Glossary Of Dance Moves

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Lindy Hop

Glossary of ballet terms

Glossary of partner dance terms


Ball change

Ball change is a dance move that consists of two steps: a partial weight transfer on the ball of a foot behind or by the other foot, followed by a step on the other foot. This action has a syncopated feeling and counted &1, or &2, or a1, or a2, etc., i.e., the “ball” step splits off the end of a beat. It is used, e.g., in the kick ball change.

Basic figure

This is basically a position that you put yourself in before or after your routine (a pose or a single action, e.g., not too complicated, just simple and eyecatching).

Basic movement

Basic movement is the very basic step that defines the character of a dance. Often it is called just thus: “Basic Movement” or “Basic Step”. For some dances it is sufficient to know the basic step performed in different handholds and dance positions to enjoy it socially.

Basic step

Same as Basic movement.

Box Step

Box Step is a dance figure named so because the steps rest in the four corners of a square. It is used, e.g., in American Style ballroom dances: Rumba, Waltz bronze-level Foxtrot. The leader begins with the left foot and proceeds as follows.

First half-box: Forward-side-together

Second half-box: Backwards-side-together

Every step is with full weight transfer. During the second and fourth step it is advised the foot to travel along two sides of the box, rather than along its diagonal.

Rhythm varies. E.g., it is “1-2-3,4-5-6” in Waltz and “Sqq, Sqq” in Rumba.

Chaines / Chain turns / Chaines turns

See Glossary of ballet terms#Chans.

French for ‘chain’, a series of quick turns on first position alternating feet with progression along a straight line or circle.


The gap between the feet is closed so that the dancer ends with his feet together, generally standing. This is usually done by bringing the back foot forward.

Closed Change

Closed Change is a basic step in the Waltz, performed in closed position. The man steps forward on either foot whilst the lady steps backward on the opposing foot (eg: the man steps forward on his right foot whilst the lady steps back on her left). They will then step to the side on the other foot, and conclude the figure by closing the first foot beside the second. Each step takes up a full beat of the music.

Cross-body lead

Cross-body lead (CBL) is a common and useful move in Latin dances such as Salsa, Mambo, Rumba and Cha-cha-cha. Basically, the man on counts 2 and 3 of his basic step (assuming dancing on 1) does a quarter-left turn (90 counterclockwise) while still holding on to the woman. On counts 4 and 5, he leads the woman forward across him, i.e., firmly leads her with his right hand on her back, so that she travels across and turns around and faces the opposite direction she was facing. At the same time, the man does another quarter-left turn as necessary in order to follow the woman and face her. At the end of the move, the dancers have their positions exchanged.

The cross-body lead can be done with single-hand or double hand hold, with or without a woman’s underarm turn, or leading the woman to do a free spin.

Dos-y-dos, Dosado

Dosado is a circular movement where two people, who are initially facing each other, walk around each other without or almost without turning, i.e, facing in the same direction (same wall) all the time.


This is a dance movement common in salsa, where two dance partners facing each other change positions. The dance partners keep contact with one or two hands while rotating concentrically over 180 degrees around the same point in opposite directions.

Feather Step

The Feather is a basic figure in International Style Foxtrot, in which the man makes three or four steps basically forward, with the third one (right foot) done outside the lady.

Free spin

A general term to describe a spin without any handhold (freestyle and No set landing position)


“Gancho” means “hook” in Spanish and describes certain “hooking actions” in some dances of Latin American heritage, in Argentine Tango (leg action) and Salsa (arm action and foot action) in particular.


See Grapevine (dance move).

Inside partner step

A step taken forward into the space occupied by the partner, while the partner steps backwards. During this step feet tracks of both partners overlap. See also #Outside partner step.

