Glossary of Terms

Tap Dance Terminology


  • Accent

    This is emphasizing a part of the music or dance with a tap sound.

  • Ad Lib

    This is another word for “improvise” which means to dance freely outside the bounds of choreography.

  • B

  • Back Flap

    This is a step that brushes back, steps then drops the heel.

  • Back-Front

    Simply a ball change.

  • Ball Beat

    A basic dropping of the ball of the foot.

  • Ball Change

    Alternately weight on the balls of the feet from each foot.

    This can be done in any direction.

  • Ball Tap

    Just what it says, place the ball of your foot on the ground then tap down.

  • Bandy Twist

    A basic tap movement originated by Jim Bandy, who danced in the Vaudeville days.

  • Barrel Roll, Barrel Turn

    This is a 360 degree of the body while the arms are extended in a “windmill”.

  • Bells

    This is a click of the heels against each other while in the air from a jump.

  • Brush

    A full brush of the foot against the ground.

    This can be done in any direction.

    Basically, the you flex the knee then strike the ball of the foot against the floor then the leg raises in the other direction to follow through the movement.

  • Brush Step

    A brush with a step on the end of it which is the same as a “flap”.

  • Brush Flat

    A basic brush as described above but with the entire flat of the foot striking against the floor rather then just the ball.

  • Buck

    Exactly the same as a chug (as defined below).

    This is a forward movement with an emphasized heel drop.

    It’s like scuffing the floor forward with the heel.

  • Buck and Wing

    Black American clog dance marked by wing-like steps; this was the forerunner of the present style of Rhythm Tap.

  • Buffalo

    A side traveling movement. It can also be executed in place.

  • Bumps

    A bump of the hip that was done often in Burlesque dancing.

  • C

  • Cake Walk

    Strutting across the stage on the balls of the foot in an exaggerated walk with the heels kicking back with each step and the back arched.

  • Carryback

    A backward tap movement.

  • Carryover

    A forward tap movement.

  • Catch

    This is a movement where the toe of one foot strikes the toe of the other foot – this can be done with the heel too (heel to heel).

  • Catch Step

    This is a ball change starting with the back foot bringing one foot in front of the other.

  • Chop

    A backward straight legged step that takes a bit of weight.

  • Chug

    This is the same as a “Buck” as described above.

    It’s a forward and forceful scuff of the floor with the heel that pushes forward about 3 inches.

  • Cincinnati

    This is a backward movement which moves from one foot to the other alternating back and forth.

  • Clap

    Just what you think! A hand clap.

  • Click

    A joyful jump in the air clicking the heels together.

  • Click Toes

    A balance on the heels while clicking the toes together in the air.

  • Clip

    A striking on the heel against the toe of the opposite foot or striking the toe against the heel of the opposite foot.

  • Cluster

    A group of tap sounds performed in rapid succession.

  • Contrast

    This is the variation of rhythm patterns in relation to one another.

  • Cork Screw

    A twisting motion where the foot is balanced on the heel and the toe is raised.

    This movement is sometimes referred to as a “Tanglefoot”.

  • Counterpoint

    Rhythms that are complementary to each other.

  • Cramp

    This is a forceful heel drop starting from the ball or toe of the foot down.

  • Cramproll

    This is a use of the cramp movement in a series of steps.

  • Cross

    This is an old term, it consists of five sounds starting with a waltz clog then a time step, but crossing them.

  • Cross Bar

    A side traveling movement where one leg crosses in front of the other.

  • Cross Leg Walk

    A basic movement making one tap sound for each beat of music.

  • Crossover

    A movement employing a crossing of one foot in front of the other.

  • Cubanola

    An old used for what we now know as a “Traveling Time Step”.

  • Cut (or Cut-Out)

    A leg swing from one side to the other that strikes the heels together.

  • D

  • Dig

    A forward digging movement (into the floor) that can be done with the ball of the foot of the heel.

  • Dig Ball

    A strike of the ball of the free foot forward in a forceful movement.

  • Dig Heel

    A hard strike of the heel in any direction.

  • Dig Tap

    Striking the hall of the free foot forward in a forceful movement.

    This can be done with the toe turned in or turned out and this movement does not take weight.

  • Double

    An old term for a Shuffle.

    The term was derived from the fact that a Shuffle constitutes two sounds.

