Folk or national dancing is a distinct reflection of the historical, socio-economic and cultural particularities of specific regions. It plays an important social role, given that any significant group or community gathering is accompanied by dancing in the course of which people get better acquainted and connected, mutually displaying their spiritual and physical abilities. The various ways of participating in dancing show the social status of individuals in the group and community. In additional to bringing together members of various cultural groups, communities and peoples it has a marked educational role.
The traditional dance repertory in Croatia, like many other segments of traditional culture, is conditioned by the differing cultural heritages of specific regions and is heterogeneous and multifarious. The richness and wide variety of dance styles, including the accompanying songs, music and instruments which resulted from the convergence of various cultures, can be identified only after surveying the specific characteristics of individual regions. Central European cultural influences were of crucial importance for lowland and central Croatia as well as for its Mediterranean part. The mountainous region of Croatia fell under South-East European (Balkan) influences. Just as numerous cultural properties of the mountainous regions were taken over from the cultures that existed there before the arrival of the Croats, so were many Mediterranean properties characteristic for the Adriatic islands, its coast and hinterland.
The older layer of the dancing tradition includes the wheel dance and the dances performed in the past with certain ritual meaning at traditional annual events that were, among the Croats, directly connected to marking Catholic holidays, family events, particularly weddings and specific jobs, wherein dancing and mime had a specifically educational role. Folk dances also vary according to music accompaniment, namely, they can be without it, as the soundless wheel dances (gluvak, mutavo, šuplje kolo) with vocal accompaniment, as the so called šetano kolo, or they can be accompanied by vocals and instruments or only instruments. According to the number of dancers, the wheel dance can be solo, in twos, threes, or fours and can be open or closed.
Dalmatian kolo, poskočica-linđo In addition to the customary, traditional way, from the 1930s folk dances began to be performed on stage with a view to presenting regional or national identity in different environments and at international festivals. It began with festivals of folk culture in he organization of Seljačka sloga, a cultural and charitable organization of the Croatian Peasant Party and continued from the 1950s by the urban amateur culture societies' promotion of this form of national culture in changed political and social conditions at prominent (International Folklore Festival, Vinkovci Autumn Festival, Đakovo Festival, Brod Wheel Dance Festival, Dalmatian Folklore Festival "Na Neretvu misečina pala" in Metković) and local, municipal and county folklore festivals.
Established in 1948, the Croatian National Dance and Songs Troupe "Lado" has rallied professional folk dancers and singers.