Folk Dance Definitions

By Dick Oakes


These may not be all of the dance definitions that are available to folk dancers, but it is a pretty good representative sample!


Cast Off
The primary method of progression in contra dances. The active couples continue to move down the set, while the inactive couples move up. There are many methods of casting off.

Chain
A dance form in which dancers stand in a line, semi-circle, or circle and are joined by holding hands with the person on either side. The hand hold may vary (low, elbows bent, elbows straight, elbow hold, shoulder hold, belt hold, front basket, back basket, etc.).

Broken Rhythm
A combination of slow and quick bts when the rhythm pattern takes more than one measure. A repetition will begin in the middle of a measure. An example is the magic step in the fox trot.

Couple
A set of two people.

Even Rhythm
Bts getting full note value — long or short (slow or quick). Examples are hop, jump, leap, run, and walk.

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

Head of Set
In contra sets, the end of the set closest to the music or the caller. The opposite end is the Foot of the Set.

Home Position
Original pos of each dancer or couple in a set.

In Place
At approximately the same spot where the previous step on that same ft was taken.

Measure
One group of bts made by the regular occurrence of the heavy accent. It represents the underlying bt enclosed between two adjacent bars on a musical staff.

Meter
The time in music or a group of bts to form the underlying rhythms within a meas.

Phrase
A musical "sentence." It can be felt by listening for the complete "thought" of the music. Phrases may vary in length. A group of phrases may express a "thought" as a group of "sentences" may express a "paragraph."

Rhythm
An ordered recurrent alternation of strong and weak elements in the fwd flow of sound.

Rhythmic Pattern
The melody pattern or grouping of bts, as the melody of a song corresponds to the underlying rhythm.

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

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.

Tempo
The rate of speed at which the music is played.

Trio
A set of three people.

Uneven Rhythm
A combination of slow and quick bts. Examples are gallop, polka, skip, slide, and two-step.


Copyright © 2014 by Dick Oakes