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Dancing terms and dance definitions

cabriole - In ballet, a leap in which the lower leg beats against the upper one at an angle, before the dancer lands again on the lower leg.

cachucha - A Spanish dance in 3/4 or 3/8 time with castanets.

cakewalk - An African-American dance in which couples strut and compete with high kicks and fast steps.

cake walk - The Cake Walk is said to have originated in Florida about 1880. The style of walking was practiced by the blacks as an art. The dignity of the promenade was rewarded by a prize, usually a cake. The winner cut the cake and shared it with the others.

calesitas - merry-go-rounds

calypso - The music of the typical ballads in England sung by the natives of Trinidad. There was no real dance but because of the extreme popularity of the music, in 1956, possibly due to the singer Harry Bellafonte, many steps were created. Most of them resemble the Cuban Bolero or the Martinique Beguine or even Swing.

cambre - In ballet, a bend from the waist to the side or to the back.

can can - Originating around 1830 as a social dance, by 1844 it had become a raucous dance performed in French music halls. Women kicked their black silk stockinged legs high into the air - a most daring feat for the time. The Can Can may have been an off-shoot of the Polka or even the Quadrille, or both.

Canyengue - is the essence of tango beginnings, which dates back to 1900. The word canyengue is of Afrikan origin, which means to "walk with cadence". Canyengue is a playful and sensual dance of an incomparable experience. The Canyengue steps are short and accentuated following the strong beats of the music. Canyengue has a musical signature of 4 x 8 and throughout the years its music was modified to the present tango's musical signature of 4 x 2.

carioca - A native of Rio de Janeiro. Also the abbreviation of the Brazilian dance, the Samba Carioca. At the Carioca Carnival, from the moment the music starts until it dies off, people get together in cordoes (chains or cues). Holding hands in this fashion they sing and sway their bodies to the Samba-Carioca and the Marchas.

Carolina Shag - A very popular Swing style from Virginia down through the Carolinas into areas of Georgia. Most often danced to "Beach Music" performed by such groups as the Tams, The Embers, The Drifters and a wide range of "Motown" recording artists. The dance showcases the man and resembles West Coast Swing with the same slot movement, shuffles, coaster steps and pronounced lean resulting in role of the partner movement. The music tempo is slow to medium and can be danced comfortably by all ages.

Castle Walk - The Castle Walk was first demonstrated at the Cafe de Paris in France by Irene & Vernon Castle in 1913 and introduced to New York society by then in 1914. The dance was characterized by a series of walking steps on the toes, executed with an elegant type of swagger - frequently punctuated with a light hop in attitude at an appropriate point in the musical phase.

ceili - is a gathering for music and dance.

Ceili Dances - Ceili dances were derived from group set dances and French quadrilles, but were set to Irish music. They appear to have evolved with the help of the Irish dance masters.

Cha Cha - From the less inhibited night clubs and dance halls the Mambo underwent subtle changes. It was triple mambo and this then became a dance in itself.

character dancing - Dancing derived from folk or national dances.

chasse - A sliding step in which one foot "chases" and displaces the other.

chat, pas de - Catlike leap in which one foot follows the other into the air, knees bent; the landing is in the fifth position.

Chipanecas - A Mexican Folk dance from the province of Chiapas. Its popularity is due to the charming air plus the audience participation during the time the dancers request the audience to clap hands with them. It is in 3/4 time and based on Spanish patterns.

Charleston - Originated in the early 20's in illegal drinking places during the time of prohibition. The combination of a particular type of jazz music and the highly polished, slippery floors of the Speakeasies gave rise to an in and out flicking of the feet which essentially characterized the dance. It was theatricized and embellished with typical vaudeville moves in a Ziegfield Follies production in 1921. It has since been featured in many films and theater productions, such as the Broadway musical "The Boy Friend."

Choreography - A creation or compilation of steps, patterns and movements which make up a dance or a dance routine.

ciseaux - A jump in which the legs open in second position in the air, resembling a scissors.

clogging - A freestyle dance style originating in the Blue Ridge Mountains characterized by double time stomping and tap steps resembling a tap dance with the upper body held straight and upright. The constant shuffling of the "floor" foot is one of the major characteristics that distinguishes clogging from tap dancing.

Cocktail Samba - Combination of Ballroom Samba and Brazilian Samba, allows normal partner hold, as well as solo and side by side choreography.

coda - In ballet, the third and final part of the classical pas de deux.

comparsa - Afro-Cuban dance play.

Conga - An African-Cuban dance characterized by the extreme violence of accents on the strong beats in 2/4 time. The Conga beat thus used has a rhythmic anticipation of the second beat in every other measure. The Conga was very popular in the late thirties. It was performed in a formation known as the Conga chain. The steps are simple, one, two, three, kick at which time the partners move away from each other.

Conga Line - generally the person behind the next places their hands upon the front persons hips and this continues on down the line. The dance does not necessarily stay on the dance dance floor, it can and does zig-zag through out the room. The basic steps are (Left) 1-2-3-Kick (or Bump) then repeat, opposite.

Continental or International Tango  - A refined, technical version of the Argentine Tango. It is probably the most demanding of all smooth dances to execute. It calls for perfect control, phrasing and musicianship. The subtle movements, changes of weight and the design of the steps are never stilted but follow the melodic phrasing and are created anew with each new piece.

Continuity Movement - The continuous passing of the feet from one step to the next.

contraction - A basic movement in the technique of Martha Graham, based on breath inhalation and exhalation.

contredanse - Popular social dance during the eighteenth century; done in rows or circles, it may have derived from English country dancing.

contre danse - A French square dance in double time, introduced into the court about 1600.

corphyee - A dancer who has moved out of the corps de ballet to dance minor solo roles.

corps de ballet - The members of a ballet company who do not perform solo.

corrida - a run

corridos - The musical ballads called the Corridos play a very important part in Latin American musical life. The words are often topical and relate to political events. It has been suggested that the word Corrido is derived from the word correr, to run, because the singer has to run for his life when caught in the process of reciting a subversive ditty. Corridos are particularly popular in Mexico.

Cotton-Eyed Joe - A Country & Western dance enjoyed throughout the United States and elsewhere for its enthusiastic music and energetic movements. Characteristic movements include kicks, stomps, shuffles, and turns in place or traveling around the room. The man and the lady generally begin in shadow position with the left foot and they use the same foot on the same beat of music throughout their patterns.

country dance - Traditional English dance in which dancers form two facing lines.

country dance - English Folk dances as opposed to the court dances of bygone times. During the Colonial days of America these Country dances became our present day square dance, jig reels, as well as our Virginia Reel, Arkansas Traveler and Paul Jones.

country western two step - The Two Step originated in the 1800's by people who arrived here from Europe. It was an offspring of the minuet. Two step is a Western dance whose popularity has spread all over the United States.

croisee - In ballet, a position with the body at an oblique angle and the working leg crossing the line of the body.

cruzar - (cruze) to cross (the cross)

Cuban motion - a discreet but expressive hip movement achieved by bending and straightening the knees with carefully timed weight transfer.

cuddle position - (also known as Varsouvienne or Skating Position) - Woman is at man’s left or right side, both facing in the same direction; one arm of man is across woman’s back, and position of other arm depends on method of arriving in cuddle position.

Csárdás or czardas -  is a traditional Hungarian folk dance. (Hungarian csárdás, from csárda, a tavern or inn). The dances became known as "Csárdás," or "dances of the pub."

Dance Terms A, B, 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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