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home | Great Reading! | Dance Styles Glossary

Dance Styles Glossary

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There are many moves and variations that can be danced form this position. Back Charleston is such a popular part of the Lindy vocabulary that entire workshops are devoted to it.

BALBOA - The Balboa is an eight-count dance done in a tightly closed position first developed in a ballroom on Balboa island off the California coastline. Similar to the Shag and descended from the Charleston, the Balboa incorporates very rapid footwork and hardly any movement at all above the waist. Because the dance does not travel much, the Balboa allows people to dress up and still dance to very fast music.

BEBOP - A wildly danced, dizzying swing offshoot popularized in big cities and often seen as a concurrent creation with the birth of Pop

BEACH BOP - A variation on the Carolina Shag and ECS danced in Florida, a direct descendant of BeBop.

BEGUINE - A type of Rumba in which the accent is on the second eighth note of the first beat. Origins spring from Martinique and Cuba.BIG APPLE, THE - Created in Columbia, South Carolina around 1930, the Big Apple was once such a popular dance that there were hundreds of Big Apple clubs all across the country. It requires a caller who stands in the center of a circle and calls out a variety of moves, from Charleston, to stomp off, to truckin'.

BOLERO - A type of dance and musical form. It originated in Spain in the late 18th century and is danced by either a soloist or a couple. It is in a moderately slow tempo, and is performed to music which is sung and accompanied by castanets and guitars. It is in triple time, and usually has a triplet on the second beat of each bar. In Cuba, the bolero developed into a distinct dance in duple time which eventually spread to other countries. In the 1950s, sung boleros became extremely popular and have enjoyed enduring popularity as a popular song form throughout Latin America. Still another kind of Bolero dance is developed in the American Style ballroom dancing popular in the United States.

BOOGIE WOOGIE - Boogie Woogie grew up in America and Europe in the 1950s as Rock n' Roll replaced swing and big band on the radio and in nightclubs. Similar to Jive, Boogie Woogie is a swing variant that incorporates a lot of hopping movements as well as kicks forward, almost like chorus line kicks.

BOSSA NOVA - The music, born of a marriage of Brazilian rhythms and American Jazz. The dance, which is said to have originated at Carnegie Hall in 1961, is based on the slower, more subtle Salon Samba and features either type of Clave Beat or a Jazz Samba in 4/4 time. The 1964 hit single Girl From Ipanema spread the Bossa Nova throughout the world.

BUNNY HOP - This dance resembles the Conga line but has three jumps instead of a kick at the end of the phrase. The music is by Ray Anthony in 1953.

CABARET - A special single-dance division of Dancesport in which couples dance an exhibition style piece to their own selection of music. The dance may incorporate lifts and/or drops, and is not limited to the predefined dance styles such as Smooth or Latin.

CAROLINA SHAG - A very popular swing style from Virginia down through the Carolinas into areas of Georgia. Most often danced to Beach Music performed by such groups as the Tams, The Embers, The Drifters and a wide range of Motown recording artists. The dance showcases the man and resembles West Coast Swing with the same slot movement, shuffles, coaster steps and pronounced lean resulting in role of the partner movement. The music tempo is slow to medium and can be danced comfortably by all ages.

CHACHA - This is a Latin American dance and style of music derived from the rumba and mambo in 4/4 meter. There are two flavors of Chacha dance, differing by the place of the chacha chasse with respect to the musical bar. Ballroom Chacha and Street Chacha in Cuba count two-three-chachacha. Country Western Chacha and Latin Street Chacha in many places other than Cuba count one-two-chachacha or chachacha-three-four.

CHARLESTON - The Charleston is the dance we associate with the flamboyant flapper of the Roaring 1920s, however, there are accounts that report the Charleston in the south as early as 1900. Charleston became a national dance craze when it was danced on Broadway in 1922, and it remained popular until the Blackbottom, a new dance to the same music, hit the scene in 1926. Charleston can be danced solo or with a partner.

COLLEGIATE SHAG - Collegiate Shag is a light dance which can quickly travel across the dance floor. Collegiate Shag steps can easily be incorporated into the Lindy Hop. If you've ever seen cartoons with which show dancers pressing their faces and torsos together while their feet move madly underneath them. That's Collegiate Shag. This is a great dance for fast music and is often used to provide a rest period during long uptempo songs.

CONGA - An African-Cuban dance characterized by the extreme violence of accents on the strong beats in 2/4 time. The Conga beat thus used has a rhythmic anticipation of the second beat in every other measure. The Conga was very popular in the late 1930s. It was performed in a formation known as the Conga chain. The steps are simple, one, two, three, kick at which time the partners move away from each other.

