Dance dictionary – everything you need to know



Dancing is a hobby for many, many people out there, but a very small number of them know how many opportunities they have. There are plenty of styles of dance that people do not know about and they might like it, considering that they have talent and they’ve developed skills in time. The same goes for people who want to start taking dancing lessons and they have no idea what direction to go. This article is meant to be a mini-guide and a dance dictionary for people who are interested in learning as much as possible about this domain. It is an easy-to-understand topic, so don’t worry about complicated concepts and difficult terms. Keep reading and you will learn something new about dance.

Styles of dance

Starting with the very first topic, you probably what types of dancing exist out there and which one is the most suitable for you. Here’s a list of the most popular styles of dance:

  • Ballet

For people who love elegance and finesse, ballet is a suitable choice. It is a type of formal dancing and it is included in the classical dance category. It appeared in the Renaissance period and it is based on conventional steps, poses, and grace. In ballet, one has to be very expressive and develop elaborate gestures. Ballet involves large amounts of foot movement and toes suspension.

  • Contemporary

Contemporary dance is very popular among the latest generations. It is a combination of modern and post-modern dancing styles. Contemporary dance includes natural alignment of the body, lots of energy, the fluidity of movement. The choreographies are complex, and it is based on expressivity. You can look up Craig Revel Horwood and his amazing dancing performances. He’s a judge at Strictly Come Dancing where you can get inspired what style of dance you are most attracted to.

  • Street dance

Street dance is a combination of many dance styles and it can include all the ones mentioned above. Because it is so flexible, it is mostly based on freestyle. Street dance developed outside of dancing studios, on the street – as the name says it. This style includes substyles like breakdancing, popping & locking etc.

  • Modern

Modern dance is not exactly modern – it developed around the 20th century as a response to traditional ballet. It is relaxed, also based on freestyle and it is mostly based on expressing emotions and moods.

Types of dance stimuli

In case you are not familiar with dance stimuli, these are the ones that represent the starting points of dancing. You will select an idea or a concept and you will follow that when creating your dance routine from scratch. These stimuli are different:

  • Ideational stimuli

An ideational stimulus comes from ideas or thoughts that get people inspired. For instance, you can simply read a dramatic story, watch a movie, get over a relationship or encounter strong emotions and feelings. These ideas and thoughts can be expressed through the medium of dance. Being lost and found can be a great way to start a themed dance routine.

  • Kinesthetic stimuli

Seeing a movement of nature or a simple person that trips over something can represent inspiration for a new dance routine. Kinesthetic stimuli include sports-style dances.

  • Visual stimuli

Seeing a choreography that you like, a picture that gets you inspired, a sculpture – these are all visual stimuli that can prompt an idea for your future dance routine. You can create a movement based on the shape of an object, a color or maybe even a physical appearance of someone.

  • Auditory stimuli

The auditory stimulus is the most powerful one. Hearing a song and paying attention to the atmosphere it creates can inspire both dance and actions. The lyrics of a song can also be a great way to start developing a dance. Poetry is included in this category. Words as reach or fall can be the beginning of a new movement in your dance.

How to develop a dance

In order to develop a dance, you have to keep in mind three different aspects: dynamics, relationships, and space. Each of these aspects is influencing the way you are going to build your dancing routine: how you move, with whom you will perform, how are you going to use the performing space. Dynamics refer to effort, time and flow. When talking about relationships, you need to think about dancing alone, in a duo or in a group – each form requires different things and different types of training. For space, you will have to pay attention to personal space, general space, and direction.

How to create dance motifs

The elements used for creating a dancing routine and developing a dance, in general, are strictly related to dance motifs. A dance motif is the main, recurring theme in a movement sequence. Each dance has a main theme and choosing it depends on various actions. For instance:

  • Travelling

Travelling means you will be capable of transferring your body weight, sliding and stepping into the space you are choosing. This is the base principle in contemporary dance.

  • Jumping

There are several ways of jumping that you can use in a dance: it can be 2 feet to 2 feet, 2 feet to 1 foot etc. Depending on the way you combine elements, jumping can be a theme for your routine. Take ballet as an example.

  • Turns

There are ¼, ½ or full turns that you can select from. Turns can be performed as a jump also. These are often encountered in ballet, contemporary dance, modern dance. 

  • Gestures

Dancing is about expressing yourself in a different manner, so gestures are very important for transmitting what you desire. A body movement is meant to portray a concept or a mood to the public.

  • Stillness

Even though it might seem odd, stillness can have a great impact on your dance. A motionless pose during your dancing sequence, placed at the right time can entirely change the routine. All these motifs can be combined, repeated and varied. You can use levels, speeds, dynamics and different body parts for each of these motifs. A dance phrase is all about developing and combining these motifs.