Dance Terminologies: Beginner’s Guide

Amateur dancers often get confused by dance terminologies. For instance, the term ‘attitude’ means something entirely different in dancing.

Your dance instructor will probably try to prevent any misunderstandings from happening, but things can still get confusing.

After all, you are already learning a new skill, so getting thrust in a new world of words doesn’t exactly help. Not to worry though!

Our dance terminology guide is here to make things easier for you. Let’s take a look at some popular terms in ballroom dancing and what they mean:

popular dance terminologies

Arch

This is a dance position in which your upper body or whole body is extended to create the form of an arch.

An arch can also be used to refer to a hand movement in which the hands of both dance partners are joined above their heads 

Attitude

This is a pose in which one leg is on the ground while the other is lifted in the air. The leg that is in the air must be bent at 120 degrees. 

Attitude Turn 

This is a turn that is executed while the dancer is in the attitude position (described above). 

Body roll

A body roll is a dance movement in which you must lean outside of your support base. You must then rotate your upper body to form a broad arc. 

Chair

This dance terminology is used to refer to a dance movement in which you are required to check your motion and then lower down onto your knee.

Your thigh must be in a horizontal position while you do this. 

Chase 

A chase is a dance movement where one dance partner appears to pursue the other.  

Comma 

You’ll notice how your dance instructor inserts a comma while reciting dance steps to you. This comma is meant to indicate the end of a music beat.

For instance, the instructions, “Forward, forward, close;” indicate three dance steps that you perform on three separate beats of music. 

Chug 

This is a dance move where you must balance your weight on your feet, bend your knees, and then straighten up. This causes your feet to slide in the backward direction. 

Contraction

This is a term used to describe a modern ballroom dance technique. It was coined by Martha Graham.

The word refers to a dance movement where your spine curves forward. This curve starts from your pelvic zone. 

Explode 

This is a dance move where you step away from your dance partner. This is usually done in a way that your arms are swept up and your hands are held. 

Flight 

A flight is a type of continuous, smooth, and elevated motion. It is created through passing steps and an erect carriage. It is most commonly used when performing the foxtrot. 

Jete 

This is a type of movement in which a dancer must jump from one foot to the other. There are different types of Jetes as well. A grande jete is dramatic.

In this movement, a dancer must perform a leap. They must also perform a split in the middle of this leap. A tour jete is when you perform a half turn and jump from one foot to another. 

[READ: Social Dance Types: A Guide for Beginners]

Lunge 

This dance terminology is used to identify a movement in which you move to transfer the weight of one leg to another. The leg that the weight is transferred to is bent, while the other leg is kept extended.

Lean 

This term is used to define a stationary position. In this position, one partner must be able to partially support or counterbalance the weight of another partner. 

Plie

This is a movement that is found in both ballroom dancing and ballet. However, their meanings differ across these two forms of dance.

In the case of ballroom dancing, a plie is a type of lowering movement. Your body gets lowered to a position that is similar to when you sit down. 

Ride 

This is a dance movement in which your dance partner supports and rotates you on an axis. It is also referred to as the horse and cart movement. 

Spotting

This is a technique in dancing where a dancer must attempt to maintain their focus on a single spot while performing turns. You must focus on a fixed spot through the duration of the turn.

This can help prevent the dizziness that ensues from excessive turning.  It also looks aesthetically appealing as it helps your dance movement look more controlled and crisp. 

Split 

This dance terminology refers to a dance position in which your legs are separated at an angle of 180 degrees. The term is not limited to dancing and you may have heard it in Kung Fu as well. 

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And that’s a wrap! We hope you have a better understanding of some common dance terminologies and find it easier to navigate through your next ballroom dance class. Have Fun!

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