Glossary of partner dance terms

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This is the list of dance terms that are not names of dances or types of dances. See List of dances and List of dance style categories for those.

This glossary lists terms used in various types of partner dances, leaving out terms of highly evolved or specialized dance forms, such as ballet, tap dancing, with elaborated terminology.

Unless there is much to say about a specific term, there is no reason to put each and every of them into a separate article.

Contents

Abbreviations


A - F

American Smooth

A category of dances in American Style ballroom competitions. It includes Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot and Viennese Waltz. Previously Peabody was also included.

This category loosely corresponds to the Standard category of International Style ballroom.

American Rhythm

A category of dances in American Style ballroom competitions. It includes Cha-cha-cha, Rumba, East Coast Swing, Bolero, Mambo. Sometimes it may include Samba and West Coast Swing.

This category loosely corresponds to the Latin category of International Style ballroom.

American Style

The term describes the particular style of Ballroom dances developed in the USA, as opposed to the International Style. In a narrower sense, it denotes the group of dances danced in American Style ballroom competitions. The group consistis of two categories: American Smooth and American Rhythm.

Backleading

In social dancing strongly relying on Leading and following, this term means that the follower executes steps without waiting for or contrary to the lead of the leader. This is also called anticipation and usually considered bad dancing habit. Sometimes this term is used in the meaning of Hijacking, which is not exactly the same.

Basic figure

One of several step patterns that characterize a dance and constitute its basis. Sometimes there is no strict agreement as to their number. Usually they are the ones taught at the beginner level.

Basic movement

Basic movement is the very basic step that defines the character of a dance. Often it is called just thus: "Basic Movement" or "Basic Step". For some dances it is sufficient to know the basic step performed in different handholds and dance positions to enjoy it socially.

Basic step

Same as Basic movement.

Body contact

Body contact is a style of closed position in partner dancing ("closed position with body contact"); it is also a type of physical connection.

Box Step

Box Step is a dance figure named so because the steps rest in the four corners of a square. It is used, e.g., in #American Style ballroom dances: Rumba, Waltz bronze-level Foxtrot. The leader begins with the left foot and proceeds basically as follows.

First half-box: Forward-side-together
Second half-box: Backwards-side-together

Every step is with full weight transfer. During the second and fourth step it is advised the foot to travel along two sides of the box, rather than along its diagonal.

Rhythm varies. E.g., it is "1-2-3,4-5-6" in Waltz and "Sqq, Sqq" in Rumba.


Call

Call in round dancing and square dancing is a command by a caller to execute a particular dance figure. Voice calls may be complemend by hand signs. See also #Voice cue.

Caller

A caller is a person that calls dance figures in round dances and square dances.


Center

When indicating a direction of movement during a dance, the term "center" means the direction perpendicular to the LOD pointing towards the center of the room. If one stands facing the LOD, then the center direction is to their left.

Center point of balance

Together with the center of mass (COM) and center of gravity (COG), center point of balance (CPB) helps the dancer to better understand and control his movements. CPB differs from the two other centers in two respects. The exact locations of COB and COG is always well-defined, however they significantly depend on the shape the body assumes. In contrast, the CPB during normal dancing (heads up, feet down on the floor) is always at the same place of the dancer body, although defined in a loose way: it is said that the CPB is in the general area of the solar plexus. The reason to distinguish this point lies in the following simple observation. If you put your feet together, you may move your head or your hips pretty far away from your area of support without losing your balance. But if you move your CPB just 2-3 inches away from the equilibrium position, you will feel a strong urge to step in this direction. Therefore awareness of your CPB, both consciously and instinctively, gives you a better control of the overall dance movement and connection with your partner.

Chaines

Chainé turns

Chaines turns

See Glossary of ballet terms#Chaînés.

Chasse

Any of three-step patterns, steps going basically side-together-side. The word came from ballet terminology.

There is a huge variety of them in many dances:

  • The direction may be slightly diagonal or even curving, rather than strictly sideways.
  • Sizes of steps may vary. This also concerns the second, "Together", step: the moving foot may land right beside the standing foot or leave some space, or even barely move from its previous position.
  • Timing may vary. Typical timings in ballroom dances are qqS (1/4, 1/4, 1/2) and SaS ("slow-and-slow", 3/8, 1/8, 1/2).
  • Footwork may vary.

