Dance Glossary

Alexander Technique

The Alexander Technique was developed by F. Matthias Alexander, an orator and performer, in the early 20th century. It is taught and used around the world for pain management and ergonomics in work environments, as well as dance and theater. The Alexander Technique is a simple and practical method of coordinating the body and mind for improving ease and freedom of movement, balance, support and coordination. It helps you perform everyday activities, from sitting and standing to walking and dancing, without unnecessary tension and effort.

Argentine Tango

A very flirtatious dance in 2/4 time. It evolved in Argentina from a dance that arrived with the Spanish fleet. Influenced by black dance styles and rhythms in the dance halls of the lower class population in Buenos Aires, the Tango emerged as Ballroom or Argentine Tango.

Tango is a big favorite of ballroom dancers because of its steamy and expressive moves. There are several types of Tango: Argentine, Ballroom, French, Gaucho (the original), International, Tango Nuevo and more. Classic, or Argentine, Tango requires the dancers maintain contact at the chest or hip throughout the dance. Ballroom Tango typically requires the dancers to maintain contact at the hips or thighs. Modern Tango is less strict, borrowing steps and spins from Salsa.

Bachatta

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Ballroom Dancing

Includes all Social and Latin dance styles – the American-style Waltz, Foxtrot, Swing, Tango, Cha-Cha, Rumba, Samba, Mambo and Hustle. Ballroom dancing can be easy and casual or rigid and very stylized, as for competitions.

Ballroom West Coast Swing

A style of Swing popular in the ballroom dance school organizations and different from the style performed in the California nightclubs and Swing dance clubs.

Carolina Shag

A style of Swing popular in the Carolinas emphasizing the leader’s nimble feet.

Cha-Cha

This dance evolved from the Mambo in nightclubs and dance halls where dancers were less inhibited. The name comes from the term chassé – a step-close-step sequence in which the dancer slides one leg out, places weight on it and then draws the other leg along the floor to it – the “cha-cha-cha” movement in the dance.

Country Western Swing

A style of Jitterbug popularized during the 1980s and danced to Country and Western music.

Cuban Motion

Hip motion resulting from the alternate bending and straightening of the knees, typical of Cuban dancing styles, especially the Merengue.

East Coast Swing

A six-count style of Lindy popular in the ballroom dance school organizations. The basic step is triple-step, triple-step, rock step (also known as Jitterbug or Triple-Step Swing); often seen danced to early rock n’ roll.

Four-Count Hustle

The basic step is forward, back, together, forward. Use the same steps and figures as the Three-Count Hustle, but step with each beat of the music: 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4. Excellent for fast Disco, “Techno-Beat” and Merengue music.

Foxtrot

A social dance of American origin that became popular during the big band era. Still probably the couples dance most often seen on American dance floors, the Foxtrot is a standard ballroom dance all over the world. The Foxtrot is performed with a smooth step, step, quick-quick pattern with promenades and twirls. This dance is easily adapted to any slow-to-medium-tempo music in 4/4 time.

Hip Hop

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. In eu est ligula, vitae pretium magna. Ut condimentum mollis purus vitae consequat. Donec id lacus quis nisl consectetur convallis. Phasellus quam eros, volutpat vitae posuere vel, laoreet eu mi. Vestibulum vitae eros at lectus vehicula hendrerit ut sit amet leo. Sed vel est vitae lacus pharetra auctor nec et nunc. Pellentesque fermentum metus eget tellus elementum hendrerit tristique purus fringilla. Nunc nec purus venenatis est ullamcorper imperdiet a a purus. Maecenas fringilla gravida lacus, a dignissim lorem porta sed. Suspendisse justo diam, condimentum vitae posuere sed, hendrerit at neque. Cum sociis natoque penatibus et magnis dis parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus. Duis a augue nec mi commodo congue. Sed hendrerit odio ut justo pharetra vestibulum. Nunc vel venenatis magna.

Hustle or Swing Hustle

Often associated with disco music, the hustle is the perfect dance for nightclub music, including everything from pop to rap and hip hop.

Three-Count Hustle – The basic step (ball-change, walk, walk, ball-change) is ideal for classic disco beat music.

Four-Count Hustle – Also called Four-Count Swing. One step is taken on each beat of the music. (See Swing)

International Waltz

From the old German word walzen, to roll, turn or glide. The Waltz was born in the suburbs of Vienna and in the alpine region of Austria. It arose from the weller, or turning dances, of peasants in Austria and Bavaria, and many Waltz tunes can be traced to peasant yodeling melodies.

