Dance Terms from A - Z

Pattern (Figure) Terms



Pattern (figure) Terms

Alemana
An underarm turn in which the follower turns to the right under the leader’s raised left arm as used in International Style Rumba and Cha Cha.

Box Step
A pattern consisting of six steps that form the shape of a box. It is a basic figure in the Waltz, Foxtrot, Rumba and Samba.

Challenge Line
A picture line that has the look of a strong Promenade Position with the Leader on the Left foot and the Follower on the Right Foot.

Change Step
A figure used in Waltz, Foxtrot and Viennese Waltz, that consists of three steps; either Forward, Side, Close, or Back Side Close that is most often used to change back and forth from Reverse (Left) Turns to Natural ( Right) Turns.

Chase
(1)A Cha Cha figure where the leader and follower dance variations of the Progressive Basic in and apart position. The Follower will either follow the leader visually or improvise until the leader reconnects.
(2)A Fellow (Gold) Tango figure in the International Style Syllabus.

Corte
Spanish word meaning “cut”. The word Corte is used as part of the name of several figures. Although each figure is slightly different, they all start with the leader stepping back on the first step in a kind of “cutting” motion. (i.e. Tango Corte in American Style and International Style Back Corte in Tango and Reverse Corte and Hover Corte in Waltz).

Cross Body Lead
A popular American Style figure used in many dances where the leader is at right angles to the follower and then leads follower to dance forward on a path which crosses in front of leader’s body from leader’s right side to left side.

Cross Turn
A pattern used in dances such as Viennese Waltz, Samba, and Waltz consisting of six steps turning one full turn to the left and where the left foot crosses in front of the right foot on the third step as leader and the sixth step as follower. Same as Left Cross Turn.

Cucarachas
A basic figure used in Latin dances which uses a lot of cuban motion and consists of a side break and a closing step and can be done to the left or the right.

Fan
A basic figure in the International Style Rumba and Cha Cha incorporating a fan position.

Feather
A Foxtrot movement consisting of three progressive steps, the third step taken outside partner.(i.e. Feather Step, Feather Finish, Feather Ending, Back Feather).

Hockey Stick
A basic figure used in International Rumba and Cha Cha that starts in Fan Position and involves a lead to an Inside (or Loop Turn) for the follower. The figure is named because the path of movement for the follower is similar to the shape of a hockey stick.

Impetus
A basic International figure used in Waltz, Foxtrot and Quickstep which can end either in closed or promenade position which consists of a leader’s back step on the left foot followed by a heel turn.

Left Cross Turn
A pattern used in dances such as Viennese Waltz, Samba, and Waltz consisting of six steps turning one full turn to the left and where the left foot crosses in front of the right foot on the third step as leader and the sixth step as follower.

Natural Turn
A basic pattern in the Waltz, Foxtrot, Viennese Waltz and Quickstep that turns to the right over six steps.

Oversway
A picture line pattern where the leader lunges on the left leg and the follower lunges on the right leg in a kind of promenade position and then uses “broken sway” to the right to create a full and attractive shape to the upper body.

Ronde
A circular action of the free leg done in advanced patterns. The circular action may be done on the floor (i.e. Fan) or off the floor (Aerial Ronde).

Spot Turn
American Style figures called Forward and Back Spot Turns where the couple turns either to the left or the right in a close (or closed) facing position by taking a series of forward or backward steps in a small circle keeping the basic timing of the dance.

Sugar Push
A pattern used in swing dances (i.e. West Coast Swing) where the leader brings the follower forward with a double hold to a point where they lean in to one another using compression and then the leader “pushes” the follower to step back. Comes from wartime when a soldier in a dance hall would “Push my sugar away”.

Three Step
One of the basic steps in International Foxtrot that is danced in line with a right side lead( for leader) with late rise.

Twinkle
A basic figure in several American Style dances that starts in closed position and then goes to promenade position over three steps and then goes back to closed position over the next three steps.

Whisk
An action used in Samba and Waltz where the moving foot does a light sweeping movement crossing behind the supporting foot.

X Line
A picture line that creates the shape of an “X” by the partners upper bodies leaning away from each other in normal dance position with their free leg pointing in opposite directions.

Zig Zag
(1) The name of a pattern in Quickstep called “Zig Zag, Back Lock and Running Finish.
(2) Sometimes used as another name for a Spiral (Progressive Twinkles ).

Parts of Patterns (Figures)

Anchor Step
A type of triple step where the feet stay anchored in place (i.e. in West Coast Swing).

Appel
A strong lowering action in place where the body weight is dropped sharply onto a flat foot. The Appel usually marks the beginning of a strong directional movement and is most commonly used in Paso Doble and Tango.

Arc/Arch Turn
An underarm turn in which the follower turns to the right under the leader’s raised left arm, or to the left under the leader’s raised right arm. Related terms are Alemana and Outside Turn.

Backward Tango Close
A Tango Close that begins with the leader stepping back on the left foot. Related term is Tango Close.

Ball Change
A transfer of weight from the ball of one foot to the flat of the other foot.

Break
A unit of two steps in which the second step replaces weight and is taken in the opposite direction from the first.

Chaine' Turn
A turn or chain of turns which travel down a line and where a full turn is made over each two steps.

Chair
A strong checking action taken forward and across in Promenade Position with the Leader’s right foot and the Follower’s left foot. Always followed with a back step in Fallaway Position.

