A Glossary of Dance Terms

by Jim Battisson

A|B|C|D|E|F|G|H|I to R|S to Z

A

accent (music):
The stress or emphasis given to a musical note or a mark indicating this. Normally the accent in a bar of music is on the first beat. When the accent is not, the rhythm is syncopated.

adjacent (quadrille):

advance & retire:

Move forward, acknowledge your opposite with a nod of the head, then move backward to original place. The number and type of steps should be defined in the dance notes.

anticlockwise:

  1. The direction faced while standing with the left shoulder towards the centre of the dancing area. Often notated as facing line of dance (LOD).
  2. The direction turned when making a continuous left turn.

arch:

  1. Two dancers facing each other with joined hands raised to form an arch under which other dancers may pass.
  2. Two dancers side by side, with joined inside hands raised to form an arch etc. The two dancers are usually a couple but need not be.

arm turn, left/ right arm turn:

A couple, with left/ right elbowís bent and forearm horizontal move toward each other and link left/ right arms. Each of the dancerís right hands grips their partnerís elbow. The couple turn around with each other moving forward. (Left arm turns are anticlockwise, right arm turns are clockwise.) Warning: In this position the thumb should not be used for gripping as the inside of the elbow is sensitive to pressure.

B

balance:
  1. With feet apart transfer the body weight from one foot to the other.
  2. | | meter. | Step forward on the right foot. Swing left foot forward. Step back with left foot. | Swing right foot back. The step may be repeated. It may start on the left foot and move to the left or right.

balance, waltz balance:

| | meter. | Step on right/ left foot. Close left/ right foot and raise heels just off the floor. | Take weight on right/ left foot in place and lower the heels. The step repeats with alternate footwork and may be danced in any direction.

ballroom hold:
A couple facing each other, man's right arm around the lady's waist, with his hand below her shoulder blade. The manís left hand holds the ladyís right hand, with arms extended, at shoulder height. The lady's left hand rests on the man's shoulder.
image

banjo hold banjo hold:
A couple facing each other but offset with the lady to the right and slightly in front of the man. The man's right hand at the lady's left waist and his left hand holds the ladyís extended right hand. The ladyís left hand rests on the man's shoulder. This is similar to the ballroom hold but the couples are more side by side than facing each other.

bar (music):
A group of beats divided by the regular occurrence of an accent. A bar of music, by definition (unless syncopated), starts with a strongly accented note and continues up to the next strongly accented note.

barn dance hold: A bush dance term equivalent to promenade hold.

basket:

basket hold:

beat (music):
The beat is the regular pulse that continues throughout a piece of music. Beats can be organised into groups (notes) where some are stronger (accent) than others. Their speed (tempo) may vary or they may be used as a background for further division or enlargements (meter).

beg: Abbreviation of beginning.

beh: Abbreviation of behind.

belt hold:
A row of dancers, side by side, each dancer holding the belt of the adjacent dancer. If the row moves to the right in the dance then the right arm is crossed under the left arm and vice versa. The end dancers in the line hold their belts with their free hands.

bkwd: Abbreviation of backward.

bleking step:
| . | . | | . meter. | Hop on right foot. | . Touch left heel forward. | Spring onto left foot in place. | . Touch right heel forward. | Spring onto right foot in place. | Touch left heel forward. Spring onto left foot in place. Touch right heel forward. | Spring onto right foot in place. | . Touch left heel forward. The step is done in place and repeats, starting with a spring to the left foot, with alternate footwork.

bocazo (Hungary): Bo-ca-Zo
| | meter. | Hop on left foot, touching right toe diagonally left, in front of left foot. Hop on left foot, touching right toe diagonally to right. Jump to both feet together, clicking heels. | Hold in place.

bottom (longways): The end of a set farthest from the top of a hall.

bottom couple: The couple at the bottom of the set.

bounce: Take weight on the balls of the foot/ feet, lift heels then lower heels to the floor.

bourree: A French longways set dance.

bow: The man faces partner with feet together. He bends from the waist, then straightens up again.

branle:
A French round dance from Poitou in the 12th to 13th century. Popular during the reigns of Louis XIII and Louis XIV and survives as a folk dance. In favour at the court of Elizabeth I as the brawl.

break step (Hungary): Alternate term for bocazo.

brush: Touch the floor lightly with the ball of the foot while it is moving in the required direction.

buenek: A Bulgarian name for simple walking dances.

