All of us use certain dance terms that we can’t fully or specifically define, but kinda know.

We figure out these dance terms based on context or by asking another dancer who is only slightly more familiar with them.

Learn what those words actually mean and you’ll gain a much better understanding of dance as a whole!

This list below includes commonly used dance terms and their definitions.

Look up that one thing you’ve always been unsure of, or brush up on all of ‘em!

The Most Important Dance Terms You Should Know


The most general way to break down the structure of a song.

Most dances (except the waltz) are counted and choreographed to 8 segments of count, or two 4-count measures back to back.

Before you get to moving to any count, you first have to be able to recognize where the count is. You can do this by catching on to the rhythm of the song and counting the beats – in increments of 8.

Hip hop usually focuses on songs on standard 4/4 time, which means there are 4 beats/counts in every bar, or every measure – but note that not all songs follow this signature! There’s 3/4, 4/8, 7/8, 11/16.

We get more in depth on the 8-count here: The Ultimate Guide To Musicality For Beginner Dancers

Ball Change

A 2-step move where you transfer the weight of the ball of foot 1 behind or by the other foot.

The kick ball change, as the name suggests, is when you kick or scuff your foot before the ball change.


The lowest of the standard four voice ranges (bass, tenor, alto, soprano), or, the lowest melodic line in a musical composition, that supports the harmony.

Different instruments can produce a bass sound (drums, guitar..)

Dancers often use the onomatopoeia “boom” to describe a bass drum sound.


A group of dancers in a circle. Dancers take turns dancing in the center.

You’ll most likely hear this in reference to a freestyle or “jamming” circle where dancers gather around the person dancing “in” the circle.

Experience one for yourself: What You Should Know Before Going To A Freestyle Jam


Different types of execution of movement.

Dynamics depend on how much and fast your energy is distributed.

Contrasts in dynamics make a piece look more “dynamic.”

Learn more in this guide: The Ultimate Guide To Execution Of Movement For Beginner Dancers


Where you are looking while you dance.

Common ones are: right, left, up, down, and the “45”s which is the diagonals between those sides.

We talk about the importance of focus in making your movements look bigger and more complete in this “Dear STEEZY”!



Improvisational dancing that allows the dancer to express their individual style (i.e. a dance that is not pre-planned)

It’s the process of spontaneously creating movement that was not choreographed ahead of time.

Get way more into freestyle and other dance terms here: How To Freestyle Dance


Hip Hop Fundamentals refer to the 4 pillars of Hip Hop Culture.

Originating in the 1970s in New York City, they are: Emceeing, DJing, Graffiti, and Breakdancing.

Fundamental / Foundational Styles refer to the different dance styles developed from Hip Hop and street styles and funk music including: breakdancing, popping, locking, house, punking / waacking, vogueing.

Learn more on Hip Hop History: What Is Hip Hop Dance?

Full Out

Dancing with 100% of your energy and performance.

Wanna go awff? Read this: How To Dance Bigger, Stronger, And More “Full Out”


This is when the class is divided into smaller sections, and each group will take turns performing  the piece as the other students watch.

Groups can get intimidating! But it’s also an integral part to your growth. Push yourself outside of your comfort zone and just go for it!

Use group time to your advantage by following advice from How To Get The Most Out Of Dance Class (Video)


A sound produced by a hi-hat cymbal.

Dancers often describe this sound as “tss tss”


When you hold a move/pose and not move during a count.


Staying in a pose and don’t move during for a count (or more).

See “Pictures”

Practice your isos with Charles Nguyen of Poreotics and Kinjaz: 7 Exercises To Boost Your Popping Fundamentals


How high or low your body gets.

Low levels require you to bend your knees, or “plie.” High levels may involve getting on your toes in “releve.”

Match levels with the choreographer or other dancers by looking in the mirror to check you are as low/high as everyone else.


Dancing a piece of choreography with less energy, usually for practicing musicality, timing, and other tools.

Marking means that you are doing the piece more in your head than on your body – but you should still be doing it with your body.

This allows you to be more conscious of the music, timing, and where your body placements are rather than releasing your bankai.

The choreographer might use percentages to indicate how much energy you should be putting into your mark.

Example: “Let’s go just 50% for this first run-through!” or “Mark it around 80%”


When you extend movements throughout a portion of the piece or music.

At the end of a move, instead of “putting a period” on it and ending it definitely by stopping the movement, think of it as a “…” – the “dot dot dot,” connoting that you’re dragging out that move.

