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