One of many patterns from the complex English/French contre danse, with arms intertwined at shoulder level, this one pattern was adopted by Austrian peasants but danced in the close-hold position. Considered scandalous for many years, it became the rage of high society in many cultures as it spread around the world.

The Waltz is easy to learn with its 1-2-3, 1-2-3 rhythm and simple box-step foundation pattern. All Waltzes are performed in 3/4 time with strong accent on the first beat and a basic footwork pattern of step, step, close.

International (or Modern) Style: The slower version with long gliding steps seen in competitive dancing. It often includes the hesitation, in which one step is held for two or three beats in a measure.

Viennese (Quick) Waltz: A faster and more refined version of the Waltz, with smaller steps and smoother, tighter turns.

Jitterbug

The basic pattern is triple-step, triple-step, rock step (repeat). This is a versatile dance, because it can be danced to Swing, Blues, or Disco beats in venues from nightclubs to wedding receptions and ballroom events.

Jive

The international style version of the Jitterbug, danced competitively in the U.S. and all over the world.

Lambada

The Lambada is one of several South American dances that evolved from a folk dance performed without a partner to a couples dance. It incorporates dance elements from Forró, Samba, Merengue and Maxixe (a very sensual 19th century Brazilian dance, popular in Europe). Lambada, the music, has elements of Calypso, Zouk and Reggae and is derived from Carimbó, a Brazilian musical style named for the tall African drums that provided its strong rhythms.

The Lambada takes three steps to every four beats. It is danced mostly on the balls of the feet, twisting the foot slightly with each step. Most of the movement occurs from the waist down, knees bent and hips swaying in Cuban motion. (Lambada means “strong slap” or “hit” in Portuguese; in Brazil it is said to refer to the wavelike motion of a whip, suggested by the dancers’ swaying bodies.) While in contact with the partner, every right step is taken with the right knee between the partner’s thighs, the signature step of the Lambada.

Latin Dance

This is often used as a “generic” term, referring to any of the diverse dance styles from the Caribbean, Central America and South America. It typically includes the Cha-Cha, Mambo, Meringue, Rumba, Salsa and Samba.

Lindy (Lindy Hop)

A smoother-looking dance style than Jive.

Mambo

The Mambo originated in Cuba. The fusion of Swing and Cuban music produced a fascinating rhythm and, in turn, created a new sensational dance. It is similar to Salsa, but in Mambo the dancers’ first steps begin on the second beat of the measure. In a 4/4 rhythm, the first step would begin on beat 2.

Merengue

The Merengue is the national dance of the Dominican Republic and very popular throughout the Caribbean and South America. It is one of the standard Latin dances, and one of the few well suited to small, crowded dance floors.

Ideal for 2/4 and 4/4 rhythms, the Merengue is a two-step dance in which the dancer’s weight rests on one straight leg while the other leg bends and takes a small step to the side, front or back. The hip motion results from the alternate bending and straightening of the knees, typical of Cuban dancing styles. Easy to learn, it is simple and smooth in its slow version (very similar to the typical rocking motion of simple slow dancing), but its faster forms can be quite flashy.

Modern Waltz

From the old German word walzen, to roll, turn or glide. The Waltz was born in the suburbs of Vienna and in the alpine region of Austria. It arose from the weller, or turning dances, of peasants in Austria and Bavaria, and many Waltz tunes can be traced to peasant yodeling melodies.

One of many patterns from the complex English/French contre danse, with arms intertwined at shoulder level, this one pattern was adopted by Austrian peasants but danced in the close-hold position. Considered scandalous for many years, it became the rage of high society in many cultures as it spread around the world.

The Waltz is easy to learn with its 1-2-3, 1-2-3 rhythm and simple box-step foundation pattern. All Waltzes are performed in 3/4 time with strong accent on the first beat and a basic footwork pattern of step, step, close.

International (or Modern) Style: The slower version with long gliding steps seen in competitive dancing. It often includes the hesitation, in which one step is held for two or three beats in a measure.

Viennese (Quick) Waltz: A faster and more refined version of the Waltz, with smaller steps and smoother, tighter turns.

