Dance steps glossary

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Messianic dance steps are generally based on steps from Israeli folk dance and different groups may refer to different steps in different ways. Below is a compilation of steps from all over the place! If you know a step that is not listed here or know a different name for a step you see, please edit accordingly!

Basic Steps

These are the basic steps of Messianic and Israeli dance. These steps can have many different variations and are often strung together into common patterns, some of which are listed after the basic steps. Please note that steps are only explained with the right-footed version of the step - for left-footed versions (e.g. - a left yemenite, a left mayim, a left tcherkessia, etc.) simply reverse the feet.
Don't get discouraged by the volume of steps here - the best way to learn the steps, their names, and how they work well is to just learn dances! This document should be used as a reference until you understand the steps naturally.

Abbreviations

The way many of the steps on this site are notated, some things, particularly directions, are abbreviated.
Below are some of the directional abbreviations. This is not an exhaustive list, but it's pretty good. Note that abbreviations may be strung together, as in the last example here.

  • R: Right along the circle line (When facing In, Right is CCW, but when facing Out, Right is CW around the circle.)
  • L: Left along the circle line (When facing In, Left is CW, but when facing Out, Left is CCW.)
  • I: In towards the center of the circle (In line dances, F for Front will replace I.)
  • O: Out of the Circle (In line dances, B for Back will replace O.)
  • C: Towards the center in circle dances - synonymous with I (In line dances, F for Front will replace C.)
  • OL: movement is along the line of the circle (as opposed on I or O).
  • F: "Front" or "forward" -- usually this will be used only in line dances where "in" and "out" are not useful terms for direction.
  • B: "Back" -- used in line dances to denote direction facing or traveling. May also refer to "backward" in dances where one travels backward, whether in a line dance or in or out of the circle or along the line of the circle (e.g. "B OL to the L").
  • CW: Clockwise (Can refer to direction of turns and direction on the circle line.)
  • CCW: Counter-clockwise (Can refer to direction of turns and direction on the circle line.)
  • 2P, 3P: Two point, three point (as in a turn)
  • 2P-CW-Turn: A two-point clockwise turn traveling to the right on the circle line. Other turns may be abbreviated in a similar way.

Basic Footwork

Every dance "step," like a mayim, a cha-cha, or a yemenite, is composed of actual steps. Some people have different words to describe these basic footwork steps, but in the dance world, there are universal words to describe these, so that weight transfer is clearly understood. Use the chart below to understand the subtle differences between these terms.

Step Name Explanation Weight Transfer?
Walk/Step Step forward/side/back/in place Yes
Run Step energetically Yes
Open Step out to the side Sometimes
Close Bring the foot back to the other foot Sometimes
Sway To shift weight from one side to the other; both feet stay on the ground Only Partial
Balance To shift weight from one side to the other; heel of the free foot comes off the ground Yes
Lean To shift weight from one side to the other; other foot comes totally off the ground Yes
Rock To step either forward, backward, or across (like in a Tcherkessia, or Coupé, without dramatically moving your center of gravity Yes
Hop Push off the ground totally; land on the same foot No
Jump/Fall Push off the ground totally; land on other foot Yes
Sit Jump/fall onto both feet and bend the knees, keeping the weight even. Yes
Stomp Pound your foot on the ground and leave weight on it Yes
Stamp Pound your foot on the ground and pick it back up again - do not put weight on it. No
Tap Touch the ground with the ball of your foot No
Brush Brush the ground with the ball of your foot No
Heel Touch the ground with your heel No
Hold Do not transfer any weight for this count No

Mayim/Grapevine

  • Mayim: Cross with right, step out with left, cross behind with right, step out with left
  • Open Mayim: Step out with right, cross with left, step out with right, cross behind with left
  • Open Backwards Mayim: Step out with right, cross behind with left, step out with right, cross with left
  • Mayim-Lift: Cross with right, step out with left, cross behind with right, lift the left leg

Notes on Mayims

  • These are the main types of mayim. They have many variations, such as hopping mayims and mayim-lifts. They also have many types of arms, including high bursts, low bursts, single-arm bursts, etc.
  • "Mayim" is Hebrew for "water," and the mayim step is so named because your feet are supposed to “flow” like a river or stream. Israeli dance borrowed the mayim step from traditional European folk dances, but it is a popular step all over the world in many styles of dance. The step is so popular in Israeli dance because of its use in one of the first Israeli folk dances, Mayim Mayim, from which the step also gets its name.
  • You may also hear the term “grapevine.” A grapevine is like a mayim or an open mayim, but can be in any direction, start with any foot, and can be shorter or longer than just four beats - you might say that "grapevine" refers more to the concept of "mayiming" than the actual step.

