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        Many of you have e-mailed me asking what this or that term "used" means, so to save me some time from answering you all individually, here are some dance terms I have ran across from various historic sources, as dance terms mean different things from country to country, dance to dance and different eras in time. some are no longer used/known. Hope this helps. (Use your browser's Back button to return to your page or see Old Ballroom Terms).
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Old Ballet and Dance Terms
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Term

Definition

Date

Type

Adagio (Adage) Steps/ Combinations done to slow music. Ballet Exercises, Pas De deux, can be acrobatic in nature, done before Allegro. 1600 Italian
Allegro Steps/ Combinations done to fast music. Or a part which follows Adagio. 1600? Italian
Allonge an Elongated Line, refers to Arabesque (arm and body stretched forward). ?? Italian
Assiete Posture. 1600's French
bei trotti Light footed leaps. 1500's Italian
Branle 15th century dance. 1600's French
Cabriola same as Capriole. 1600's Spanish
Cadence High leap with final position. 1600's French
Cambio one foot forward (4th position) the other crosses touching from outside the heel of the first, the first foot moves back. (same as scambiata) 1600's Italian
Capriole High leap from bend (plié) with movement in the air indicating next position. 1600's French
Congé Branle. 1600's French
Continents Stamping of feet from time to time (continence & rimes se). 1400's Italian
Contre Items Sprung Movement with out a change of weight, a rise. ?? ??
Contre Temps same as Contre tems except a landing rather than a rise. ?? ??
Conversion reversal at the end of the hall, Man forward, lady backwards until turn is completed. 1600's French
Cruzado same as pied croise'. 1600's Spanish
Decoupement diminution of the double step. 1600's French
Demarche ?? 1400's French
Demisemi 1/32 of a whole note, smallest rhythmic unit of notation 1800 British
Entretaille a lifting of the foot, (pied en l'air), with the weight bearing leg moves or skips sidewise to the place of the lifted leg. 1600's French
Fioretti Lightning Fast Turns (Galliard). 1500's Italian
Fioretto same as Fleuret. 1600's Italian
Fleuret a brief lifting of each foot on the upbeat with a forward thrust of the first on the downbeat 1600's French
Floreta Same as fleuret. 1600's Spanish
Grue (aka: crane) a simple thrust forward of the foot or a modified "old leg thrust", or walk of the crane (the bird). 1600's French
Hachure decoupement. 1600's French
Les Cing pas Five thrusting steps (Cing pas and Galliard). 1400's Italian
Marque pied drawing up of the toes of the free foot to the standing foot. 1600's French
Marque Talon drawing up of the heel of the free foot to the standing foot. 1600's French
Pas Passing foot to one of the five basic foot positions. 1600's French
Pas Croise "the lifted leg crosses the calf of the standing leg almost as in the Hungarian folk dance. 1600's French
Pas de Bourée desus Alternating feet step front demi-pointe, side demi-pointe, back demi plié, pointing free foot a la seconde. n/a French
Pas de Chacone 4 beat step starting in fourth position with left foot forward. 1st- left foot swings to fourth in front of right, 2) 1/4 turn to right and skip to right while flinging left foot in air, 3) left goes in to 5th position, 4) Right foot is flung very high with a full body turn. 1600's Spanish
Pas De Deux Couples steps, Danced by the Balerina and her partner. 1500's Italian
Pas Marches Walking steps on demi-point.    
Pas Simple Group of simple steps with the first step accented. 1600's French
Passo is a simple step which in the 5th century was called sempio. 1600's Italian
Passo Doppio ?? 1600's Italian
Pas Double ?? 1400's French
Passo e Mezzo a step and a half. 1600's Italian
passo Puntato grue, (same as puntata.) 1600's Italian
Pied Joints the feet at right angles with the equal division of weight (1st position.) 1600's French
Pied Joints Oblique same as Pied Joints except the equal division of weight. (second position.) 1600's French
Peids Largis legs spread with equal division of weight (second position.) 1600's French
Peids Largis Oblique Legs spread but unequal weight division. 1600's French
Pochettes Musical Instrument used by dancing master, small enough to fit in pocket for travel. 1600's France
Position, Posture Position with one leg placed forward (later 4th position.) 1600's French
Puente Arch, Bridge. 1600's Spanish
Puntata same as a grue, (same as Paso Puntato.) 1600's Italian
Puntapie same as Grue. 1600's Spanish
Quaver a musical Eighth Note. 1800? British
Represa balance, side step with continenza. 1600's Italian
Reprise in contrast to the reprise of the 15th century (movimento.) 1400's French
Reverence the free leg is moved from the fourth position behind the standing leg; the lady curtsies slightly with both knees. 1600's French
Riverenza same as Reverence. 1600's Italian
Rompido Pas Double. 1600's Spanish
Ruade thrust of the leg to the rear. 1600's French
Ru de vache Thrust of leg to side. 1600's French
Saut majeur high leap for which time is allowed. 1600's French
Saut mineur Skip for which no time is allowed. 1600's French
Scambiata see cambio. 1600's Italian
sempio see passo. 1400's Italian
Sequito the basic of all sequito movements=a swing of the leg. This has several distinctions. 1600's Italian
Sequito grave the forward swing of each leg followed by a half step. 1600's Italian
sequito grave a tordiglione the forward, sideward, and backward swing of the leg, that is, the combination of the grue, ru de vache and the ruade. Each leg takes 1/4 beat. 1600's Italian
Sequito ordinario Forward swing followed by sequito spezzato. 1600's Italian
Sequito Spezzato Swing of the leg done on a whole beat. 1600's Italian
Sustenido Standing on the toe. 1600's Spanish
Tordian Turning Movement. 1500's Italian
Trabocchetto the one foot is placed to the side and the other follows with a swing. 1600's Italian
Trabochetto grave Trabocchetto, done on the half note. 1600's Italian
Trabochetto minimo Trabocchetto, done on a quarter note. 1600's Italian
Vacio Pas Simple. 1600's Spanish

