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Dances Defined

American Style Rhythm

A type of ballroom dancing, which evolved from social dancing and is now a fully recognized competitive style of dance. Rhythm style consisting of Cha Cha, Rumba, East Coast Swing, Bolero and Mambo.

  • Cha Cha
  • Rumba
  • East Coast Swing
  • Bolero
  • Mambo
  • Merengue
  • West Coast Swing
  • Merengue

An exciting, syncopated, Latin dance, which originated in the 1950s as a slowed down Mambo, the Cha Cha gathers its personality, character, rhythm, basis, and charm from two major dance sources. It is a derivation of the Mambo through its Latin music, and it is also a stepchild of the Swing, as it is danced to a 1-2-3 step rhythm. The Cha Cha gets its name and character from its distinct repetitive foot rhythm. 

The Rumba was originally a courtship, marriage, and street dance that was African in origin. The Rumba met some opposition from society’s upper crust because of the suggestive body and hip movements. The characteristic feature is to take each step without initially placing the weight on that step. Steps are made with a slightly bent knee which, when straightened causes the hips to sway from side to side, in what has come to be known as “Cuban Motion.”

This dance is frequently referred to as Triple Step swing due to the rhythm of the basic triple step. This dance consists of six and eight count patterns, which require a rock step back by both man and woman to begin. It is a circular dance that is danced with a bounce and is very  grounded and not high in the legs. This bounce requires the dancer to stay very smooth and not jump around much. East Coast swing is the base for all swing dances.

 Originally a Spanish dance in 3/4 time, it was changed in Cuba, initially into 2/4 time, then eventually into 4/4. It is now presented as a very slow type of Rumba rhythm. The music is frequently arranged with Spanish vocals and a subtle percussion effect, usually using Congas or Bongos. Originally a Spanish dance in 3/4 time, it was changed in Cuba, initially into 2/4 time, then eventually into 4/4. It is now presented as a very slow type of Rumba rhythm. The music is frequently arranged with Spanish vocals and a subtle percussion effect, usually using Congas or Bongos.

The spicy Mambo as we now know it grew out of the Danzon (national music of Cuba), and grasped the imagination of the American dance scene at the close of World War II. Later, fast Swing-Jazz and upbeat Latin music joined in to form the updated and uninhibited Mambo. The Mambo is a spot dance and the steps are quite compact.

The Merengue is a popular dance of Haiti and the Dominican Republic and is a truly lively Latin dance. There is an old tale about a very brave and famous military officer who was wounded in battle and developed a limp. A celebration dance was given for the great hero returning from the war. Rather than embarrass their hero, who limped on his wounded leg while dancing, all the men present favored their leg as well, & thus the Merengue was born.

This dance consists of six and eight count patterns, which are done in a slot. The woman no longer rocks back as in East Coast swing, but instead she always walks forward on count one. This dance is usually done to medium tempo swing music, frequently slower than East Coast swing. However, those who achieve a high skill level in this dance can and do dance it to faster tempo music. This dance has no bounce and a very smooth feel. Rarely will you see high kicks or moves which require the dancer to leave the floor.

The Merengue is a popular dance of Haiti and the Dominican Republic and is a truly lively Latin dance. There is an old tale about a very brave and famous military officer who was wounded in battle and developed a limp. A celebration dance was given for the great hero returning from the war. Rather than embarrass their hero, who limped on his wounded leg while dancing, all the men present favored their leg as well, & thus the Merengue was born.

American Style Smooth

A type of ballroom dancing, which evolved from social dancing and is now a fully recognized competitive style of dance. The Smooth style allows the dancers to be in open positions allowing for a very “Fred and Ginger” style.

  • Waltz
  • Tango
  • Foxtrot
  • Viennese Waltz

 The Waltz appeared as a fashionable dance in Bohemia, Austria, Bavaria and other parts of Europe in the late 1700's. Danced in 3/4 timing, the recurring, even beats of music send the dancers whirling around the floor enjoying the thrill of the Waltz movement.

The American Style Tango is a progressive moving along the line of dance using body movement. A staccato movement of the feet and flexed knees highlight the dramatic style of the Tango.

The Foxtrot remains the most popular social dance in the world today. Little did Harry Fox realize that his trotting on a New York stage in 1913 would become an overnight success. The Foxtrot is the foundation for many of the social dances that followed. It is enjoyed by all age groups for its ease of movement and smooth style. Foxtrot music is played by most social dance orchestras and is one of the easiest dances to learn in the American Style.

This dance originated in Mid-Europe some 400 years ago. The music is fast in tempo and sends the couples whirling around the floor--first one way and then the other.

International Style Latin

Latin American dances are danced to a Latin American beat. “Latin” is the term for International Style, “Rhythm” is the term for the American Style.

  • Cha Cha
  • Samba
  • Rumba
  • Paso Doble
  • Jive

During the 1950s, the Cha Cha was made famous by many Latino bands such as Xavier Cugat and Prez Prado. Cuban in origin, the Cha Cha rhythm is found in much of today's popular music.

