Social dances are recreational, traditional, and functional. Social dancing can be traced back to three origins: the courts of Europe, international society, and primitive cultures. Between 16th- and 17th-century in Europe, ballroom dancing was a popular entertainment, among nobleman and women.
In America, too, dances were restricted to the gentry who led the republic after passed to the common folk. By the mid-19th century, popular dances attracted various participants; all dances have its origin from Europe: minuets, quadrilles, polkas, and waltzes.
At the time of the World War I, when America's attention was fixed on other lands around the world, the dance developed over the strong international influence. From South America came the tango. European dances inspired the American couple Irene and Vernon Castle to develop several new sophisticated dances that won enormous popularity and that were performed nationwide.
As the 20th century evolved, social dancing was influenced with African and Caribbean rhythms and movements. Swing, the jitterbug, the twist, boogie, and disco dancing all share a free and improvised movement style and a repetitive, percussive rhythm that can be traced to more primitive origins.
Another important influence was brought from Ireland, whose clog dances were first arrived to America in the 1840s. After being modified by local dancers, clog dance steps became the tap dances done by generations of minstrels and music hall performers. Tap dancing was initially performed as an accompaniment to song.
Modern dancers, nevertheless, made tap an own art form. Rhythms grew more complicated, and movements became larger. Greater importance was placed on elements of dance composition and design. Among the greatest tap dance artists are Bill "Bojangles" Robinson and Fred Astaire.