Dance Resources
Dance Positions and Terms

Dance Positions and Dancing Terms

Sacada - a displacement of the feet

Sacadas - displacements.

Salida - a basic walking pattern

Salsa - This is a favored name for a type of Latin music which, for the most part, has its roots in Cuban culture and is enhanced by jazz textures. The word, Salsa, means sauce denoting a "hot" flavor and is best distinguished from other Latin music styles by defining it as the New York sound developed by Puerto Rican musicians in New York. The dance structure is largely associated with mambo type patterns and has a particular feeling that is associated mainly with the Clave and the Montuno. See also History of Salsa.

Samba - This Brazilian dance was first introduced in 1917 but was finally adopted by Brazilian society in 1930 as a ballroom dance. It is sometimes referred to as a Samba, Carioca, a Baion or a Batucado. The difference is mostly in the tempo played since the steps in all three dance are very similar. The style is to bounce steadily and smoothly in 2/4 meter. The Samba was introduced in the United States in 1939 by the late Carmen Miranda.  See also History of Samba.

Sarabande - One of the most ancient court dances of the 16th century. It was a stately affair during which couples paraded forwarded for four steps and then back of four steps in an endless variety of patterns according to the number of couples taking part.

Schottishe - A dance similar to the Polka. It is characterized by the clapping of hands after having taken three hopping steps. It is written in 4/4 time.

Second position - feet in a straight line, heels apart.

Set Dances - A set dance is performed to a specific tune which has remained set over time (at least during the 20th Century). Both males and females dance sets in hard shoes. Competitions begin at the level of "Open" because of the difficulty of the dances. Because the tune is always the same and the dancer knows the tune, adjudicators expect greater interpretation of the music. (In the jig, reel, and hornpipe competitions, the particular tune may vary depending on the musician.) The dances can be either in jig or hornpipe time. In one case, "Is the Big Man Within?" the time changes mid-tune. Regular jigs and hornpipes follow a particular structure of the number of measures per tune, but sets vary. Sets contain two parts, the first is the "lead around" (from 8 to 16 measures), the second is the "set" (12 to 16 measures). Some tunes are more than 250 years old, but most of the dances are of more recent origin, developed by dance masters. Also, some of the tunes have accompanying words.

Sevillanas - A Spanish folk dance consisting of seven "Coplas." Each Copla is a little dance in itself divided into three parts and consisting of twelve measures of music. Each part begins with an "Entrada" and ends with a "Pasada". It is performed by couples and furnished an excellent foundation for all forms of Spanish dance.

Shag - Not to be confused with the Carolina Shag which is a slow laid back type of Swing, became popular in the late 30's along with the Jitterbug and Lindy Hop. The dance was done to up tempo Swing or Foxtrot music and was instantly recognizable by the flicking of the feet backwards with a pronounced hopping action.

Shape (ballroom) - the combination of turn and sway to create a look or position.

Shimmy - Started as an African American dance of the late 1880's. It is a shaking of the shoulders and a whole body. First recreated by Gilda Gray.

Shim Sham - A lazy shuffling "soft shoe" step produced by the dancers at the Old Cotton Club in Harlem.

Single Jig - Dancers perform single or soft jigs in soft shoes.

Slip Jig (soft shoes) - is the most graceful of Irish dances and features light hopping, sliding, skipping and pointing. Only women dance the slip jig. Slip jigs are in 9/8 time

Slow Waltz - International Waltz is counted in time, and has a classic swooping rise and fall.

Son - A Cuban dance similar to the Bolero except that it is wilder in rhythmic accent and more violent in step pattern. It is the Son which first served as a basis for the Mambo which in turn became the triple Mambo, now known as Cha Cha. This slow rhythmic dance was originally in 2/4 time. It became Americanized and is usually played in 4/4 time.

Spanish Waltz - A smoothly danced waltz in open position using the arm movements of the classic Spanish dance.

Spot Dance - A dance in which there is little or no movement along a Line of Dance.

Spotting - A fixing of the eyes on one spot as long as possible during turns to avoid dizziness and to keep one's orientation.

Square Dance - An American folk dance with an even number of couples forming a square, two lines, or a circle. The dance is comprised of figures announced by a caller.

Step (ballroom) - one change of weight. Means by which the body is moved. Taking a step means committing all of your body weight onto the forward portion (the ball) of the foot.

Step Dancing - is distinctively Irish, combining artistry, grace, and physical ability. It has followed the Irish and Irish missionaries wherever they traveled including North America, Australia, New Zealand, Brittany France, Singapore, and Africa. Eight measures or bars of music are called a "step".

Suzy-Q - A figure in which the hands are clasped in front of the body at knee level with the body poised forward from the waist and the dancer moving sideways with the arms swinging in opposition. It was popularized by Vaudeville Entertainers and used in many types of routines eventually achieving most of its fame when it was incorporated into tap routines at the Cotton Club in Harlem in the 30's.

