Dance Dictionary- Terms Every Dancer Should Know

January 27, 2021

Dance Dictionary- Terms Every Dancer Should Know

Terms every dancer should know- all here in our DANCE DICTIONARY! The world of dance has its own complete language that can sometimes make it challenging to learn new techniques. To help you become fluent, Covet Dance has put together a COMPLETE LIST OF DANCE TERMS to make your dance classes a bit easier to understand so you can focus on mastering the moves!  If you think of a term or step we forgot, please leave us a comment so we can add it to help make this a better tool for all dancers.

A-D

À la seconde: To the second position or to the side. 

Á terre: On the floor/ground. 

Abstraction: This word refers to choreography that is interpreted as pure movement and does not follow a specific storyline. 

Adage: Graceful controlled movement showing exquisite lines which require great balance and strength. Also used is the Italian musical term "adagio" meaning slow tempo.

Allégro: Quick or large jumps to a lively, fast or brisk tempo, usually done towards the end of class.

Alignment: Perfect placement of all the parts of the body.

Allongé: Elongated. Used to describe poses that are stretched.

Arabesque: A position where the dancer balances on one leg (either flat footed or en pointe) and lifts one leg straight behind at a right angle. The shoulders must remain square in the line of direction. 

Arch: Position in which the whole or upper body is extended, creating the form of an arch.

Arriére: Backwards. A move that indicates backwards movement or motion away from the audience. 

Assemblé: Joined together. A move in which a dancer slides the working foot along the ground and then brings the legs together to fifth position while jumping in the air. 

Attitude: A pose in which the dancer stands straight on one leg with the opposite leg bent at 90 degrees and lifted in front or back. One arm (the one on the side with the raised leg) is curved over the head while the other is held to the side. 

Axel Turn: Jump starting with a chene turn then one leg goes up into passé, followed by the other.

Back Essence: A spank step (cross behind) and two steps 

Balancé: Rocking step. Done on either front or back foot shifting the weight from one foot to the other.

Ball Change: Tap step consisting of two quick changes of weight from one ball of the foot to the other.

Balloné: To bounce. Used to indicate the lightness and elasticity of a jump.

Ballotté: Tossed. A series of rocking and swinging movements in coupé dessous and coupé dessus. May be performed with straight knees at 45 degrees or with développés at 90 degrees.  

Battement: Beating. Beating action with the bent or extended leg. 

Battement dégagé: Disengaged battlement. A rapid back and forth movement of the non-supporting leg with the toes hovering the ground. Similar to the battement tendu but is done at twice the speed.

Battu: Beaten. A step in which one foot is beaten against the other leg or foot. 

Barrel Jump: Both legs are bent back from the knee while leaping into the air 

Beat: Basic unit of time measure in both dance and music

Bombershay: Step Spank Dig (tap step)

Bras Bas: Arms low or down. Arms are hanging loosely while forming a circle without letting the elbows touch the body. Hands are touching and resting on the body with palms facing upward.

Brisé: Broken. A small step where the movement is broken and dancer's legs are moving in succession. 

Brisé Volé: Flying brisé.  Dancer finishes on one foot after the beat, the other leg crossed either front or back.

Bridge: Body is arched upside down, supported by the hands and feet with head dropped downward.

Broadway: Flap heel spank heel toe heel  (tap step)

Brush: Tap step in which you swing your foot forward (front of diagonally side) only hitting the ball tap 

Buck/ Chug: Forward movement in tap emphasizing the heel drop with weight on the working foot 

Buffalo: Tap step consisting of a step, shuffle, and a hop 

Cabriole: Caper. A jump in which the dancer claps their legs together while leaping with straight legs.

Canon: Defines when each fragment of a choreography piece will benign in relation to the entire dance. 

Chaînés: Chains or links. A rapid succession of turns in which the dancer turns on both feet

Changement: Changing feet, one in front the other, in the air position. Done in fifth position either petit or grand.

Chaseé: To chase. A ripple step where the other foot follows the other step-by-step. 

Chest Lift: Chest is extended out and upward 

Chug: Lift heels slide forward and then drop the heels at the end of the slide forward (tap step)

Cincinnati: A backwards traveling tap step where the dancer slaps with one foot and drops the heels of the opposite foot, shuffle, and a step. 

Coupé: To cut. 

Couru: Running.

Contraction: A forward curving of the spine starting from the hips

Coffee Grinder: Rest your weight on one leg and swing the other leg around your body in a “helicopter” motion.

Cramp Roll:  Tap step using toe and heel drops in specific pattern

Croisé: Crossed. The dancer's legs are placed at an oblique angle to the audience.  

De coté: Sideways. Indicates that a step is to be made to the side.

Dégagé: Disengage. Pointing the foot in any direction with a fully arched instep while the dancer's weight remains on the straight supporting leg. 

Demi-plié: Half-bend of the knees.

Derriére: Back or behind. Indicates a backwards movement or placement. 

Dessous: Under. Working foot passes behind the supporting foot.

Dessus: Over. Working foot passes in front of the supporting foot.

Devant: In front. Indicates a move or position where the leg or arm is placed in front of the body

Dig: Digging of heel into the floor without weight transfer (tap step)

Draw: Pull the free foot from an open to a closed position with a sliding motion.

Drop: A controlled fall 

Dynamic (s): Expresses the four main components of dance (space, time, weight, flow) and how they interact.

E-J

Écarté: Separated, thrown wide apart. A position in which the dancer faces one of the two front corners of the room. 

Echappé: Escaping or slipping movement. When the feet move from a closed position to an opening position.

Effacé: Shaded. Indicates a position where part of the body is taken back and almost hidden from view of the audience.