The Samba originated in Brazil and, unlike the other Latin dances that are stationary, it has a traveling action around the floor with lots of spins and controlled bounces.

The Rumba is Cuban in origin and is often referred to as the ?dance of love?. Sultry and romantic, the music is a mixture of African and Latin rhythms.

The Paso Doble is a theatrical Spanish dance that characterizes the man as the matador and the lady as his cape. Based on Flamenco dancing, the character of the dance is arrogant and passionate.

The Jive is a very fast, acrobatic, lively dance made popular during World War II by the swing music of Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Tommy Dorsey and Glen Miller.

International Style Standard / Ballroom

You may hear the terms Standard, Modern and Smooth in relation to the Ballroom dances and wonder how they differ. They all represent the dances with the man holding the lady in his arms and moving around the floor. The term “Standard” has replaced “Modern” as the name for the International Style dances. 

  • Waltz
  • Tango
  • Foxtrot
  • Viennese Waltz
  • Quickstep

Danced in European courts in the mid 1700s, the romantic Slow Waltz is an offspring of the faster Viennese Waltz in 3/4 time. The rhythm was gradually slowed down over time as songwriters of ballads and love songs chose to compose in a slower and more comfortable tempo. This dance has continued to rise in popularity at anniversaries, graduations, and weddings.

The Tango originated in the bordellos of Buenos Aires, Argentina, and is done in a slightly different manner than other dances. The hold is very different, with the lady's arm under the man’s, which creates a tighter hold for a quick staccato action and stylized poses (not to be confused with Argentine Tango).

The Foxtrot is one of the most deceiving dances. It looks very easy, but is one of the most difficult dances to do. The dance originated in 1913 when a vaudeville performer by the name of Harry Fox performed a little trot which appealed to the social dance teachers in New York and thus the Foxtrot was born. It has gone through many changes since that time, and is now comprised of more soft and fluid linear movements.

As the name implies, the Quickstep is a very quick and lively dance, comprised of hops, skips and kicks. The dance began as a quick version of Foxtrot mixed with the Charleston, and musical “Jazz” influences.

The Jive is a very fast, acrobatic, lively dance made popular during World War II by the swing music of Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Tommy Dorsey and Glen Miller.

Other Popular Social Dances

  • Argentine Tango
  • Nightclub Two-Step
  • Salsa
  • Hustle
  • Country-Western

The Argentine Tango is a beautiful, improvisational social dance that has developed over the last century in the City of Buenos Aires. It is a true dance of leading and following. Many find Argentine Tango quite challenging, commanding an advanced knowledge of dance skills for partner dancing. Argentine Tango, with it’s dramatic character and use of leg and foot actions, uses slower music and progresses counter clockwise in the line of dance.

Night Club Two- Step, not to be confused with country two-step, is one of the most practical and versatile social dances ever conceived. It is designed to be used with contemporary soft rock (“Love Song”) music. This type of music is common just about everywhere, nightclubs, radio, etc. The rhythm of the dance is very simple and rarely changes from the 1 & 2 count. This simple romantic dance fills a gap where no other ballroom dance fits. It gives the dancer, either beginning or advanced, the opportunity to express and create without a rigid technique being required. It's attractive, romantic, and a real asset to learn since it will be used often.

The word Salsa means sauce, denoting a “hot” flavor, and is best distinguished from other Latin music styles by defining it as the New York sound developed by Puerto Rican musicians in New York. The dance structure is largely associated with mambo type patterns and has a particular feeling that is associated mainly with the Clave and the Montuno.

 

The Hustle (Disco) is a member of the Swing family, and is like the West Coast Swing in pattern. It has a distinct flavor, utilizing Disco style music & revived partner style among nightclub dancers in the 70's. Hustle is danced to the contemporary pop dance music of the last 20 years. It is a fast, smooth dance, with the lady spinning almost constantly, while her partner draws her close and sends her away.

Country Western encompasses many dance forms or styles, which are typically danced to country-western music, and which are stylistically associated with American country and/or western traditions.

Pattern Terms

Alemana
An underarm turn in which the follower turns to the right under the leader’s raised left arm as used in International Style Rumba and Cha Cha.

Anchor Step
A type of triple step where the feet stay anchored in place (i.e. in West Coast Swing).

Appel
A strong lowering action in place where the body weight is dropped sharply onto a flat foot. The Appel usually marks the beginning of a strong directional movement and is most commonly used in Paso Doble and Tango.

Arc/Arch Turn
An underarm turn in which the follower turns to the right under the leader’s raised left arm, or to the left under the leader’s raised right arm. Related terms are Alemana and Outside Turn.

Backward Tango Close
A Tango Close that begins with the leader stepping back on the left foot. Related term is Tango Close.

Ball Change
A transfer of weight from the ball of one foot to the flat of the other foot.

Box Step
A pattern consisting of six steps that form the shape of a box. It is a basic figure in the Waltz, Foxtrot, Rumba and Samba.

Break
A unit of two steps in which the second step replaces weight and is taken in the opposite direction from the first.

