What Did You Say? Defining Ballroom Dance Terminology Part 1

“What did you say?” – Defining Ballroom Dance Terminology Part 1

     Hi there my dancing friends!  This week I’m going to help demystify and clear up our “dance terminology.” I have been speaking this dance language so long, that I often forget these terms are not used that often in the “real world.” I remember one time when I used the term amalgamation, which I so often did, and I got a response like – “well excuse me! “ It was as if they thought I learned it in the school spelling bee and was trying to show off. So let’s start with…

Amalgamation – ‘a combination of two or more patterns or movements.’

     When you take several patterns and string them together to make one long grouping, you have yourself an amalgamation. This is a great way to memorize patterns. Our students that learn routines have found this is the best way to remember steps quickly. So, a routine is several amalgamations put together. Maybe we should call that routinamations!

             Latin hip motion – ‘the action of the hip moving side to side as a result of alternating the flexing and straightening of the knees.’

            Now don’t shoot the messenger! I know that those of you who have learned this know that it isn’t that simple! In addition to the hips moving side to side, the hips will also twist forward and back. The key to clear hip action is 2 important things:

  1. Make sure you straighten the straight leg fully. As you straighten your leg, that will be the hip that twists back.
  2. The leg you are stepping on should land with a bent knee and then straighten before you do the next step. Quite often people straighten the leg when the foot hits the floor and that is too early.


            Follow Through ‘the continuing action of the body towards the direction of the supporting foot. The moving foot will close towards the supporting foot without transferring weight before continuing the movement.’

            This is really important in your smooth dances like the Fox Trot and Waltz. Follow through is important for 3 reasons.

  1. Balance – by using your follow through, it makes sure you completely get your weight underneath your body before continuing on to the next movement. This will improve your balance from step to step.
  2. Timing – on the slow beats of your social Fox Trot, there is a whole beat of music designated to achieve this. You will step on the first beat of the slow and follow through on the second beat (AKA – brushing, another “dance term”). As you progress to a more advanced level, the same thing will happen, however you will have half the amount of time to achieve this.
  3. Smoothness – follow through helps you achieve a more continuous movement, which will make you look smooth while dancing. Let’s face it- the word smoothness has SMOOTH in it. This will not happen without follow through.


            Alignment ‘the direction the feet are pointing in relation to the room.’

            We are not talking about the alignment like in your car. However, it is about how you are able to execute your steps by the directions you are facing around the dance floor. In smooth dancing the steps are designed to travel around the dance floor in a counter clockwise direction (known as Line of Dance, another “dance term”) much like a race-track, so we don’t have any collisions. This can only be achieved if you know the correct position you should be pointing to allow the steps to travel appropriately. This is obviously the man’s job since he is leading.

            Line of Dance (LOD) – ‘an imaginary line around the dance floor in a counter clockwise direction.’

            As mentioned earlier and also referred to as LOD. Many different sports adhere to this rule whether it is ice-skating, car racing, track, etc. Oh and don’t forget even your toilet bowl! You don’t want to be caught going the wrong direction on a one-way street, do you?

            Syncopation – ‘a temporary displacement of the regular metrical accent in music caused by stressing the weak beat. A syncopation in dancing is often called a double step in that two steps will occur during one beat.’

            What is important to remember about syncopations is that you don’t want to blur that speed into the next step. Having fast and slow parts in steps or dances is what makes it interesting. We often refer to that as “light and shade.” Make sure that the “syncopations” are quick and the step before and after is slow so that you take advantage of the accented rhythm.

I hope I cleared up some of the Ballroom Dance Terminology you may often hear in the studio!  If you ever hear any words that you are not familiar with, don’t be afraid to ask your teacher what it means- I’m sure the other students have the same questions!

And….If there are any dance terms you’re still confused with, please comment below and we’d love to answer you 🙂


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