CONTRA DANCING - Contra dancing is a uniquely American community event that has its roots in traditional European and American country dancing. Each dance consists of a series of figures that are done using a smooth, easy walking step to the rhythm of the music. The caller teaches each dance by walking the dancers through the moves before the music = begins. She continues to remind the dancers what figure is coming next until everyone has picked up the flow of the dance. The dance music is provided by a live band made up of musicians who are also dancers. The tradition of Contra Dancing usually doesn't include formal lessons. Everybody learns how to dance just by dancing with others who have been dancing for awhile.

COUNTRY WESTERN SWING - Also called Western Swing, this form of swing dance is not to be confused with West Coast Swing, but should be considered another descendant from the moves of the Jitterbug. The musician Bob Wills is often credited with being the innovator of this style of dance music. Western swing shares many of the same figures as Jitterbug, but incorporates movements from the Polka, Hustle and Texas Two-Step.

CUMBIA - A Colombian folk dance. Typical instrumental mix includes guitars, accordions, brass, and deep-toned drums and other percussion. The basic rhythm structure is 4/4. Cumbia is the net intersection ofthree cultures that settled in Colombia at different times: Indigenous people, Spanish/Moorish, and African slaves. Some claim that Cumbia began as a courtship dance among the slave population. It has now spread to the world music community and is highly popular in the Latin music scene.

DANCESPORT - Dancesport denotes dance as a sport activity. Initially this term was applied to competitive ballroom dancing, in its International Style.

EAST COAST SWING - Because of the public's fascination with the Lindy Hop being danced in the Savoy ballroom, American ballroom dancers developed the ECS, a six-count, more simplified version of the Lindy Hop. At first, there was a great distaste among ballroom dance teachers for the swing, spurring the insulting term jitterbug for the dance. ECS incorporates much of the Latin technique popularized in dances such as the Chacha (as preferred by the ballroom dancers) with various figures from Foxtrot while retaining the feel of swing. In ballroom competitions, the pure Latin technique preferred in the dancing of the ECS has caused many swing dancers in observation to feel that it is not a true representation of swing dancing (ECS is not featured too much in National Swing Competitions).

FANDANGO - Most important of the modern Spanish dances, for couples. 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. There is a sudden pause in the music toward the end of each figure when the dancers stand rigid in the attitude caught by the music. They move again only when the music is resumed.

FOXTROT - A smooth dance introduced to the public in 1913 by Harry Fox, noted for being the first dance to incorporate into the rhythm a combination of Slows and Quicks. Foxtrot is characterized by smooth, walking style movements, but can be adapted to fit a variety of musical tempi and style, or to fit onto small, crowded nightclub dance floors.

HOLLYWOOD STYLE SWING - Collins may have been the most well-known smooth style dancer in the movies, but he wasn't the only one. Recently, interest has been increasing in the styles of some of his jitterbugging colleagues, most notably Jean Veloz (appearing in the cult dance instruction film Groovy Movie) and Lenny Smith. A few years ago Los Angeles dance teachers Sylvia Skylar and Erik Robinson, inspired by the many variations done by these film dancers, including Collins, trademarked a smooth Lindy as Hollywood Style. They even tracked down Veloz at a local bar called Bobby McGee's, where many oldtimers hang out. Since then the dance has been a major hit is Los Angeles and Washington D.C., with Lindy Hoppers in other cities catching on all the time. One of its distinctive marks is the whip, in which the leader sends the follower out with a very explosive action.

HUSTLE or SWING HUSTLE - A fast but smooth moving dance which originated in the nightclubs of the 1970s disco era, as a modified version of swing. Hustle is noted for its fast and elaborate spins and turns, especially for the lady. It is also very easily adapted to crowded, nightclub dance floors.

IMPERIAL SWING - A variation of swing and Lindy styling danced in the St. Louis area.

INTERNATIONAL TANGO - A refined, technical version of the Argentine Tango. It is probably the most demanding of all smooth dances to execute. It calls for perfect control, phrasing and musicianship. The subtle movements, changes of weight and the design of the steps are never stilted but follow the melodic phrasing and are created anew with each new piece.

JAMAICA - A variation of Lindy that is danced in New Orleans.