  • Double Ball Change

    An old term for Shuffle - Ball Change which is done in two different rhythm patterns.

  • Double Heel Click

    This is a very old term which basically means a “shuffle” and a “bell” done together.

  • Double Hop

    This is a shuffle with a hop proceeding it.

  • Double Hop Step

    More commonly known as an "Irish" or a "shuffle, hop, step."

    This movement usually is executed in two different rhythm patterns.

  • Double Irish

    A shuffle-hop-step then a shuffle-ball-change - done in that particular order.

  • Double Jump

    This is a shuffle then a leap forward to the same foot.

  • Double Wings

    The Double Wing is executed with six distinct sounds (see the definition of “wings”)

  • Drag (or Draw)

    A foot drag or draw on the floor in any direction.

  • Draw Back

    Rocking back on the heels of both feet, then at the same time, brush both feet back, landing on the balls of both feet at the same time.

  • E

  • Eccentric

    An old form of comedic character dance.

  • Essence

    A movement associated with “soft-shoe” dancing, containing varied rhythm patterns.

  • F

  • Fan Kick

    One foot extends forward and upward, which will make a “fan” movement outwardly. Like in a chorus line.

  • Fall

    It's like a leap that's exaggerated in a comedic way taking the grace out of the leap and making it appear like a fall though still controlled.

  • Falling Off the Log

    A twisting motion going sideways (like a "grapevine").

  • Flap

    A quick brush step to the front.

    Strike forward to the floor, then step forward and put weight on the working foot.

    Usually done forward but can be done in other directions as well.

  • Flat Tap

    Strike forward (or any direction), the flat foot.

  • Flat Step

    Strike down the flat foot.

  • Flea Hop

    Slide from one foot to the other.

  • Flip

    A basic Back then a "brush" and a "step".

  • Flop

    A flat footed tap where the straight leg striking the floor.

  • French Twist

    A traveling movement working on demi-pointe then moves forward in a twisting motion like the French Can Can girls.

  • G

  • Glide

    Striking the floor with one toe across then across the other foot (in front), then leap over and land on the other foot.

  • Graboff

    A shuffle then a pickup to a change.

  • Grab Roll

    A pullback movement like the graboff.

  • Grind

    A figure 8 hip movement; as the Burlesque dancers did.

  • H

  • Hamp

    A little hop done on the flat of one foot.

  • Hand Clap


  • Heel Beat

    balance on the heel then drop it to the floor.

  • Heel Brush Back

    Done like a Back Brush that strikes the heel to the floor.

  • A change of heel weight of the front foot to the back foot ball.

  • Heel Click

    Striking the heels together standing on the balls of your feet.

  • Heel Close

    Two movements going outward then inward. Makes two sounds.

  • Heel Dig

    Striking the heel forward to the floor, on demi-pointe.

  • Heel Drop

    A hard drop of the heel on the floor while weight is placed on the ball of the foot.

  • Heel Roll

    A drop of the heel from one foot to the other.

  • Heel Scuff

    A forward brush of the heel; the edge of the heel strikes the floor in a swinging motion.

  • Heel Stand

    Balancing on the heels of the feet at the same time.

  • Heel Tap

    A strike of the back heel to the ground on demi-pointe, with no weight on it.

  • Heel Thump

    A movement going forward with a dropping of the heel.

  • Heel Toe

    A heel striking against the floor in front of the other foot, then transfer the weight forward to the other heel. Forcing the demi-pointe to the floor.

  • Heel Twist

    A movement inward and outward twisting movement of the toes.

  • Hitch

    Standing on one foot with the knee bent, as the other leg is in air; then slide back leaning on your ball and straighten the other leg.

  • Hop

    Jumping up with one foot then flexing your knee of your other foot as the moving leg springs up and lands on the original foot.

  • Hop Double Hop

    A “hop-shuffle-hop”.

  • I

  • Inside Slide

    A “flea hop”.

  • Irish Jig

    The official folk dancing created by the Irish.

  • J

  • Jingle

    A tap dance accessory which is basically a metal disc containing a loose washer in it.

    It is worn at the instep next to the heel and produces extra sounds when dancing tap movements.

    This device isn’t common today but was worn by amateurs in the good old days.

  • Jim Crow

    Originally a form of Blackface.

  • Jump

    A spring into the air from both feet, landing on both feet in any direction.