Chasse
(1)Most frequently use as three steps taken sideways, where the feet close on the second step.
(2)Two steps taken sideways and closing on the second step.
(3)Any number of sideways steps where the feet close on the 2nd, 4th, 6th step, etc.

Chasse Turn
A turning figure where the first step is either forward or back followed by a two step chasse. Examples are Left and Right Box turns in several dances and the Chasse Reverse Turn in Quickstep.

Closed Finish
Term used frequently in International Tango referring to ending patterns with the feet closing (slightly back for leader and slightly forward for follower) as distinct from an Open Finish where the leader steps outside partner on the last step.

Coaster Step
A triple step usually expressed as back, together, forward, or forward, together, back where the first step is taken in the opposite direction of the third and the feet close on the second step. (i.e. follower’s part of Whip in West Coast Swing.

Cruzado Walks
An advanced, stylized series of forward walks in the samba.

Cuban Walks
A series of forward or backward walks used in the American Style Latin dances using Cuban Motion.

Develope´
(Dev-Lo-Pay) An action usually performed by the follower whereby the free foot is drawn up to the knee of the supporting leg and then extended (or “developed”) until the leg is straight with the toe strongly pointed.

Fan
A swivel taken on one foot ending with the free foot pointing to the side.

Flick
A quick extension of the lower leg taken with the foot softly pointed in a sharp or staccato manner.

Gaucho
A “hooking” action of one leg around another leg used widely in the Argentine Tango.

Grapevine
A series of four steps arranged as follows: Forward, Side, Back, Side. The sequence may begin on any one of the four steps and is used in Ballroom, Latin, and Swing dancing.

Hesitation
A step taken where progression is temporarily stopped and then remains on that spot for more than one beat.

Hover
A step with a feeling of suspension taken on the toes to change direction or rotation, allowing time for the moving foot to brush toward (or to) the standing foot. (i.e. Hover Telemark, Hover Corte).

Inside Turn
An underarm turn in which one person dances a turn under the raised arms in a direction toward the center of the partnership.(i.e. The follower turning to the left under the leader’s left hand or turning to the right under the leader’s right hand).

Kick Ball-Change
A movement involving a small kick or flick of the lower leg, followed by a ball-change action. Frequently counted 1a2.

Latin Walks
Forward or Backward Walks taken with Latin Hip Motion.

Lilt
Rise and fall over the course of two steps.

Open Break
A widely used dance figure where partners are facing one another with a one hand, double hand or cross hand hold and both dancers rock backwards on opposite feet.

Open Finish
(1) Indicates that the leader has stepped forward outside partner on the last step of a figure rather than closing the feet.
(2) Another name for an ending with the same foot positions as an Outside Change.

Outside Swivel
A common pattern where the follower steps Outside partner on the Right Side and swivels on the ball of the right foot ending in Promenade Position. The leader steps back on the Left foot and holds the Right foot forward in CBMP without weight. It is commonly used in Tango but is also used in Foxtrot, Waltz and many other dances.

Outside Turn
An underarm turn in which one person dances a turn under the raised arms in a direction away from their partner.(i.e. The follower turning to the right under the leader’s left hand or turning to the left under the leader’s right hand.

Pivots
(1) The turning of the supporting foot against the floor (general context).
(2) A turn in the direction of the forward foot, taken following a forward or backward progressive movement, with weight held over one foot.

Press Line
A step in dancing usually taken forward or diagonally forward with the knee bent, the heel raised and a great deal of pressure on the toes. Used in Paso Doble and other Latin dances.

Rock
Transference of weight from foot to foot.

Rock Step
A back step followed by a replacement of weight forward on the second step.

Runaround
A dance element where the follower or both dancers run around a central point in a normal dance frame or a similar position using body tone and leverage to maintain balance and speed.

Shine Steps
A set of steps used while doing a progressive basic without hold in Mambo and Cha Cha where one person dances a variation within the timing of the dance and the other person then imitates or “outshines” them on the next measure.

Spin
(1) The continuation of the turn on the ball of the forward foot on the step following a pivot.. (2) A turn achieved by rotating on the ball of the supporting foot while the free foot is held in either first or third position.

Spiral Turn
A useful type of turn used in Latin and Ballroom that makes it possible to turn right when stepping forward on the left foot and to turn left when stepping forward on the right foot. This is accomplished by turning on the ball of the front foot leaving the free foot behind for as long as possible, and then allowing it to loosely cross in front of supporting leg.

Spot Turn
A solo turn in which one foot remains on a spot around which a circle is made. May be made to the left or to the right.

Tango Close
The nickname given for the last three steps of the American Style basic step in the Tango. Usually stated as: Forward, Side, Drag

Triple Step
Three steps as in a chasse used in swing dances that move sideways, forward, backward, turning, etc. It is the basic element in East Coast Swing, West Coast Swing and Lindy Hop.

Twist
An action where the feet start in a strongly crossed position and then untwist through rotation of the body. Twists may occur by stepping forward or backward into the crossed position and appears as an element in figures in both Ballroom and Latin dances.

Underarm Turn
A very general term to mean either follower or leader turning underneath one or both of partner’s arms. When used as terminology without more description, it often implies the follower turning to the right under the leader’s left arm.

Walkaround Turn
The American Style term for a Spot Turn.