Dance Terms

M to R

Dance Definitions

Modern Dance - A form of dance as developed by Martha Graham, Haya Holm, Doris Humphyre, Charles Weidman and others. It expresses complex emotions and abstract ideas.

Modinha - Brazilian dance, which is the diminutive of Moda (Mode or Style) and is directly derived from the Portuguese songs and dances of that name. The early Modinhas were greatly influenced by Italian music. The present day Modinhas are sentimental in mood and similar to the Cuban Boleros.

Morris Dance - An English folk dance that appeared in the fifteenth century, in which dancers wore bells on their legs and characters included a fool, a boy on a hobby horse, and a man in blackface.

Ocho - a figure "eight".

Oireachtas (pronounced "o-rach-tas") - a type of super feis. In North America, they are organized by regions, having begun in 1976. Competition is by age category and gender, but there is no separation of skill levels. Dancers placing highly qualify for the World Championship in Ireland (Oireachtas na Cruinne). A North American championship competition began in 1969. Locations vary from year to year. Both the national and world championships are also called Oireachtas (plural is Oireachtasai).

One Step - A dance that consisted entirely of chasses without any change in rhythm. It was danced to the popular music of the period encompassing World War I.

Ouvert - In ballet, an open position of the feet.

Paradas - stops.

Par Terre - Steps performed on the floor. It is the opposite of en l'air.

Pas de Deux - A dance for two, usually a woman and a man. In its traditional form, it begins with an entree and adagio, followed by solo variations for each dancer, and a coda.

Patada - a kick.

Pavane - A grave, processional court dance popular in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Penche - In ballet, leaning forward.

Phrasing - The fitting of dance figures to the rhythm and/or melody of the music. Phrasing may be adjusted in certain dances by the use of lead-in steps to bring the dancers in on a different beat.

Pique - Stepping directly onto the point of a foot.

Pirouette  - A complete turn of the body executed on one leg; the working leg is placed with the foot drawn up to the ankle or knee of the supporting leg.

Plie - A bending of the knees in any of the five positions. Demi plie: a half bending of the knees, with heels on the floor. Grand plie: a full bending of the knees.

Plie - A bending. The first exercises done in every class to loosen muscles, the foundation of the dancers’ technique.

Point - A position on the tip of the toes. Demi-point: a position on the balls of the feet.

Pointe - The tip of the toe. Women, and infrequently men, dance sur les pointes (on point) in blocked shoes. This is often referred to as "full point." "Half point" and "three quarter point" are used when the dancer stands with the toes spread flat on the floor and the rest of the foot raised from the metatarsal joint.

Poise - in smooth dancing, the stretch of the woman’s body upwards and outwards and leftwards into the man’s right arm to achieve balance and connection with his frame, as well as to project outwards to the audience.

Polka - A Bohemian folk dance in duple time with a hop on the fourth beat. It became a popular ballroom dance in the mid-nineteenth century. See also History of Polka.

Port de Bras - In ballet, the positions of the arms.

Port de Bras - Literally "carriage of the arms." Used in this sense, and also to denote exercise designed to develop the upper part of the body. There are positions of the arms just as there are positions of the feet -- the numbering of them varies according to the method of training.

Positions (ballet) - There are five basic positions for the feet in which all steps in classic ballet begin and end, with corresponding positions of the arms. It is assumed that in all these positions the legs are turned out from the pelvis. First position: heels touching, feet in a straight line; second position: feet apart in a straight line; third position: one foot in front of the other, the heel against the instep; fourth position: feet apart, one in front of the other, either opposite first, or opposite fifth; fifth position: one foot in front of the other, the heel against the joint of the big toe. (Ballroom dancers describe feet positions same way).

Premier Danseur - Principal male dancer.

Progressive Dance (ballroom) - A dance in which couples move along Line of Dance around the dance floor.

Promenade - In ballet, a slow turn of the body on the whole foot.

Quadrille - A social dance popular in the nineteenth century. It was a square dance in five sections, each in a different time.

Quadrille - The Quadrille is a "Set" dance. It consists of a series of dance figures, the most frequently used is called the "Flirtation" figure, in which the man dances with each woman in turn.

Quickstep - English version of the Fast Fox Trot, which has quick hopping steps set in with the smoother gliding figures. It is very popular in Europe as a competition dance. It ranks among the "Big Five," the other four are the Slow Fox Trot, the Waltz, the Tango and the Viennese Waltz. See Quickstep syllabus.

Rise and Fall (ballroom) - a controlled raising and lowering of the body while dancing. The waltz is characterized by rise and fall.

Reel - Popular in Britain, Ireland, and Scotland, it is a lively dance for two or more couples; also, the second part of the Virginia reel. The Highland fling is a variant.

Reel - The reel originated around 1750 in Scotland and the Irish dance masters brought it to full development. The music is 4/4 time and it is danced at a relatively fast tempo (ONE-two-three-four). Both men and women dance the reel. For women, it is a light, rapid soft shoe dance that allows for plenty of leaping and demands an energetic performance from the dancer. Men often dance the reel in hard shoes.

Releve - In ballet, a rising with a spring movement to point or demi-point.

Reverence - A ballet bow or curtsy in which one foot is pointed in front and the body leans forward.

Rhythm - The regular occurrence of accented beats that shape the character of music or dance.

Rinnce Fada or Fading - Irish dance where two lines with partners faced each other

Rock 'n' Roll - popular form of the Swing or Lindy Hop. Began as a dance done mostly by teenagers who were fans of artists like Elvis Presley and the Beatles.

Round Dances - Country dances in America became Barn dances, Square dances, and Round dances. These all have figures in common and require a caller.

Ronde de Jambe - Literally "circle of the leg." May be performed on the ground or in the air, inwards or outwards, jumping or turning.

Rosin - A by-product of turpentine, used by dancers in powdered form on their shoes to prevent slipping.

Rulo - a curl.

Rumba - The Rumba was originally a marriage dance. Many of its movements and actions which seem to have an erotic meaning are merely depictions of simple farm tasks. The shoeing of the mare, the climbing of a rope, the courtship of the rooster and the hen, etc. It was done for amusement on the farms by the black population of Cuba. However, it became a popular ballroom dance and was introduced in the United States about 1933. It was the Americanized version for the Cuban Son and Danzon. It is in 4/4 time. The characteristic feature is to take each step without initially placing the weight on that step. Steps are made with a slightly bent knee which, when straightened, causes the hips to sway from side to side in what has come to be known as "Cuban Motion." See also History of Rumba.


See Also

History of Dance
International Dance Syllabus
Dance Articles

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