Some specific dance variations are named "chasse", e.g., Tipple Chasse, Scatter Chasse.

Closed dance figure

The term has at least two meanings: regarding dance position and regarding footwork.

Closed Change

Closed Change is a basic step in the Waltz, performed in closed position. The man steps forward on either foot whilst the lady steps backward on the opposing foot (eg: the man steps forward on his right foot whilst the lady steps back on her left). They will then step to the side on the other foot, and conclude the figure by closing the first foot beside the second. Each step takes up a full beat of the music.

Closed position

A position in which partners hold each other involving body support (i.e., not only using handhold) or body contact while facing each other.

Connection

A means of communication between dancers in the couple. Physical and visual types of connection are distinguished.

Contra body movement

In terms of body rotation during a step, this action is opposite to Side lead.

Contra body movement position

The dancer's upper body is rotated towards the leading foot.

Compression

The term has two meanings.

  • Compression is a type of physical connection, opposite to leverage, in which a stress exists at the point(s) of contact directed towards the contact point(s). The term is frequently used, e.g., in swing dance community.
  • Compression is lowering the body by bending the knees in a preparation for a step. The term is mostly used in describing the technique of ballroom dances of Standard (International style) of Smooth (American style) categories: Waltzes, Tango (dance), Foxtrots.

Cuban hip motion

See Latin hip motion.

Dancesport

An official term to denote dance as competitive, sport activity.

Dance formation

See #Formation.

Dance move

Dance pattern

See Dance move.

Dance step

For one meaning, see Dance move, for another one, see "Step".

Direction of movement

See Direction of movement.

Direction of step

See Direction of movement.


Follower

See Lead and follow.

Footwork

In a narrow sense the term is used to descibe the behavior of the foot when it meets the floor. In particular, it describes which part of the foot is in contact with the floor: ball, heel, flat, toe, high toe, inside/outside edge, etc.

In a wider sense it describes other dance aspects related to feet: foot position and foot action.

Formation

  1. Formation or dance formation is a team of dance couples.
  2. Formation of a dance team is the specification of
  • positions of dancers or dance couples on the floor relative to each other and
  • directions the dancers face or move with respect to others.

Formation dance

Formation dance is a choreographed dance of a team of couples, e.g., ballroom formation dance.

Full weight

Full weight or full weight transfer means that at the end of the step the dancer's center of gravity is directly over the support foot. A simple test for a full weight transfer is that you can freely lift the second foot off the floor.

Frame

Dance frames are the upper body positions of the dancers. A strong frame provides connection with your partner and conveys intended movement. A strong frame is where your arms and upper body are held firmly in place without relying on your partner to maintain your frame nor applying force that would move your partner or your partner's frame.

Major types of dance frames are latin, smooth, and swing.

Free spin

A general term to describe a spin without any handhold.

H - R

Handhold

Handhold is an element of dance connection: it is a way the partners hold each other by hands.

Heel Lead

When taking a step in dance, the term "heel lead" describes the fact you land on the heel of your moving foot first before putting weight on the remainder of the foot. This is what happens during usual (non-dance) walking.

Hijacking

In social dancing strongly relying on Leading and following, this term means temporary assuming the leading role by the follower. Also known as stealing the lead. Compare to Backleading.

Inside partner step

A step taken forward into the space occupied by the partner, while the partner steps backwards. During this step feet tracks of both partners overlap. See also Outside partner step.

Inside turn

The term is applied to an individual turn of a partner in the couple. Basically, it denotes the turn directed "inside" of the couple. The meaning is intuitively clear, but it may be performed in numerous ways and in different handholds, so that even accomplished dancers are confused. Most often it is understood that an inside turn is an underarm turn under the right arm if turning left and under the left arm if turning right.

See Direction of movement for more detail.

International Standard

See Standard.

International Style

The term describes the particular style of Ballroom dances, as opposed to the American Style. In a narrower sense, it denotes the group of dances danced in International Style ballroom competitions. The group consistis of two categories: Standard and Latin.

International Latin

See Latin

Jack and Jill

Jack and Jill (J&J) is a format of competition in partner dancing, where the competing couples are the result of random matching of leaders and followers. Rules of matching vary. The name comes from the popular English nursery rhyme, Jack and Jill.

In dance competitons J&J is included as a separate division (or divisions, with additional gradations). J&J is popular at Swing conventions, as well as at ballroom dance competitions in the USA.

