Alignment.  This refers to the foot or the feet, not the body, and describes the direction in which the feet are facing or backing in relation to the room at the end of a step.

Note: in some figures the body does not always match the alignment of the feet.  See also Line of Dance and Amounts of Turn.


Amounts of turn (also see Alignment).  The overall amount of turn used in a figure, or the amount of turn made with the feet between each step.  In some figures, particularly in Latin dances, the amount of turn made by the feet and the body is often not identical.  When the foot carrying weight is not facing in the same direction as the body on completion of a step, the amount of turn on that step is standardized as that made by the body and not the feet.

bpm   Bars per minute.  Also see Tempo.

Cha cha cha.  A Latin American dance in 4/4 time, played at 30 bpm.  It has a distinct syncopated rhythm dancing 5 steps to each bar of music commencing on beat 2, giving a timing of 2, 3 4 & 1.  Cha cha was derived from the Cuban Rumba and brought to Britain in 1952 by the English dance teacher Pierre Lavelle.  Today, many of the figures in the Rumba and the Cha cha are shared, differing only in the rhythm and number of steps taken.


CBM  See Contrary (or Contra) Body Movement.


CBMP  See Contrary (or Contra) Body Movement Position.


Contrary (or Contra) Body Movement or CBM, which should not be confused with Contrary (or Contra) Body Movement Position or CBMP, is a body action used to initiate a turn.  It is the moving of the opposite side of the body towards the stepping foot, either forward or backward.  This action will be strongest on Natural or Reverse Turn Pivots, but also occurs in many other figures.


Contrary (or Contra) Body Movement Position or CBMP, which should not be confused with Contrary (or Contra) Body Movement or CBM, is the placing of the stepping foot, either forward or back, onto or across the line of the other foot, giving the impression of CBM having been used but without turning the body.  



Corta Jaca.  

A Brazilian term literally meaning "cut the jack", or jackfruit, the largest fruit in the world which can weigh between 50 & 100 lbs each. It has large seeds inside, each seed surrounded by a sticky yellow pulp tasting something like banana mixed with pineapple.  Grown in Brazil, it originates from India and can take upwards of 20 years for the tree to reach its mature height of over 70 feet.


Also, a figure in the Samba consisting of one Slow step followed by six Quicks.  It can be danced in Close Hold with arms extended slightly, or in Shadow Position after a foot change to enable it to be danced by both partners on the same foot.



Dance Etiquette.  See entry on our FAQ page.


Direction.  It is generally accepted that dancers follow the line of dance and move around the dance floor in an anti-clockwise direction.  This is necessary both to avoid collisions on the floor and to describe, teach and practise figures in individual dances.  It may have originated from times when men carried their swords on their left side (since most were right handed) and, therefore, escorted the lady on their right.  When leading the lady around the dance floor, the man was towards the center so as not to entangle onlookers with his sword and, therefore, moved anti-clockwise.  

Floor craft.  The ability of dancers to navigate their way around the dance floor safely without colliding with other dancers and with due consideration for others.


Foxtrot.  A smooth, flowing Standard Ballroom dance in 4/4 time, played at 30 bpm originally popularized in 1913 by Harry Fox in the stage show Ziegfeld Follies in New York.  Since then, it has evolved and developed into the Slow Foxtrot and the Quickstep as we know them today.

Guapacha Timing.  A variation in the standard timing in the Cha cha whereby the step that is normally taken on the second beat of the bar of music is delayed and taken a 1 beat later.  This interpretation of the basic rhythm is called Guapacha Timing (pronounced Whappacha).  Although many advanced variations make use of this timing, it can easily be applied to more basic figures.

Habanera Rhythm.  A change in rhythm used in Rumba to create fast body speeds for the lady in order to enhance the mood and characterization of the dance.  It should only be used sparingly and in certain figures, and takes a degree of skill for the man to lead and control correctly.

Jive.  A Latin American style dance in 4/4 time, played at 44 bpm although other tempos are often played socially.  Sometimes referred to as Triple Beat Jive or Ballroom Jive, it originated in the south east states of the USA where it was performed by negro slaves who performed it competitively in the 1880s.  The prize was often a cake and so the dance became known as the "Cake Walk".  Originally danced to Ragtime music, this evolved into Swing in the 1920s, it became the Lindy Hop in 1927, and then the Jitterbug in 1934.  Offshoots and variations of this dance include Swing, Boogie-Woogie, Rock'n'Roll, Shag, Hustle and Ceroc or LeRoc.  