Some Vintage Ballet Dance Terms

a reverence (a bow or curtsey) Emboités (Jump with legs changing positions in air) Relevé [elevate] (re-lifted to point or from plié')
a Terre (On the ground or down ) en bas (low) retiré (withdrawn, remove)
Aplomb (Ability to Hold Ones Balance) en cloche (like a bell) retombé (falling back to original position)
Arabesque (pose w/leg extended) en croix (in a cross) Révérence (a Bow or curtsey)
Aux Coins (Set to corners)
Balancoire (Body pendulum type leg swing) en dedans (turn inward) revue (no plot or story, just dance)
ballon (floating, ability to remain in air) en dehors (turn outward) rond de [ronde] (circling, Motion)
Ballonne (bounding step w/round movement) Entrechat (interweaving) rond de jambe (circling of the leg)
Ballotté (Rocking Step) etendu (recovery) saute (leaping)
Battement (a beating) fermé (closed) Sissonne Fermé (traveling leap from both feet to fifth).
Batterie (feet beating together) fondu (flexed supporting leg) sur les pointes (tips of toes)
Batu (Beat introduced step) Frappé (struck) temps (tempo or time)
Beat (Legs beating together in air) glissade (s) (gliding step) temps lie (connected movement)
Brise (Broken Movement, beat ) grand (large) tendu (tension-stretched)
Brise Volé (Flying Brise) Grand Fouette [turn] (great whipping motion-leg) tournant (turning)
Cabriole (beat, at angle to floor) Grand Plié (deep flexing) Traverse (Opposite persons change places)
Chassé [sha-shay] (Ballet) (A spring from both feet, landing on
one, other slides to open position)
jeté [ghe-tay] (leap)  
la barre (at the bar)

Other

Chassé croisé (go to places, passing partner). La Poul sortie du bal (commonly called an opera-cloak)
Le Moulinet (Hands Across)  
cou-de-pied (neck of foot) pas de chat (step of the cat)  
Degage (disengaged) Pas Grave (to give both hands)  
demi-plié (half flex) passé (pass)  
demi-tours (half turns) Petit (small)  
derriere (back) Piqué [P-K, means Pick] stepping directly on point of Foot  
Dessus [Over] (Working foot passes in front of the supporting one) Plié [plea-a] (flexed, pliable)  
devant (front) Port de bras (carriage of arms)  
Developpé (folded or unfolded)    

All historic styles and forms of dance had ratings when performed and would be reported as follows.

1) Grotesque:
Lowest degree was called "Grotesque." Which meant the dancer was unsteady, movements were imposing while demanding -- all skill rather than gracefulness.
2) Comic:
The second degree was called "Comic." Generally steadier than the first, representing the customs, pastimes, or romances of the lower classes.
3) Demi-caractere:
The third degree was called "Demi-caractere." This class exemplified affairs of ordinary life such as a love story or plot, representing the common people.
4) Serious:
The fourth degree was called "Serious" dances. These were usually found upon the tragic staging. Represented the highest possible degree of skill and elegance.
5) Pantomimic:
The fifth degree was known as "Pantomimic" or "Ballet." These acts conveyed the entire act thru dance (no words).
Greek:  Dances may be divided and subdivided ad infinitum, specifying three technical varieties, Remembering that all the dances were religious:
1) Kubistic, including leaping and acrobatic feats.
2) Spheristic, rhythmical movements accompanying ball-throwing.
3) Orchestic, or dancing proper.

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Last updated: May 22, 2013
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