Latin

As applied to dances, the term has two meanings.

Latin dance

See Latin.

Latin hip motion

A characteristic type of hip motion found in the technique of performing a step in Latin and Rhythm dances. Sometimes it is also called Cuban hip motion, although some prefer to distinguish the two.

Lead stealing

See Hijacking.

Leader

See Lead and follow.

Leading and following

See Lead and follow.

Leverage

The term describes type of physical connection, opposite to compression, in which a stress exists at the point(s) of contact directed away from the contact point(s). The term is frequently used, e.g., in swing dance community.

Line of dance

Line of dance (LOD) is an imaginary circular line going around the dance hall in counterclockwise direction. To help avoid collisions, it is agreed that the general direction of movement in travelling dances is along the line of dance.

Line of dance is a useful line of reference when describing the directions of steps taken, e.g., "facing LOD", "backing LOD". See also center, wall.

Line of foot

An imaginary straight line passing through the foot in the heel-toe direction.

Moving foot

Musicality

See Musicality.

No foot rise

In descriptions of the footwork of step patterns the abbreviation NFR stands for no foot rise and means that body rise is performed only by the knee action, while the heel remains in contact with the floor. Most often this happens on the first step of a figure taken backwards.

Open dance figure

The term has at least two meanings: regarding dance position and regarding footwork.

Open position

Open position is any dance position in couple dances, in which the partners stand apart facing each other without body support of the closed position, possibly holding each other's hand(s).

Outside partner step

A step taken with partner beside the moving foot. During this step feet tracks of both parners do not overlap. See also Inside partner step.

Outside turn

Cf. Inside turn.

The term is applied to an individual turn of a partner in the couple. Basically, it denotes the turn directed "outside" of the couple. The meaning is intuitively clear, but it may be performed in numerous ways and in different handholds, so that even accomplished dancers are confused. Most often it is understood that an outside turn is an underarm turn under the left arm if turning left and under the right arm if turning right.

See Direction of movement for more detail.

Physical connection

A dance connection by means of physical contact. Types of physical connection are body contact, compression, leverage.

Promenade position

"V" shaped dance position with the man's right hip and the lady's left hip in contact at the point of the "V". The dancer's heads face the open portion of the "V" where the dancers' bodies are slightly apart.

Replace

In brief descriptions of dance figures, replace means replacing the weight to the previous support foot while keeping it in place. For example a "rock back" figure may be described as "step back, replace". Notice that it doesn't require to "replace" the moving foot to the place from where it come in the previous step.

Rhythm

Rond

See Ballet glossary#Rond de jambe. A toe of the straight leg draws a semicircle on the floor. In ballroom dances the direction is usually from the front to back.

S - Z

Shadow position

Both partners face the same general direction, one of them squarely behind of slightly shifted sideways ("in the shadow"). Handholds vary.

Side lead

A body position or action during a step, sometimes also called Same side lead. Side leading is taking the same side of the body in the same direction of the movement of the moving foot. The word "taking" means that if a step is taken squarely forward or backward, e.g., by the left foot, then the left side slightly rotates to the right or to the left respectively, as if the side of the body "leads" the step.

In terms of body rotation, this action is opposite to Contra body movement.

Slot

In slotted dances, the slot is an imaginary narrow rectangle along which the follower moves back and forth with respect to the leader, who is more or less stationary. The as a rule, the leader mostly stays in the slot as well, leaving it only to give way for the follower to pass him. The leader almost never makes the follower to circle around when passing by. They may go into a common rotational figure when the follower happens to come close, but such figures are usually in a tight position and do not change the overall "slotted" appearance.

Slotted dance

Cf. Spot dance, Travelling dance.

A dance style in which the couple movement is fenerally confined to a slot. The most typical slotted dance is West Coast Swing. Some other dances, e.g., Hustle and Salsa may be danced in slotted style.

Smooth

See American Smooth.

Spot dance

Cf. Travelling dance, Spot dance.

A dance that is generally danced in a restricted area of the dance floor. Examples are Rumba, Salsa, East Coast Swing.

Spotting

A technique used during turns. The general idea is to choose a reference point (e.g., partner or a distant point along the line of travel) and focus the eyes on it as long as possible. When during the turn it is no longer possible to see it, the head flips as fast as possible to "spot" the reference point again.

