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Ballroom and Latin dance terms and definitions!

In this 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


sailor step - A triple step dance pattern accomplished by leaning in the opposite direction of the crossing foot (weight stays centered over lead foots original position) Example: Leaning toward left (1) Step left behind right (&) Side step right (2) Side step left (to original position).
See 'Basic Steps in Ballroom Dancing' video >>

The Basic Step
of Salsa

salsa - A hot Latin dance hot which, when danced correctly, displays a lot of shakin', shimmying, and hip action.
See the Salsa Learning Area for more information >>
Also see our Salsa DVD dance videos >>

samba - The official dance of Brazil. This Latin dance has a tempo of about 100 beats per minute.
See the Samba Learning Area for more information >>

second position - Feet parallel, shoulder width apart.

shag - see Carolina shag.

shimmy - Alternating shoulder movements forward and backward.

shine – Popular in Latin dances such as mambo and cha cha, these are movements where the partners are not physically connected. Often the partners dance similar patterns while disconnected or they act out a piece of music interpretation.

shuffle - A triple step similar to a polka step with no lilt. Used in triple two step.

Slide (Slash)slide - To bring the free foot slowly together to the weighted foot.
See 'Definitions of Dance Terms' video >>

slot - Used as a concept in certain dances (i.e. west coast swing) where the goal is for the follower to dance on a track, turn around, and then come back on the same track in the opposite direction. The leader job is to move slightly out of the track (slot) to allow the follower a clear path.

slow - A step or weight change that takes two beats of music.

Smooth Style Ballroom - The term used in DanceSport events and in general to mean American Style waltz, foxtrot, tango and Viennese waltz.

spin turn – Also called a pencil turn or a platform turn. A turn on one foot with the other (unweighted) foot usually held in first position.
See 'Turn Technique' video >>

split - The feet move apart with the weight evenly distributed over both feet.
See 'Definitions of Dance Terms' video >>

spot turn
See our free streaming video on turn technique >>

spotting - A technique for keeping oriented and avoiding dizziness during turns. Select a spot; keep looking at it as you turn until you can't any longer; then quickly turn your head so you are looking at it again.
See 'Definitions of Dance Terms' video >>

Standard Style Ballroom - The name that replaced the term modern to mean The International Style ballroom dances—waltz, foxtrot, Viennese waltz, tango and quickstep.

step - Frequently used to mean the same thing as figure.

step - The transfer of weight from one foot to another.

syncopate - To add or subtract steps within a specific number of beats performed by dancers to vary the normal step and to allow for personal expression and creativity.

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