En arriére: Travelling backwards

En avant: Travelling forwards

En croix: In the shape of a cross

En dedans: Inwards (towards the supporting leg)

En dehors: Outwards (away from the supporting leg)

En face: Facing the audience.

En l’air: In the air

Entrechat: Interweaving or braiding. A step of beating in which the dancer jumps into the air and crosses the legs rapidly before and behind each other.

Épaulement: Shouldering. Use of the shoulders, neck and upper back  (looking over the shoulder).

Essence: Basic movement associated with soft shoe dancing.

Extension: Arm or leg extends outwards and held for a pause 

Fan Kick: The body stays in place while one leg starts inward and kicks all the way around. 

Fondu: Sinking down. A melting action by bending the knee of the supporting leg.

Fouetté: A whipping movement.

Frappé: To strike.

Flap: Brush and a step with transfer of weight. 

Glissade: Glide. A sliding movement of the feet from 5th to 5th.

Grand: Large.

Grapevine: A dance sequence that includes side steps across the supporting foot.

Heel/ Heel Drop: Forcefully drop the heel on the floor, with the weight placed on the ball of the foot. 

Head Roll: Head moves around in a circle 

Hip Walk: Traveling movement in jazz where the hips move in circular motions with the arms rounded. 

Hitch Kick: Scissor kick with both legs simultaneously kicking in the same direction 

Hinge: Position of the torso where the heels are lifted and the knees are bent. The body makes a straight line from knees to top of the head. 

Hop: A jump into the air while keeping the heel lifted and landing on the same foot 

Irish: A tap movement adopted from Irish folk dancing. It consists of a hop, and a step traveling either forwards or backwards. The shuffling foot usually crosses over while stepping.

Isolations: Movement that only involves one part of the body and the others remains still

Improvisation: The action of dancing spontaneously without predetermined choreography

Jazz Walk: Feet slightly drag across the floor and posture is low while you travel across the stage

Jump: When used in tap, indicates jumping into the air from both balls of the feet and landing on the same.

Jeté: To Throw. Throwing the weight for one foot to the other. 

K-Z

Kinsphere: The maximum space a dancers limbs can reach surrounding their body 

Knee Turn: Chene turn on dancers knees.

Leap: Push off one foot and into the air and land on the ball of the other foot.

Lunge: Movement in which you put your body weight forward on one leg

Manèges: Circular. Describes steps or enchaînements executed in a circle.

Maxie Ford: Step named after a famous tap dancer. Consists of a step, shuffle, jump, and toe tip behind. 

Nerve Tap: Rapidly tap your heel or toe on the floor

Ouvert: Open, opened. Open position to the audience.

Over the Top: Step then kick leg into the air, jump over the airborne leg and land on the stepping foot 

Paddles: Dig your foot, spank, then step.

Pull Back: Tap step that consists of jumping backwards and as your feet leave the floor they both do a spank at the same time. Then both feet land on the balls of the feet at the same time.

Pas de Basque: Step alternating from side to side in three counts

Pas de bourrée: Series of small, even steps with the feet close together

Pas de chat: Cat’s-step. Jump from 5th to 5th each leg bending and unfurling, one after the other. 

Passé: To pass. 

Petit: Small.

Pirouette: To turn.

Pitch: Kick where you take two steps forward then from a deep plea bring the working leg up the open 

Pivot Step: Body pivots around while dancer steps one foot after the other 

Pick-Ups/ Pullbacks: Hop on one foot with a back brush in the air, landing on the same foot. Done as either a single double or alternating. 

Plié: To bend.

Port de bras: Carriage of the arms. 

Relevé: To rise. Small upward lift starting with a pilé. 

Release: Body releases after isolated pose

Retiré: To draw up. Upward movement of the supporting leg. 

Rond de jambe: Round of the leg. Circling the working leg around out the body like a protractor on the floor.

Riff: Tap movement combining a brush and a scuff on the same foot. 

Riffle: Riff combined with a slap.

Sauté: To spring.

Scuff: Moving foot forward while hitting the heel on the ground.

Shimmy: Repeated shaking of body from the shoulders down.

Shim-Sham: Tap step that consists of a stomp, spank, and step while alternating feet. 

Shuffle: Brush followed by a spank.

Sissonne: A scissor step – a jump from two feet to two feet

Slap: Flap without weight transfer

Soubresaut: A single jump without changing the feet

Soutenu: To sustain. A turning action revolving the feet, either traveling or on the spot

Spank: A tap step consisting of a backward brush of the ball of the foot.

Spiral: Begins with a lunge to the front or side then the torso spirals down to the floor.

Stamp: A tap step consisting of a step onto the entire foot with weight transfer 

Stag Leap: Very high jump while doing the splits in the air only one leg is bent 

Stomp: A tap step consisting of a stamp without weight transfer. 

Sur le cou-de-p: On the neck of the foot.

Switch Leap: Dancer does a split in the air then switches legs while still suspended in the air

Tanglefoot: Tap movement that consists of inward and outward motion of the toes 

Temps levé: To hop (a jump taking off and landing on the same foot)

Tendu: To stretch (an extending action of the leg, a terre with a return closing action)

Time Step: An eight-measure movement, used to set the tempo. 

Toe Drop: Force the ball of the foot on the floor the with weight on the heel

Toe Stand: Movement in which the dancer stands on the tips of their tap shoes 

Toe Tip: Striking the tip of the tap shoe against the ground 

Triplet: Three sounds, usually a shuffle step 

Waltz Clog: A time step in 3/4 time. 

Wings: With weight on one foot, a hop into the air while scraping the edge of the tap shoe on the ground. A brush is then done before landing on the same foot.

Did we miss any Dance Terms? Let us know in the comments below so we can add to our Dictionary! 

Check out our Periodic Table Of Dance Elements to have as a super cute reference on your wall so you can study your way to becoming a DANCE GENIUS!




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