Dance Terms

F to M

Dance Dictionary

fado - Originally a Portuguese song and dance absorbed by Latin America and especially by Brazil as a pattern for the Samba. The steps of the Fado are based on a hop, a skip and a kick in 2/4 time.

fandango - A lively Spanish dance in triple time performed with castanets or tambourines. The dance begins slowly and tenderly, the rhythm marked by the clack of castanets, snapping of fingers, and stomping of feet. The speed gradually increases to a whirl of exhilaration.

farandole - A dance Haute from Provence, France. A typical variation was a quick gallop step danced by a procession winding in and out in single file, headed by a musician who played a drum and fife at the time skipping along without losing a beat. 6/8 or 4/4 time.

faruca - The dance of Spain most suited to a man. It is a pure Gypsy dance in 2/4 time consisting of heel work, fast double turns and falls. It is considered one of the most exciting of all the Flamenco dances.

feis - (Irish dance competitions) a festival that includes figure (group) and solo step dancing, crafts, instrumental, vocal and Gaelic language competitions. The plural is feisianna. A competition with only dancing is called a feile.

ferme - A closed position of the feet.

Fifth position - One foot in front of the other, parallel, with heel in front foot touching toe of back foot.

first position - feet in a straight line, heels touching.

five positions - The basic positions of the feet. First position: feet in a straight line, heels touching. Second position: feet in a straight line, heels apart. Third position: one foot in front of the other, parallel to it, with heel of front foot in hollow instep of back foot. Fourth position: one foot in front of the other, parallel, but apart. Fifth position: One foot in front of the other, parallel, with heel in front foot touching toe of back foot.

fish - A popular dance done to Fox Trot music in 4/4 time (New Orleans jazz type music) whereby the dancers rock their pelvis forward and back balancing on one foot and then the other in a slow gyrating manner. Originated in 1961.

flamenco - A Sevillian gypsy dance, possibly originating in India, also with Moorish and Arabian influences, originally accompanied by songs and clapping and later by the guitar, and characterized by its heelwork (taconeo).

Flatfoot - Flatfoot dancing is largely based on a low-to-the-floor style that emphasizes intricate rhythms and creative percussive dancing.

floorcraft - Refers to avoiding bumping into other couples as well as the ability to continue dancing without pause when boxed in.

floorflip - also called “swiping.” Dancer assumes a push-up position and flips over, finishing in the original position.

floor rocking - dancer rotates legs in air while carrying the weight on his hands.

fondu - A lowering of the body by bending the knee.

fouette - Literally "whipped." A turning step, usually done in a series, in which the working leg whips out to the side in and then into the knee as the dancer turns on the supporting leg, rising onto the point at each revolution.

fouette en tournant - A spectacular movement in which the dancer propels himself or herself around a supporting leg with rapid circular movements of the other leg while remaining in a fixed spot.

Fourth position - one foot in front of the other, parallel, but apart.

fox-trot - A social dance of American origin. A standard ballroom dance the world over and serves as a good foundation for social dances in 2/4 or 4/4 time.

freestyle - Ad lib dance movements with no fixed structure. Danced to a variety of music styles including Rock 'n Roll, and discotheque beats.

fresh - descriptive term for anything good. The opposite of “wack.”

freeze - stopping a dance and holding a position, often balancing on your shoulder, head or hands.

frontflip - dancer does a flip in the direction in which (s)he is facing. Generally followed by a backflip.

frug - The Frug was born from a dance called the Chicken which had a lateral body movement and was used as a change of pace during the Twist. So as the kids grew lazier they decided to do less work, and started moving only their hips while standing still. As the hips swing from side to side they started making up arm movements for the dance. From this came the Swim, the Monkey, the Dog, the Watusi, the Waddle or Wabble and the Jerk. Some of these dances are named with localities. What we call the Frug is often called the Surf, Big Bea and Thunderbird, with the Swim being born out of it. What we call the Watusi is also known as Wabble and Waddle. The Monkey, Dog, Bump and Jerk fall roughly into the same category.

Galop - Hungary seems to take credit as the birthplace of the Galop. It was an old time dance, often introduced at the Country dances or following a Volte and Contra Danse as a contrast to their slow and somewhat monotonous steps. In 2/4 time, it was a springy step with a glissade and a chasse.

Ganchos - hooks

Gato - Argentine dance performed by two couples. In rhythm it resembles a very fast Waltz in steady quarter notes. A very popular form is the Gato con Pelaciones - that is Gato with stories. The stories are the diversified content; amorous, philosophical or political.

Gavotte - This dance comes from France. During the 16th Century it was customary for the leading couple to kiss each other and everyone else in the room at the end of their special "Shine". It finally became a stage dance. Although it has a long and varied history it is still charming and has been used by modern composers for chamber music.

Giro - a turn

Glissade - A gliding step which usually connects two steps.

Google Dance - term used to describe the index update of the Google search engine.

Grizzly Bear - In this dance the woman threw and wrapped herself around her partner in what at that time 1900-1910 must have been most shocking. A disappointingly simple ragtime dance followed its daring overture.