Latin Cross.  When one leg is crossed behind or in front of the other in the Latin dances, the position achieved is always the same.  This position is called a Latin Cross.


Line of dance (commonly abbreviated to LOD).   The anti-clockwise direction in which dancers move around the floor, parallel to the outside wall of the dance floor.  Used in all Standard Ballroom dances and, for Latin American dancing, Samba and Paso Doble only.  See also Direction, Alignment and Amounts of Turn.

Paso Doble.  A Latin American style dance in 2/4 time with a distinct marching rhythm, played between 60 & 62 bpm.  This dance depicts the Spanish bull fight, with the man taking the part of the matador and the lady the cape or the bull.  It is more often danced competitively and for demonstration purposes than as a social dance, although the basic steps and figures are easy to learn.  It became popular with the upper classes in Paris in the 1930s and, therefore, many of the steps and figures have acquired French names.  Paso Doble literally means "two step" in Spanish.   


Promenade Position (commonly abbreviated to PP).  A position where the man's right side and the lady's left side are in contact with each other, and the man's left side and lady's right side are opened out slightly to form a V shape.  The feet will normally match this turning out of the bodies.

Quickstep.  A Standard Ballroom dance in 4/4 time, played at 50 bpm.  The Quickstep evolved from the Foxtrot.

Rock'n'Roll.  See Jive.


Rumba.  A Latin American dance in 4/4 time, commenced on beat 2 of the bar of music, played at 27 bpm.  The origins of the Rumba come from African Negro slaves in Cuba combining their dances with the Cuban Contradanza in Havana in the 19th century.  It was brought to the USA in the 1930s, and Europe in the 1940s when the current standard of the break step occurring on beat 2 was introduced.  Often referred to as the dance of love, it is a very sensual dance.

Samba.  A Latin American dance in 2/4 time, played at 50 bpm.  The Samba's origins go back to a combination of the Catarete, the Embolada, and the Batuque, dances performed by 16th century Portuguese slaves in Brazil.   A composite dance evolved in the 1830s combining the plait figures from these negro dances with body rolls and sways from the Brazilian Lundu.   This was later combined with a form of the Maxixe, a Brazilian two-step dance named after the prickly fruit of a cactus, and introduced into the USA and Europe in the early 20th century.    


Single Beat Jive.  A form of Jive based on Rock'n'Roll.  Often taught to beginners as a precursor to Triple Beat Jive.


Slow Foxtrot.  A Standard Ballroom dance in 4/4 time, played at 30 bpm.  See also Foxtrot.


Social Foxtrot.  A Standard Ballroom dance in 4/4 time, which can be played at varying tempos from 26 to 50, but usually played at 30 bpm.  Also known as rhythm dancing, the steps are easy to learn and can easily be practised on a crowded dance floor.

Tango.  A Standard Ballroom dance in 2/4 time, played at 33 bpm.  Originating as a Flamenco dance from Spain, which emigrated to South America with the Spanish conquest of much of that area, it developed in Argentina and then merged with Cuban habanera rhythms in the late 19th century.  It became popular in western Europe after it was introduced in 1910 by Mistinguett in Paris.


Tempo.  The speed at which the music is played, expressed in bars per minute (bpm).  The tempo stated for each dance is that which is standardized by the World Dance Council (WDC), the International DanceSport Federation (IDSF), and the British Dance Council (BDC).  It is generally accepted that dance music can and will be played slightly faster or slower than the stated speed, both at social dances and in competitions.  The tempo should remain constant throughout each piece of music, whatever speed it is played at, and this is known as "strict tempo".

Viennese Waltz.  A Standard Ballroom dance in 6/8 time, played at 60 bpm.  It originated as the first recorded dance of 3/4 timing in Provence, France in 1559 and was known as the Volta which means "turn" in Italian.  The first music for the Waltzen, which means "revolve" in German, appeared in Germany in 1754.  It became very popular in Vienna in the early 19th century, and was introduced in England as the German Waltz in 1812.

Waltz.  A Standard Ballroom dance where the feet are usually closed with a change of weight on the third step, played in 3/4 time at 30 bpm.  It evolved in America around 1870 as a slower version of the then popular Viennese Waltz and was known as the Boston.  Since then, the dance has developed into two distinct styles: the American style which includes a number of open holds and passing steps; and the International style which insists on a close hold throughout.