Dancer: Jhadija. Photography: Zoca.

The history of rock and metal has left a legacy related to dance which, although small, we should not underestimate. There are movements and emblematic gestures that can be (and must be) used by choreographers.

It is convenient and necessary to polish their technique to incorporate them into a repertoire of dance and for considering them a form of dance art, but they are a valuable resource result of collective creation.

Horns: long live heavy metal

We could consider the sign of the horns as the flagship gesture of the heavy metal.  This gesture has an italian origin and its introduction into rock-metal world is attributed to Ronnie James Dio, Black Sabbath singer. Whatever its origin, it is the most primary and distinctive metal gesture from other genres. As a dancer, it can be used in any figure that does not require the use of hand strength for execution.


Use of horns in a dance movement. Photography: Zyllan.

The motion of the metal-heads

The long hair is characteristic of the scene and there are some head movements associated with it. Although it is not essential, it is visually more spectacular if the person who performs them has long hair.

  • Headbanging: is a two-time movement which involves violent head-shaking to the rhythm of music. The most basic variant involves shaking the head forward and backward. The movement of the trunk or the sign of the horns can go with the headbanging. It is not exclusive of heavy metal: it appears in several dances in the world to induce the trance state (for example, the ritual dance Zaar). Different ways of making a headbanging have been described, after watching musicians on stage performing it. In my opinion, they are not different styles of headbanging, but variations in its execution, since all start from the same binary linear motion of the neck.
  • Windmills: although many people include windmills as a variant of headbanging, as it is a circular movement with a very different technique, I preferred to group them into another category. Windmills use the neck muscles as an engine of the circular motion. They are very aggressive for the neck and requires good warm up to avoid injury.

Play it again, Dave: air guitar

There are also moves that allow you to be a musician for a few bars … but only through the body. These movements are based on imitation:

  • Air guitar: in this type of movement you pretend to play an imaginary guitar. The Annual Air Guitar World Championship is a great resource for observing inspiring variations.
  • Other instruments: you can also simulate body movements typical of a drummer, singer or keyboardist. However, the air guitar is the king.


All these movements are individual and a great resource for choreography, either for soloists or groups. In another article we talk about collective movements reserved only for group choreographies, like the mosh, mosh pit or wall of death.