Chaine’ Turn
A turn or chain of turns which travel down a line and where a full turn is made over each two steps. 

Chair
A strong checking action taken forward and across in Promenade Position with the Leader’s right foot and the Follower’s left foot. Always followed with a back step in Fallaway Position.

Challenge Line
A picture line that has the look of a strong Promenade Position with the Leader on the Left foot and the Follower on the Right Foot.

Change Step
A figure used in Waltz, Foxtrot and Viennese Waltz, that consists of three steps; either Forward, Side, Close, or Back Side Close that is most often used to change back and forth from Reverse (Left) Turns to Natural ( Right) Turns.

Chase
(1)A Cha Cha figure where the leader and follower dance variations of the Progressive Basic in and apart position. The Follower will either follow the leader visually or improvise until the leader reconnects.
(2)A Fellow (Gold) Tango figure in the International Style Syllabus.

Chasse
(1)Most frequently use as three steps taken sideways, where the feet close on the second step. 
(2)Two steps taken sideways and closing on the second step. 
(3)Any number of sideways steps where the feet close on the 2nd, 4th, 6th step, etc.

Chasse Turn
A turning figure where the first step is either forward or back followed by a two step chasse. Examples are Left and Right Box turns in several dances and the Chasse Reverse Turn in Quickstep.

Closed Finish
Term used frequently in International Tango referring to ending patterns with the feet closing (slightly back for leader and slightly forward for follower) as distinct from an Open Finish where the leader steps outside partner on the last step.

Coaster Step
A triple step usually expressed as back, together, forward, or forward, together, back where the first step is taken in the opposite direction of the third and the feet close on the second step. (i.e. follower’s part of Whip in West Coast Swing.

Corte
Spanish word meaning “cut”. The word Corte is used as part of the name of several figures. Although each figure is slightly different, they all start with the leader stepping back on the first step in a kind of “cutting” motion. (i.e. Tango Corte in American Style and International Style Back Corte in Tango and Reverse Corte and Hover Corte in Waltz).

Cross Body Lead
A popular American Style figure used in many dances where the leader is at right angles to the follower and then leads follower to dance forward on a path which crosses in front of leader’s body from leader’s right side to left side.

Cross Turn
A pattern used in dances such as Viennese Waltz, Samba, and Waltz consisting of six steps turning one full turn to the left and where the left foot crosses in front of the right foot on the third step as leader and the sixth step as follower. Same as Left Cross Turn.

Cruzado Walks
An advanced, stylized series of forward walks in the samba.

Cuban Walks
A series of forward or backward walks used in the American Style Latin dances using Cuban Motion.

Cucarachas
A basic figure used in Latin dances which uses a lot of cuban motion and consists of a side break and a closing step and can be done to the left or the right.

Develope´
(Dev-Lo-Pay) An action usually performed by the follower whereby the free foot is drawn up to the knee of the supporting leg and then extended (or “developed”) until the leg is straight with the toe strongly pointed.

Fan

  1. A basic figure in the International Style Rumba and Cha Cha incorporating a fan position.
  2. A swivel taken on one foot ending with the free foot pointing to the side.

Feather
A Foxtrot movement consisting of three progressive steps, the third step taken outside partner.(i.e. Feather Step, Feather Finish, Feather Ending, Back Feather).

Flick
A quick extension of the lower leg taken with the foot softly pointed in a sharp or staccato manner.

Gaucho
A “hooking” action of one leg around another leg used widely in the Argentine Tango.

Grapevine
A series of four steps arranged as follows: Forward, Side, Back, Side. The sequence may begin on any one of the four steps and is used in Ballroom, Latin, and Swing dancing.

Hesitation
A step taken where progression is temporarily stopped and then remains on that spot for more than one beat.

Hockey Stick
A basic figure used in International Rumba and Cha Cha that starts in Fan Position and involves a lead to an Inside (or Loop Turn) for the follower. The figure is named because the path of movement for the follower is similar to the shape of a hockey stick.

Hover
A step with a feeling of suspension taken on the toes to change direction or rotation, allowing time for the moving foot to brush toward (or to) the standing foot. (i.e. Hover Telemark, Hover Corte).

Impetus
A basic International figure used in Waltz, Foxtrot and Quickstep which can end either in closed or promenade position which consists of a leader’s back step on the left foot followed by a heel turn.

Inside Turn
An underarm turn in which one person dances a turn under the raised arms in a direction toward the center of the partnership.(i.e. The follower turning to the left under the leader’s left hand or turning to the right under the leader’s right hand).

Kick Ball-Change
A movement involving a small kick or flick of the lower leg, followed by a ball-change action. Frequently counted 1a2.

Latin Walks
Forward or Backward Walks taken with Latin Hip Motion.

Left Cross Turn
A pattern used in dances such as Viennese Waltz, Samba, and Waltz consisting of six steps turning one full turn to the left and where the left foot crosses in front of the right foot on the third step as leader and the sixth step as follower.

Lilt
Rise and fall over the course of two steps.

