Dance Terminology

 
Arm Fan
When the lead turns the follower's extended & rigid arm in a clockwise or counter clockwise circle.

Arm Loop
The result of a cross hold brought behind the leader of follower's head. The connection remains while the hand rests on the shoulder or upper back.


Broken Arm (From Cross or Single Hold)
Describes the position when any arm is bent behind self while being connected to the partner. This step is similar to a hammerlock position except that only the arm that is behind the back is connected to the partner, and the other hand is free. This positin describes either hand on either leader or follower.


Butterfly
A hold or position where the follower has their back to the leader's front side. The follower's arms are typically down to the sides or slightly away from the body. This is similar to the shadow position.


Challenge Position
When each partner faces one another and is not connected to each other. The distance between partners should be about the same as in an open hold. This position allows each person to do solo footwork without restrictions (shines).

Check
When the partner is stopped abruptly during a turn by the other partner. It involves the free hand or arm stopping the person midway through a complete turn. Typically executed by the leader. The word before the word "check" indicates the location where the leader stops the follower.


Closed Hold
The couples hold, this hold allows the partners a level of intimacy not found in the open hold, but does not allow flexibility in ease of movement. The lead's right hand is behind the follower's back while the follower's left arm rests on top of that arm with the hand on the lead's right shoulder. The lead's left hand holds the follower's right hand out to the side with the elbows bent. In salsa dancing, the hold is relaxed which means the lead does not hold up the follower's hands or arms.

Cross Hold
When the lead's right hand is connected to the follower's right hand and the left hand to the follower's left hand. Also known as the handshake hold. A cross hold has the right hand hold on top of the left and the reverse cross hold when the left hand is on top. Single cross holds describe a cross hold where the left hands are not connected.

Follower
The follower is the person that follows the leader's patterns. It has been said that as long as the leader knows how to dance than all the follower has to to do is follow. This is untrue because the follower must at least have the sense of how to move through the patterns. The follower can either be a man or a woman.

Free Turn
When the follower (or leader) turns without being held by the leader (or follower). A free turn is usually initiated by the leader. Can be an outside or inside turn.

Hairbrush
This step is similar to the head or arm loop except that the hold is released when the hand is behind the partner's head. The act of pulling back the free hand away from the partner is called the hairbrush.

Hammerlock (From Open Hold)
Describes the position in which the follower's left arm is bent behind the back while the follower's right arm is held straight away from the body. The follower is in this position when the leader, in an open hold, brings the follower's left hand low while the right hand hold is up high for the turn. The leader turns the follower so that the follower's left arm ends behind their back. A reverse hammerlock is when the follower's right hand is behind the ack while the left arm is straight and away from the follower's body.


Head Loop
See "Arm Loop."


Hip Turn
When the leader pushes the follower into a turn by having the hand(s) at the follower's hip(s). Can be an outside or inside turn.

Hook Turn
Describes a turn where one foot is placed on the outside of the other foot, the person pushes off to turn and ends with the opposite leg in front of the other leg.


Leader
In dancing, there are no "men" or "women" roles. The leader is simply the individual that leads the partner into a series of patterns of movement. The leader can be either a man or a woman.

Open Break
When the leader firmly pushes the follower away only to pull them back. An close analogy would be when a rubber band is pulled apart and snaps back to it's original size. It it typically done to bring the follower further away from the leader or in preparation of a step.

Open Hold
This is the best hold for conducting patterns because it allows the lead and follower to pass each other quickly with ease. The lead's right holds the follower's left while the left holds the follower's right. This is the preferred position for partners that are non-couples because it maintains, to a degree, the individual's personal space.

Pivotting
the rotation of the body around one foot that is kept in a stationary position.


Reverse
Describes a pattern or position that is opposite of the original pattern. Examples are reverse cross holds, reverse hammerlocks, and reverse cross body leads.

Shadow Position
Whenever the leader has their back to the follower's front side. The arms may be at the shoulder or down to the sides. This is similar to the butterfly position.


Shines (solo footwork)
A generalized term that describes the series of footwork that makes a solo pattern. Shines are usually done solo but are also done in sync with a partner, usually for a competition or show.

Slot
This refers to the partners maintaining a line when doing the basic steps. The concept states that the line is always maintained. An example is the cross-body lead. When the lead crosses the follower, the follower must be facing 180 degrees from where they orginally started thus maintaining the line. The goal of a new lead is to be able to move a follower exactly 180 from where they originally were. A sharp cross-body lead demonstrates control and gives a level of predictability on where the follower will end up after a pattern.

Spiral Turn
Any turn that involves one foot weighted down to the ground. The free foot may be up, next to the weighted foot, out in the air, etc.


Spotting
the action of focusing on a fixed point and turning the head at a different speed than the body.


Syncopated Step

Also known as double time, syncopated steps means that the person takes an extra step per count. A half basic is 3.5 counts so doubling that means the person steps a total of 6.5 steps. This also means the dancer has to step faster to stay on count, as syncopated steps stay within the boundaries of the count.

Turns: Right & Left vs. Outisde & Inside
The term right & left turn refers to the leader turning. This is to help the reader distinguish between the leader's turns and the follower's turns. Follower's turns are referred to either inside or outside. Outside turns are the same as right turns whereas inside turns are the same as left turns.

Walk-Around
When a person walks around a partner that remains in a spot. The partner that is in one spot is can turn if necessary. The hands may be connected for this step.


Wrap
Describes the position in which the person's arms are held across the front of their body by their partner, leader or follower. A wrap can be from a cross or open hold.

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