JITTERBUG - The Jitterbug originated in the late 1930s or 1940s as a simplified version of the Lindy Hop, danced by those trying to emulate dancers from the Savoy ballroom. Jitterbug is the accepted term for a six-count variant with a rapid triple step. Sometimes referred to as street swing, Jitterbug is a less refined version of East Coast Swing, an invention of ballroom dance organizations in response to the public's fascination with Lindy Hop. Jitterbug was the accepted term for swing dancing across the United States for most of the 1940s and into the 1950s. There is some discussion as to what is actually Jitterbug. Some dancers used it as an additional name for Lindy Hop, but the term has drifted to refer to the six-count social variant of ECS.

JITTERBUG STROLL - A more recent line dance, the Jitterbug Stroll was created by Ryan Francois to be danced to Woody Herman's Woodchopper's Ball. It put together such exciting moves as boogie backs, the Suzy Q, and the Shorty George with quarter turns between the different sections. By the end of the stroll, you will have faced all four walls.

LAMBADA - This dance 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 1980s. Its lighthearted Brazilian/Caribbean beat combines the flavor of the Samba with the sultry passion of the Rumba.

LINE DANCING - A type of non-partner dancing, primarily associated with the Country Western genre, where a group of people will dance through a pre-choreographed sequence of movements in unison. The choreography is generally simple, as it is intended for mass consumption. Examples of Line Dances are Electric Slide, Tush-Push and Slappin' Leather.

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.

MERENGUE - An energetic Latin style march which originated in the Dominican Republic, which emphasizes a straight ahead eight-count rhythm taken with Cuban Motion. Merengue is now also a subset of the modern club style Salsa dances.

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 the 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.

MODERN JIVE - A social variant of Jive, Modern Jive borrows from various dance style including Salsa, Boogie Woogie and Lindy Hop. This free form style of the dance is utilized for various styles and tempos of music and has built entire dance clubs around its instruction. Many dancers move from Modern Jive to a more refined form of dancing.

NIGHTCLUB TWO-STEP - This dance was initially developed by Buddy Schwimmer in the mid1960s. It is frequently danced to mid-tempo rock ballads in 4/4 time. It has evolved to include elements from other dances such as rumba and New York hustle. It is characterized by smooth, continuous movement with subtle upper body sway.

PASO DOBLE - A dramatic French Spanish Flamenco style march danced in 2/4 time, with the man portraying the matador in a bullfight, and the lady his cape. Paso Doble is usually danced to Espa=F1a Cani, the Spanish Gypsy Dance. Paso Doble means two step in Spanish.

PEABODY - A fast Foxtrot during which the dancers may use many quick steps set against the figure called open box. It was popular in the larger ballrooms where dance space was not a problem.

POLKA - A fast and lively Bohemian dance of Polish origin, danced to traditional German oompah music in 2/4 time. The basic movement is characterized by three steps and a hop.

QUADRILLE - The Quadrille is a Set dance. It consists of a series of dance figures, the most frequently used is called the Flirtation figure, in which the man dances with each woman in turn.

QUICKSTEP - This is an International Style dance that follows a beat similar to a fast Foxtrot. If you can imagine the song Come to the Cabaret from the Cabaret movie, then you are thinking classic Quickstep. However, while the dance may remind you of a fast Foxtrot, the technique and the patterns are unique to itself.

RETRO SWING - Many teachers who introduce Lindy Hop to their students do so by combining east coast swing patterns with smooth Lindy ones. This freewheeling choreography style has developed the name of retro swing. While purists of particular dance style may scoff at style combinations, this method of teaching is exceptionally effective in bridging complex material.

ROCK N' ROLL - A faster more theatrical variant of Boogie Woogie is Rock n' Roll, which is a more acrobatic dance that incorporates lots of leg shimmies, jumps and lifts. Boogie Woogie freely incorporates Lindy Hop patterns in its framework. It is excessively physical in its speed and rapidity of air steps, and is really intended for competitions and not the social dance floor, notes Nathalie Gomes, winner of the French Championship in Acrobatic Rock n' Roll in 1987.

RUMBA - A slow to medium tempo Latin American dance in 4/4 time, which is characterized by sensual, provocative movements and gestures, Latin style hip motion, and playful and flirtatious interplay between man and lady.

ST. LOUIS SHAG - St. Louis Shag is another linear, slotted dance with an emphasis on footwork. It is danced almost exclusively in closed position with the couples leaning in on one another, and there is almost no vertical movement form the waist up. St. Louis Shag is danced to very fast music, 165 beats per minute and up, and more closely resembles the Charleston than the Lindy, with patterns of kicks and jumps.

SALSA - Salsa is a very popular dance form in Latin America, U.S. and Europe. The word is the same as the salsa meaning sauce. Who applied this name to the music and dance remains disputed, but all agree that the name fits. There are different styles that developed in different regions: New York Salsa, Puerto Rican Salsa, Cuban style, California style. One may also use the terms Salsa On One and Salsa On Two. Salsa evolved from Mambo, but emphasizes different rhythms.