Natural Turn 
A basic pattern in the Waltz, Foxtrot, Viennese Waltz and Quickstep that turns to the right over six steps.

Open Break
A widely used dance figure where partners are facing one another with a one hand, double hand or cross hand hold and both dancers rock backwards on opposite feet. 

Open Finish
(1) Indicates that the leader has stepped forward outside partner on the last step of a figure rather than closing the feet. 
(2) Another name for an ending with the same foot positions as an Outside Change.

Outside Swivel 
A common pattern where the follower steps Outside partner on the Right Side and swivels on the ball of the right foot ending in Promenade Position. The leader steps back on the Left foot and holds the Right foot forward in CBMP without weight. It is commonly used in Tango but is also used in Foxtrot, Waltz and many other dances.

Outside Turn
An underarm turn in which one person dances a turn under the raised arms in a direction away from their partner.(i.e. The follower turning to the right under the leader’s left hand or turning to the left under the leader’s right hand.

Oversway
A picture line pattern where the leader lunges on the left leg and the follower lunges on the right leg in a kind of promenade position and then uses “broken sway” to the right to create a full and attractive shape to the upper body.

Pivots
(1) The turning of the supporting foot against the floor (general context). 
(2) A turn in the direction of the forward foot, taken following a forward or backward progressive movement, with weight held over one foot. 

Press Line
A step in dancing usually taken forward or diagonally forward with the knee bent, the heel raised and a great deal of pressure on the toes. Used in Paso Doble and other Latin dances.

Rock 
Transference of weight from foot to foot.

Rock Step
A back step followed by a replacement of weight forward on the second step.

Ronde
A circular action of the free leg done in advanced patterns. The circular action may be done on the floor (i.e. Fan) or off the floor (Aerial Ronde).

Runaround
A dance element where the follower or both dancers run around a central point in a normal dance frame or a similar position using body tone and leverage to maintain balance and speed.

Shine Steps
A set of steps used while doing a progressive basic without hold in Mambo and Cha Cha where one person dances a variation within the timing of the dance and the other person then imitates or “outshines” them on the next measure.

Spin
1.  The continuation of the turn on the ball of the forward foot on the step following a pivot.

2.  A turn achieved by rotating on the ball of the supporting foot while the free foot is held in either first or third position.

Spiral Turn
A useful type of turn used in Latin and Ballroom that makes it possible to turn right when stepping forward on the left foot and to turn left when stepping forward on the right foot. This is accomplished by turning on the ball of the front foot leaving the free foot behind for as long as possible, and then allowing it to loosely cross in front of supporting leg. 

Spot Turn
1.  A solo turn in which one foot remains on a spot around which a circle is made. May be made to the left or to the right. 

2.  American Style figures called Forward and Back Spot Turns where the couple turns either to the left or the right in a close (or closed) facing position by taking a series of forward or backward steps in a small circle keeping the basic timing of the dance.

Sugar Push 
A pattern used in swing dances (i.e. West Coast Swing) where the leader brings the follower forward with a double hold to a point where they lean in to one another using compression and then the leader “pushes” the follower to step back. Comes from wartime when a soldier in a dance hall would “Push my sugar away”.

Tango Close
The nickname given for the last three steps of the American Style basic step in the Tango. Usually stated as: Forward, Side, Drag.

Three Step 
One of the basic steps in International Foxtrot that is danced in line with a right side lead( for leader) with late rise.

Triple Step 
Three steps as in a chasse used in swing dances that move sideways, forward, backward, turning, etc. It is the basic element in East Coast Swing, West Coast Swing and Lindy Hop.

Twinkle
A basic figure in several American Style dances that starts in closed position and then goes to promenade position over three steps and then goes back to closed position over the next three steps.

Twist
An action where the feet start in a strongly crossed position and then untwist through rotation of the body. Twists may occur by stepping forward or backward into the crossed position and appears as an element in figures in both Ballroom and Latin dances.

Underarm Turn
A very general term to mean either follower or leader turning underneath one or both of partner’s arms. When used as terminology without more description, it often implies the follower turning to the right under the leader’s left arm.

Walkaround Turn
The American Style term for a Spot Turn.

Whisk
An action used in Samba and Waltz where the moving foot does a light sweeping movement crossing behind the supporting foot.

X Line
A picture line that creates the shape of an “X” by the partners upper bodies leaning away from each other in normal dance position with their free leg pointing in opposite directions.

Zig Zag
1.  The name of a pattern in Quickstep called “Zig Zag Back Lock and Running Finish.
2.  Sometimes used as another name for a Spiral (Progressive Twinkles ).

 

Technique Terms

Across
A foot position taken either forward or backward in CBMP that is taken further over the path of the other foot.

Alignment
(1) The direction that the feet are pointing in relationship to the room and the line of dance.
(2) The position of the different body parts relative to one another. Proper alignment is achieved by lining up the different “blocks of weight”: the head, shoulders, rib cage, hips, legs, and feet. Related terms are Poise and Posture.

