on how he used to feel the weight of his burdens and strive for religious wisdom. We can tell he is stressed until he discovers dance.

The freedom he feels while moving allows him to experience life better than ever. He surrenders to dancing, saying there’s “nothing left for me to do but dance.”

18. “Mambo Italiano” By Rosemary Clooney

Songwriter Bob Merrill wrote “Mambo Italiano” for Rosemary Clooney during the peak of her career. Since that time, virtually every pop singer of the mid-century era gave it their own flair, making it a classic oldies favorite.

We can tell that the lyrics borrow from Italian culture. It tells the story of an Italian girl who returns to Napoli (Naples) because she misses “the scenery, the native dances, and the charming songs.”

The singer mentions some foods and traditions of Napoli. She also references some dance types, including tarantella, rhumba, and mambo.

19. “All She Wants To Do Is Dance” By Don Henley

Many would recognize Don Henley as the drummer and co-lead vocalist of the rock band Eagles. In 1980, he went on a solo career after the Eagles disbanded. His second album, Building the Perfect Beast, includes “All She Wants to do is Dance.”

Surprisingly, the song is not about a woman wanting to dance. Critics speculate that it’s a commentary on the rebellion among youths in America. Instead of being involved in important matters, they’re more concerned about having fun.

Between the singer’s observations is the interspersed line, “And all she wants to do is dance, dance, dance.” The singer complains that while there are acts of rebellion going on, all the person wants to do is dance. Or, in other words, just party and have fun.

Summing Up Our List Of Dancing Songs

Dancing has always been closely intertwined with music. After all, it’s more engaging to dance to the perfect song.

As you can see from our list above, dancing is another inspiration for the brilliant and creative minds of songwriters. They were able to come up with songs that have cemented their place in music history.

So whether it’s classic or modern dances, our songs complement different dancing styles. We hope you found some of them as your go-to when you feel like moving your body to the beat.

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Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 15 years, helping hundreds of thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. He plays the guitar, piano, bass guitar and double bass and loves teaching music theory.