Swing - Popular blend of several African American dances, which include Lindy and Ragtime Jazz and Blues, as well as all the other dance music to accompanying dances of the past ninety years. Today it generally refers to the ballroom and night club version which is based on two slow and two quick counts or the slow and two quick counts of rhythm dances. See also History of Swing

Sword Dance - One of the three chief English dances of Medieval times. It was a ritualistic and ceremonial drama danced by men with swords and elaborate costumes while parading through the streets. It depicted the death of the old year, of Winter, and of scarcity. It heralded in the New Year, with hope of Spring and plenty. To symbolize the death of Winter, someone must always "die" and be brought to life again as a portrayal of death and resurrection.

Tack Annie - A step used in the Shim Sham Shimmy. Supposedly, the name springs from an incident in Harlem when a woman named Annie was being arrested by the police. As she was resisting, the children watching cried out, "They're 'tackin' Annie!" The side to side movement of the woman's struggle was mimicked by tap dancers in the step, and so the step got its name.

Tango - A social dance in 2/4 time, which after originating in Spain, developed in Argentina, where it was influenced by black dance style and rhythm. See also History of Tango and Argentine Tango History.

Tango - Continental/English  There are essentially three types of Tango - Argentine, American and International Style. Argentine Tango: (arrabalero) A dance created by the Gauchos in Buenos Aires. It was actually an attempt on their part to imitate the Spanish dance except that they danced it in a closed ballroom position. The Tango caused a sensation and was soon to be seen the world over in a more subdued version. American Tango: Unlike the Argentine Tango, in which the dancer interprets the music spontaneously without any predetermined slows or quicks, the American Tango features a structure which is correlated to the musical phrasing. The dance is executed both in closed position and in various types of extravagant dance relationships which incorporate a particular freedom of expression that is not present in the International style. International Tango: This is a highly disciplined and distinctively structured form of the Tango which is accepted worldwide as the format for dancesport events. The dancers remain in traditional closed position throughout and expresses both legato and staccato aspects of the type of music appropriate to this style. See International Tango Syllabus

Evolution of Tango - The history of the Tango can be traced surprisingly enough to a country dance of 17th Century England. The English country dance became the CONTREDANSE in France, and this in turn was called the CONTRADANZA in Spain or later simply DANZA. When imported by the Spaniards into Cuba, it became the DANZA HABANERA. During the Spanish American War, a popular dance called the Habanera del Cafe appeared which was the prototype of the Tango.

Tarantella - Italian folk dance. Sometimes a single dancer gets up and spins alone until a partner joins in. Sometimes several couples stand up together, like a country dance set, although pairs dance individually. Girls use tambourines.

Third position - one foot in front of the other, parallel to it, with heel of front foot in hollow instep of back foot.

Tights (ballet) - A close-fitting garment covering the dancer's body from waist to feet, worn both in class and on the stage.

Timing - dancing on time with the music.

Tour en l'air - A turn in the air, executed as the dancer jumps with the body held vertically straight. Males perform single, double or triple tours.

Trenchmores - (Irish dance) a big free form country dance.

Truckin - An African American form of shuffling along while shaking the index finger of the fight hand above the head. Popular in 1937.

Turkey Trot - a dance done to fast ragtime music popular from 1900 to 1910 such as Scott Joplin's Maple Leaf Rag, etc. The basic step consisted of four hopping steps sideways first on one leg, then the other. It achieved popularity chiefly as a result of its being denounced by the Vatican. The dance was embellished with scissor-like flicks of the feet and fast trotting actions with abrupt stops.

Twist - This dance was written by an African American musician in Georgia in 1958. He and his band members made up some twisting movements for the musicians to do while playing the music. Then in 1960, Chubby Checker made his first twist record, and made the Twist famous in Philadelphia. Twist came to New York via Philadelphia and New Jersey and then spread throughout most countries.

Two Step - a simple dance, more or less double quick march with a skip in each step done as rapidly as a couple can go.

Variation - Any solo performance in a ballet.

Viennese Waltz - With such wonderful composers as Johann Strauss and others, the Waltz became more and more refined. The steps became smaller with the turns smoother and more compact. Adding the graceful lilt of the flowing skirts we have today's Viennese Waltz. See International Viennese Waltz syllabus.

Virginia Reel - One of the more popular of the Colonial Barn Dances.

Volte - The Volte was like the Landler, a forerunner of the Waltz. It was brought to the French court by Catherine de Medici. The man turns his partner around several times and then helps her to take a high spring into the air.

Zumba - fitness program inspired by Latin dance. Spanish slang for "to move fast and have fun"

Dance Terms A, B, C, D, E, F to M, M to R, S to Z

See also History of Dance, International Dance Syllabus, Dance Steps, Dance Articles

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