Amount of Turn
The amount of turn, described in fractions, to indicate how much turn is made on one foot or between two or more consecutive steps. Related terms are Body Turn, Body Turns Less and Body Completes Turn.

Backing
A term used in the description of Alignments to specify a step which is moving backwards (i.e. Backing LOD, Backing DC). Related terms are Facing and Pointing.

Body Rise
Elevation of the body achieved by straightening the knees.

Body Turn
Amount of turn of the body when it is different from the feet.

Body Turns Less/ Body Completes
Turn Used primarily on the inside of turns when the amount of body rotation is less than the amount of turn made by the feet. Body Turns Less is usually followed on a subsequent step by Body Completes Turn.

Broken Sway
(1) Body sway, which does not result from the natural swinging action of the body.(i.e. Oversway).
(2)Dropping of the side during a normal sway.

Brush
The action of closing the moving foot to the standing foot without changing weight, between steps.

Center
(1) The middle of the dance floor.
(2) In the technique charts in manuals, the Center refers to an imaginary line running parallel to the Wall and dividing the room, and is different on each line of dance.

Contra Body Movement (CBM)
Used to commence turns in the Ballroom dances. Occurs only on forward and backward steps and is the action of turning the right side of the body toward the left moving leg or the left side of the body toward the right moving leg.

Contra Body Movement Position (CBMP)
A foot position taken forward or backward where the foot is placed on the same track or across the track of the other foot. This position is always used when stepping outside partner in order to maintain a good body position .It is also used on LF forward walks and RF back Walks in Tango. This concept is frequently confused with Contra Body Movement because of the similarity of the names, but it is important to remember that CBMP is not a turn of the body, but rather a placement of the foot.

Cuban Motion
A distinctive hip movement used in most American Style Latin dances achieved by alternating the bending and straightening of the knees with carefully timed weight changes. The hip action in the International Style Latin dances differs in that weight is taken onto a straight leg instead of a bent knee with a more direct weight change.

Diagonal
Movement either forward or backward which is simultaneously lateral (sideways) and progressive (forward or backward.

Element
The components of a dance pattern, i.e. footwork, sway, CBM, etc. that make up a figure and creates the product of what the figure is.

Facing
A term used when presenting alignments to mean that the body and feet are positioned in the same direction. (i.e. Facing LOD, Facing Wall)

Flat
Used in the ?footwork? section of a technical manual this means that the whole of the foot is on the floor during a particular movement. (i.e. 3rd step of Samba Walk, 2nd step of a Reverse Turn in Tango for follower.)

Follows
The particular figures, which can logically by danced after a given figure.

Foot Position
The direction of the moving foot in relation to the standing foot. Common foot positions are LF Forward, RF Side, LF closes to RF.

Foot Rise
Elevation of the body using the ankles by pushing up onto the balls or toes of the fee

Footwork
The part of the foot in contact with the floor at a specific point in time. (i.e. Heel, Heel Toe, Toe Heel, Toe)..

Heel Turn
A turn on the heel of one foot.

Instep
The part of the foot which is on the inside edge, between the ball and the heel.

Latin Hip Motion
The specific hip action used in the International Latin dances, characterized by stepping on a straight leg with a slightly quicker transference of weight. Cuban Motion is another type of hip motion used in the American Style rhythm dances.

Line of Dance
Refers to the direction of movement in a ballroom that is parallel to the walls and moves counter clockwise around the room so that all the dancers travel in the same direction.

Lowering
The action of coming down from a position of rise by bending the knees and lowering the heel to the floor. It is a characteristic of Waltz, Viennese Waltz, Foxtrot, and Quickstep.

Moving
Used in connection with Alignments as given in a technical manual to mean the direction that one is traveling when different from the direction that the foot is pointing (i.e.1st step of a Closed Promenade in Tango)

Moving Foot/Moving Leg
Refers to the foot or leg that is about to take a step verses the foot or leg that has the weight (standing leg).

No Foot Rise
Indicates that the dancer should not rise to the toe of the foot, but rather keep the foot flat. This action is used on the inside of turns on the back step and also on progressive backward steps in certain dances (i.e. Foxtrot). This will typically be abbreviated NFR in dance manuals.

Outside Foot
The foot which is furthest from partner when in Promenade, Outside Partner, or Side-by-Side Position.

Pivot
A turn on the ball of the foot keeping the free leg held forward or back in CBMP.

Pivoting Action
A movement that occurs on a Right foot Forward pivot with the Left Foot not held in CBMP.

Point
An extension of the free leg in any direction placed on the floor without weight, and with the heel raised and only the toes in contact with the floor.

Pointing
An alignment term meaning that the foot is placed in a particular direction (usually to the side) that is different from the direction that the body is facing.

Precedes
The particular figures which can logically by danced before a given figure.

Rise and Fall
The rising and lowering of the body through the flexing and straightening of the knees, ankles and feet.

Shoulder Leading
The older and now outdated term for Side Leading

Side Leading
This action refers to taking a Forward or Backward step where the entire side of the body moves with the leg. Used to prepare to step outside partner and also used on Right Foot Forward Walks (Left Foot back Walks for follower) in Tango.

