Dance Terms from A - Z

Concepts and Principles Terms



Activate
Doing a preparatory action, which sets a movement in motion. (i.e. Activate the moving leg).

Anticipating
Is a premature action taken by the follower before a signal is given by the leader.

Attitude
A turned out position of the leg where the knee is gently flexed and is raised off the floor either forward or backward.

Axis
An imaginary vertical line around which the body turns. The line originates at the bottom of the standing foot and extends through the center of the body and out through the top of the head.

Back Line
The line across the back of the shoulder, from elbow to elbow. In closed Position, a good

Back Line is expansive and slightly rounded, with no pinching of the shoulder blades. Related terms are Frame and Top Line.

Blending
Adjustment or changes in body position, balance or weight made during the last few steps of a pattern to permit the next figure to be started.. Adjust smoothly from one dance position to the next.

Blocks of Weight
The primary sections of the body arranged vertically including the head, shoulders, chest, abdomen, hips, legs, and feet. Related terms are Alignment, Poise, and Posture.

Body Contact
The area of physical contact between the leader and follower’s body when in Closed, Promenade, or Outside Partner position.

Body Flight
The natural release of body weight form a swinging action. Body Flight is found in the Waltz, Foxtrot, Quickstep and Viennese Waltz.

Body Swing
A pendulum-type swinging action of the body used in Waltz, Foxtrot, Quickstep and Viennese Waltz to varying degrees.

Body Weight
The concept of the weight of the entire body as a unit. The relationship of the body weight to the feet is determined primarily by the Center, but can be affected by the weight of individual body parts.

Carriage
The way one carries oneself, (i.e. poise, posture).

Center
The place on the body located approximately a few inches below the belly button. Placing one’s Center correctly over the standing foot is an essential factor in achieving balance.

Change of Weight
The full transference of body weight from one foot to the other.

Check
A clear and pronounced stopping action on a step, frequently followed by a change of direction.

Collect
To complete the changing of weight to the standing foot by drawing the moving foot underneath the body before moving to next step.

Compression
(1) (In Ballroom):The lowering of the center, resulting from the bending of the knee of the supporting leg in order to commence a movement properly.
(2) (In Latin): The squeezing and shortening of the area between the rib cage and the hip that results in the isolation of the ribs or hips.

Connection
A means of communication between partners either visually or by a physical point of contact.

Control
The ability to maintain balance and stability throughout the body while dancing.

Counter Balance
The act of each partner “pulling away” by applying equal and opposite body weight to their connection in order to maintain balance.


Directional Movement
Movement toward a specific direction (as opposed to rotational movement. (i.e. progressive, lateral and diagonal)

Dynamics
Changes in the various qualities of dancing such as mood, speed height and intensity.

Expression
The communication of feeling, character and emotion felt by the dancer through body language and facial expressions.

Fake
Adding or skipping a step in a particular pattern usually used to get onto the same foot as one’s partner.

Figure 8
Usually used to describe the path of the hip rotation in Latin dances that mimics the shape of the number eight.

Flex
(1) A bending of the foot to achieve a 90º or less angle of the foot in relation to the leg. Opposite of Point.
(2) Used on Heel Leads and Toe Release steps.

Follow Through
The passing of the moving foot underneath the body between steps for better balance and control.

Foot Pressure
Applying a small amount of weight (partial weight) on to the floor from the free foot. (i.e. Tango Close, Change of Direction, Hesitation).

Frame
The correct position of the arms, shoulders, hands and elbows as it connects the partners in a normal dance hold. Essential for good leading and following.

Free Foot/Free Leg
The foot or leg that does not have the weight, being free to move to take the next step.

Inside foot
The foot that is closest to the partner when in Promenade, Outside Partner, or Side by Side Position

Inside of Turn
Refers to the person who is stepping backwards on a turning figure and implies more curve (or CBM ) is required on the first step so that their partner can more easily get around and that their side step following the back step is slightly smaller than the corresponding side step of their partner.

Lateral Movement
(1) Any movement that moves sideways. (2) In Latin dancing, the hips move left or right with minimum rotation. (Could be used on such figures as Cucarachas and Side Cuban Rocks)

Leg Swing
The action of allowing the moving leg to swing freely from the hip when stepping forward or backward to create greater movement.

Leverage
Using the body like a mechanical device to allow certain parts of the body (i.e. legs, arms) to create direction and power for leading and following.

Line
Refers to the aesthetic of the dancer(s) where the correct body alignment, stretch, arms and head position create a beautiful and polished result.

Linear
Keeping the dance moving in a straight line rather than allowing it to turn or curve.

Opposition
An action in many dance figures where partners move in opposite direction.

Pendulum Motion
A term used in Samba to describe a movement of the hips forward and back on the basic step, samba walks, and other figures.

Pendulum Swing
The swinging action used on side steps in Waltz, Foxtrot Viennese Waltz and Quickstep that resembles the swing of a pendulum to create momentum and shape in the movement.

Poise
The correct positioning of one’s body in relation to their feet. It can also refer to the general appearance of the dancer as a whole.

Posture
The relationship of the blocks of weight to one another creating either a balanced and beautiful look or an incorrect look and feel.

Projection
The ability of a dancer to relate to their audience through energy, expansion, stretching and eye contact. To be “bigger than life” on the dance floor.

Push and Pull
The connection made between dancers through their hands that make leading and following possible. Push occurs when both partners have their weight poised toward each other and is used to send the follower away. Pull occurs at the point that the partners are furthest away from each other and is used to bring the follower forward.

Rotational
(1) Refers to a dance pattern that is designed to turn. (2) In Latin dancing, the hips rotate to varying degrees around the vertical line of the spinal column

Settling
In Latin dancing, body weight is settled over a straight standing leg that completes the hip movement.

Shape
A dance position where partners stand facing the same direction with weight on the same foot, with the follower slightly ahead of the leader on the leader’s right or let side. Many different hand holds may be used.

Sickle
An incorrect position of the foot where the toe is turned in giving an unattractive look to the leg and foot.
Spotting
A technique used while turning where the dancer focuses on one’s partner or object in the room and turns the rest of the body first delaying the head turn until the last minute and then refocusing on the original object. Done for balance, speed and style.

Staccato
Abrupt motion, as contrasted with smooth motion, characteristic of the International

Tango.
Stretch A lengthening or widening of the muscles to create a certain sway or extension. (i.e. arms, ribcage, neck, etc.)

Tension
(1) The overuse of muscles that causes unattractive body line and/or restriction of movement.
(2) Dramatic expression used in high-level dancing.

Tick
A quick internal “double-take” motion resulting in a new dance position, common in Tango.

Tone
The correct use of muscles to support the body structure to maintain form and connection with partner.

Top Line
Refers to the overall look of a Ballroom couple’s frame, head position and back line.

Turn-Out
(1) A rotation of the legs outward from the hips resulting in the heels together and the toes apart.
(2) The correct placement of the feet in Latin and Swing dancing by using pressure on the inside edges of the balls of the feet that result in the toes pointing slightly outwards from each other.

Twisting
In Latin dancing, an action where the turn commences in the hips

Weight Connection
Allowing one’s body weight to influence the connection with a partner, or to influence one’s own balance or movement.

Window
The correct shape that the arms make on inside underarm turns that enable partners to peer through at each other.

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