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Dance Dictionary

A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L - M - N - O - Q - R - S - T - V - W - X - Y - Z

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ALEGRIAS: The Alegrias is one of the oldest of Spanish Gypsy dances and is often called the "Queen" of Flamenco dances. It is the purest and more refined of the repertoire. It suggests the movements of the bullfight and is usually danced by a woman alone.

ALLEMANDE: An 18th century dance. Also a figure used in our present day Barn dances.

APACHE: A dance created in Paris by the people of the underworld. It portrayed their uninhibited passions. The woman was flung about, kicked or embraced with equal fervor. This style was later imitated in Tangos or Waltzes.

ARGENTINIAN TANGO: Originated in the West Indies where it was danced only by the lowest classes. The name is from the African Tanganya. The dance found its way into Argentina and then to France and finally into the United States in a modified form about 1914. Latin American ballroom Tango is danced in 4/4 time. NOTE: See also Continental Tango, English Tango, and Tango.

ARKANSAS TRAVELER: An old time Barn dance depicting a salesman of tin ware who came from Arkansas.

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BAION: A type of slow Samba rhythm from Brazil that became popular in North America during the 50's.

BALBOA: A form of Swing popularized during the 50's in California.

BAMBA: An old Mexican air from the province of Vera Cruz, Mexico, to which a charming folk dance depicts two lovers who throwing a narrow sash on the floor manage to tie it into a knot with their dancing feet.

BAMBUCA: The national dance of Colombia, South America. It is characterized by cross accents in the music. It was formerly danced only by the natives but became a ballroom dance to be added to the gentle Pasillo, a favorite with Colombian society.

BARN DANCES: Barn dances are the product of our colonial ancestors who recreated them from England's Country Dances. They were performed in halls and barns as get-togethers among America's first social gatherings.

BATUQUE: Afro-Brazilian jam sessions. In the Batuque the dancers form a circle around one performer. This solo dancer chooses his successor for the exhibition spot while shouting the word "Sama."

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: This dance originated in a church in South Carolina which had been turned into a black nightclub called the "Big Apple." Mr. Arthur Murray did the choreography as we know it. The dance includes all the earlier Swing steps and requires a caller. The caller shouts "Shine" and asks for one of the swing steps. A single couple steps into the center and takes the initiative by performing an exhibition of that popular step. This dance was very popular in the 1930's.

BLACK BOTTOM: Created in New York, circa 1926. This dance succeeded the Charleston. It may have originally come from New Orleans as did Jazz music. The stomping steps, the knee sway and the shuffling are definitely African American in origin. It was the black solo or couple dance about 1925.

BOLERO:
Originally a Spanish dance in 3/4 time, it was changed in Cuba initially into 2/4 time then eventually into 4/4. It is now present as a very slow type of Rumba rhythm. The music is frequently arranged with Spanish vocals and a subtle percussion effect, usually implemented with Conga or Bongos.

BOLERO SON:
Just what the name implies. It starts as a Bolero and finished as a Son. The Son is faster, with sharper percussion and is less subtle than the Bolero.

BOOGIE WOOGIE:
African American jazz dance. The knees are held close together and the hips sway from side-to-side as the dancer travels forward. This figure is now seen in a variety of rhythm dances including Mambo, Cha Cha and Swing.

BOOMPS-A-DAISY: A dance similar to the Lambeth Walk. The dancers bump hips at regular intervals. It is performed in Waltz time to one special tune. 1940.

BOSTON JIVE: This is a form of Swing similar to basic Lindy but with kicks added.

BOSSA NOVA: The music was 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.

BOTECITA: The "Little Boat." It is Cuban dancing with a very exaggerated swaying of the shoulders.

BULERIAS: A Spanish Gypsy dance. Livelier and more spirited than most of the repertoire. It's usually danced by a whole group and could be called a Flamenco jam-session.

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 Ray Anthony. 1953.

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CAKE WALK: The Cake Walk is said to have originated in Florida about 1880. The style of walking was practiced by the African Americans as an art. The dignity of the promenade was rewarded by a prize, usually a cake. The winner cut the cake and shared it with the others.