Standing Leg/Standing Foot
The leg (or foot) that is holding the majority of the weight so that the other leg (foot) is free to move.

Step
A complete transference of weight from one foot to another.

Supporting Leg/Supporting Foot
Same as Standing Leg/Standing Foot to mean the leg or foot that is holding the majority of the weight so that the other foot is free to take the next step.

Sway
An inclination of the body away from the moving foot, usually toward the inside of a turn. In some cases, however, sway may be made toward the moving foot. Normal sway is a result of hip swing. Broken sway is a result of bending from the waist.

Swivel
A turn on the ball of one foot prior to taking a step.

Tap (Touch)
Touching the floor with the free foot without weight. It is usually placed close to the standing foot with the ball of the foot.

Toe Pivot
A turn on the toes of both feet, with feet together. Example: Double Reverse Spin and Outside Spin.

Toe Release
The action used when stepping backwards where the toe of the front foot lifts from the floor leaving the heel in contact with the floor.

Walk Backward
The precise and specific manner of taking a back step in the Ballroom dances.

Walk Forward
The precise and specific manner of taking a forward step in the Ballroom dances.

Footwork Terms

Ball
(1) The rounded part of the foot between the toes and the arch.
(2) Described in the footwork section of a technique chart, abbreviated “B”. A “Ball” step is taken with the heel slightly raised off the floor and is usually initiated from the inside edge of the ball of the foot. .

Ball Flat
Described in the footwork section of a technique chart, abbreviated “BF”. A “Ball Flat” step is taken first with the ball of the foot (usually initiated on the inside edge)and then lowered to the whole foot (flat)

Ball Heel
Described in the footwork section of a technique chart, abbreviated “BH”. A “Ball Heel” step is taken first with the ball of the foot and then rolling backwards onto the heel. It is used in the description of backward walks to indicate the delayed lowering of the heel.

Heel/Heel Lead
(1) The part of the foot directly below the ankle and behind the arch.
(2) Used in the footwork section of a technique manual abbreviated as “H”, “HT”, or “HB” In all three examples, the first part of the step is taken with the foot flexed and the heel in contact with the floor, then rolling down to a flat foot. “H” is used when there is no rise on the step. “HT” is used when there is commencement of rise at the end of the step. “HB” is sometimes used in Tango to indicate a heel lead without rise but with turn. “HF” is used predominantly in samba and is not a heel lead since there is no flexing of the ankle. 

Inside Edge
A Footwork term indicating that the foot is placed first on the inside edge of the ball or whole foot prior to completely transferring weight to the whole foot. 

Stride
Used in the ballroom dances to indicate the furthest distance between the feet as a step is taken.

Toe
Used to describe footwork where the weight is on the toes of the supporting foot with the heel raised.

Toe Heel
(1) Footwork starting from a rise on the toes of the supporting foot and then lowering onto the heel. 
(2) The footwork used on back steps in the Smooth and Standard dances where the weight rolls backwards onto the foot from the toes to the heel.

Music Terms

Bar
Has come to have the same meaning as measure. There are usually 2,3 or 4 beats in a bar of music.

Beat 
(1) A steady and continuous pulse in the music, within which rhythms are formed.
(2) A single pulse of music. Beats are usually arranged into groups of 2, 3, or 4 to form a measure (or bar). The first beat in a bar is usually more pronounced than the others. 

Beats and Bars
A method of counting both the beats and bars at the same time in order to keep track of how many bars an amalgamation contains. In 4/4 time, counting in beats and bars could be 1, 2, 3, 4, 2, 2, 3, 4, 3, 2, 3, 4, 4, 2, 3, 4, etc.

Beat Value
The number of beats on each step of a dance figure.

Canter Timing/Rhythm 
A rhythm used with music written in 3/4 time (Waltz and Viennese Waltz), where no weight change is made on the second step resulting in only two weight changes danced over three beats of music. 

Downbeat
(1) In music, the first beat of the bar as indicated by the downward stroke of the conductor’s arm.
(2) Refers to whichever beats are pronounced in a bar of music. (i.e. counts 1 & 3 in 4/4 time, or all four beats).

Measure
The space between two bar lines in music in which there are a specific number of beats that repeat throughout the music. Typically there will be 2,3, or 4 beats in a measure. Being able to hear how many beats there are in a measure will help to determine the kind of dance it is.

Musicality
Used in connection with describing whether a dancer hears, feels, and expresses the music in their body while dancing and whether they stay on the correct beat of the music.

Phrase
A specific number of measures that make up a complete “thought” of music. It is similar to a sentence, having a beginning and a clear end. There are small phrases (as few as two measures or eight counts) as well as longer phrases of 8, 16, or 32 measures.

Phrasing
(1) Choreographing a dance to fit the phrases of the music.
(2) The sequence of dance patterns put together to match the characteristics of a musical sequence.

Quick
A term used to count steps usually having one beat. A slow is double the value of a quick.

Rhythm
The regular occurrence of accented beats that give character to music.

