What Is a Dance Festival?

Jessica Ellis

A dance festival is an organized event where dance performance is celebrated. Dance festivals may include competitions for individual dancers or teams, or may simply serve as a cultural event focused on dance. Some dance festivals seek to show off talented regional, national, or international dance companies in all categories, while others focus on the performance of a specific style of dance.

Ballet is often seen at dance festivals.
Ballet is often seen at dance festivals.

One popular type of dance festival focuses on a competitive element. Dance companies and individual dancers must submit applications to perform, and may be sorted into categories by age, style, or experience level. Performances are judged by dance professionals, who may hold a seminar with the dancers following their performance, to suggest improvements and discuss the event. Prizes, such as trophies, money, or scholarships to dance training camps, may be given out for the best dancer or dance team.

A dance festival can include break dancing.
A dance festival can include break dancing.

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Dance festivals may also serve as a community event for a region. In some areas, all local dance studios and schools are invited to participate in the festival, which may last for several days and is usually open to the public. A community dance studio allows local citizens to see the wide range of dance opportunities available in their region and obtain information about nearby dance programs and classes. These festivals often feature a wide range of dance styles, including break dancing, aerobic dance, ballroom dancing, ballet, and jazz.

A dance festival may celebrate the hula dance.
A dance festival may celebrate the hula dance.

A cultural dance festival usually focuses around a specific holiday or event where dance is used as a major part of the celebration. In Japan, the Obon festival is an annual event meant to honor the dead, at which special Obon dances are performed in many different regions. Both trained dancers and local community members can participate in the Obon dances, and may use colorful props such as lanterns or fans. Cultural dance festivals often attract a large tourist element, and many communities use these events to stimulate travel and tourism throughout the region.

A dance festival may include modern dance.
A dance festival may include modern dance.

A dance festival may also celebrate a specific style of dance, such as hula, ballet, or cheerleading. In these events, dance studios may send their best dancers or teams to compete against other dancers from local areas and even other countries. Often competitive, stylistic dance festivals may last several days, and may also include training seminars for the dancers, and community events and activities for the audience. Participating in a stylistic dance festival is a great way for young dancers to be exposed to the wide range of dance opportunities in their particular style, and can be a great team bonding exercise for a dance group.

Dance festivals may include ballroom dancing.
Dance festivals may include ballroom dancing.

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Discussion Comments


The great part about dance festivals, particularly ones with international dance, is that it teaches people about other cultures. Every culture has a unique dance and I love learning about them. I make it a point to attend dance festivals where I can see different regional folk dances.


I'm not sure if this can be called a dance festival, but I witnessed a flash mob the other day and it was very cool.

A very large group just showed up downtown and started dancing. They clearly practiced it before but it was choreographed. People in the street were shocked but it was very nice and it really put a smile on everyone's face.

I think we need more flash mobs. I'm sure it takes some planning and organizing. But as an audience, I can say that it's very impressive and pleasing. I felt like joining in! I would have if I knew the steps.


I went to a dance festival last week. It wasn't a competition, it was just a festival with different types of dance performances for entertainment. I got to see modern dance, hip hop, ballroom dancing, salsa and belly dancing. It was a lot of fun and all of the dancers were very good. I enjoyed all of them, but I think that the salsa and belly dancing were the best.

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