Glossary of Terms

Modern Dance Terminology

    A

  • Abduction

    Movement away from the midline on the lateral plane.

  • Accent

    In music, accent refers to a stress or an emphasis on a musical event.

    Accents can be created by changes in loudness, by extreme pitches and by rhythmic placement.

  • Adduction

    Movement toward the midline on the lateral plane.

  • Alignment

    The ability to efficiently organize the body in relationship to dancing.

  • Attention

    Mindful and conscious awareness of sensation.

  • B

  • Body half

    The movement of the right or left half of the body, while the other half is stationary or playing a supportive role.

    The term is associated with Bartenieff Fundamentals and developmental movement patterns.

  • Brush

    Gliding the foot along the floor, also known as a tendu in ballet.

  • C

  • Cervical

    Pertaining to the neck vertebrae. There are seven cervical vertebrae.

  • Coccyx

    The tailbone, which consists of three-four fused vertebrae.

  • Complex meter

    A meter with an asymmetrical accent pattern.

  • Compound meter

    A meter comprised of multiple groups of three beats

    (6/8,9/8,12/8 etc)

    with an accent or apparent beat occurring on the first of each group of three beats

    (12345678910 11 12).

  • Conditioning

    Enhancement of strength, flexibility and endurance through physical training.

    A dancer strives to achieve a balance of flexibility, strength, and muscular and cardiorespiratory endurance.

  • Contralateral

    Cross patterning of arms and legs. A twisting action that underlies oppositional use of arms and legs.

    The term is associated with developmental movement patterns.

  • Core strength

    Postural tone (strength) and connectivity of major muscles of the torso, hip and shoulders.

  • Core-distal

    Energetic relationship between the center and the limbs.

  • Crease

    Deep folding at the hip joint.

  • D

  • Distal

    Furthest away from center.

  • Downstage

    Part of the stage closer to the audience.

  • Downward dog

    An inverted V shape form the yoga tradition with both arms and legs supporting weight.

  • Duple meter

    A meter with two apparent beats per measure.

  • Dynamics

    The use of weight, space, flow and time to create different energetic statements.

  • F

  • Femur

    Long, upper leg bone.

  • Flat back

    Torso is suspended horizontally in space like the top of a table.

  • Flexion

    Decreasing the angle between two joints on the sagittal plane. (exception is the shoulder joint)

  • Focus

    The gaze of the eye. It is also used in dance to refer to internal or external focus.

    Internal focus is awareness of sensations inside the body. External focus is full attention to the space outside the body.

    Focus can also refer to the ability to concentrate.

  • G

  • Gallop

    A combination of a step and a leap. The overcurve airborne moment occurs after the step.

  • H

  • Hamstrings

    Group of three muscles (biceps femoris, semitendinosous, semimembranosus) on the back of the thigh that acts to extend the hip and flex the knee.

  • Hanging over

    Usually refers to standing on two legs while creasing the body at the hip joints and letting the torso, arms, and head release to gravity.

  • Head-tail

    An energetic relationship between the head and the tailbone (coccyx).

  • Heel rocks

    An energetic rocking with the heels while lying on the back of the floor.

    Associated with Bartenieff Fundamentals.

  • Heel-sitz bones

    The energetic relationship between the heel and the bottom of the pelvis (ischial tuberosity).

  • Hip joint

    The articulation of the femur (leg bone) with the acetabulum, a deep hole in the pelvic girdle.

    This large, strong joint accommodates three planes of motion of the leg-flexion/extension, lateral/medial rotation, and abduction/adduction.

  • Homolateral

    Distinction between right and left half (body half). Term associated with Developmental Movement Patterns.

  • Homologous

    Distinction between upper and lower body. Term associated with Developmental Movement Patterns.

  • Hop

    An elevation or scoot which takes off from one leg and lands on the same leg.

  • I

  • Initiation

    The body part or location from where movement begins.

    Movement can be centrally (core) or peripherally (distal) initiated.

  • Intention

    Choices concerning weight, flow, space, time and purpose by the performer, in conjunction with the dancemaker, that give distinction to the movement.

  • Inversion

    Moving the body upside down in space while weight bearing with arms, hands, shoulders or head.

  • Isolation

    The ability to hold one part of the body still while moving another part.

  • J

  • Jump

    A transfer of weight (usually with elevation) from two legs to two legs.

  • K

  • Kinesthetic memory

    The ability to physically remember and repeat body actions or forms.

  • Kinesthetic

    The perception of movement through aural, tactile, articular, muscular, vestibular channels.

  • L

  • Lateral curves

    The sideward bending of the body.

  • Lateral plane

    The plane that divides the body from front to back.

  • Lateral shifts

    The transfer of weight from side to side.

  • Leap

    The transfer of weight from one leg to the other during which there is a suspended moment when both feet are off the ground.

  • Locomotor

    Knowledge of both weight transfer and rhythmical patterning.

  • Lumbar curve

    The curving or rounding of the lower back.

  • Lumbar

    The area of the spine pertaining to the lower back vertebrae. There are five lumbar vertebrae.

  • M

  • Meter

    Sets of beats grouped together according to a consistent accent pattern.

    For example: 123, 123, 123, etc. or 12345, 12345 etc.