Slow
A term used in counting steps usually having two beats. A quick is half the value of a slow.

Syncopation
A variation of the regular occurrence of accented beats.

Tempo
The speed of the music measured in measures (bars) or beats per minute.

Time or Time Signature
The number of beats in each measure of music. I.E. 4/4 time equals four beats per measure. The upper number tells us the number of beats in a measure, and the lower number tells us the kind of musical note (a quarter beat) that gets one beat.

Timing
Refers to the commonly used counts or words associated with counting a particular dance.

Upbeat
(1) In music, the last beat of the bar as indicated by the downward stroke of the conductor’s arm. 
(2) Refers to whichever beats follow a downbeat in a bar of music. (i.e. counts 2 & 4 in 4/4 time, or the “&” counts between the beats as in 1&2&3&4&).

Complete Glossary

By studying and learning the unique language of dance, you will develop your skills faster and more completely. While the language is not the dance, improved fluency in the language greatly enhances all aspects of the learning process.

Amalgamation
A combination of two or more patterns or movements.

Amateur Dancer
A person for whom dancing is a hobby and who does not seek financial gain from the teaching or performing of dancing.

American Style
A type of ballroom dancing, which evolved from social dancing and is now a fully recognized competitive style of dance. The Smooth style allows the dancers to be in open positions allowing for a very “Fred and Ginger” style. The nine dances are divided into two groups:
(1) Smooth style consisting of: Foxtrot, Waltz, Tango and Viennese Waltz
(2) Rhythm style consisting of: Cha Cha, Rumba, East Coast Swing, Bolero and Mambo

Arm Styling
Positioning and movement of the arms, reflecting the character and style of the dance.

Associate
(1) The first complete level of dance figures in the International Style and some American Style syllabus representing the foundation of movements and basic dance concepts. (2) A degree attained by a Professional Dancer as a result of passing a certifying teaching exam covering the Associate Syllabus.

Basic Figure
A standardized step pattern which together with other patterns constitute the basis of a dance.

Bronze Level
The first complete level of the Medalist System, representing the foundation of movements and basic dance concepts. Also used in Competitions, representing a level above Newcomer and below Silver danced by Amateurs.

Choreography
A creation or compilation of steps, patterns and movements which make up a dance or a dance routine.

Closed Division
A category at a DanceSport event, which requires that competitors may only dance figures that are specific to a certain level and syllabus and may not dance variations and choreography outside of the syllabus.

Closed Figure
A dance figure where the feet close on the last step. Examples are Left and Right Box Turns in the American Style and Reverse And Natural Turns in the International Style.

Combination
A group of consecutive patterns and choreography. Similar to Amalgamation but sometimes involving a slightly more advanced set of patterns.

Continuity Movement
The continuous passing of the feet from one step to the next. This action is used from Silver Level on in American Style Waltz, Foxtrot and Viennese Waltz and is also characteristic of the International Foxtrot and is used greatly in International Waltz and Quickstep. 

DanceSport
The official name given to the sport of competitive Ballroom Dancing. Relates to the more athletic form of Ballroom Dancing as recognized by the Olympic Committee. 

Drop
A theatrical type of movement in which the follower’s body weight is partially or completely supported by the leader while at least one part of the follower’s body remains in contact with the floor. 

English Style
The Internationally recognized style of ballroom dancing synonymous with International ,Style Ballroom Dancing. 

Exhibition Ballroom Dancing
Also called Demonstration Dancing, this represents the performing of dance routines for an audience in a stylized, theatrical way. 

Fellow
1. The final complete level of dance figures in the International Style and some American Style syllabus representing the most advanced movements and dance concepts.
2. A degree attained by a Professional Dancer as a result of passing a certifying teaching exam covering the Fellowship Syllabus.

Figure
A standardized step pattern that, together with other patterns, constitute the dance.

Floor Craft
The ability of the leader to maneuver around the dance floor in a skilled and controlled manner as to avoid colliding with other dancers.

Following
The ability of the follower to react correctly to the signals given by the leader through physical and visual connections.

Formation Team
A group of three or more dancers who perform ballroom style routines.

Freestyle
(1)Dancing done on the dance floor in an apart where each person dances to the music doing steps of their own creation without a particular pattern or sequence
(2) Dancing with a partner in any kind of hold where the leader improvises steps. May be danced by inexperienced dancers who have never taken dance lessons or, by very advanced dancers who are so well trained in leading and following that improvisation is creative and natural.

Freestyle Division
A division of competition with one or more couples on the floor, designed for the leaders to lead the follower without memorized dance routines. Also, the ability to change a predetermined routine when necessary.

General Dancing
The portion of the program when the dance floor is open to the audience for social dancing.

Gold Level
The third complete level of the Medalist System, representing the most advanced figures and dance concepts. Also used in Competitions, representing a level above Silver danced by Amateurs.

Hip Motion
A very general term to mean any type of hip movement used in Latin Dancing. Similar to Cuban Motion and Latin Motion.