Guajira - This dance was originally an Andalusian dance derived from Sevillanos. This dance was played in 3/4 or 6/8 time. It was a Cuban Country dance as well, performed in Conga rhythm to the music marked Son Guajira.

Guaracha - This lively Cuban song and dance of Spanish origin is performed in 2/4 time and danced by the more expert and agile dancers only, as its speed is rather imposing.

Gumboot Dance - The slave laborers in the gold mines of South Africa developed their own language by slapping their gumboots and rattling their ankle chains. In time it has developed into a truly unique dance form.

gyro - also called the Windmill or the Helicopter. Dancer rotates continuously on one shoulder with feet in the air and legs apart.

Haitian Merengue - Haitian music stems directly from African rhythms. Divested of mysticisms, its traditions and beliefs from the folkloric basis from which the Haitian Merengue derived. It is simple and smooth in its slow version and can be colorful and exciting in its faster forms.

Hand Spin - Also called the Hand Glide. Dancer spins on one hand with the body parallel to the ground.

Haupango - The Mexican Haupango is ultimately traced to the Spanish Son, but its rhythm is definitely of the New World. The Haupango combines 2/4 time with 3/4 time and 6/8 time, creating cross rhythms of great complexity. It makes a most interesting lively dance.

haut, en - A position of the arms above the head.

Headspin - in a headstand position, dancer spins by pushing with the hands.

Heelspin - standing erect, dancer puts his weight on one heel and initiates a spin by swinging the leg.

Hela - (Hula dance) one foot is placed at about a 45 degree angle to the front/side with the weight on the opposite hip and the knees bent; the foot is then returned to the original position and the step is repeated with the other foot.

Hesitation Waltz - This dance is reputed to have developed in Boston. Apparently, the dance masters who were responsible for the evening's program at society functions gained favor with their socialite clients by imposing as much restraint as possible on the dances and creating an obviously reserved interpretation. The Waltz, in particular, became a target of this type of constraint. The blatant rotation of the dance was effectively curbed by taking a step and hesitating for two beats before proceeding with a conventional Waltz figure or another hesitation.

Hoofer - A term used for a dancer of the 1920's, and later not just any dancer, but became specifically to refer to a tap dancer.

Hornpipe - The hornpipe began around 1760, evolving from English stage acts. It was originally danced exclusively by males in hard shoes, but now, both men and women compete. It is reported that the ladies of Cork were the first to brazenly perform the hornpipe in the male style. The hornpipe is in 4/4 time, reminiscent of a slow reel with accents on the first and third beat. A notable feature is the frequent use of a rocking motion with the ankles.

Hula - Originally a sacred dance of Hawaii supposedly created by the younger volcano Kala to please his sister Pele. In due time its varied interpretation also served to please the visiting sailors which did not please the missionaries who promptly banned it. Despite this blight, it has been revived and is now more popular than ever. It is in 4/4 meter, interprets stories by the use of arms, hands and facial expression. The basic step is a chasse' during which the hips undulate.

Hustle or Swing Hustle - A number of similar style disco dances which had its beginning in the mid-70's and enjoys some continuing popularity as a swing style today. The record "Do The Hustle" was followed by the movie "Saturday Night Fever." John Travolta's portrayal of partner dancing took America by storm. Discotheques with flashing lights, mirrors, loud throbbing music and high fashion were the in thing.

Ibo - The Ibo rhythm belongs to the faster Haitian Merengue group of dancers. It is colorful, native in style and can be classified as Caribbean dancing. A pronounced movement of hips and turning of the head is typical.

Irish Hey - Irish dance, a round or figure dance.

Irish Uillean Pipe - a complicated bellows-blown instrument that differs from the more often seen Scottish Highlands pipes. The sound has been described as being more appropriate for playing an Irish air in the parlor rather than the stirring sound of the Scottish bagpipe.

Jarabe - The Jarabes are typical Mexican Folk dances. Usually done by a couple, it depicts a flirtation and conquest. It is well known in America by its other name, "The Mexican Hat Dance." The Mexican Jarabe is a descendant of the Spanish Zapateado, and its rhythm resembles that of a Mazurka. It is in 3/4 time.

Jarana - Folk dance of Yucatan, Mexico. It is possibly closer to the melo-rhythmic foundation of the ancient Mexican songs than any other native air. The verses of the Jarana are often in the Mayan language. The word Jarana means merry chatter. It is exciting in its rhythm based on a combination of 6/8 and 3/4 time. As an exhibition ballroom dance it can be placed alongside La Raspa and La Bamba, its cousins.

Jete - A leap from one leg to the other in which one leg is thrown to the side, front, or back. Grand jete: a large leap forward.

Jig - A number of variations of the jig are performed including the single (or soft), double, treble, and slip jig. The music is 6/8 time.

Jitterbug - A lively social dance popular during the 1930's. It is a toned down version of a Lindy Hop.

Jive - International competitive Swing dance with elements of the Lindy Hop and Jitterbug. Characterized by up tempo single time music danced with triple steps done primarily on the toes with very lively movement.