Nightclub

This term covers a range of steps adopted from several dance styles (Swing or Jitterbug, Hustle, Cha-Cha, Rumba, Salsa, Merengue and the One-Step for slow dancing) that are very simple. Most nightclub music is suitable for Swing, Hustle, or Cha-Cha.

One- Step

The One-Step slow dance works for most slow nightclub music, especially if it has a slow blues rhythm (a simple 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4). Foot placement: side, back, rock, step; side, back, rock, step.

Quick-Quick-Slow Pattern

Another easy slow dance. One quick step corresponds to one beat of the music; each slow step corresponds to two beats. This footwork can be used with Rumba, Salsa, Mambo and other dance styles because they all share the same basic footwork timing: quick, quick slow… quick, quick, slow.

Quick Waltz

From the old German word walzen, to roll, turn or glide. The Waltz was born in the suburbs of Vienna and in the alpine region of Austria. It arose from the weller, or turning dances, of peasants in Austria and Bavaria, and many Waltz tunes can be traced to peasant yodeling melodies.

One of many patterns from the complex English/French contre danse, with arms intertwined at shoulder level, this one pattern was adopted by Austrian peasants but danced in the close-hold position. Considered scandalous for many years, it became the rage of high society in many cultures as it spread around the world.

The Waltz is easy to learn with its 1-2-3, 1-2-3 rhythm and simple box-step foundation pattern. All Waltzes are performed in 3/4 time with strong accent on the first beat and a basic footwork pattern of step, step, close.

International (or Modern) Style: The slower version with long gliding steps seen in competitive dancing. It often includes the hesitation, in which one step is held for two or three beats in a measure.

Viennese (Quick) Waltz: A faster and more refined version of the Waltz, with smaller steps and smoother, tighter turns.

Rumba (or Rhumba)

The word Rumba comes from the verb rumbear, which means going to parties, dancing, and having a good time. The Rumba originated in Cuba and is danced in 4/4 time. The characteristic feature is to take each step without initially placing the weight on that step. Steps are made with a slightly bent knee which, when straightened, causes the hips to sway from side to side, called Cuban motion.

Rumba evolved as a faster and less refined version of the Cuban dances Son (the popular dance of middle class Cuba) and Danzon (a dance brought over by the French which became the preferred dance of Cuban high society). It was introduced in the U.S. in the 1920s and 1930s when Cuban dance bands brought their music to the U.S. and the dances followed.

Salsa

The word Salsa means sauce with a hot flavor. This Cuban dance shares many of the same moves as Mambo. Both dances have a pattern of six steps danced to eight counts of music. Salsa features turns (not seen in Mambo) and has more of a side-to-side movement; Mambo generally moves forward and backward.

Samba

The Samba originated in Brazil. It was and is danced as a festival dance during street festivals and celebrations. It was adopted by Brazilian society in 1930 as a ballroom dance. The style is to bounce steadily and smoothly in 2/4 meter. The Samba was introduced in the U.S. in 1939 by the Latina actress Carmen Miranda. Samba fits most of today’s popular music.

Swing

Swing, like Salsa, has many different forms. It developed from a blend of several popular dances – the Lindy, Lindy Hop, Charleston, Jitterbug, etc. – that arose from African-American communities during the heydays of Jazz, Swing and Jump Blues music.

Through the years, the dances have been “tamed down” by dance studios, making them easier to learn for the general public. As a result, we have Ballroom East Coast Swing and Ballroom West Coast Swing. Regional and local styles have cropped up across the country.

Ballroom West Coast Swing: A style of Swing popular in the ballroom dance school organizations and different from the style performed in the California nightclubs and Swing dance clubs.

Cajun Swing: A Louisiana bayou style of Lindy danced to Cajun music.

Carolina Shag: A style of Swing popular in the Carolinas emphasizing the leader’s nimble feet.

Country-Western Swing: A style of Jitterbug popularized during the 1980s and danced to Country and Western music.

DC Hand Dancing: A Washington, D.C. blend of Lindy and Swing.

East Coast Swing: A six-count style of Lindy popular in the ballroom dance school organizations. The basic step is triple-step, triple-step, rock step (also known as Triple-Step Swing or Jitterbug); often seen danced to early rock n’ roll.

Four-Count Swing (Four-Count Hustle): The basic step is forward, back, together, forward. Use the same steps and figures as the three-count Hustle, but step with each beat of the music: 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4. Excellent for fast Disco, “Techno-Beat” and Merengue music.