International Style
The Internationally recognized style of ballroom dancing. Couples must remain in closed dance position throughout the dances. The 10 International Style dances are divided into two categories:
(1) Standard, consisting of: Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Slow Foxtrot and Quickstep.
(2) Latin, consisting of: Cha Cha, Samba, Rumba, Paso Doble and Jive.

Latin- American Style
The category of dances in the International Style that consist of Cha Cha, Samba, Rumba, Paso Doble and Jive.

Leading
Effective communication of intended actions by the leader through the use of leader’s own body movements and through one or more physical or visual connections to the follower.

Line Dancing
A type of non-partner dancing where everyone starts in a line and learns a set pattern that repeats over and over again throughout the music. Used in Country Western and Disco Dancing and is fun and easy to learn.

Lift
A theatrical type of movement in which the follower’s body weight is completely supported by the leader and held aloft.

Medalist System
A system of testing used by dance schools to measure a student’s progress in their dancing. It provides structure in a dance program of a school and serves to give students’ a sense of accomplishment in their dancing. 

Member
(1) The second complete level of dance figures in the International Style and some American Style syllabi representing the next set of movements and basic dance concepts. (2) A degree attained by a Professional Dancer as a result of passing a certifying teaching exam covering the Member Syllabus.

Mirror Image
When one partner’s steps will be matching the other partner’s steps, as if viewed in a mirror.

Modern Style Ballroom 
The term used to describe the Ballroom dances of the International Style: Waltz, Foxtrot, Viennese Waltz, Tango and Quickstep. This term has largely been replaced by the term “Standard”.

Movement 
(1) A shift in position or space. (2)Used to describe a dancer or couple’s advancement through space on the dance floor.

Natural Opposite
A term used in teaching to say that one’s partner will be dancing the same foot positions in a particular dance pattern except in the opposite direction and on opposite feet. 

Natural Turn 
Any dance pattern that turns to the right.

NightClub Dances 
Dances designed to be danced in a club or on a small dance floor.

Open Division
A dance category at a dance competition where the dancers are permitted to dance figures not normally included in a standard syllabus for that particular level. (i.e. Open Gold Foxtrot).

Open Figure
A very general term that can have several meanings. 
(1) Not in normal dance hold
(2) Use of continuity instead of closing feet
(3)Ending in Promenade Position (i.e. Open Telemark, Open Impetus)
(4) A pattern not in a Syllabus,

Open Turn
Refers to a figure where the feet do not close on any of the steps.

Patterns
The term we use to mean a series of specific steps that comprise a figure. Means the same as “Figure”.

Picture Line 
A dance figure (e.g. Oversway, Contra Check) characterized by changing shapes in stationary position. Also known as Line.

Professional Dancer 
A dancer who teaches, performs or competes for a living. A dancer who receives financial compensation for their work as a dancer and would be ineligible to compete as an Amateur.

Progressive Movement 
Any dance steps that are designed to move the couple down the line of dance.

Reverse Turn
(1) Any turn that turns to the left.
(2) A turn used in Waltz, Foxtrot, Viennese Waltz, and Tango that turns to the left over six steps.

Rhythm Category
A category of dancing that include the following American Style dances danced at competitions: Rumba, Cha Cha, Bolero, Mambo and Swing

Rumba Walk
Highly stylized Forward or Backward Walks done in the Rumba, characterized by stepping onto a straight leg.

Showcase
An unjudged dance exhibition.

Silver Level
The second level of dance patterns in a syllabus following Bronze and before Gold. Silver Level is the first time a dancer may use continuity (open steps) in the American Style Waltz and Foxtrot.

Scrutineer
A certified dance official who tabulates the judges’ scores from the competitive events. 

Slot
Used as a concept in certain dances (i.e. West Coast Swing) where the goal is for the follower to dance on a track, turn around, and then come back on the same track in the opposite direction. The leader’s job is to move slightly out of the track (slot) to allow the follower a clear path.

Slow Dancing
A general term meant for dancing to very slow, romantic music where the couple rocks from foot to foot, improvising their own moves, with a very close, cuddly hold. No dance lessons required.

Smooth Style Ballroom 
The term used in Dancesport events and in general to mean American Style Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango and Viennese Waltz.

Social Dancing
Ballroom, Latin, Swing and Nightclub dances done in dance halls, dance schools, etc. where the dancing is more relaxed and meant for the enjoyment of the dancers and not for show.

Standard Style Ballroom 
The name that replaced the term “Modern” to mean The International Style Ballroom dances- Waltz, Foxtrot, Viennese Waltz, Tango and Quickstep.

Step
Frequently used to mean the same as Figure or Pattern.

Syncopate
To add or subtract steps within a specific number of beats performed by dancers to vary the normal step and to allow for personal expression and creativity.

Theater Arts/Cabaret Division 
A division at DanceSport Events that involve dramatic lifts and drops usually performed by strong, highly trained dancers requiring unusual flexibility and balance.

Variation
A varied or more advanced pattern than the corresponding basic figure which still contains the same main element.

Yes!
The appropriate response when someone asks you to dance.

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