The following is a glossary of dance technical terms and a description of what they mean. In many of the dance description pages, we have linked to the relevant term on this page, so that the reader may fully understand exactly what is being described. There are certain moves and positions however, where a more exhaustive description seems appropriate and consequently, we have dedicated an entire page to it. In cases like these, the heading on this page will show as a link to the relevant page..
Glossary of Dance Technical Terms
A position where the foot is in the air, with a relaxed knee.
Usually in Latin – the lady turns right under the mans raised arm as he steps back.
The direction the foot or feet are pointed,. Or the direction one moves in relation to the room.
Generally measured from the feet, but sometimes measured from the body.
This is when the man stamps his foot – A very strong definite and defined move.
Shape given to knee (Aerial)
The correct distribution of the weight of the body.
The slight sway of the body on certain steps, particularly turning steps which helps retain the momentum of balance.
(In acknowledgment) Bending slightly forward from the waist.
When the moving foot is taken from one “open position” to another “open position” the word BRUSH indicates that the foot must first close, or almost close, to the foot supporting the weight of the body but without change of weight
From the promenade or barn dance position, both step forward with the outside foot then step forward with the inside foot and check or stop the forward movement with the inside foot, bending the knee slightly as the weight is taken up, replace weight onto back or outside foot. From here the most common move is to bring the lady into natural hold or you could syncopate by doing a back twinkle or change step.
Change of Place
Partners move to opposite sides, e.g.: man dances to outside and lady dances to inside, change places.
Three steps taken in any direction, closing the feet on the second step with weight, e.g. step left foot, close right foot to left foot, step left foot.
A Chassé with the feet open on the 2nd step.
A step stopping the normal forward progression and then reversing the alignment.
Three steps in any direction without turning, the foot on the third step with weight.
Partners finish facing each other in natural hold, e.g.: from promenade position – man, steps right foot forward and across in contra body movement position and promenade position leading the lady to turn towards the man, step left foot forward and slightly to the side, close right foot to left foot.
Turning the opposite hip and shoulder towards the moving leg.
When stepping forward or backwards and turning the opposite hip and shoulder towards the stepping leg without turning the body, giving the appearance of Contra Body Movement.
In ballroom hold facing diag. to wall down Line Of Dance, step your left foot forward and across your body to the right, (lady right foot back and slightly left) and check, (you should still be facing diag. to wall but your foot is pointing straight to the wall), replace the weight back onto the right foot (lady left foot) and turning left into promenade position, place your left foot (lady right foot) down the line of dance.
In ballroom hold facing diag. to wall down LOD, step left foot forward (lady right foot back and slightly left) and across your body to the right, (you should still be facing diag. to wall but your foot is pointing straight at the wall), now almost close your right foot (lady left foot) to your left foot (leave about six inches or 15 cm), now step your left foot (lady right foot) to the side down the line of dance whilst turning the lady so you are in promenade position (barn dance hold), try getting up on your toes when you close RF to LF.
Usually preceded by 1 to 3 of a reverse turn or spin turn – man step right foot back turning to the left, close left foot to right foot without weight and hesitates. Lady, right foot back, short step left foot to the side, close right foot to left foot on 3rd beat.
A type of promenade position, to swivel and face against Line Of Dance, but with the mans left hip in contact with the lady’s right hip.
A Latin step – mainly a side or back movement, the basic idea is, with feet slightly apart, step the left foot to the side with weight, leaving the right foot in place, now move your weight back to the right foot and close the left foot almost to the right.
Curtsy (Lady only)
Using the ball of the moving foot, cross it slightly behind the other foot with relaxed knees. Lower the body so that the knee of the back leg is in contact with the calf of the leg that is in front.
This is a slow fox-trot figure – It can be danced in any direction, usually starts down LOD and curves to face diagonal to the wall. Man step right foot forward and curving to the right, step left foot forward curving to the right, step right foot forward outside right side of lady to check. Can also curve left then: down LOD man step right foot forward and curving to the left, step left foot forward curving to the left to BLOD, step right foot back outside left side of lady turning to left to head diag. to wall
Step forward and with feet apart, relax both knees, lower the body and then rise
Used to change direction, last three steps are – facing diagonal to the wall down LOD, step left foot forward, step right foot forward and to the side turning to face diag, to centre down LOD, close left foot slowly to right without weight, then step forward left foot into next figure.