CALUPSO:
The music of the typical ballads in England sung by the natives of Trinidad. There was no real dance but because of the extreme popularity of the music, in 1956, possibly due to the singer Harry Bellafonte, many steps were created. Most of them resemble the Cuban Bolero or the Martinique Beguine or even Swing.

CAN CAN: In Paris about 1890 a dance caused quite a stir. It was the Can Can. Women kicked their black silk stocking legs high into the air - a most daring feat for the time. The Can Can may have been an off-shoot of the Polka or even the Quadrille, or both. Today it is a music hall routine danced only by women.

CARIOCA: A native of Rio de Janeiro. Also the abbreviation of the Brazilian dance, the Samba Carioca. At the Carioca Carnival, from the moment the music starts until it dies off, people get together in cordoes (chains or cues). Holding hands in this fashion they sing and sway their bodies to the Samba-Carioca and the Marchas.

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.

CASTLE WALK: The Castle Walk was first greeted and demonstrated at the Cafe de Paris in France by Irene & Vernon Castle in 1913 and introduced to New York society by then in 1914. The dance was characterized by a series of walking steps on the toes, executed with an elegant type of swagger - frequently punctuated with a light hop in attitude at an appropriate point in the musical phase.

CHA CHA: From the less inhibited night clubs and dance halls the Mambo underwent subtle changes. It was triple mambo, and then peculiar scraping and shuffling sounds during the "tripling" produced the imitative sound of Cha Cha Cha. This then became a dance in itself. Mambo or triple Mambo or Cha Cha as it is now called, is but an advanced stage in interpretive social dancing born of the fusion of progressive American and Latin music.

CHIPANECAS: A Mexican Folk dance from the province of Chiapas. Its popularity is due to the charming air plus the audience participation during the time the dancers request the audience to clap hands with them. It is in 3/4 time and based on Spanish patterns.

CHARLESTON: Originated in the early 20's in illegal drinking places during the time of prohibition. The combination of a particular type of jazz music and the highly polished, slippery floors of the Speakeasies gave rise to an in and out flicking of the feet which essentially characterized the dance. It was theatricized and embellished with typical vaudeville moves in a Ziegfield Follies production in 1921. It has since been featured in many films and theater productions, its most platant revival being its utilization within the Broadway musical "The Boy Friend."

CLOGGING: A freestyle dance style originating in the Blue Ridge Mountains characterized by double time stomping and tap steps resembling a tap dance with the upper body held straight and upright.

COMPARSA: Afro-Cuban dance play.

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 thirties. 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.

CONTINENTAL OR 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.

CONTRE DANSE: A French square dance in double time, introduced into the court about 1600. Forerunner of the Country Dance.

CORRIDOS: The musical ballads called the Corridos play a very important part in Latin American musical life. The words are often topical and relate to political events. It has been suggested that the word Corrido is derived from the word correr, to run, because the singer has to run for his life when caught in the process of reciting a subversive ditty. Corridos are particularly popular in Mexico.

COTTON-EYED-JOE: A Country & Western dance enjoyed throughout the United States and elsewhere for its enthusiastic music and energetic movements. Characteristic movements include kicks, stomps, shuffles, and turns in place or traveling around the room. The man and the lady generally begin in shadow position with the left foot and they use the same foot on the same beat of music throughout their patterns.

COUNTRY DANCE: English Folk dances as opposed to the court dances of bygone times. During the Colonial days of America these Country dances became our present day square dance, jig reels, as well as our Virginia Reel, Arkansas Traveler and Paul Jones.

COUNTRY WESTERN TWO-STEP: The Two-Step originated in the 1800's by people who arrived here from Europe. It was an offspring of the minuet and they danced it as QQSS. In the old Western days when women were not allowed to dance with men, men danced together and that is the reason for the hard on the shoulder holding a can of beer and the other hand to the side. The only women who eventually danced with these men were Indian Squaws and that is where all the turns came about, because Indian women loved to spin. Two-step is a Western dance whose popularity has spread all over the United States.

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DANZON: A Cuban dance which starts slowly and gradually accelerates at certain melodic intervals between chorus and verse: the dancers stop to talk but remain on the floor until a certain beat tells them to resume their dances. This dance, which might be called a Rumba variation is in a 4/4 time. Its stately music is popular in the tropics because it is not strenuous. It is know as the aristocrat of all Cuban dancing because of its dignified and stately appearance.

