Because so many popular line dances are set to country music, a lot of people believe that line dancing has its origins from country and western dancing. However, line dancing actually originated in the age of disco, however, its roots can be traced back to folk dances such as the Virginia reel. It gained more attention with Billy Ray’s Cyrus’s smash hit, Achy Breaky Heart. Pop music also began to see an influx of line dancing, with the Macarena, a hybrid folk-pop dance number.
Line dancing, ultimately, has its roots in European folk dancing. Folk dance is a participatory dance form that is traditionally performed by the members of a certain community. This type of dance is believed to have been developed by the agricultural sector for secular, and sometimes ritualistic, purposes. Most of the well-established western dance forms are actually derived from folk dance, such as the waltz.
Folk dancing emigrated to the USA and gave rise to line dancing. There are other forms of folk dance, such as those from Pacific Islanders and the Native Americans, that bear a distinct similarity to line dancing today. However, these folk dances evolved independently and the similarities are most likely just coincidences. Moreover, it is unlikely that there is a direct connection even though they evolved in parallel.
Line dances started accompanying many popular music styles since the early 1970’s. The Madison, for instance, was a popular line dance in the late 1960’s. Some country-music songs were also strongly associated with line dancing such as Walkin' Wazi and Cowboy Boogie. In fact, more than a dozen line dances were created specifically for country songs in the 1980’s.
Line dancing rose to public recognition when Billy Ray Cyrus released Achy Breaky Heart in the 1990’s. All around the region, line dancing became the “in” thing. Dance studios started offering line dancing classes, as the dance gradually became affiliated with country music. Because of the country music scene, line dancing also became popular in Europe and Australia.