Glossary of Dance Moves

Tamara Warta
three dancers

A glossary of dance moves can help dancers remember proper terminology and technique for different styles of dance. A glossary can also be used to study for classroom exams if applicable.

Basic Dance Glossary

  1. Chaine Turn - a basic  turn used in ballet and jazz dance, as well as other styles.
  2. Ball Change -  shifting weight from one foot to the other, and back again.
  3. Grapevine - a dancer steps out to the side, crosses the other foot in front, steps out to side again, and crosses the other foot behind.
  4. First Position - One of five ballet positions.  Heels touch and toes pointed outward, forming a line with the feet. Arms are rounded.
  5. Second Position - One of five ballet positions. Feet are separated about shoulders' width, with toes turned outward. Arms are outstretched with slight rounding.
  6. Third Position - One of five ballet positions. Left foot stays forward while the right heel meets the arch of the left foot , with right toes turned outward. Right arm is outstretched to side, left is rounded above head.
  7. Fourth Position - One of five ballet positions. Right foot is turned out in front of the left at a distance, and left arm is rounded over the head. Right arm is rounded in front, just as in first position.
  8. Fifth Position - One of five ballet positions. Both feet are turned out in different directions - toe to heel, heel to toe. Both arms are rounded above head.
  9. Pique Turn - Dancer steps out on one foot, and a complete turn is made on releve while the opposing foot's toes are brought up to the inside knee.
  10. Releve - To balance on your toes, either stationary or in movement.
  11. Kick Ball Change - one foot kicks either forward, to the side or to the back, and then is brought behind for a ball change step.
  12. Heel Pull - found in ballroom dancing, a half turn is completed on each heel.
  13. Derriere - French for "directly behind the body." Referenced often in ballet.
  14. Pas de Deux - a two-person dance, usually a male/female duet
  15. Double Turn - two full rotations of any dance turn (pique, attitude, pencil, etc.)
  16. Attitude Turn - while turning on releve, one leg is bent backward behind the body, leading the turn outward.
  17. Glissade - a small leap to the side, almost a gliding motion across the floor.
  18. Plie - a bend of the knees in any of the five ballet positions
  19. Pas de Bourree - a connecting step used in dance combinations, it involves the transfer of weight from one foot to the other, usually to "prep" for a turn or leap.
  20. Bridge - body is arched upside down, supported by the hands and feet with head dropped downward.
  21. Working Leg - the leg that is currently being used in a dance step
  22. Developpe - leg is brought up so the knee is bent at waist length, and then the leg is extended straight outward.
  23. Dos a Dos -  two people rotate completely around each other without touching, their backs to one another.
  24. Split Leap - legs "switch" back and forth in midair during the leap
  25. Tour Jete - a jump in which one foot steps out to the side, and the other foot kicks around in a leap to meet the other foot. Dancer lands on kicking foot. Arms are outstretched, over the head during the leap, and then brought down again.
  26. Feather Step - in partner dancing, the man takes four steps toward the woman, with the third step going around the outside of her body.
  27. Aplomb - a stationary position
  28. Arabesque - one leg supports while the other is extended up and behind the body
  29. Ballerino - Italian term for male ballet dancer
  30. Barre - a horizontal single or double barre used for ballet warm ups and balance during instruction of new steps
  31. Fan Kick - a kick that rotates 180 degrees in the air
  32. Jete - a leap from one foot to the other
  33. Grand Jete - a large leap that literally forms the splits in the air
  34. Splits - one leg stretched straight in front of the body and one stretching directly behind
  35. Passe - the toes of one foot are brought up to the knee of the opposing leg.
  36. En Pointe - to execute ballet steps on the tips of the toes, wearing special ballet slippers known as pointe shoes
  37. Port de Bras - the movement of the arms into different positions
  38. Rond de Jambe - half circles traced with one foot
  39. Tendu - French for "to stretch", in which a foot reaches out from the body and extends outward, with toes remaining on the floor
  40. Grand Battement - working leg is kicked upward to hip level and brought down again
  41. Retire - much like a passe, only the raised foot literally "rests" against the front or back of the supporting knee
  42. Sissonne - a jump from both feet onto one
  43. Quadrille - a succession of steps in ballroom dancing in which the man dances in turn with the woman
  44. Pirouette - a complete rotation done in place in the "pique" position
  45. Reverence - a bow or curtsy in dance

Online Glossaries of Dance Terminology

Online dance glossaries allow both dance enthusiasts and those who partake in this pastime to learn and research everything about dance steps. For additional resources, check out these online glossaries:

Glossary of Dance Moves