DIRTY DANCIN': A general style of very intimate closed position partner dancing popularized in the late 80's by Actor/Dancer Patrick Swayze in the movie "Dirty Dancin'". Danced to popular fast or slow music and characterized by sensuous and seductive movements by both man and woman.

DOMINICAN MERENGUE: The dance of the Dominican Republic is 2/4 time with syncopation of the first beat interpreted by the dancers as a slight limp. It became popular in 1957.

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ENGLISH TANGO: The style is the same as the other English Competition dances, and the steps are not too unlike Fox Trot steps with a few Latin flourishes as interpreted by English dance teachers.

ESCONDIDO: An Argentine dance called Escondido (literally hidden for in it the female partner hides from the male) belongs to the Gato type rhythmically and choreographically.

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FADO: Originally a Portuguese song and dance absorbed by Latin America and especially by Brazil as a pattern for the Samba. The steps of the Fado are based on a hop, a skip and a kick in 2/4 time. It makes a charming exhibition folk dance.

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. This is also characteristic of Seguidillas, similar to Jota.

FARANDOLE: A dance Haute from Provence, France. A typical variation was a quick gallop step danced by a procession winding in and out in single file, headed by a musician who played a drum and fife at the time skipping along without losing a beat. 6/8 or 4/4 time.

FARUCA: The dance of Spain most suited to a man. It is a pure Gypsy dance in 2/4 time consisting of heel work, fast double turns and falls. It is considered one of the most exciting of all the same Flamenco dances.

FISH: A popular dance done to Fox Trot music in 4/4 time (New Orleans jazz type music) whereby the dancers rock their pelvis forward and back balancing on one foot and then the other in a slow gyrating manner. Originated in 1961.

FOX TROT: Said by some to have been originated by Harry Fox (1913). It is now a standard ballroom dance the world over and serves as a good foundation for social dances in 2/4 or 4/4 time. NOTE: See also Two Step.

FREESTYLE:
Ad lib dance movements with no fixed structure. Danced without touching partner to a variety of music styles including Rock 'n Roll, and discotheque beats.

FRUG: The Frug was born from a dance called the Chicken which had a lateral body movement and was used as a change of pace during the Twist. So as the kids grew lazier they decided to do less work, and started moving only their hips while standing still. As the hips swing from side to side they started making up arm movements for the dance. From this came the Swim, the Monkey, the Dog, the Watusi, the Waddle or Wabble and the Jerk. Some of these dances are named with localities. What we call the Frug is often called the Surf, Big Bea and Thunderbird, with the Swim being born out of it. What we call the Watusi is also known as Wabble and Waddle. The Monkey, Dog, Bump and Jerk fall roughly into the same category.

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GALOP: Hungary seems to take credit as the birthplace of the Galop. It was an old time dance, often introduced at the Country dances or following a Volte and Contra Danse as a contrast to their slow and somewhat monotonous steps. In 2/4 time, it was a springy step with a glissade and a chasse.

GATO: Argentine dance performed by two couples. In rhythm it resembles a very fast Waltz in steady quarter notes. A very popular form is the Gato con Pelaciones - that is Gato with stories. The stories are the diversified content; amorous, philosophical or political.

GAVOTTE: This dance comes from France. During the 16th Century it was customary for the leading couple to kiss each other and everyone else in the room at the end of their special "Shine". It finally became a stage dance. Although it has a long and varied history it is still charming and has been used by modern composers for chamber music.

GRIZZLY BEAR: In this dance the woman threw and wrapped herself around her partner in what at that time 1900-1910 must have been most shocking. A disappointingly simple ragtime dance followed its daring overture.

GUAJIRA: This dance was originally a Andalusian dance derived from Sevillanos. This dance which was played in 3/4 or 6/8 time was a Cuban Country dance as well, performed in Conga rhythm to the music marked Son Guajira. In ballroom terminology a Rumba is slow to medium tempo, or danced as a very slow Cha Cha, with subtle body movements.

GUARACHA: This lively Cuban song and dance of Spanish origin is performed in 2/4 time and danced by the more expert and agile dancers only, as its speed is rather imposing. a) An old Spanish dance in two sections. One is lively triple and the other in double. It originally was played in 4/4 time. b) A modern Rumba usually played very fast.

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