SAMBA - A rhythmical Brazilian dance in 2/4 time which has been adapted for modern Ballroom dancing and incorporated into the repertoire of the International Standard syllabus. Samba is noted for it's distinct style of movement, which incorporates both Latin hip motion and the signature Samba bounce.

SCHOTTISCHE - A dance similar to the Polka. It is characterized by the clapping of hands after having taken three hopping steps, in 4/4 time.

SHIM SHAM SHIMMY - Developed originally as a tap number, the Shim Sham was adopted by Lindy Hoppers in the 1930s. Everyone stays facing the same wall throughout the routine, as they move through steps that include stomps, boogie backs and the Shorty George. The best part is when the leader says Swing or Dance. At this point you grab the nearest partner and dance the Lindy until the caller yells stop.

SINGLE TIME SWING - Single Time Swing is also known as single count swing (no triple step swing or four count swing). Single Time Swing is East Coast without the triple step. It is often taught to beginners to get them dancing quickly. It is danced by many swing dancers when the music is too fast for East Coast Swing. ST Swing should not be confused with the Hustle, a 1970s dance with similar footwork.

SLOW DANCING - A free form type of social dancing to slow ballad or blues music. Slow dancing has no predetermined basic steps or stylistic interpretation, although it is typically characterized by a compact dance hold or even a full embrace, with dancers swaying back and forth in a slow, steady rhythm.

TANGO - In the American and International Ballroom styles, a dance in 2/4 time, which originated in Argentina and is characterized by catlike walking action and staccato head movements.

TURKEY TROT - The Turkey Trot was a dance done to fast ragtime music popular from 1900 to 1910, such as Scott Joplin's Maple Leaf Rag. The basic step consisted of four hopping steps sideways first on one leg, then the other. It achieved popularity chiefly as a result of its being denounced by the Vatican. The dance was embellished with scissorlike flicks of the feet and fast trotting actions with abrupt stops.

THEATER ARTS - Theater Arts is considered a style of partnered dancing that includes some elements of Ballroom or Latin, Adagio (ballet lifts and athletic lifts) interpretive dancing - all put together into a choreographed routine that interprets the elements of the music that inspire the dancers. This dance usually includes a story line or character theme. It is used for competition and exhibition dancing.

TWIST - This dance was written by an African American musician in Georgia in 1958. He and his band members made up some twisting movements for the musicians to do while playing the music. In 1960, Chubby Checker made his first twist record, and made the Twist famous in Philadelphia. Twist then came to New York and New Jersey, and then spread throughout most countries.

VIENNESE WALTZ - At least three different meanings are recognized. It the historically first sense, the name may refer to several versions of the Waltz, including the earliest Waltzes done in Ballroom dancing, dances to the music of Viennese Waltz. As the Waltz evolved, some of the versions that were done at about the original fast tempo of Ballroom Waltzes came to be called specifically Viennese Waltz to distinguish them from the slower Waltzes. In the modern Ballroom dance, two versions of Viennese Waltz are recognized: The International Style type and the American Style type.

WALTZ - The waltz is a couples dance in 3/4 time, done primarily in closed position, the commonest basic figure of which is a full turn in two measures using three steps per measure. It first became fashionable in Vienna in about the 1780s, then spread to many other countries within the next few years. The Waltz, and especially its closed position, became the example for the creation of many other Ballroom dances.

WEST COAST SWING - WCS was originally called Western Swing, but was changed to avoid confusion with Country Western swing. Some dance experts claim that WCS grew out of the smoother Dean Collins style; however, Collins claimed he had nothing to do with this variant, according to Sykes. WCS is actually more rigid than Collin's style, with the couple dancing in a line or slot, which some dance historians believe developed as a response to California's crowded ballrooms and nightclubs. It is done in an upright position and the primary moves include a push, a pass, and a whip, with many variations. Since the 1980s the West Coast has also incorporated many elements of the Hustle. WCS can be danced to smoother modern music such as R & B or Pop, and can be extremely sultry if danced properly.

ZYDECO - A form of folk music, originated in the beginning of the 20th Century among the African Americans of southwest Louisiana and influenced by the music of the French speaking Cajuns. It is dominated by the accordion and rub board washboard; sometimes including drums; guitar; horns and bass guitar. The music arose as a synthesis of traditional Cajun music with African American traditions that also underpinned R & B and blues. It has also been known as la-la; zodico and other names.

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