butterflybutterfly hold:
A couple facing each other take hands, joined right to left. Their arms are extended to the sides at shoulder height. Illustration Ľ

buzz step (for couples):
The couple takes hold for swinging. meter. Step right foot near but outside your partnerís right foot, bending knees. Step to the left (clockwise) on the ball of the left foot with the left leg stretched straight while pivoting on the ball of the right foot. The step repeats with the same footwork. As the couple turn, the positions of their right feet change, so that the couple turn on the spot. The couple should give weight (lean out and counter-balance each other) and dance as a couple. The closer the couple hold and the closer and smaller their steps then the faster they will turn. The step is very rarely done anticlockwise with opposite footwork.

buzz step (for line dances):
meter. Cross the right foot down in front of left foot bending both knees. Step to the left on the ball of the left foot with the left leg stretched straight. Repeat the step with the same footwork. The step may also be done to the right with opposite footwork.

C

C: Abbreviation of centre.

cast off: Turn outside and dance outside the set.

cast up/ down: Turn outside and move, up to the top or down to the bottom, outside the set.

CCW: Abbreviation of counterclockwise.

centre: The space in the middle of a set or circle of dancers.

chain, double ladiesí chain (quadrille):
Ladies right hand star half way round, give left hands to their opposite man, who turns her with a courtesy turn. The figure is usually repeated to return to original places.

chain, grand chain:
Partners face each other in a circle with the men facing anticlockwise (LOD) and the ladies facing clockwise (RLOD). Give right hand to partner and pass by right shoulders. Give left hand to the next dancer and pass by left shoulder. Continue giving alternately right hand and then left hand to the oncoming dancers.

chain, ladiesí chain:
Start with two couples facing each other. The ladies cross over, take right hands and pass, then give left hands to their opposite man, who turns her with a courtesy turn. The figure is usually repeated to return to original places.

change step:
| | meter. | Step forward on right/ left foot. Close left/ right foot. | Step forward on the right/ left foot. Repeat with opposite footwork.

chassť/ chassez: A slow step sideways followed by a slow draw step to close.

chassidic: A Judaic sect that believe dance brings you closer to God.

cherkessia: Alternative spelling for tcherkessia

chug:
A sharp movement (usually backward) of the supporting foot/ feet where the foot/ feet do not leave the floor. First shift the weight in the direction of the chug then sharply move the foot/ feet to the new centre of weight.

circle dance:
A circle of dancers all holding hands or otherwise joined up in a single circle.

circle of couples: Couples in a circle side by side and facing line of dance.

progressive circle of couples:
A circle of couples where you change partners for each repeat of the dance.

circle, broken circle: Alternative term for open circle.

circle, double circle:
An outer circle of men facing their partners in an inner circle of ladies, with their backs to the centre. Can also have ladies on the outside and men inside.

circle, open circle:
A circle of dancers holding hands or otherwise joined up in a circle with the circle broken at one point, to let the evil out.

circle, right/ left circle: Form a circle and galop to the right/ left.

circle, single circle:
A circle of couples where all take hands with their partner and their Ďcornerí and face the centre. Sometimes the number of couples is determined by the dance.

clockwise:

  1. The direction faced while standing with the right shoulder towards the centre of the dancing area. This is often notated as facing reverse line of dance (RLOD).
  2. The direction turned when making a continuous right turn.

close: Bring the right/ left foot next to the other and take weight.

closed position: An American term equivalent to ballroom hold.

coda (music):
The independent passage at the end of a musical composition, which brings it to a satisfactory close.

contra: An American term equivalent to longways set.

conversa holdconversation position (USA):
A couple stand side by side facing the same direction, with the man's right arm around the lady's waist. The lady's left hand rests on the man's right shoulder. The manís left arm and the lady's right arm are held at their sides.

corner (quadrille): The dancer next to you who is not your partner.

count (music): An American term equivalent to beat.

counterclockwise: A term equivalent to anticlockwise

couplecouple position (USA):
A couple side by side and facing the same direction with their inside hands joined and held at shoulder height. The manís left arm and the lady's right arm are held at their sides.

couples: A couple dance where the couples spread randomly throughout the dance area.

cpl(s): Abbreviation of couple(s).

cross: Step across in front of or behind the other foot.

cross over:

  1. (longways): Exchange positions with the opposite dancer by passing right shoulders, then turn to face the opposite dancer.
  2. (quadrille): A couple exchange places with their opposite person passing right shoulders. Take inside hands with their partner and exchange places with the lady turning under an arch of the coupleís joined hands. Finish facing the opposite couple. The figure is usually repeated to return to original places.

crossback hold cross-back hold (USA):
A couple side by side and facing the same direction. Join the right hands over the joined left hands behind the couple. Illustration Ľ

crossed arm/ hand hold: Alternative term for long-arm hold.