Yemenite

  • Yemenite: Step out with right, step back slightly with left, cross with right, hold for one beat
  • Back Yemenite: Step back with right, step back with left, step forward with right, hold for one beat
  • Back-Side-Cross: Cross back with right, step to the side with left, cross in front with right

Notes on Yemenites

  • These are the main types of yemenite. They have a few variations, such as yemenites with kicks, where instead of holding, you kick on beat 3 and step on beat 4, hopping yemenites, in which the fourth beat is a hop, not a hold, and yemenite turns, in which the last step is a pivot.
  • Common arms for yemenites include bursts (especially for hopping yemenites,) arms arching from one side to the other, or even clapping.
  • Yemenites often come in pairs of right and left, and are also commonly found in the pattern “step, cross, yemenite, step, cross, yemenite.”
  • The yemenite step comes to Israeli dance from the folk dancing of Jews in Yemen. The folk dances of the Yemenite Jews tended to be very stationary so that they could be done in enclosed spaces, and did not travel in circles like those of Ashkenazi Jews. Some Israeli folk dances in the Yemenite style still exhibit this today - dances such as Debka Dror and Shabbat Menucha.
  • The "Back-Side-Cross" step is not always clearly a yemenite to most people - in Hebrew, however, the step is called a Yemenite because it has the same timing and roughly the same foot placement - think of a back yemenite, but traveling.

Tcherkessias

  • Tcherkessia: Rock forward on right, rock back on left, rock backwards out on right, rock forward on left
  • Half Tcherk: Rock forward on right, rock back on left
  • Half Tcherk to the Side (Coupé): Cross right over left and rock forward onto your right foot, rock back on left
  • Double Tcherkessia: Step right, cross and rock forward on left, rock back on right, step left, cross and rock forward on right, rock back on left
  • Tcherkessia-Lift: Rock forward on right, rock back on left, rock backwards out on right, lift left foot
  • Harmonica: Rock forward on right, rock back on left, rock backwards out on right, hop on right while pivoting to face the other direction

Notes on Tcherkessias

  • These are the main types of Tcherkessia. There are some few variations of the arms listed here. These include raising one arm instead of two, a sweeping crescent moon motion (like in Debka Turkit (Israeli) or Yareakh Limon (Israeli),) or raising the arms and rolling the hands back towards yourself in a flowing arabesque movement (for example, in the chorus of Al Salsalim (Israeli).)
  • In Messianic dance, it is common to call a half tcherk to the side a “coupé.” This term is actually somewhat incorrect - a coupé is a ballet step which only slightly resembles a half tcherk to the side, and does not at all resemble a half tcherk to the front. You may also hear a half tcherk to the side described as a cross, or simply a rock.
  • The Tcherkessia steps come to Israeli dance from the folk dancing of Russians and Cherks in what was the Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic of Karachay-Cherkessia, located on the coast of the Black Sea.

Klezmers

  • Klezmer: Step out with right, cross behind with left, step out with right, hold
  • Step-Behind (Schlep): Step out right, cross behind with left

Notes on Klezmers

  • The klezmer step has many variations - these include pivoting to face out, brushing instead or tapping your heel, doing a pony instead of a third step, changes in timing, etc. Arms may include lifting one or both arms (rigidly or gracefully), sweeping the arms to the side you are travelling towards, or just holding hands.
  • This step has many names - in Israeli dance, it isn’t commonly called anything - simply “step, behind, step.” In Messianic dance, you may hear it called a Kibbutz step, a Yiddish step, or a Hassidic step. The name klezmer is most common because an early Israeli dance by the same name popularized the step.
  • The klezmer step comes to Israeli dance from Ashkenazi folk dancing, typically German and Polish dances done to klezmer music.

Cha-Chas

  • Cha-Cha Forward: Facing direction of travel, step right, together left, then right again (Sometimes the second step is placed a little bit behind the first - refer to specific dances)
  • Cha-Cha to the Side (Slide, Shuffle): Facing in, slide open right, close left, slide open right
  • Pony: Balance quickly right, left, right on the balls of your feet
  • Samba (Salsa): Rock forward on right, back on left, and together with right. Then rock back on left, forward on right, and together with left.

Notes on Cha-Chas

  • These are only a few of the many steps belonging to the cha-cha family. There are many couples dancing steps which are also cha-chas, and even sambas and ponies are grouped with cha-chas because they share the same timing. Arms are wide and varied, so refer to specific dances for examples. A common arm, however, is right arm up on right cha-cha, left on left cha-cha.
  • Cha-Cha is a style of Latin dancing, in which the step-together-step pattern is prominent; however, the cha-cha step is common in Jazz as well, and in many other forms of dance. It likely came to Israeli dance from Jazz dancing, but Israeli folk dancing has both heavy Latin and heavy Jazz influences.