Man and lady moving backwards in ‘Promenade Position’ hold. (usually outside foot check)
Mainly slow fox-trot – normally a forward movement in closed hold – lady takes four steps straight back whilst gents 1st and 2nd steps are in front, 3rd is outside, on lady’s right side and 4th back in front of, or square to, the lady. All this whilst you maintain the closed hold and body contact, eg: step right foot forward, step left foot forward, step right foot outside lady’s right side, step left foot in front of lady
A quickstep figure, looks like two locks but it isn’t – position yourself in a natural hold and on the outside of the lady (with lady on your right hip), step right foot diagonally forward (lady left foot diagonally back), cross left foot behind right foot, step right foot diagonally forward (Use your hip to move the lady to the left in a swaying movement), step left foot down LOD, cross right foot behind left foot, step left foot forward down LOD.
Describes that part of the foot that is in contact with the floor, and use of the heel and ball of the foot movement. Heel – Ball – Toe etc.
Four medium length steps commencing with RF, curving from DC to DW over one bar of music. Usually followed by a Natural Turn.
Turn on the heel of one foot and with no change of weight step forward with the opposite foot.
Opposite to the Heel Pivot, that is, a change of weight does occur, at the completion of the half turn and then step forward with the same foot
A heel turn but the feet are apart at the end of turn and the weight is more forward.
A figure or part of a figure on which progression is suspended, and the weight is retained on the supporting foot for one count.
The idea is to make the hips look like they ‘bounce’. This is done by flexing the knees slightly and then bouncing upwards without the flexing leg leaving the floor. In ballroom dancing it is usually associated with a lift of the leg
The manner in which a man and lady hold each other whilst dancing.
Placing one foot lightly over the supporting foot in front or behind without weight, on rise, toe rests lightly on the floor, using same foot either forward or back.
Part of a figure in which the movement of the body is suspended momentarily, the feet remaining almost in position.
Commence in natural hold facing diagonal wall, down Line Of Dance – Step right foot forward, brush left foot almost to right foot and then to side and slightly forward diagonal to centre down LOD.
Step left foot back diagonal to the wall down LOD – close right foot to the left foot and turn, on your heels, to the right (Heel Turn), step forward left foot diagonal to centre down LOD, finishing in promenade position. (Closed) on 3rd step, LF fwd DC turning R to back DC agst LOD keeping Lady in closed Ballroom Hold.
A three step solo turn that is towards your partner.
A soft up and down movement.
Is the direction of movement in an anti-clockwise direction around the outer edge of the dance floor.
A step that joins two other figures.
Three steps taken in any direction crossing the feet on the second step with weight, and step forward or back with the opposite foot.
This figure is the same as the lock EXCEPT you are turning. Usually the man is going backwards and turning to his right or the wall. You would start off backing diag. to centre down LOD and finish backing diag. to wall down LOD. Alternately, you can finish in promenade position facing diag. to wall down LOD. ie Step RF back DC, cross LF in front of RF, step RF back and slightly to the right (starting to turn to PP), step LF to side and slightly forward to end in PP facing DW.
With a man facing to the centre and the (same foot) lady facing against LOD in ballroom hold, the man steps right foot to the side down LOD and the lady steps right foot back down LOD, both relaxing the right knee, transfer weight back to left feet and close right foot to left foot.
Is to turn right or clockwise.
Normally starts with man facing diagonal to wall down LOD and consists of six steps. Right foot forward, left foot to the side across LOD, close right foot to left foot (now backing LOD), turning to the right, step left foot back down LOD, right foot to the side and close left foot to right foot to end facing diagonal centre down LOD
This figure is in two parts – begins with first three of a natural turn and finishes with a spin on the last three steps, facing diagonal to wall down LOD, right foot forward, left foot to the side across LOD,
close right foot to left foot (now backing LOD). Now, step left foot back down LOD and commence turning strongly to the right, step right foot forward down LOD still turning to the right, step left foot to the side to finish backing diagonal to centre, down LOD. You should have now completed 7/8ths of a full rotation.
This figure, usually from the promenade position moves diagonally towards the wall down LOD, then down the LOD, then backs diagonally towards the centre. From promenade position man steps right foot (lady steps left foot) forward diagonally to wall, turning to the right – step left foot to the side (lady right foot forward), still turning right step back right foot (lady left foot) diagonally to centre down LOD.
A Latin figure, danced either down or against LOD – man, step right foot (lady left foot) forward down LOD and check, right shoulder leading lady’s left hand in mans right and (extended hold), replace weight back to left foot, turning to the right, right foot to the side against LOD facing wall (lady facing centre) and partner.
In natural hold, face diagonal to wall down LOD, step left foot forward and to the wall on the outside of the lady (lady right foot back and towards the wall) in a contra body movement position.
Any step forward outside partner.
Any step back with partner outside.
A three step solo turn that is away from your partner. (outwards)
Is turning on the ball of one foot, whilst the other is in a contra body movement position.
Taken in any direction, point the toe of the foot on the floor without weight, no rise on the supporting foot.