Inside turn

The term is applied to an individual turn of a partner in the couple. Basically, it denotes a turn where the arm of the partner doing the turn begins by moving towards the “inside” of the couple (the line running from the center of one partner to the center of the other). The meaning is intuitively clear, but it may be performed in numerous ways and in different handholds, so that even accomplished dancers are confused. In dances such as swing and salsa, inside and outside turns most commonly refer to underarm turns done by the follower. Since in these dances the follower’s right arm is normally used to lead a turn (most commonly by the leader’s left arm, but sometimes by the leader’s right arm when a cross-hand or “handshake” position is used), an inside turn is normally a left (counter-clockwise) turn, while an outside turn is a right (clockwise) turn. However, if the follower’s left arm is used to initiate the turn, the intended direction of turning may be opposite. (Alternatively, the non-ambiguous terms “left turn” and “right turn” may be used.)

See Direction of movement for more detail.


Kick is a foot and lower leg action that imitates a kick, e.g., of the ball. Its style may vary from light flick to a kick in martial arts.


Lock Step

A Lock step is an alternative variation of a chasse action which occurs when the moving foot swings to a stop across the track of the standing foot rather than closing next to it. In the Latin dances the combination of the crossed position and the turnout of the feet means that the rear toe will be pointed at the heel of the other foot, while in the Standard dances the lack of turnout means the feet will be parallel. In Standard the basic locking action is usually preceded and followed by a left side lead. The Latin lock step is often featured when Cha-cha is danced in Open position with a one-hand hold.


The Moonwalk was popularized by American singer Michael Jackson in the early 80s, he did it the first time at Motown 25 show on his song “Billie Jean”.

Natural turn

Natural turns and some other figures are those in which the dance couple rotates to the right (clockwise).

Outside partner step

A step taken with the partner beside the moving foot (e.g., to the left of the left moving foot). During this step feet tracks of both partners do not overlap. See also #Inside partner step.

Outside turn

Cf. Inside turn.

The term is applied to an individual turn of a partner in the couple. Basically, it denotes the turn directed “outside” of the couple. The meaning is intuitively clear, but it may be performed in numerous ways and in different handholds, so that even accomplished dancers are confused. Most often it is understood that an outside turn is an underarm turn under the left arm if turning left and under the right arm if turning right.

See Direction of movement for more detail.

Reverse turn

Reverse turns and some other figures are those in which the dance couple rotates to the left (COUNTERCLOCKWISE).


See Ballet glossary#Rond de jambe. A toe of the straight leg draws a semicircle on the floor. In ballroom dances the direction is usually from the front to back.

Time Step

In tap dancing, the Time Step is a recognizable rhythmic tap combination. The term comes from the time of great tap dancers that used their distinctive Time Step to tell the band the desired tempo. Read more here.

Time Steps is a figure in International Style Cha-cha-cha.

In various rhythmic ballroom/social dances, Time Step sometimes refers to steps in place that mark the characteristic rhythm of the dance, “2-3-cha-cha-cha” for Cha-cha-cha, “1,2,3,4” for Paso Doble, “1,2,3,…5,6,7,…” for “Salsa on One”, etc..

In tap, the common time steps are classified as single, double and triple. The basic rhythm and tempo remain the same but the number of sounds that happen on the second and sixth count of an eight-count phrase denotes single (often a single step) double (usually a flap or slap-tap) or triple (commonly shuffle-step). While these are the universal time steps, dancers often choose to create their own time steps, following the pattern two bars repeated three times with a two bar break.


The Walk is probably the most basic dance move. It exists in almost every dance. Walks approximately correspond normal walking steps, taking into the account the basic technique of the dance in question. (For example, in Latin dance walks the toe hits the floor first, rather than the heel.)

In dance descriptions the term walk is usually applied when two or more steps are taken in the same direction. A single step, e.g., forward, is called just thus: ‘step forward’.

Walks can be done in various dance positions: in closed position, promenade position, shadow position, sweetheart position, etc.

Curved walks are done along a curve, rather than along a straight line.


Please help improve this article by adding reliable references. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (July 2009)

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