Jota - Native folk dance Aragon, Spain. Performed usually by one or more couples and consisting of hoppy steps in 3/4 time.

Kabuki - A Japanese dance drama featuring stylized narrative choreographic movements.

Kaholo - Hula dance step.

Kankukus - Afro-Brazilian dances of the Mestiso Indians.

Kawelu – (Hula) A grapevine-like travel in which the lead foot moves forward and back

La Cueca - La Cueca is a Chilean dance written in 6/8 time with the accompaniment in 3/4 time. Originally it was danced with handkerchiefs only, but during recent years it has enjoyed popularity on the ballroom floor.

La Raspa - A Mexican dance from Vera Cruz, which reminds us of our own square dancing except that it has a peculiar hopping step of its own. It has enjoyed a well merited popularity for a number of years as a fun dance.

La Varsouvienne - Americanized version of traditional Varsouvienne which was originally from Warsaw. Has established but varying versions in different parts of the country. Patterns differ from, yet show close kinship to, Varsouvienne of Denmark, Sweden and Norway. Popular among Western cowboys and South Western sections where it is known as the "Little Foot." Made popular as a ballroom dance by Arthur Murray in 1940. It is also known as the Varsovien.

Lambada - This latest dance crazy has its roots from the Northeast Coast of Brazil. The exciting look of this dance on European television took the Continent by storm in the late 80's. Its lighthearted Brazilian/Caribbean beat combines the flavor of the Samba with the sultry passion of the Rumba.

Lambeth Walk - The Lambeth Walk is a walking dance done in a jaunty, strutting fashion. It was originally an old English step performed in the Limehouse district of London and danced to the song "Doing the Lambeth Walk".

Lancers - The quadrille of the Lancers was a set dance or single dance invented by a dancing master in Paris about 1836. England took it up and it was fashionable for a number of years in polite society.

Landler - Originally came from Vienna over a hundred years ago. It had a lusty Waltz flavor but was not a closed ballroom dance but rather belonged to the Country dance group. It is said by some authorities that with the passage of time the Landler became the basis for our modern Waltz.

Lapiz - A pencil.

Leotard - A one-piece garment covering the entire torso, with or without sleeves, worn with tights for practice or in many contemporary ballets, as a stage costume. Originally designed by the French acrobat Jules Leotard (1830-1870) who also invented the flying trapeze.

Lindy Hop - One evening in 1927, following Lindbergh's flight to Paris, a local dance enthusiast named "Shorty George" Snowden was watching some of the dancing couples at the Savoy Ballroom in New York. A newspaper reporter asked him what dance they were doing, and it just so happened that there was a newspaper with an article about Lindbergh's flight sitting on the bench next to them. The title of the article read, "Lindy Hops The Atlantic," and George just sort of read that and said, "Lindy Hop" and the name stuck.

Line - The length and stretch of the body from head to toe.

Line of Dance - The counterclockwise course followed by dancers progressing around a room.

Llevadas - carrys.

Locking - moving the body out of control then back into control, locking into position, collapsing, then locking back.

Macumbo - An African Brazilian ritual and like dances belonging to it.

Mambo - The Mambo dance originated in Cuba where there were substantial settlements of Haitians. The fusion of Swing and Cuban music produced this fascinating rhythm and in turn created a new sensational dance. The Mambo was originally played as any Rumba with a riff ending. It may be described as a riff or a Rumba with a break or emphasis on 2 and 4 in 4/4 time.

Marcha - Latin American version of our One-Step.

Martinique Beguine - Popular ballroom dance of the island of St. Lucia and Martinique. It is characterized by the rocking back and forth of the hips while the girl throws her arms around her partner's neck. His arms loosely clasp her about the waist. The steps have been incorporated in both the Haitian Merengue and Calypso.

Maxixe - A Brazilian dance first introduced in Paris in 1912. It is in 2/4 time of rapid tempo with a slight syncopation. In this dance strict attention must be paid to the carriage of the head and the posturing of the arms.

Mazurka - A Polish national dance in triple time with an accent on the second beat, characterized by proud bearing, clicking of heels, and holubria, a special turning step. In the Mazurka the couples follow the leader in circular formation around the room. Sometimes the woman kneels down while her partner executes a chasse around her, and then this figure is reversed.

Mento - The most popular native dance of Jamaica which resembles a Rumba played in slow tempo.

Mexican Hat Dance - see Jarabe

Milonga - The Milonga is a Spanish dance first originated in Andalusia. As the fascinating music traveled the world it assumed various aspects. In Buenos Aires the Gauchos danced it in what is called a closed position, in the lower class cafes. Here their interpretation of it emerged into what today is our Tango. The Milonga enjoyed a popular resurgence some years ago through the Juan Carlos Copes group who performed it the world over.

Minuet - It was a carefree and lively dance until presented by the French court in 1650. There it developed into a slow, graceful and stately dance, elegant in its simplicity. It consists of a salute to the partner, a high step and a balance, and is characterized by symmetrical figures, courtly gestures, elaborate bows and curtsies.


See Also

History of Dance
International Dance Syllabus
Dance Articles

Dance Instruction Videos and DVDs online.