December 5, 2017

Dance Terminology

Dance Terminology


One of the favorite and most romantic social dances, often associated with special events such as weddings. Stemming from an 18th century Austro-German folk dance, the waltz has evolved over the years to reflect changing times and fashions. Danced to music in 3/4 time, the waltz is characterized by a graceful rise and fall, and allows for fluid movement around the dance floor. The American Waltz is especially elegant.

American Tango

Born on the back streets of Buenos Aries, the Tango is a passionate and expressive dance. The dance has an earthy and dramatic nature. Its movements can be slow and stealthy, other times sharp and staccato. While the Argentine Tango is more personal and stylized for the bar scene, the American Tango is more appropriate for the social ballroom dancer. Learning the dramatic Tango is exciting, and increases your dance stamina, creativity, and elegance. Many times you’ll find a blend of the two.


Appropriate for all 2/4 and 4/4 time signatures, the slow-slow-quick-quick steps of the Foxtrot make it a classic and timeless dance technique. The Social Foxtrot is ideal for confined spaces and, for more advanced dancers, the Slow Foxtrot provides a graceful posture to which most dancers aspire. On the faster end, the Foxtrot gives way to its speedier slow-quick-quick-slow variant – the Quickstep. Also, very useful as a club dance in a more confined area.

Cha Cha Cha

Dance one of the most popular of Latin-American dances. Similar to the Mambo and Rumba, the Cha Cha rhythm splits on the fourth beat, creating a 2-3-4 & 1 beat. This allows for fun and infectious dance with movements filled with turns and breaks that let your own personality shine through. A fast dance designed for small spaces, you’ll love dancing the Cha Cha.


Expand your knowledge of the American Style Rhythm dances and add the Mambo – translated as ‘shake it.’ A Latin dance and parent to Cha Cha and Salsa; Mambo is a mixture of Cuban and American jazz dancing using ‘cuban motion,’ flirty movements, and earthy rhythms. Generally following a quick-quick-slow beat, this fun dance helps develop your own expression, confidence and style!


This is a ‘hot’  popular dance style danced to a complex mix of many different rhythms. It is a fusion of an Afro-Cuban beat with enhanced jazz beats which results in a high energy pulse that has become popular everywhere.  This club style dance closely resembles that of the Mambo and Cha-Cha.  However, the distinctive beat of qqsqqs sets it apart and the over all look is hot and spicy. The most important element to a good Salsa is enjoying yourself on the dance floor. Definitely a fun club dance.



This popular Latin style comes from the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean. Following an explicit one-two rhythm, the purposive slow-slow-slow-slow steps of the Merengue are ideal for club dancing, as the partners can repeat many of the eight-count steps in a relatively small area of dance space.  Great way to practice the ‘Latin Motion’ of the hips.


It is said that, if Tango is the dance of passion, then Rumba is the dance of love. Both the male and female dancers demonstrate strength and power in this intense Cuban classic. A prerequisite for good Latin dancing. The Cuban Motion is essential in most Latin dances. The Rumba is used by good dancers everywhere and provides interesting variety suited to a limited space. Neat, attractive, precise footwork gives you confidence in your dancing. The Rumba will sharpen your sense of rhythm, timing, and muscular control.


Originating from Rio de Janeiro, this Portuguese style is the dance of celebration and joy each year at Carnival. Over the years, the 2/4 timed style has developed its own unique pattern of quick-quick-slow followed by a slight knee lift. Heads held still, Samba dancers flow gracefully and joyfully around the room.


You’ve all heard it….”it don’t mean a thing if you ain’t got that swing…. ” With the slow-slow-rock step as its foundation, the variants of this 1920′s American dance creation manifest themselves in such styles as Boogie-Woogie, West Coast Swing, Jive, Jitterbug and Lindy Hop. Swing is a very versatile dance with lots of patterns and room for variations.  Okay Dance focuses on the East Coast Swing , Jitterbug and West Coast Swing. If you love the Big Band era sound and high energy movements, the Swing is the dance for you. West Coast Swing is great for blues, contemporary and country music.

Night Club Two-Step

It is a fairly easy dance to do and fun for beginner and advanced alike. It is a very versatile dance in that it can be danced on small night club floors or big, expansive ballrooms.  A beautiful cross between waltz, bolero, rumba -danced to a variety of tempo music. Enjoy the natural feeling of the easy, relaxed, casual yet elegant style that is a perfect dance for all occasions. Danced to contemporary and country ballads.


The Hustle is the partner version of disco dancing. It is a fast moving, energetic dance characterized by its many turns. The lady spins almost constantly while her partner draws her close and sends her away. Hustle is still very popular at West Coast Swing dances and in some Latin clubs.

It is a fusion of swing and disco, a return to partner dancing, a modified lindyhop and jitterbug, still very popular in crowded dance floors in New York. Music played for the Hustle is modern, based upon rhythm and blues.

Country Dance

This category includes a number of dances such as Two-Step, Three-Step, Country Swing, Country Waltz and a number of variations on the Polka. There  are many popular line dances done in Country nightclubs throughout the USA; most are not done in partnership except for the Cowboy Cha-Cha.   All of the currently popular Country dances have their roots in Ballroom dances. This style is developed and executed specifically to the Country style of music and characterized by a relaxed style and popular turns used in all of these dances interchangeably.
*some information gathered from Paul Bottomer’s (2006) Dance Class, London, England: Hermes House.