Turns

  • 'Pivot (One-Point Turn): Step right and pivot either 1/4, 1/2/ 3/4, or all the way around.
  • Two-Point Turn: Travelling to the right, turn CW in two steps
  • Three-Point Turn: Travelling to the right, turn CW in three steps
  • Pivot Turn (Basketball Turn): Step in on right, pivot CCW and step left to face out, step out on right, pivot CCW and step left to face in again
  • Paddle Turn: Keeping your left foot stationary, use your right foot to push you around CCW, usually two or four times
  • Push Turn: Lean right, turn left in three steps
  • Pony Turn: Travelling to the right, do a full turn CW by stepping right-left-right, left-right-left
  • Half-Turn-Rock-Back: Do a half turn in two steps to face out, then rock back on right, forward on left

Notes on Turns

  • Spotting:To keep from getting dizzy, and to look more professional as you turn, try a technique called "spotting."

Spotting is simple picking a spot with your eyes (usually either towards the front/audience or towards the direction you are traveling) and looking at it for as long as you can while you turn. When your neck can no longer turn to look at it, quickly turn your head all the way around to look at it again as your body finishes turning.

Other Steps

  • Box Step (Jazz Square): Step right, cross left, step back right, step back left, imagining a square, stepping on the NW, NE, SE, SW corners
  • Box Step (Jazz Square) 2: Cross right, step back left, step back right, cross left, imagining a square, stepping on the NW, SW, SE, NW corners
  • Debka: Heel right, step right
  • Debka Kicks: Traveling right, heel right across left foot, step back to the side with right, cross with left
  • Kick-Ball-Change: Kick right, step right on the ball of your foot, step left
  • Step Rock-Backs (Shir): Step right, hold, rock back on left, forward on right, then step left, hold, rock back on right, forward on left

Common Step Combinations

  • Cha-Cha Half Tcherk: Cha-cha to the right, half tcherk to the right, cha-cha to the left, half tcherk to the left
  • Cha-Cha Rock-Back: Side cha-cha to the right, rock back on left, forward on right, side cha-cha to the left, rock back on left, forward on right
  • Chug: Step right, left knee, back left yemenite (Also - fall on right as you knee left)
  • Eretz-Eretz: Open right, cross behind left, open right and pivot CW to face O, open left, cross behind right, open left and pivot CCW to face I, rock back on right, forward on left
  • Figure Eight: Cha-cha to the right, cross left and step left in place while turning CW to face L, cha-cha to the left, cross right and step right in place while turning CCW to face R
  • Kick-Step Rock-Back: Kick right, step right, rock back on left, forward on right, then kick left, step left, rock back on right, forward on left
  • Lean and Cha-Cha: Lean right, left, and cha-cha with the right foot while travelling L, lean left, right, and cha-cha with the left foot while travelling R
  • Lean and Back-Side-Cross: Lean right, left, and back-side-cross, lean left, right, and back-side-cross
  • Na'ale: Walk in right, left, right, pivot CW to face O, walk out left, right, left, and pivot CCW to face I again
  • Open Na'ale: Walk right, left, right, pivot CW to face left, and continuing to travel R, walk backwards, left, right, left, and pivot CW to face R again
  • Mayim Rocks: Mayim to the left, rock forward right, back left, forward right, and picot CW to face R, mayim to the right, rock forward on left, back on right, forward on left
  • Mayim, Turn, Cha-Cha: Open mayim right, turn right in two steps, cha-cha to the right
  • Seven Ups: Mayim to the left for seven counts - on eight, raise the left leg and face right, then mayim to the right for seven counts - on eight, raise the right leg and face left again
  • Sit, Hop, Back-Side-Cross: Sit on both feet, hop on right, and back-side-cross starting with left foot (sometimes this step has a quick double hop)
  • Step Cross Yemenites: Step right, cross left, right yemenite, step left, cross right, left yemenite
  • Step Tap Yemenite: Step right, tap left, back left yemenite
  • Step-Together-Step: Facing direction of travel, step right (palms press down), together with left, then right again (palms press up), then tap and face L and repeat to L with left
  • Super Tcherk: Sway right and left, rock back on right, forward on left, tcherkessia
  • Turn and Touch: Three point turn right, tap left, three point turn left, tap right
  • Walk Cha-Cha, Cross Cha-Cha: Walk right, left, cha-cha, cross with left, open right to face in, back-side-cross