  • K

  • Kick

    A kick extending from the knee (not hip).

  • L

  • Lamp

    A leap from one foot to the other that lands on the flat of the foot rather then the ball.

  • Leap

    A leap into the air from the supporting foot, landing on the opposite foot.

    A leap always involves a change of weight from one foot to the other.

  • Lunge

    The pushing of one foot forward, on the floor and with a bent knee while the other extends but stays on the ground.

    This is mainly a yoga and ballet movement.

  • M

  • Military Dance

    A rhythmic structure that is measured into a uniform number of beats.

  • Moderato

    A military style of tap dancing using cramprolls in a drum-like fashion in a 4/4 or 2/4 time.

  • Musical Comedy

    Musical Comedy was actually the forerunner of today's Modern Jazz.

    It is a technical type of tap dancing that included comedy.

  • N

  • Nerve Tap (or “nerve roll”)

    A series of fast taps with the heel, ball or toe from the vibration of the leg.

  • O

  • Off Beat

    Basic tap rhythms.

  • Over the Top: A leap over the foot.

  • P

  • Paddle Step: Normally executed in a turn but could be executed in place or traveling to the side.

  • Parallel Travel (or “pigeon toes”)

    Any form of travel from one side of the stage to the other.

    This was originally applied to movements involving the pivoting on the heels and toes of one or both feet applying an inward and outward motion.

  • Patter

    A series of small steps executed fastly.

  • Pickup

    Hop back on one foot then brush step.

  • Pickup Change

    Same as a pickup but landing on the opposite foot.

    This movement is sometimes preceded by a Shuffle.

  • Pivot

    A swivel of the foot whether it be from the ball, heel or flat.

  • Pull (a.k.a. “slide” ,“draw” or “brush”)

    Represents a sliding back on one or both feet.

  • Push Beat (or “offbeat”)

    An accented tap on the "and" count in an eighth-note rhythm, with a rest on the count of "1."

  • R

  • Railroad

    A pushing movement of the feet back and forth on the floor, alternating from one foot to the other to produce the sound effects like a train.

  • Rattle (or “shuffle”)

    A front brush followed by a back brush; may be executed to the front, side or back.

  • Rhythm Buck

    A form of buck dancing with complex rhythm patterns.

  • Riff

    A forward brush and heel scuff on the same foot.

  • Riff Walks

    A walk using riffs.

  • Riffle

    A riff and a back brush.

  • Roll

    Normally a reference to a Nerve Roll of 4 or 5 sounds, but could refer to a double shuffle to the rear, or a Cramproll.

  • Rolling off the Log (or “falling off the log”)

    A twisting movement similar to a grapevine, normally traveling to the side.

  • Rubber Legs

    Movement associated with comedy dancing where the legs are used in a loosely exaggerated way.

  • Russian Wings (or "squat wings")

    To throw both feet forward and brush a strike the heel of one foot then the other.

  • S

  • Scoot

    A hop and slide forward, similar to a Chug.

  • Scuff

    A heel movement executed in the same manner as a forward brush where the back edge of the heel strikes the floor in a swinging like movement.

  • Scuffle

    A shuffle accented differently.

  • Seven

    An old tap term combination using seven sounds; Shuffle Step, Shuffle Ball change.

  • Shading

    The accenting of tapping sounds.

    Shading consists of the variation of rhythm made by the shifting of emphasis or the pitch of the sounds.

  • Shim Sham

    Shuffle step right, shuffle step left, shuffle ball change both feet, then shuffle step right. Repeat then Reverse.

  • Shuffle

    A forward brush then a back in any direction done fast in a 16th note rhythm.

  • Skid (or “chug”)

    A sliding forward of the ball of the foot followed by a heel drop on the same foot.

  • Slam

    A straight legged flat tap involving no weight.

  • Slap

    An emphasized back brush or flap (brush, step with weight).

  • Slide (or “slip”)

    A forward sliding of the foot (or in any desired direction).

  • Slow Drag

    A slow 4/4 time tempo.

  • Snake Hips

    A rolling hip movement used by burlesque dancers.

  • Soft Shoe

    A dance performed in a slow 4/4 time that was originally danced with sand on the floor

    Later replaced with metal taps.

  • Spot Step

    A static step, movement or phrase.

  • Spread Eagle

    Shuffle leap right, backflap left.