Carriage of the body, or the position of the body in relation to the feet.
Position of Feet
The position of one foot in relation to the other.
A position in which the man’s left side and the lady’s right side are turned slightly outwards from each other whilst the man’s right hip and the lady’s left hip are in contact. Giving the appearance of a ‘V’.
The opposite of Promenade Position. Gent’s left side in contact with lady’s right side. The man moves to his right and the lady to her left.
Danced in any direction in promenade position, eg: man steps left foot (lady right foot) forward, close right foot to left foot, step left foot forward or …step – close – step.
Is to turn left or anti-clockwise. Man facing (lady backing) diagonal to centre, down LOD, six steps to complete the turn – step left foot forward, right foot side and across LOD, close left foot to right foot, to finish backing LOD, now step right foot back down LOD, left foot to the side along LOD, close right foot to left foot to finish facing diagonal to wall down LOD.
The regular occurrence of an accented beat or beats in the music.
Moving the outside foot with a circular movement of the leg either forward or back.
Is the forward – backward – forward movement of the body with feet apart. Can also be backward – forward – backward or turning. Whilst in Latin there is a slight dragging of the feet on the forward or backward movements.
Not unlike a waltz movement. Danced in natural hold, start diagonal to wall down LOD – Step left foot forward turning right, close right foot to left foot, step left foot back turning to right, step right foot to side down LOD, close left foot to right foot still turning right, step right foot forward turning right. (ie: side together step, side together step)
Used in quickstep – consists of four steps starting with the left foot back diagonal to wall down LOD, step forward turning to right, step 2 & 3 outside lady and step 4 in line to end facing down LOD.
A set combination of figures.
This figure turns lady from promenade position to natural hold. Adopt promenade position, backing LOD – man slips right foot back, well under body moving towards the centre and pivots to the left on right foot to face LOD, holding left foot forward in contra body movement position. Lady turns to the left on ball of right foot to get square to man, then steps in line with man and pivots left on left foot to end backing LOD holding right foot behind in contra body movement position. Man steps left foot forward into next figure.
Usually starts from promenade position – dropping the hold, the man and lady complete a full turn in three steps that progress either down or against LOD and turning, in either the same direction or opposite directions. Eg: the man turns to the left and the lady turns to the right or both turn to the right, or both turn to the left. YOU DO NOT SPIN ON THE SPOT.
Spin Turn Natural, over or under turned? (See also Natural Spin Turn)
Executed in ballroom hold and is similar to a pivot but only completes 7/8ths of a full rotation and usually starts with the first three step as of a natural turn. Can be under or over turned.
Used to reverse the direction of travel – adopt promenade position, step forward and leaving the back foot in place, turn outwards on the ball of the foot to finish facing the opposite direction (or back the way you came).
An inclination of the body to the left or right.
A strong step that turns, but with both feet apart.
A turn on the ball of the foot whilst the opposite foot closes without weight and steps through.
Any three steps taken to two beats of music.
Release the foot from the floor and tap the floor lightly with the ball of the foot with a relaxed knee, releasing foot from floor immediately. The weight is on the supporting foot, no rise.
A six step turn from promenade position. Facing diagonal centre – step right foot forward (lady left foot forward) diagonal centre, step left foot forward diagonal centre turning left, (Lady long step right foot to the side, across front of man and turning left), still turning left, step right foot to side backing LOD (lady turning left on right foot and to side with left foot), step left foot back diagonal to centre, lady on outside right, step right foot back diagonal centre, lady in line and turning left, left foot to side and slightly forward facing wall.
There is NO backward movement in a whisk.
Usually commences with man facing (lady backing) diagonal to wall down LOD. The man does not turn and the lady turns to the right on the 2nd step (left foot). Man – stepping left foot forward, right foot forward and to side, crossing left foot behind right foot, (lady stepping right foot back, left foot back and to side, crossing right foot behind left foot.) to end in promenade position.
Commonly follows a whisk. Man steps right foot forward commencing to lead lady to man’s left side – closing left foot towards right foot still leading lady to man’s left side, close left foot to right without weight. Lady, left foot forward commencing to curve around man, right foot, left foot forward still curving around toward left side of man.
Tango figure, from promenade position – starting with feet closed, move the left foot (lady right foot) back and to the side, flexing the right knee (lady left knee) and bending the body from the waist, in the same direction as the moving foot, to form an ‘X’.
In natural hold, facing diagonal wall down LOD – step left foot (lady right foot back) forward diagonal wall down LOD – starting to turn left step right foot (lady left foot back) forward diagonal centre down LOD, step left foot (lady right foot forward) back diagonal wall down LOD, step right foot to side and forward (lady left foot to side and back) turning right to face diagonal centre down LOD.
Dance Technical Terms