  • Mixed meter

    The practice of changing meters sequentially in music or dance.

  • Movement pick-up

    The ability to learn and execute movement sequences quickly.

  • Musicality

    1) The ability of a dancer to move responsibly to music.

    2) Independent of music, the ability of a dancer to move with nuanced coherency where all movement materials are given specific physical and dynamic expression in and of themselves and in relationship to each other.

  • O

  • One to two

    A transfer of weight (usually with elevation) from one leg to two legs.

    In ballet, this is called an assemblé.

  • Overcurve

    The shifting of weight from one leg to the other while lifting the body weight up at the top of the curve through space.

  • P

  • Pelvis

    A basin-like bony structure formed by the sacrum and os coxae.

    It acts like a container to hold the organs of the torso and it serves for muscle attachments.

    It receives the weight of the upper body and passes this weight on to the lower limbs via its articulations with the femurs.

  • Phrase/Combination/Sequence/Pattern

    Terms used to describe two or more movements linked together.

  • Phrasing

    The use of weight, space flow and time to create a sequence of movement in time.

  • Polymeter

    The practice of performing two or meters at the same time.

  • Prance

    The transfer of weight from one leg to the other, but weight is transferred toe-ball-heel. Weight is carried vertically.

    Can be done with straight or bent legs.

  • Presence

    The ability to be aware and fully invested in the present moment.

  • Proximal

    Closest to the center.

  • Pulse

    A beat at regular intervals.

  • Q

  • Quadriceps

    A group of four muscles on the front of the thigh (rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, and vastus intermedius) that act to extend the knee.

  • R

  • Release

    The relationship of the body with gravity, and the ability to let go of unnecessary muscular tension.

  • Rhythm

    A sequence of varied accents and durations in either motion or sound.

  • Rotation

    Movement around an axis on the transverse plane. Lateral rotation at the hip is known as turn-out.

  • Run

    The transfer of weight form one leg to the other during which there is a brief moment when both feet are off the ground.

    The weight is usually leaning forward in a run.

  • S

  • Sacrum

    The posterior, wedge shaped component of the pelvis located between the two pelvic bones.

  • Scapula

    The triangular bone on the back of the body that forms the posterior part of the shoulder girdle.

  • Sensing

    The ability to read or listen to what is coming in from our sensory channels: the eyes, ears, nose, skin, muscles, etc.

  • Sitz bones

    Also called the ischial tuberosity, these are the bones that make contact with the ground while sitting.

  • Skip

    A combination of a step and hop in an uneven rhythm.

  • Slide

    An undercurve movement that combines a slide (a sliding step in a plié), an elevation and a landing on the other leg.

    In ballet, this is called a chassé.

  • Spirals

    A twisting action of the spin or joints.

  • Stability/mobility

    Stabilizing a joint in order to create efficient movement.

    For instance, performing a grand battement without lifting the hip.

  • Stage left

    The left side of the stage from the performer's perspective, when gazing at the audience.

  • Stage right

    The right side of the stage from the performer's perspective, when gazing at the audience.

  • Step-hop

    A combination of a step and a hop. Usually done in an even rhythm with level change.

  • Sustained

    Movement performed with flowing consistently and without accent.

  • Swinging

    Pendular movement consisting of a release with gravity, an arcing follow through, and a suspension.

    Usually done in a triple rhythm.

  • Syncopation

    A character of rhythm that occurs when accents occur in unexpected paces within an otherwise predictable or repetitive pattern.

  • T

  • Thoracic curve

    Rounding of the upper back.

  • Thoracic

    Pertaining to the upper back vertebrae. There are twelve thoracic vertebrae.

  • Tilt

    A movement of the upper body laterally and downward.

  • Time signature

    A time signature is a notational indication of the organization of a piece of music.

    The top number specifies the number of beats per measure while the bottom number indicates which note value will be equal to one beat.

  • Transverse plane

    The plane that divides the body into upper and lower.

  • Triple meter

    A meter with three apparent beats per measure.

  • Triplet

    Three steps usually done in a down (plié) up (relevé), up (relevé) sequence.

  • Turn-out

    Lateral/outward rotation of the acetabular/femur (hip) joint.

  • Two to one

    A transfer of weight (usually with elevation) from two legs to one leg.

    In ballet, this is called a sissonne.

  • Undercurve

    Shifting of body weight from one leg to another while dropping the weight lower in the center of the curve.

  • U

  • Upper back arch

    The extension up and back of the upper body and head.

  • Upper back curve

    Rounding of the upper back (thoracic curve).

  • Upstage

    The part of the stage that is farthest from the audience.

  • W

  • Walk

    The transfer of weight form one leg to the other with one foot always on the floor. Generally, the heel strikes the ground first.

  • Weight shifts

    The transfers of body weight from one leg to the other.

  • X

  • X-rolls

    Rolls on the floor, initiated by the distal reach of a foot or hand, that runs the body from belly to back or back to belly while lying on the floor.

    A term associated with Bartenieff Fundamentals and developmental movement patterns.

  • Y

  • Yield and push

    The release of body weight into the floor followed by an activated push away from gravity.

    A term associated with developmental movement patterns and Body-Mind Centering.