Standard

A category of dances in International Style ballroom competitions. Sometimes in the context of competitions it is called Ballroom or International Ballroom, confusing as it might be. It includes Waltz (also called Slow Waltz), Tango, Foxtrot (also called Slowfox), Quickstep, Viennese Waltz. This category loosely corresponds to the Smooth category of American Style ballroom.

Stealing the lead

See Hijacking.

Step

  • In a strict sense, a step, or a footstep, is a single move of one foot, usually involving full or partial weight transfer to the moving foot. However foot actions, such as tap, kick, etc., are also sometimes called "steps". For example, in a description: "step forward, replace, together" all three actions are steps.
Sometimes it is important to define the exact limits of one (foot)step, i.e., exactly when it begins and ends. In describing the detailed technique in Standard and Smooth dances (Waltz, Tango,...) it is agreed that in figures where the moving foot doesn't stop at the support foot a step begins (and the previous step ends) at the moment when the moving foot passes the support foot. Notice that according to this agrrement such steps do not begin/end at the "counts" 1, 2, etc. which normally match musical beats.

Standing foot

Same as Supporting foot.

Supporting foot

It is also called support foot, a foot which bears the full (or nearly full) weight at the beginning of a step or while the other foot does some action (tap, ronde, etc.).

Sway

The term sway has a specific meaning in the technique of ballroom dancing. Basically, it describes a body position in which its upper part gracefully deflects from the vertical. Entrance to and exit from this position are matters of fine technical detail and differs in various dance figures. The purposes of sway are both better control of dance motion and aesthetics.

Syncopation

In dancing, the term has two meanings: The first one is similar to the musical terminology. The second one is making more (and/or different) steps than required by the standard description of a figure, to address more rhythmical nuances of the music. The latter usage is considered incorrect by many dance instructors, but it is still in circulation, a better term lacking.

Three Ts

Technique, Timing, Teamwork. The criteria for evaluation of dance mastery in Swing dancing community.

Time Step

  • In tap dancing, the Time Step is a recognizable rhythmic tap combination. The term comes from the time of great tap dancers that used their distinctive Time Step to tell the band the desired tempo. Read more here (http://www.ukjtd.force9.co.uk/Timestepsite).
  • In various rhythmic ballroom/social dances, Time Step sometimes refers to steps in place that mark the characteristic rhythm of the dance, "2-3-cha-cha-cha" for Cha-cha-cha, "1,2,3,4" for Paso Doble, "1,2,3,...5,6,7,..." for "Salsa on One", etc..

Timing

The relation of the elements of a dance step or dance figure with respect to musical time: bars and beats.

Toe Lead

When taking a step in dance, a toe lead is where you land on the ball of your foot first.

Track of foot

The trajectory of the moving foot visualized as a narrow imaginary track, rather than a line. For the standing foot, its track is usually assumed to be parallel to that of the moving foot. If both feet are standing, their tracks are the tracks for the intended step.

Travelling dance

Cf. Spot dance, Slotted dance.

A dance that significantly travels over the dance floor, typically in the general direction of the #line of dance. Examples are Waltz, Foxtrot, Polka, Samba.

Visual connection

A dance connection by means of visual awareness of partners in a couple. Visual connection by no means should replace the physical connection, and some consider it to be an inferior form of connection. However it does have its proper usages. Most important are the coordination of styles (arms, etc.) and when dancing without physical contact. An important example of the latter is spotting the partner during turns, especiall free spins.

Voice cue

Voice cues help match rhythmic patterns of steps in dance with music. There are different types of voice cues.

This type of cues is an important element of round dances. They are called calls and called by a caller .

Walk

The Walk is probably the most basic dance move. It exists in almost every dance. Walks approximately correspond normal walking steps, taking into the account the basic technique of the dance in question. (For example, in Latin dance walks the toe hits the floor first, rather than the heel.)

In dance descriptions the term walk is usually applied when two or more steps are taken in the same direction. A single step, e.g., forward, is called just thus: 'step forward'.

Walks can be done in various dance positions: in closed position, #promenade position, shadow position, sweetheart position, etc.

Curved walks are done along a curve, rather than along a straight line.

Wall

When indicating a direction of movement during a dance, the term "wall" means the direction perpendicular to the LOD pointing towards the wall of the room (possibly imaginary). If one stands facing the LOD, then the wall direction is to their right.

See also

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