A Glossary of Dance Terms

by Jim Battisson

A to G | H to R |S|T|V|W|Y|Z

S: Abbreviation of slow.

schottische:
Step in the indicated direction on the lead foot. Close with the trailing foot. Step again with the lead foot. Hop on the lead foot. Repeat with opposite footwork. The step may be danced in any direction. The step appears in different rhythms in the same time signature.

scissors:
Spring to the right foot as the left foot kicks forward then spring to the left foot as the right foot kicks forward. The body weight usually rests on the back foot but can rest on the front or both feet. You spring on the spot and the legs alternately kick forward and may touch the ground with the toe, heel or whole foot. The scissors appear in many rhythms.

sdwd: Abbreviation of sideward.

semibreve (music):
The semibreve is the whole note from which all the other note values are derived by dividing by two, four, eight, sixteen, etc. See note values.

semiquaver (music):
The semiquaver is one sixteenth the note value of the semibreve, and half the note value of the quaver. See note values.

set, [general] set: The area enclosed by the dancers in the dance formation.

set/ setting step:
Leap to the right on the right foot, close left foot, step right foot in place. Usually repeated to the left with opposite footwork. There are many variants of the set.

sevens, [long] sevens (Ireland):
Danced on the balls of the feet. The first steps of the sevens depend on whether the leading or trailing foot has weight. (If travelling right then the right foot is the leading foot.) If starting with weight on the leading foot then on the up-beat | hop on the leading foot. | Step on trailing foot crossed behind leading foot. If starting with weight on the trailing foot then on the up-beat | hop on the trailing foot and lift the leading foot. | Hold the lifted leading foot. The step continues with step to the right/ left with the leading foot. Step on trailing foot crossed behind leading foot. | Step to the right/ left with the leading foot. | Step on trailing foot crossed behind leading foot. Step to the right/ left with the leading foot. . Step on trailing foot crossed behind leading foot. The step is usually followed by two [short] threes then repeated with opposite footwork to return to original position for another two [short] threes.

shldr: Abbreviation of shoulder.

short-arm hold:
A couple facing each other. Both place their right hands at their partner’s left waist and take left hands joined under the right arms. This hold is usually used for swinging.

shoulder hold:
A row of dancers, usually men, side by side, with arms straight and hands on the shoulders of neighbours.

shoulder waist hold:
A couple facing each other. Man’s hands on the small of the lady’s back and lady’s hands on the man’s shoulders. The arms are straight. Illustration »

shoulder-shoulder blade hold:
A couple facing each other. Man’s hands on the lady’s back just below the shoulders and the lady’s hands on the man’s shoulders. Hold the arms bent at the elbows forming a circular space between the couple.

sicillian progressive:
A couple facing another couple to form a minor set. The lady is on the right of her partner. All the couples are in a circle and are alternately facing line of dance and reverse line of dance.

sicillian, double sicillian progressive:
A line of two couples side by side, faces other line of two couples, to make each minor set. All the lines of couples are in a circle and are alternately facing line of dance and reverse line of dance.

side right (England):
Two dancers facing each other, move forward (beginning with the right foot) with 4 walking steps and pass by the left shoulders (to the right of your opposite). They turn in to face each other on the third step and close on the fourth. Repeat back to place beginning with the left foot, passing right shoulders, turning in toward each other to face each other again.

sides (quadrille): The top couple’s adjacent couples.

sirba: (literally - as the Serbs dance it) A Romanian line dance or circle dance.

skaters hold:
A couple standing side by side and facing the same direction. They join their right hands together and their left hands together in front of each other with the right arms crossed on top. Illustration »

skip:

  1. | . meter. On the up-beat | hop in place on the right/ left foot. . Step onto the other foot. Repeat with opposite footwork.
  2. A series of hop-steps (skip 1) on alternate feet.

skip change of step (Scotland):
| | meter. This is the common travelling step in Scottish dance. | Step forward on the right foot. Close the left foot behind the right so that the left instep touches the right heel. Step forward again on the right foot. Hop on the right foot. Turn the knees out and keep the toes pointed throughout.

slide:
A travelling step in a given direction, with the ball of the foot, in contact with the floor. See also draw.

slip step: Alternative term for galop.

spin: Alternative term for swing.

spring: To rise suddenly from the floor into the air.

squat:
Keeping back straight, bend both knees fully to almost sit on your heels then spring back up to normal position. Warning: Unless the dancer is well warmed up this is dangerous.

stamp:
Bring the free foot down to strike the floor suddenly, usually next to the other foot. The stamp is usually done with the whole foot but may be heel only. Stamping should not be with such force as to jar the leg. The stamping foot does not take weight. See also stomp.

star, right/ left hand star:
Usually performed with four dancers. All take right/ left hands in the centre and move forward clockwise/ anticlockwise. When taking hands in the centre, you can hold the wrist of the dancer in front, or the men can take hands and the ladies then take hands below the men’s joined hands.

step:

  1. The transfer of weight from one foot to the other. Both feet are on the floor during the transfer.
  2. This is a very general term for any movement using the feet.

step-close:
Step on one foot in the indicated direction. Close the other foot beside the first taking weight.

step-hop: A step followed by a hop on the same foot usually in even rhythm.

step-swing:
meter. Step to the right on the right foot. Swing left foot across in front of right foot. Step back with left foot. Swing right foot back. Repeat with opposite footwork to the left by stepping on left foot in place. The step may start on the left foot. While the free foot is swinging across in front, there may be a hop on the supporting foot.

