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Phyllis Eckler

Jazz Dance Terminology


Jazz Dance I
Phyllis Eckler - Instructor

General Vocabulary

* Choreographer: A person who composes a dance

* Choreography: A dance composition

* Downbeat: An accented beat which begins a musical measure

* Downstage: Toward the front of the stage or room

* Floor pattern: A path followed during a movement combination

* Lyrical: Smooth, sustained movement

* Stage left: The left side of the stage or room as one faces the audience or front

* Stage right: The right side of the stage or room as one faces the audience or front

* Upstage: Toward the back of the stage or room

* Upbeat: the unaccented mid-point between beats


* Brush: A movement in which one leg moves away from the standing leg and returns. The foot skims the floor as one moves it out or in.

* Contraction: Position or movement in which the center of the torso retreats

* First position parallel: Feet about 8" apart with toes facing front

* First position turned out: Heels together, toes facing the diagonal

* Flexed: Feet and toes are retracted back and heels are pressed forward

* Forced arch: on ball of the foot with heel off the floor and knee bent

* Fourth position parallel: One foot in front of the other with @ 10" between them . Toes facing the front

* Fourth position turned out: One foot in front of the other with toes facing the diagonal

* Lunge: Position in either 2nd or 4th where only one knee is bent and the other straight

* On the walk: Starting position for locomotor movement. Back foot is lightly resting on the ball of the foot

* Parallel: Stance where toes face forward

* Plié: A knee bend with careful alignment of the knees and torso

* Point: Feet are fully extended forward from the ankles

* Pretzel: A sitting position where one leg is crossed over the other and the bottom one is tucked in bent

* Retiré or passé: Position in which the toe of one leg touches the knee of the standing leg

* Second position: Feet side by side @ 24" apart ( can be parallel or turned out)

* Second position arms: Arms to the side at just below shoulder height

* Standing leg: The weight bearing leg

* Turnout: The outward rotation of the feet and legs from the hips. Toes to the diagonal.

* Working leg: The non-load bearing leg


*Ball Change: Syncopated weight shift onto the ball of the rear foot and back to the flat front foot  (Can be done as a travelling step)

* Chassé: Step together step

* Cut: Quick displacement of one standing leg by the other while remaining on the same spot

* Fan kick: A kick in which the working leg makes a sweeping arc in front of the body

* Fondue: A bending of one's standing leg all the way from releve to plie

* Grapevine: A series of steps that move sideways with a side, back, side, front pattern

* Hitchkick: A scissor-like movement where one leg is in the air while the other leg kicks up to pass it

* Isolations: Movement of only one part of the body

* Jazz walk: Many varieties but generally a turned out low walk using shoulder opposition

* Jazz pas de bourree: A back-side-front three step move in the floor pattern of an isosceles triangle

* Jazz square: A crossed front-back-back-front four step move in the floor pattern of a square

* Mambo: A front/back, back/front step with hips swiveling in a figure 8

* Piqué: A step onto half toe with a straight leg from a plie standing leg

* Relevé: A lift onto the toes

* Step: Transferring weight fully onto a foot

* Touch: A placement of the working toe or foot on the floor without shifting weight to it


* Chainés: Consecutive half turns traveling and rotating in a single direction

* Inside turn: forwards turn; A turn toward the standing leg

* Outside turn: Backwards turn; A turn away from the standing leg

* Paddle turn: Several small pivot turns that take one 360 degrees

* Pencil turn: Pirouette with both legs straight

* Piqué turn: Inside turn which begins with a step onto half-toe with an already straight leg

* Pirouette: Turn on one leg that begins in plie and goes to releve from a plie

* Pivot turn: Half-Turn on two legs with weight transfer from one leg to the other ; Feet stay stationary but swivel

* Soutenu: Full-Turn on two legs which begins with legs crossed, legs unwind and wind up crossed the other way; Feet stay on the same spot but swivel

* Spotting: Focusing on one spot while turning to prevent dizziness


* Chassé: Step one foot, together in the air, land on the other foot; A gallop or slide

* Hitchkick: Kicking one leg in the air while it is up there jumping off the other one to join it to the first and landing on the first leg

* Hop: Taking off from one foot and landing on the same one

* Jump: Taking off of two feet and landing on two feet

* Leap: A jump from one foot to the other foot usually with an opening of the legs in the air

* Skip: Alternating hops from one to the other or with steps in between