At Arthur Murray Dance Center in Washington, D.C., we believe that anyone can dance, no matter your age, fitness level, or experience. Whether you’re looking to join the competitive ballroom dancing scene in D.C., or you simply want to enjoy some quality time with your partner, Arthur Murray Dance Center can help get you make the most out of your journey into dance. Contact us today to learn more! We have dance studios in Gaithersburg, Silver Spring, Columbia, Chevy Chase, Ashburn, Tyson’s Corner, and Alexandria.

Sometimes, entering the world of dance can seem overwhelming. With so many different steps, techniques, and terminology to learn, how do you even know where to begin? Don’t worry! Our team of friendly and trained professional instructors at Arthur Murray Dance Center in Washington, D.C. will help make your dance class experience as easy to understand as possible. In this blog post, we’ll discuss a variety of common terms relating to ballroom and latin dance that you may hear during your time at Arthur Murray Dance Center. We specialize in a variety of ballroom and latin dances, including tango, salsa, cha-cha, waltz, and more! If you have any questions about any of the terms of this list, don’t be afraid to ask one of our instructors. They will be more than happy to help!

American style – As opposed to the International style of ballroom dance, American style ballroom dance denotes the group of dances performed in American ballroom dancing competitions. American style ballroom dance has two categories: American Smooth (waltz, tango, foxtrot, and Viennese waltz) and American Rhythm (cha-cha, rumba, East Coast swing, bolero, and mambo).
Chassé – A gliding dance step in which one foot displaces the other. A number of specific three-step chassé variations exist in ballroom dance.
Contra body movement – This position occurs when when a dancer turns their opposite hip and shoulder towards the direction of their moving foot. Contra body movements are common in waltz, foxtrot, tango, and quickstep.
Drop – A dramatic move in which the follower’s body weight is partially or completely supported by the leader. At least one part of the follower’s body remains on the floor.
Frame – The upper body position of a dancer. A strong frame is important for succeeding in competing ballroom dance. In order to have a strong frame, a dancer must hold their arms and upper body firmly in place while moving their lower half. The required frame can vary according to the dance. In Latin dances, such as salsa, arms are held more loosely.
Guapacha – An alternative timing often used in cha-cha and other Latin dances.
International style – International style ballroom dances typical use less movement and involve different costumes than American style dances. International style dances include samba, rumba, paso doble, and jive.
Lift – A dramatic move in which the leader supporting the follower’s weight completely, ultimately holding them aloft in the air.
Lunge – A move involving weight transfer to a bent leg while the other leg is extended.
Spot dance – A dance that takes place in a restricted area of the dance floor. Spot dances include rumba, salsa, and East Coast swing.
Spotting – A technique for avoiding dizziness that is used during turns. When spotting, the dancer selects a reference spot and continues to look at it as they turn until they cannot any longer, then quickly turns their head as if looking at it again.
Step – A single movement of the feet that involves full or partial transfer of weight from one foot to the other.
Styling – Distinctive arm and leg movements that elevate your partner dance. Examples include the twirl of a wrist in cha-cha or the swoop of an arm in waltz. Styling can be a surprisingly difficult aspect of ballroom dance for the novice dancer to master but, as with anything, practice makes perfect! Every dancer has their own unique approach to styling.
Syncopation – To vary the normal step more than required by the music in order to add distinctive expression and creativity.
Time signature – The number and kind of beats per musical bar. Common time signatures in ballroom dance include 3/4 (slow waltz), 2/4 (tango), 4/4 (rumba, cha-cha, jive), and 6/8 (paso doble, two step).
Travelling dance – Also known as a progressive dance, a travelling dance is a dance that involves significant travel across the dance floor. Examples include waltz, foxtrot, polka, and samba.

If all these ballroom and latin dance terms seem overwhelming, don’t worry! Our friendly dance instructors are here to help you every step (literally!) of the way. At Arthur Murray Dance Center in Washington, D.C., we offer twenty-five different dance styles to choose from! Whatever your dancing goals, we can help you achieve them. Contact one of our seven D.C. area dance studios to learn more, or to sign up for your free lesson!