stomp: Stamp the foot, taking weight.

strip the willow:
The lead couple, right arm turns 1˝ times around. The leading lady left arm turns the second man in the line then right arm turns her partner. The leading lady alternates between, left arm turning with each man in turn and right arm turning with her partner, until she gets to the bottom of the set. The leading man only turns with his partner as he follows her down the set. This is usually repeated with the leading man stripping the willow up the set. He alternately left arm turns with each lady in turn, and right arm turns with his partner until he gets to the top of the line of ladies. This figure may also be done with the leading couple left arm turning with each couple in turn (leading man turns other lady, leading lady turns other man) then right arm turning with each other. Repeat this with each couple in turn until the lead couple get to the bottom of the set.

swing:
Take a secure hold with your partner (long-arm hold, short-arm hold, etc.) and use a buzz step to turn clockwise.

swing (of the leg):
Lift the leg, from the hip, and move it in the indicated direction. The swing has less force than a kick.

syncopation (music):
A temporary displacement of the natural accent in music so that the first beat in the bar does not have the strongest accent.

syrto:
(literally - to pull or drag) A Greek line dance or open circle dance from which the Kalamatianos has developed.

T

T position: An American term equivalent to shoulder hold.

tcherkessia (Israel):
Step right foot forward, step left foot in place, step right foot backward, step left foot in place.

double tcherkessia:
Step right foot across in front of left foot, step left foot in place, close right foot to left foot. Step left foot across in front of right foot, step right foot in place, close left foot to right foot.

half tcherkerssia: Step right foot forward, step left foot in place.

tempo: The tempo is the repetition rate (speed) of the beat.

threes, [short] threes (Ireland):
Dance this on the balls of the feet. on the up-beat | hop on the left foot. | Step on right foot crossed close behind left foot. Step slightly forward with the left foot. . Step on right foot crossed close behind left foot. Repeat with opposite footwork. The step behind and the step slightly forward, combine to keep the dancer in the same position.

time signature (music):
A sign indicating the number of beats in each bar of the music and their duration. The sign usually consists of a set of two numbers, one above the other. The top number is the number of beats in each bar and the bottom number is the number of these beats needed to make up a semibreve (whole note). The bottom number is always a power of 2 (2, 4, 8, 16, 32 etc) because beat duration derives from repeatedly halving the semibreve. There is no line between the top and the bottom numbers. Warning: The time signature of the music for a dance is not always the same as the “time signature” of the dance itself.

time signature - complex (music):
Complex time signatures occur when a mixture of 2 beat and 3 beat duration notes or groups of notes make up the rhythmic beat of the music. The top number of the time signature of this music is usually 5, 7, 9, or 11 but can be any number that is the sum of any combination of 2’s and 3’s. Formal music texts refer to this as irregular rather than complex.

time signature - compound (music):
Compound time signatures occur when 3 beat duration notes or groups of notes make up each rhythmic beat of the music. The top number of this time signature is either 6, 9 or 12. The music is usually in dotted beats.

time signature - simple (music):
Simple time signatures occur when 1 or 2 beat duration notes or groups of notes make up each rhythmic beat of the music. The top number of the time signature is usually either 2, 3, or 4 but can be 5 or more.

tog: Abbreviation of together.

top:
The end of a longways set or couple in a quadrille set nearer the music or the wall behind the music.

top couple: The couple at the top of a set.

tops (quadrille): The top couple and their opposite couple.

touch: Put the foot lightly on the floor without taking weight on it.

triplet (music): A set of three notes played in the time (duration) normally allowed for two.

turn: See arm turn or hand turn.

turn single (England): Four little walks turning right, full about on the spot.

turn, courtesy turn:
Lady moves towards man and they take left hands. He puts his right hand around the her waist and turns the couple anticlockwise until they face the man’s original direction.

twd: Abbreviation of toward.

two-step: Alternative term for change step.

V

V hold:

varsouvienne hold: Alternative term for promenade hold.

visit (quadrilles):
The lead couple take inside hands and walk round inside the set (anticlockwise), honouring each couple in turn, then return to their original place.

W

W: Abbreviation of (woman) lady, lady's, ladies.

W hold:
A row or circle of dancers, side by side, with elbows bent and hands joined with neighbours at shoulder height. Hands are slightly forward.

walk:
A series of steps with alternating feet. One of the feet is always on the floor. Weight is transferred from the toe of the trailing foot to the heel of the leading foot.

waltz:
| | meter. This step may be danced in any direction or while turning. | Big step backward on the left foot. Little step backward (just past the left) on the right foot. | Close with the left foot. | Big step forward on the right foot. Little step forward (just past the right) on the left foot. | Close with the right foot. Men start with a step backward on the left foot and ladies start by stepping forward with the right foot.

waltz hold: Alternative term for ballroom hold.

waltz solo: A circular waltz without a partner.

waltz, circular waltz: A series of waltz steps with a partner having a full turn every two waltz steps.

wt: Abbreviation of weight.

Y

yemenite right (Israel):

Z

zweifacher: (literally - two kinds) A group of Bavarian (Germany) dances which alternate between waltz and dreher steps along with the music alternating between 3/4 (waltz) and 2/4 (dreher) rhythms.

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Last modified 10 December 1997

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