​Dance Terminology Glossary

Across: Shifting one foot in front of the other. Weight remains on the stationary foot and the body may turn with the leading foot.

Alignment: Refers to the position of the body and maintaining correct posture. Proper alignment is necessary in dance to remain comfortable and avoid injuries. 

Apart: In couples dance, apart is used to describe no physical point of contact between a pair. The term also refers to having feet set shoulder width apart. 

Balance step: A step used in most forms of dance - left, right, front or back.

Ball change: Rapid change from the ball of one foot to the other foot, then back to the original foot.

Behind: Standing or crossing behind a dance partner, or having one foot behind another dancer.

Boogie: Pick up hip that is not balancing body weight and rotate in small circles in direction of stationary foot.

Break: Indicates a music stop, a hand release or a reversal in body direction.

Bump: Requires two dancers. Stand side-by-side then gently push hips towards each other.

Charleston: A four count dance pattern kicking off from the left foot, then a kick forward and step on the right foot, closing with the left toe pointed back. Also refers to a dance craze becoming popular in the 1920s.

Chaine: A full 360 degree turn. Uses small half turns and shifts weight rapidly back and forth for balance distribution.

Chase: A dance where one dancer pursues or follows the other.

Close: Following a balance step, a dancer will bring their feet together without shifting their weight.

Conga: Latin-American dance performed in a single line, where dancers make energetic kicks after the end of the beat. The term is also applied too a spiral turn initiated by stepping forward on one foot, turning, then stepping forward on the other foot and ending with a point.

Count: Each beat or pattern in a piece of music. The number of reoccurring patterns will depend on the type of music being played.

Contra body movement (CBM): The simultaneous movement of the body in the direction of a turning leg. Used to provide a smooth transition for ballroom dance moves.

Cross: A cross or a hook is a change in the position of one foot in order to cross the legs. The moving foot can be switched in front of or behind the supporting foot.

Cuban motion: A motion stemming from the hips, alternate bending and flexing weight from side to side by flexing and rolling the motion through the feet and knees.

Cup and pin: Cupped hands, used to aid resistance for couples dance moves. The male extends hand palm down and places his thumb over the woman's hand. She in turn curls her fingers over his. Hands are held by the woman's waist line.

Diagonal: A directional signal. Diagonally can be forward, back or to the sides. 

Dig: Dropping the lifted foot down to the floor. Toe should be raised while the foot is lifted and the toe or heel can be emphasized while touching the floor.

Draw: Similar to a close, but the moving foot drags or slides across the floor, to bring the feet together; may also be known as a drag.

Extension: A repetitive dance pattern or exaggeration of a pose, by: stretching, extending, rotating, or arching.

Fan: Better known as a toe fan. Complete a fan by swiveling out the free foot and point the toe. Sweep forward or back in a circle and allow the toe to lightly brush across the floor.

Fan kick: Similar to a toe fan but the extended leg performs an arc during a high-kick.

Flex: Allowing a joint or body to relax through bending. 

Fifth position: Similar to the fourth position but brings the feet back together, with the heel of each foot turned to touch the toes of the other foot, (heel to toe).

First position: Feet form a straight line, with heels touching and toes pointing in opposite directions.

Flick: Move where raised legs alternate, kicking back in a staccato manner.

Follow through: Causing the weightless foot to pass by the stationary foot, and then reverse direction.

Footwork: Use of the: first, second, third, fourth, and fifth foot position in dance.

Fourth position: Third position but feet are varied to be one foot length apart.

Frame: Proper alignment of the spine, arms, and body positions to maintain balance and aid in coordination in dance.

Freeze: A stop where the dancer holds a fixed position.

Gesture: Hand or other body movements not connected with body weight support.

Grapevine: A three step alternating pattern where feet cross in front of or behind while traveling to the side.

Heel fan: Swivel heels away from each other then back to original position.

Hold: A stop on a particular count.

Home: Back to starting position.

Hop: Jump up from one foot and land on the other.

Isolation: Moving a body part independently of others such as head, arm, or hand. 

Jazz square: Forming a box or square pattern through feet movements. Step out on one foot, step back on the other foot, cross over with the first foot moved, then step forward with the other leg.

Jumping: Bound up on both feet then land on both feet.

Paddle turn: Stand straight and push off or rotate left or right using small ball changes and keeping majority of weight over the turning foot.

Pigeon toed: Start with feet together and weight resting evenly on each. Split the heels on one count then bring together on next.

Pivot: Body turns where thighs are locked and one foot is positioned in front. Weight is placed on the balls of the feet and the body turns 180 degrees towards the rear foot.

Quick: Step changes done during one beat.

Resistance: When two dancers user counterforce to balance each other and ensure balance.

Rise and fall: Bracing weight on the toes and arching the spine, before falling back down to place weight on the feet. 

Roll: Make circles with a body part.

Round dance: Couples or groups of three or more dancing clockwise or counter clockwise patterns across the dance floor. 

Second position: First position but with a gap between the heels about the length of one foot. 

Shimmy: Shoulder alterations, both forward and back.

Skip: Step forward with knee bent. Straighten leg then lift the same foot slightly off the floor and return. 

Slide: Moving the foot in any direction while making floor contact.

Third position: Right foot maintains the same position from second position, while the left foot extends in front of right foot with heel touching middle of back foot.

Together: When away from a dance partner the action of stepping towards them and placing weight on the forward foot.

Turning: Changing direction.

Twirl: When a male partner spins around a female dancer.

Variations: Changing up the original footwork of a dance.