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Home > Dance Terminology

Social Dance Glossary A-Z


Absolute Pattern: A basic pattern that is danced individually. A great way to learn before you partner up!

Active Connection: This is when the "leader" initiates the pattern.

Adjusted Pattern: When you add a partner then it becomes an adjusted pattern. You have to learn the "adjustments" to make after you learn the dance on your own - when you add a partner.

Alegrias: This is a very old Spanish dance categorized in Flamenco. It imitates the movements of a bull fight and is done individually by a woman.

American Rhythm:A type of "Latin American" dance that is mostly done in USA competitions.

American Smooth: This type of dancing allows "open work" which means the pair can separate while competing or dancing.

Anchor: Usually regarding swing, the "anchor" is the finale rhythm measure and it dictates which position the dancers will end with.

Argentinian Tango: This dance actually originated in Africa! But it spread like wild fire to South America, Europe and America in the early 1900's. The tango is a very sensual and firey dance!

Back Break Turn: This is a 180 degree turn or half turn done with a partner which stops you abrupty since you are connected with someone at the arms. It's a resistance when you hit the half way point.

Balboa: A fast tempo swing dance.

Ball Change: A basic dance step which uses the exchange of weight from the ball of one foot to the flat of the other in a rocking “waltzy” fashion.

Ballroom dancing: A traditional category of dance including most social dance types we see today in the couples competitions.

Bamba: An old folklore dance from Mexico which is about two lovers dancing on a sash that ties together by the process...

Black Bottom: This original New York made dance was created in the 20s in the era of the Charleston. This couple dance consisted of a shuffle, knee sway and stomps which originated with African American folk.

Blank Rhythm: This is a rhythm void of weight changing.

Body Flight: This is more of a concept than a step or type of dance. It is the notion that a dancer or group of dancers are consumed with the movement and music and find a spiritual level in their performance or movement.

Bolero: This dance originated in Spain and evolved in Cuba. It currently is a very slow rhythm - kind of like a Rumba.

Boogie Woogie: This is a type of jazz dance coined by African American dancers which has been adopted into many mainstream dances today.

Boston Jive: A type of swing dance like Lindy but with added kicks.

Bossa Nova: A dance from the 60s that is like a slow Samba. This dance was born out of the fusion of Jazz and Brazilian music.

Break: This means to change direction.

Break Ending: An end to a specific dance, can be a type of "encore" movement.

Break Turn (AKA: Military Turn): This is when the dancer takes 2 steps (or a ball-change) and a half turn between the steps of a dance.

Bunny Hop: Sort of like a "conga" with more jumps rather then a kick at the end of each section.

Calypso: This was a dance born of a very popular era in music which came from England in the 50s. It has a resemblance to Bolero.

Can Can: From France in the 1800s, this dance included women who kicked their legs into the air wearing corsetted tops and full skirts.

C-Frame: The body alignment needed for most types of swing.

Cha Cha: This is an evolved triple mambo basically! This style is an advanced marriage of American and Latin dancing (and music).

Charleston: This dance from the 20s, was a wild youth dance at one time. The kids would dance on the slippery jazz hall floors by twisting the feet in and out.

Charleston Twist: This is the basic Charleston done on high feet (or the balls of the feet).

Clogging: Double time stomping and tapping with the body held erect.

Compensating Step: This is the step that gels together two different rhythms.

Compression Connection: A couple connection that has tension or energy.

Conga: An Afro-Cuban party-dance charecterized by the emphasis on the end beats of musical phrases. There is a certain conga beat that is played for this dance.

Contra body movement (CBM): A body movement off opposition where the torso (with shoulders and hips aligned) twist one way from the legs. Turns are often prepped with this move.

Contra-body movement position (CBMP): Another body movement but stems from the legs directl, fueled by a cross over the other.

Contre Dance: A square dance originated in France from the 1600s. This was a type of dance that now resembles country dancing.

Country Dance: Originating from England, this type of dancing is where current American folk dancing comes from (square dancing, jig, reels etc).

Cuban motion: A certain motion derived from Cuban dancers that involves a hip movement. This motion stems from a quick change of the knees (from bent to straight).

Cucarachas: This is another word for "side breaks" where the feet change from first to second position.

DanceSport: The name of a current ballroom competition that involves extremely advanced professional dancers.

Delayed Double Rhythm Unit: A rhythm unit that is doubled.

Delayed Single Rhythm Unit: Basically this is a dance step that does not start on 1, but is delayed by a kick, or step that doesn't have weight or a pause.

Dependent Step Pattern: A phrase of steps that leave the dancer in motion at the end of the phrase (where it doesn't have a final end step) so that the dancer can hopefully continue dancing on the next phrase...

Dig Swivel: Just what it says, a foot dig then a swivel or foot twist on the balls of the feet.

Dirty Dancin’: A very sensual and close type of couple dancing. You can see this type of dancing in "Dirty Dancin'", which is a movie from the 80s starring Mr. Patrick Swayze.

Double Time: This is basically a "delayed single rhythm".

East Coast Swing: A type of swing dancing that we now know as the "jitterbug".

Fandango: A dance originated in Spain for partners, involving castanets, finger snaps, and feet stomping. The tempo then increases until the dance gets so fast that it can't be done practically. The dancers then pause with the music and pose with fire in their eyes until the music prompts their movement again.

Flamenco: A Spanish dance that involves sharp hand movements in the air and a stomping of the feet.

Fox Trot: A type of ballroom dance.

Freestyle: Dance improvisation.

Funk Swing: A type of swing that is loosely choreographed. It leaves room for ad libbing.

Grapevine: A twisting side movement where the body will twist from the waist down going back and forth between the foot is leading. One foot leads after the other.

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