Imperial Swing: a style of Swing popular in St. Louis, Missouri.

Jitterbug or Triple-step Swing: The basic pattern is triple-step, triple-step, rock step (repeat). This is a versatile dance, because it can be danced to Swing, Blues, or Disco beats in venues from nightclubs to wedding receptions and ballroom events.

Jive: the international style version of the Jitterbug, danced competitively in the U.S. and all over the world.

Lindy: A smoother-looking dance style than Jive.

Pony Swing: A country and western style of Cajun Swing.

Push: A style of Swing popular in Dallas, Texas, emphasizing moves that spinning the follower between dance positions with a rock rhythm break.

Savoy Swing: A style of Swing popular in the New York Savoy Ballroom in the 30′s and 40′s originally danced to Swing music. The Savoy style of Swing is a very fast, jumpy, casual-looking style of dancing.

Supreme Swing: A style of Swing popular in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

West Coast Swing: This dance consists of six- and eight-count patterns danced in a slot. Voted the California State Dance in 1989.

Whip: A style of Swing popular in Houston, Texas, emphasizing moves spinning the follower between dance positions with a wave rhythm break.

Tango

A very flirtatious dance in 2/4 time. It evolved in Argentina from a dance that arrived with the Spanish fleet. Influenced by black dance styles and rhythms in the dance halls of the lower class population in Buenos Aires, the Tango emerged as Ballroom or Argentine Tango.

Tango is a big favorite of ballroom dancers because of its steamy and expressive moves. There are several types of Tango: Argentine, Ballroom, French, Gaucho (the original), International. Tango Nuevo and more. Classic, or Argentine, Tango requires the dancers maintain contact at the chest or hip throughout the dance. Ballroom Tango typically requires the dancers to maintain contact at the hips or thighs. Modern Tango is less strict, borrowing steps and spins from Salsa.

Three Count Hustle

Often associated with disco music, the hustle is the perfect dance for nightclub music, including everything from pop to rap and hip hop.

Three-Count Hustle – The basic step (ball-change, walk, walk, ball-change) is ideal for classic disco beat music.

Four-Count Hustle – Also called Four-Count Swing. One step is taken on each beat of the music. (See Swing)

Viennese Waltz

From the old German word walzen, to roll, turn or glide. The Waltz was born in the suburbs of Vienna and in the alpine region of Austria. It arose from the weller, or turning dances, of peasants in Austria and Bavaria, and many Waltz tunes can be traced to peasant yodeling melodies.

One of many patterns from the complex English/French contre danse, with arms intertwined at shoulder level, this one pattern was adopted by Austrian peasants but danced in the close-hold position. Considered scandalous for many years, it became the rage of high society in many cultures as it spread around the world.

The Waltz is easy to learn with its 1-2-3, 1-2-3 rhythm and simple box-step foundation pattern. All Waltzes are performed in 3/4 time with strong accent on the first beat and a basic footwork pattern of step, step, close.

International (or Modern) Style: The slower version with long gliding steps seen in competitive dancing. It often includes the hesitation, in which one step is held for two or three beats in a measure.

Viennese (Quick) Waltz: A faster and more refined version of the Waltz, with smaller steps and smoother, tighter turns.

Waltz

From the old German word walzen, to roll, turn or glide. The Waltz was born in the suburbs of Vienna and in the alpine region of Austria. It arose from the weller, or turning dances, of peasants in Austria and Bavaria, and many Waltz tunes can be traced to peasant yodeling melodies.

One of many patterns from the complex English/French contre danse, with arms intertwined at shoulder level, this one pattern was adopted by Austrian peasants but danced in the close-hold position. Considered scandalous for many years, it became the rage of high society in many cultures as it spread around the world.

The Waltz is easy to learn with its 1-2-3, 1-2-3 rhythm and simple box-step foundation pattern. All Waltzes are performed in 3/4 time with strong accent on the first beat and a basic footwork pattern of step, step, close.

International (or Modern) Style: The slower version with long gliding steps seen in competitive dancing. It often includes the hesitation, in which one step is held for two or three beats in a measure.

Viennese (Quick) Waltz: A faster and more refined version of the Waltz, with smaller steps and smoother, tighter turns.

West Coast Swing

This dance consists of six- and eight-count patterns danced in a slot. Voted the California State Dance in 1989.