Extend its pathway past “B,” what would’ve been the stopping point without the milking.

Or, you can milk from one picture into a completely new picture.

To practice this, set 2 poses.

Change your position every 4 counts.. but here’s the challenge!

Use a different pathway each time, to slowly get your body where it needs to be.

Think of milking as a change in acceleration (ooh, physics terms!)

All moves are some sort of slowing down, speeding up, or stopping.

Milking is just the term for gently stepping on your brakes. Where your car goes (the pathway) is up to you.


In dance, the matching of movement to the rhythm, melody, and mood of the music.

“Dance musicality” is demonstrated in several ways, depending on the dancer’s style, the song, and countless other elements.

There are many other dance terms to describe dance musicality.

Practice your musicality by following: How To Train Your Musicality As A Dancer
dance musicality


The words that the singer is singing to, often in sync with the melody.

The lyrics are probably the easiest to distinguish, but hardest to count / dance to, since vocals don’t always match the strict structure of 8-counts.

Sometimes choreographers will make moves that correlate with the lyrics, like miming actions or using certain body parts (wordplay)


A smooth and continuous bending of the knees outward with the upper body held upright.


The body placement and angles at a specific point in time of a piece of choreography.

Think of pictures as literal pictures.

If someone were to take a photo of you on the count that you’re hitting a picture, then the clearer that photo turns out to be the “cleaner” you are executing that picture.

The timing at which you reach that pose, and the timing out of it, should match the exact sound in the music that your picture’s supposed to land on.

You can either switch directly from pose A to pose B, or “milk” in the pathway between them – but the count that the picture is supposed to be on, should be unmoving (whether it’s for .00001 miliseconds or 30 seconds!)


The repetitive patterns within the music.

It’s how we “count” our beats (see “8-count”) and measure our movements.

Select Group

Students chosen by the choreographer to demonstrate the piece to the rest of the class.

The criteria for the selected dancers is solely up to the choreographer.

Selected dancers may have been really clean, not so clean but performed the crap out of it, had a lot of personal style, or were just fun to watch.

There are so many reasons you can get chosen or not for a select group, so don’t overthink it!

If the choreographer calls out a “any 10 people” or “any 5 people” to be in a group, and you feel comfortable with the piece, then you should push yourself to go up!

Wanna make it into select group? Dance your heart out, and use these tips: 9 Ways To Stand Out In Dance Class


The sharp, staccato drum sound you hear, like the sound you make when you clap your hands.

Dancers often describe as snare as “ka!”


The segment of music created by stringed instruments like guitars, violins, etc.

Guitar strums and melodies are also useful to take note of, for more instrumental / acoustic songs.

Switching lines

When a class rotates from the front to back and vice versa to give everyone a chance to be in the front.

When the choreographer says to “switch lines” – if you’re in the front of the room, then move to the back (and vice versa).

This is to ensure that everyone gets a fair chance at having a good view of the choreographer throughout the class. It’d be a little selfish to stay in the front the whole time, right?

Practice good dance etiquette: The Ultimate Guide To Taking A Dance Class For Beginner Dancers


The sound from a sound synthesizer, is produced by electric signals converted to sound through amps and loudspeakers.

Common reference to a “synth” is the synth piano, which may sound like a long slow bass like “wobba wobba”


The speed of the music.

As you’re learning a piece, the choreographer will teach in slow tempo, then speed it up to medium, and finally “tempo” – AKA the real-time speed of the song.


The dynamics and tension you create within your body.

Think of textures the way you think of the physical connotation of the word.

Have you ever heard dancers being described as “smooth“? They probably move like honey.

Visualize the way that a song feels.

Is it staccato, with abrupt starts and stops? Flowy and silk-like, with lots of vocals? Gruff and interrupted, like an angry rap song?

While many songs do embody a specific “texture,” most have elements of several.

And because a lot of songs carry with them hints of different textures, the variation in your hits, milks, and speed, are all going to contribute to how well you embody those textures, and subsequently how you match the music.


In a performance set, these are the movements that are used to connect 2 different pieces.

The music will change, and there will be dancers “transitioning” on and off the stage or switching their position on stage.


Now that you have a better grasp of dance terms, you can see them in action! 

Take a class on STEEZY Studio for real-life application of these dance terms. Sign up today and try it for free!

Are there more dance terms you want clarified? Comment below and we’ll help!

This post was originally published May 29, 2016.