  • Spring (or “leap”)

    A spring into the air jumping off one foot and landing on the other.

  • Stag Leap

    A leaping movement into the air with one leg extended straight to the side, the other knee flexed with the foot at the knee of the extended leg.

  • Stamp (or ”flat step”)

    Stepping on the flat of the foot, taking full weight.

  • Step

    Placing the foot firmly on the floor, taking weight (always executed on the ball of the foot unless otherwise noted).

  • Step Chug

    A step forward on the ball (or flat) of the foot, usually followed by a Chug.

  • Step Brush

    A Heel Drop

  • Step Pull (or “step, slide”)

    A step and slide back on the same foot.

  • Stomp (or “flat tap”)

    Striking the floor with the flat of the foot not taking weight.

  • Stomp Roll

    A series of heel drops from side to side.

  • Strike (or “hit”)

    With weighted heels of both feet, strike the toes together.

  • Stub

    Hitting the right toe against the left heel or vice versa.

  • Stub Toe Walk

    Walking doing the “stub”.

  • Swap Wings

    The first two sounds of the “wing” with a land on the opposite foot for an added third sound.

  • Swirl

    A 360 degree knee spin.

  • Swivel

    1/4 or 1/2 turn done on the balls of the feet.

    The feet do not leave the floor.

  • T

  • Tacet

    A step or series of steps danced without music that normally occurs in the middle of a dance number.

  • Tanglefoot

    A tap movement from the “Charleston Theme Step”, consisting of the inward and outward motion of the toes.

    This movement is sometimes called a "Heel Twist."

  • Tap Heel

    Same as a Heel Tap: Strike the back edge of the heel (toe up) to the floor in any desired direction.

    This movement does not take weight.

  • Tap Spring

    Tap with the right ball of the foot to the left and then leap forward to the right.

  • Tap, Step

    Tap right ball forward then step right back. A combination of two tap sounds.

  • Three

    An old term sometimes referred to as a “triple”.

    It is most commonly known though as a “shuffle” and then a “step” which makes three sounds total in the move.

  • Tiller

    A term that came from the English music halls, originated by John Tiller.

    This refers to a line or a group of dancers who dance in precision and execute high kicks and formations.

    Sometimes referred to as a "Line Number."

  • Time Step

    An upbeat and repeatable combination that marks a tempo.

    An eight measure movement placed at the beginning of a dance routine.

    A total of six of them were usually done that were followed by a “break”.

    There are countless variations of the “time step”.

  • Toe Back (or “toe tap”)

    To strike the point of the toe behind the standing foot then immediately raising the foot from the floor.

  • Toe Beat

    Same as a Toe Tap but the toe remains on the floor.

  • Toe Click

    With the toes upward and the weight on the heels of both feet, strike the toes together.

  • Toe Dig

    An emphasized step that is forward on the ball of the foot (with the knee bent) that is a slinky strutting movement.

  • Toe Drop

    A force of the ball of the foot to the floor starting from a heel balance.

  • Toe-Heel

    Brush forward and heel dig forward with the other foot (starting with a heel balance).

  • Toe Stand

    Balancing on the points of both feet.

  • Toe Tap (or “toe tip”)

    A strike of the toe in any direction immediately raising the foot from the floor after.

    Usually, this movement does not take weight.

  • Trench

    A series of slides back, alternating from one foot to the other while swinging the arms 180 degrees in an “airplane” fashion.

    Put the weight on one foot, then extend the other leg in the air.

    Then slide back on the outer edge of the supporting foot, landing on the other foot (at the same spot from which the first slide started).

    The body is bent forward with the arms extended and in line with the shoulders.

  • Triplet

    Three tap sounds performed on each beat of music: e.g., "1 and a, 2 and a, etc."

  • Turns

    There are four basic turns associated with tap: right and left inside and outside turns.

  • Two

    A “shuffle”.

  • Two Step

    A common movement like the “fox trot”: step forward right then close left to right and step forward then rest.

  • V

  • Vamp

    A musical introduction, or musical phrase which can be repeated indefinitely.

  • W

  • Wings

    A movement done on one foot while the other foot is in the air.

    Then the toe of the supporting foot will be turned inward, and then brush the foot outward in a swishing movement, that is done on the outer edge of the sole (lifting body upward in the air) - then do a back brush step on the descending movement (making 3 sounds).