Words, words, words

The name of this page is credited to William Shakespeare’s Hamlet (Act II, scene ii).

I decided to scrap my old page entitled “Abbreviations” because it was never useful.  In its place, I’ve decided to make a dictionary of sorts.  This is primarily designed for those unfamiliar with ballroom and will be biased towards my personal experiences, but I’ll try to include as much as I can.  Constructive criticism is appreciated.  Finally, this page will be constantly edited as I learn more.

alignment – your specific location and angle on the floor, those seeking to “test out” in more advanced levels of American Smooth would do well to memorize the school figures’ beginning and ending alignments.  Finally, some of the following terms, marked with a *, refer to the man’s (leader’s) alignment.  The woman’s alignment is reversed.  (Yes, it’s confusing at first.)

  • *center – everything to the general left
  • *wall – everything to the general right; and bearing these two in mind, there are also…
  • *diagonal wall
  • *diagonal center
  • line of dance – this is how the traffic travels, counterclockwise.  The man faces line of dance while the woman is backing line of dance.  And, you should never drive into oncoming traffic, by going against line of dance, though some school figures may temporarily place you there.

(bodily) center – The axis of your movement, the leader moves it, and the follower, well, follows it.  The location of the center differs between Smooth and Rhythm dances.  In the former, the leader and follower’s centers are physically connected.  In the latter, like the center is in the connection of the leader and follower’s left and right hand, respectively.

Cuban motionthe technical bane of existence for any Rhythm dancer the rotational movement of the hips around the center; it is most prominent in American Rumba, though it is present in American Cha-cha and can be used in social dances like Merengue.  

franchise – It’s just like any other business, with a name and brand.  Two prominent ones are Arthur Murray, where I dance, and Fred Astaire.

franchisee – the person or people in mutual agreement with the franchise so that they may do business

(International) Latin – This competitive division consists of Cha-cha, Rumba, Samba, Jive, and Paso Doble.  International and American Rumba have notably different timing.

heel lead – a characteristic of Smooth and Standard dances where you slide on your shoe’s heel when initially travelling forward; a corollary would be releasing your toe from the floor when travelling backward.

measure(s) – a musically complete “thought,” it is dependent on the time signature.  A full count, like a waltzes’ 1-2-3, is one measure. School figures should be counted in measures.

(International) Standard – This competitive division consists of Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango, Viennese Waltz, and Quickstep.  It should be noted that competitors must remain in closed position while dancing.  Thus, you may do a underarm turn in American Waltz but not in Standard Waltz.

(American) Rhythm – This competitive division consists of Cha-Cha, East Coast Swing, Rumba, Bolero, and Mambo.

(American) Smooth – This competitive division consists of Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango, and Viennese Waltz.

social dancing – dancing outside your studio/school just for fun; in Texas where I live, the social dancing is Country-western and Latin (not to be confused with the competitive division).  You can learn a variety of social dances at a studio.  These include salsa, bachata, two-step, west-coast swing, additional genres of swing, etc.

technique – As in any discipline, it’s the nit-picky things dancers are endlessly practicing.  Heel leads, Cuban motion, etc.  There is no point to learning the steps if you cannot do them properly.  That’s where technique comes in.

Time Signature – A symbol that shows how music should be counted, it looks like this.  The numerator shows how many beats per measure, and the denominator shows which note gets the beat.  The easiest example is three-quarter time, the rhythm of waltzes.  There are three notes per measure with the quarter note receiving the beat.  (While music theory is not an end-all-be-all in ballroom, it is my opinion that such knowledge makes a better dancer.  This is why I’m including relevant terms.)


The floor is yours now.

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