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Dance dictionary of ballroom dance terms and definitions

In this dance dictionary you will find definitions for dances and dance terms used on this site and in the ballroom dance community. Terms are sorted alphabetically, making this a handy reference for beginning and advanced dancers alike. Common Abbreviations are listed in their own section.

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M
N | O |
P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

Common Abbreviations


Carolina shag - a slotted swing dance that shares many figures with “jitterbug” and east coast swing.
See the Carolina Shag Learning Area for more information >>

center - Balance point of the body mass - located near the diaphragm.

cha cha - The most recently developed of the Latin dances, cha cha takes on a happy, carefree expression and is usually danced to music with a tempo in the range of 110-130 BPM.
See the Cha Cha Learning Area for more information >>
Also see our Cha Cha DVD dance videos >>

chaîné turns - Chained, rolling turns. A turn or chain of turns, in which one full turn is made with each two steps. The technique: step forward and bring the feet together making a weight change (while in first foot position) and completion of a 360-degree rotation.
See our free streaming video on turn technique >>

change step (or closed change) – a three step sequence used to change weight from one foot to the other. Usually these steps are the first three steps of the box step.
See 'Basic Steps in Ballroom Dancing' video >>

chase - A figure where one partner pursues the other. Popular in cha cha. A visual “what-you-see-is-what-you-do” lead is used for this figure.

chassé - A step-close-step sequence. The working leg slides out. Place weight on it and draw other leg along floor to it.

chassé turn – a step-close-step turning step where the feet close to first position during the turn.
See our free streaming video on turn technique >>

choreography - A creation or compilation of steps, patterns and movements which make up a dance or a dance routine.

close - To bring the feet together without a change of weight.

coaster step – a triple step, sometimes used in swing dancing. Usually, the pattern is called out as “back-together-forward.”
See 'Basic Steps in Ballroom Dancing' video >>

contra body movement (CBM) - A movement of the body which turns the opposite hip and shoulder toward the direction of the moving leg. Often used to begin turning movements.

contra-body movement position (CBMP) – a position achieved by moving the leg rather than the body by either crossing in front or behind. The foot position achieved by stepping in line with the standing foot.

Cuban motion - Hip motion resulting from the alternate bending and straightening of the knees. For those interested, we have a great free instructional video which demonstrates how to achieve Cuban motion.

cucarachas – Alternating side breaks to the left and to the right. These are also called side breaks. In the breaking action, the feet move from first position to second position.

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