Dance Terms every beginner dancer should know.

8-count

Music is often counted in 8s. An 8-count is a specific section of a combo that consists of… 8 counts (shocker)! 

Battement

“Grand battement” or “kick.” A large, quick throw of a straightened leg.

Ball Change

Transfer of weight from one foot to another, usually done by only putting weight on the ball of one foot before moving back onto the other. Used for transitions. 

Bass

Represents the lowest pitch produced by either vocally or using an instrument (bass drum, bass guitar) and in dance, it is usually expressed as a grounded, hard-hitting movement. Instructors might instead say “boom” to express the bass when teaching.

Bevel

With both feet remaining on the ground, one knee bends (keeping the toes on the ground) to create a more flattering shape for the legs. The goal is to close any space between the legs. 

Rockette bevel: Start standing with toes slightly turned out. One knee bends and the two big toes come to touch so that no space can be seen between the legs. 

Showgirl bevel: Start standing with toes slightly turned out. One knee bends naturally with the toes staying on the ground. The lifted ankle reaches across and toward the standing leg. 

Body Roll

To move through a body roll, start by pushing your chest forward and arching your back. Then, pushing your hips forward, allow your upper body to contract to create a rolling motion in your torso.

Breaking

Originating in the 1970s alongside rap music, this street style incorporates intricate footwork, pantomime, tumbling, and improvised interpretations of the music. Breaking is often associated with cyphers and dance battles.

Châinés

“Linked like a chain.” With your feet in relevé, you’ll take a series of small steps with your feet remaining in first position, turning the body 180 degrees with each step. Also called a three-step turn.

Contraction

Creating a C-shape with the torso by curling the tailbone under and activating the abdominals.

Coupé

“To cut.” Technically, a coupe is a small intermediary step between moves but it is often used outside of ballet to note a specific position. In a coupé, the foot is placed either in front of or behind the ankle when turned out or directly next to the standing leg’s ankle in parallel.

Cypher

With deep roots in hip hop, African, and even religious histories, a cypher is when a group stands in a circle to take turns freestyling in the middle. Also known as a freestyle circle.

Dynamic

Refers to the execution of a movement. A routine is considered more dynamic if it varies in energy levels, speeds, levels, and textures, for example.

Fan Kick

A straight-legged battement that sweeps in front of the body from corner to corner in an arc-like motion.

First Position

A position of the feet with heels together and toes turned out.

Flexed

Refers to hands or feet. With arms by your sides, a flexed hand would have fingers pointing away from your body and palms facing down. A flexed foot is the opposite of a pointed toe.

Focus

Where you are looking while you dance.

Forced Arch

A bent knee while on relevé.

Full Out

Dancing with 100% of your energy with performance.

Fundamentals

Originating from 1970s hip hop culture, the fundamentals refer to the different styles of hip hop that emerged at that time: Since then, styles of hip hop have expanded to include breaking, popping, locking, house, punking/waacking, krumping, vogueing, and more.

Grapevine

Four steps toward one side with your body facing forward. Usually, the order of the steps are cross behind, step side, cross behind, step together. 

Improv (Freestyle)

Short for improvisation. Un-choreographed movement where the dancer spontaneously expresses themselves.

Isolations

The act of moving only one part of the body such as the head or shoulder while everything else is still.

Hinge

With the knees bent, press the pelvis forward as the torso (while staying flat) tilts in a diagonal toward the back.

Hip Roll

While standing, isolate your hips so that they move in a circle (forward, side, back, side) in one smooth movement without pausing.

Hold

Pause in the current move for a designated amount of counts.

Lunge

A position where one leg is bent while the other is straight when the legs are apart.

Milking

Extending or dragging out a move through the end of a count instead of stopping the move at the end of the count. 

Musicality

A dancer’s connection to the music. Good musicality refers to when a dancer can match the rhythm and mood of the music through their style or dynamics.

Pas du boureé

Three steps, usually stepping back, side, front.

Passe

Usually refers to the same position as “retiré” which describes one knee bending as the foot comes to the knee of the standing leg.

Pirouette

“Whirl or spin.” Controlled turn on one leg while in relevé. The lifted leg is usually in a passe (or retiré) position during a pirouette.

Plié

Bending of the knee.

 

Relevé

Technically, relevé refers to lifting the heels from a plie position. Typically used interchangeably with elevé which means lifting the heels to balance on the ball of the foot.

Rhythm

Repetitive patterns within music. When counting music with the rhythm, dancers are able to measure our movements and stay in time.

Ronde de jambe

“Around the leg.” The act of circling one leg around the standing leg. 

Shimmy

Shaking your shoulders rapidly in an alternating pattern.

Tendu

“Stretched.” With toes remaining on the floor, tendu is the act of stretching one leg away from the standing leg while keeping it straight.

Texture

How the move feels. Is it smooth or staccato? Is it sustained or sharp? Make it bouncy. Make it gooey. These are texture cues an instructor might give. You can also combine textures to make a move

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