Dance Terminology
For International Folk Dance Descriptions

By Richard Duree


One of the most important tools for both teaching and learning is to have a universally understood terminology of dance movements. These are generally accepted terms in the folk / ethnic / social dance community and the teacher must be familiar with all of them.


bkwd
Backward
c
Count, Counts

cpl, cpls
Couple, Couples

ct, cts
Count, Counts

ctr
Center

CCW
Counter-clockwise

CW
Clockwise

diag
Diagonal

dir
Direction

ft
Foot, Feet

ftwk
Footwork

fwd
Forward

L
Left hand, arm, foot, leg, side, man, woman

LOD
Line of Direction (usually CCW)

M
Man, Men, Man's, Men's

meas
Measure, Measures

mvt
Movement

opp
Opposite

R
Right hand, arm, foot, leg, side, man, woman

RLOD
Reverse Line of Direction (uaually CW)

rpt
Repeat

twd
Toward

W
Woman, Women, Woman's, Women's


Step
A change of weight from one foot to another with at least one foot remaining in contact with the floor throughout the change.

Leap
A change of weight from one foot to another with both feet being off the floor at some time during the change.

Run
A series of leaps, usually continuing in the same direction.

Hop
Begins with the weight on one foot, moves into the air, and lands on the same foot.

Lift
Same as the hop except that only the heel of the supporting foot leaves the floor; usually done with a straightening of the supporting knee and a lifting gesture of the free leg (sometimes called a "lilt").

Jump
Beginning on either or both feet, springing into the air and landing on both feet.

Slide or Chassé
A step to the side with the leading foot, usually with a soft knee flexion, followed by a low leap into place on the trailing foot; usually done in a series.

Skip
A hop followed by a step on the free foot, usually in an irregular Quick-Slow rhythm.

Reel
A series of "step-hops" or "hop-steps" with the foot taking weight stepping in front of or behind the supporting foot; may travel or stay in place.

Chug
An abrupt slide forward or backward on either or both feet, usually accompanied by a plie of the supporting knee(s).

Brush
A gesture by the free foot in which the ball of the foot contacts the floor as the foot is swung forward or backward.

Scuff
A gesture by the free foot in which the foot is swung forward, brushing the heel on the floor.

Touch
A gesture by the free foot in which the foot lightly contacts the floor without taking weight or creating noise. Either knee may be flexed or stretched.

Point
A touch which is done with the gesturing leg and foot extended.

Flex
The act of bending a joint (knee, ankle, elbow, wrist).

Plie
A movement in which the body is lowered by flexing the knee(s) and ankle(s) of the supporting leg or legs.

Extend
The act of straightening a joint to its fullest range of motion.

Supporting Leg / Foot
The leg or foot which is carrying the body's weight.

Gesturing Leg / Foot / Arm / Hand
The limb which is not carrying weight and is free to move as the dance dictates.

Place
The spot where the feet are when standing still with feet together. Place moves to the new spot beside the supporting foot when weight is transferred from one foot to the other.

Cabriole
Touching the heels together in the air during a hop. NOTE: The supporting foot always rises to meet the free foot in the air.

Pivot
A movement in which the body spins in place on the ball of the supporting foot or both feet.

Stamp
A vertical downward movement which strikes the heel of the free foot on the floor without taking weight, but which creates an audible noise. Generally accomplished by lowering the body in a plie of the supporting leg and striking the floor with a flexed free leg.

Tap
A movement from the ankle which lightly strikes the floor vertically with the ball or toe of the free foot without taking weight.

Shuffle
A brush forward and backward with the free foot.

A dance form in which dancers stand in a line and are joined by holding hands with the person on either side; may be in closed circle or lines and the hand holds may vary (shoulders, belts, basket, etc.).

"V" hold
Handhold in a chain dance with the hands joined low, arms relaxed and elbows straight.

"W" hold
Handhold in a chain dance with the hands held higher than waist-high, elbows lower than hands.

"T" or Shoulder hold
Handhold in a chain dance with hands resting on the shoulders or upper arms of the person on either side.

Closed Position
Couple dance position in which partners face each other, man's right arm around woman's rib cage, woman's left arm on man's right shoulder.

Open Position
Couple dance position in which both partners stand side-by-side facing the same direction; men's inside arm supporting woman's back, woman's inside hand on man's near shoulder, outside hands free.

Semi-open Position
Couple dance position similar to "open" position, except outside hands are joined forward.

"Banjo" / "Side Car" Position
Couple dance position in which partners face as in closed position, but with right hips adjacent.

Csárdás Position
Couple dance position in which partners face as in closed position, both man's arms around woman's rib cage, both woman's hands on man's shoulders.

Skater's / Promenade Position
Couple dance position in which partners face forward as in "open" position with hands joined in front, right-to-right and left-to-left with hand-shake grip. Upper arm may vary, depending on requirements of the dance.

Varsouvienne Position
Couple dance position in which both partners face forward as in "skater's" position with right hands joined over woman's right shoulder, man's right arm behind woman's head. In some dances, the woman may be temporarily on the man's left side with the left hands joined over the woman's left shoulder, right arms extended forward or to right side.

Escort Position
Couple dance position in which both partners face forward as in "Varsouvienne" position with right hands joined at woman's right hip, man's right arm behind woman's back.


Copyright © 2011 by Richard Duree