crotchet (music):
The crotchet is a quarter the note value of the semibreve (whole note) and half the note value of the minim. See note values.

ct(s): Abbreviation of count(s) See beat.

ctr: Abbreviation of centre.

cukce (Balkan): This is a soft rise and fall of the heel, like a bounce.

curtsy:
The lady faces her partner with feet together, she touches her left foot behind her right and bends the knees slightly, lowering the body, then returns to normal position. Body remains upright.

cut:
A quick displacement of one foot by the other. eg. To cut the left foot, stand with weight on the left foot and swing the right foot sidewards towards the left foot. Take weight on the right foot and swing the left foot away from the right foot as a continuation of the right footís swing.

CW: Abbreviation of clockwise.

D

debka: A Syrian/ Palestinian menís line dance.

demisemiquaver (music):
The demisemiquaver is one thirty-second of the note value of the semibreve (whole note) and half the note value of the semiquaver. See note values.

diag: Abbreviation of diagonal, diagonally.

diamond (longways):
A couple exchange places by moving diagonally right, turn to face each other (in the middle of the set), move diagonally right to their partnerís original position, then turn to face partner.

dip:
Step back on the right/ left foot taking full weight and bending the knee. The other leg remains extended and straight with the toe in contact with the floor.

do-si-do:
Partners move forward and pass each other by the right shoulder. Without turning each moves to their right passing back to back. Return to original position by passing left shoulders and moving backward. This may also be done passing left shoulders to start.

double, forward a double, back a double:
Four running steps forward bringing feet together on the last beat. Repeat the same footwork moving backward. The step usually starts with the right foot, both forwards and backwards.

draw:
Move the right/ left foot along the floor to bring the feet together then transfer weight to that foot. See also slide.

dreher (Germany): The pivot turn step.

dreisteyrer: A German/Austrian dance for three in 3/4 rhythm.

duplet (music):
A set of two notes played in the time (duration) normally allowed for three.

E

ends, right hand ends:
In a progressive line of three the right hand ends are the middle dancer, their right hand partner and the right hand partnerís opposite. There are two right hand ends in each minor set.

escort hold (line dance):
Place left hand at waist level close to center front of body. (Men may place left thumb in their belt.) Rest the right hand lightly on the adjacent dancerís left forearm through the space formed by the bent elbow.

escort hold escort hold (couple dance):
A couple side by side and facing the same direction. The man bends his right arm and holds it at his waist. The lady slips her left hand through the gap at his elbow to rest it on the manís right forearm. The manís left arm and the lady's right arm are held at their sides.

F

fall in: To take the dancerís proper place in line.

fall in behind (quadrille):
As the lead couple is returning to their original place, the adjacent couple, then the adjacent coupleís opposite couple, followed by the lead coupleís opposite couple, line up to form a longways set.

fig: Abbreviation of figure.

figure of eight:

  1. A dancer moves in a figure of eight path around two stationary dancers.
  2. Term erroneously used for reel of three.

foot (of a line): An American term equivalent to bottom (of set).

ft: Abbreviation of foot, feet.

ftwk: Abbreviation of footwork.

fwd: Abbreviation of forward.

G

gallop:
A step imitating a horse. . meter. . Step forward with the right foot, the leg lifts during the step. Close with the left foot. The step repeats with the same footwork and may be done with the left foot leading.

galop:
Spring to the right on the right foot. Commence closing with the left foot, but before this finishes, spring from the right foot (to repeat the start of the step) and allow both feet to touch in the air before landing on the left foot. To start the step, a quick hop on the left foot provides the spring needed by the right foot as it starts moving to the right. The step repeats with the same footwork and may be done to the left with opposite footwork and direction. This is a step that most adults can do without being taught so that although its analysis is difficult it is generally not a problem to teach. The detailed time analysis of this step is difficult to show without using a dance notation system like Romanotation or Labanotation because the two feet move out of phase with each other.

grapevine:
Four steps sideways where the trailing foot alternates between crossing in front and crossing behind. The four steps are;

  1. Step right with the right foot.
  2. Cross the left foot in front of the right foot.
  3. Step right with right foot.
  4. Cross the left foot behind the right foot.

The grapevine step may start on any of these four steps (1234, 2341, 3412 or 4123) but must include all four steps in order. The steps may be done with opposite footwork to the left . The steps are normally done on the whole foot but may be done on the heel in front and/ or the toe behind, and the steps may become leaps. The hips may swivel with the feet or remain Ďfacingí the front.

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