Ancient Roman Dance

Like every other Greek culture that came to Rome, the art of dancing had its origin from Greece and it was also seen as a form of entertainment.

When the third-century b.c.e was coming to an end, the wealthy Romans developed an interest in dancing and they decided to enroll their children into dancing schools.

From the ancient Roman view, the establishment of dance schools gave the dance a great reputation which was far above mere entertainment. Romans were allowed to know how to dance, but a skillful display of this art was considered to be a sign of corruption.

At the dawn of the 2nd-century b.c.e, where the Greeks were falling under the dominance of the ancient Romans, the Greek slaves who happened to know how to dance were made to display their dance in Rome for the purpose of entertainment.

Thereafter, the slaves were set-up in dance schools to teach the ancient Romans how to dance. However, the ancient Romans had native dances, an example of this was the Bellicrepa which was said to have been brought by a Roman founder named Romulus and it was a dance performed by warriors in armor.


  • The ancient Romans performed dances only to entertain themselves. Back then, dancers were considered and seen as professionals with low profiles and status instead of being respected.
  • Most of the wealthy ancient Romans didn’t participate in dancing. They employed dancers to entertain them. Most skillful dancers were from Spain or ancient Greece. During the Reign of Emperor Nero, dancing became so attractive, enthusiastic, and persuasive. When the Christian Church dominated, dancing became prohibited in theatres.
  • Etruscan and Greek dance had a  great impact on the Roman dance. Dances like the pyrrhic dance had its origin from Greece but were made popular by the Romans. Priests who had high reputation and status performed war dances while wearing a complete armor with religious shields held with their left hands and a sacred staff held with their right hand. Fertility dances were done by these priests so as to honor
  • In the 1st Century BC, pantomimes were very popular and it required miming roles in accordance with musical backups and dancers contributing to the visual effects just like our Modern-day ballet. During the mimes of antiquity, actors were not allowed. Pantomimes were dramatic exhibitions of subjects whose origin was from the ancient Greek mythology. There were well-prepared stage settings alongside a chorus of vocalists and an Orchestra. The main dancer narrated stories through gestures and signs. There were 2 elements considered to be possessed by dance they include, movement; which anyone can learn, and gesture; which could be skillfully performed by well-trained dances. However, women were given the freedom to perform mimes and pantomimes.
  • Dancing was considered to be an emblem of joy in a future state and they also said the dead were embraced with music & dancing in their new abode. They performed the art of dancing to the music produced from the tibia, Layer, and castanets made of wood, brass, or steel. The ancient Romans emulated the Etruscan tradition in terms of dancing during funerals.
  • Several kinds of Great Dances were executed by Saliiwho was the priest of Mars, along with an ecclesiastical group of twelve elected patricians. During their dance and procession on the 1st day of march and days after, they carried the Acilia while singing hymns and songs before retiring to a large feast in the temple of Mars.
  • The skill and techniques exhibited by pantomime actors were of great importance. The prominent ones were favored by the wealthy and noble patricians including Emperors such as Domitian and Nero. The early Christians banned the sensual and on some occasions, lustful gesture displayed by pantomime dancers in the first century CE, where St. Augustine personally stigmatized the pantomime and described it to be of more moral hazards to the Romans than the circuses. Even after the confrontations made by the Early Christians, the pantomime continued to gain fame and success all across the Roman Empire and many were privileged to accumulate a considerable amount of fortune.
  • An ancient Roman aristocrat named Scipio Aemilianus made advances towards shutting down dancing schools but he only achieved a short-term success.


  • Question: The ancient Roman dance had its origin from where?
    Answer: it had its origin from Greece.
  • Question: What is the name of the ancient Roman native dance and it was founded by who?
    Answer: The ancient Roman native dances were known to be the Bellicrepa and it was founded by a Roman named Romulus. 
  • Question: What is the name of the ancient Roman aristocrat who made advances towards closing down the dancing schools in Rome?
    Answer: Scipio Aemilianus.
  • Question: What dance element could only be displayed by professional dancers?
    Answer:  The gesture.