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Choreography English Glossary


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AB: A simple choreographic form consisting of two sections that have contrasting themes.


ABA: A simple choreographic form consisting of three sections and two contrasting themes, A and B, followed by a repeat of the first theme in the third section. In ABA, the third section may be a shortened version of the original A section.


abstract: A type of dance style that communicates no message. (The word geometric is used in this text in place of the word abstract to avoid confusion with abstraction.)


abstraction: The process of removing, separating from, or condensing. Distilling something to its essence.


accent:  An emphasis (stress) on certain musical counts or with specific movements.


aha experience: The moment in the creative process when there is an insight and the pieces of the puzzle seem to fit together.


alignment: The placement of the body’s segments in profile one above the other so that the ear, shoulder, hip, knee, and ankle form as close as possible a straight line that extends at a right angle to the floor.


assessment: The measurement or evaluation of achievement in relation to a set of criteria. In creative work, a decision is made to stop because the outcome appears successful or unsuccessful.


asymmetrical: Unbalanced; applies to a body shape or grouping of dancers in which the right and left sides do not match.


auditory: Related to the sense of hearing; descriptive of a type of stimulus for movement. One of the learning styles.


augmentation: To add on to a phrase of movement..


axial: A description of movement in which the dancer remains in one spot. Bending, stretching, and reaching are axial movements.


balance: 1) A state of equilibrium. A visual design in which the right and left sides match. 2) The equal or logical treatment of rest and action in a dance.


beat: Regular metrical or evenly spaced divisions of sound or movement. (Used interchangeably with pulse.)


blocking: The process of positioning dancers while making a dance; the act of mounting a finished choreography onstage.


body shape: The overall structure of the body during a single step or string of steps.


canon: A choreographic form based on the use of one repeated movement phrase performed by different dancers’ beginning the phrase at a specified number of counts apart. The phrases are danced with and against one another.


character: The basic style, quality, or feeling of a dance or of a section of a dance. Also refers to a dancer who performs a specific role.


choreographic structure: Architecture of a dance. The overall framework for creating the dance that organizes the motifs and phrases that you develop.


choreography: Many sequences of movement added together to produce a whole dance with a beginning, middle, and conclusion. (Used interchangeably with the term dance.)


closure: The act of bringing dance movement to an appropriate ending, as in the conclusion of an improvisation or choreography.


codified: Refers to set movements from a dance genre such as glissade, ball change, or contraction.


collage: A choreographic form consisting of pieces of movement that are often unrelated but are brought together to create a whole.


collapse: A use of energy in which a dancer gives in to gravity. One of the movement qualities.


combination: A grouping of connected movements usually prepared for presentation during the latter portion of a dance technique class. Students are expected to learn and perform combinations as part of the class.


comic: A genre or style of movement that appears funny, strange, or unusual to the viewer.


complementary: Pertaining to something that goes with or makes something else complete. The repetition of similar body lines or shapes by different dancers in a group.


components: Aspects of the movement element space. These include direction, size, level, position, and pathway.


composition:  A dance or choreography that exists as a whole with a beginning, middle, and end. Term is usually applied to modern dance choreography.


conceptual question: A form of interrogation that provides an answer that is transferable or universal knowledge. Such questions extend understanding to other contexts.


concert: A program of separate dances organized into a single performance.


connected breathing: A subtle ensemble skill that helps with spacing, flocking, and timing.


conscious:  A state of mind in which the person is fully aware or cognizant and perceives with a degree of controlled thought or critical awareness.


contact improvisation:  Spontaneous movement drawn from actions performed while in contact with another moving body.


continuity: A principle of choreographic form that provides a natural and organized progression of movement phrases so that one phrase flows naturally into or connects to the next.


contrast: The differentiation of a movement so that it stands out in some way or the use of differing movements to add variety to a dance. For example, high movement contrasts with movement done at a low level; fast movement contrasts with slow actions..


convergence: Coming together or meeting. Convergence is needed to bring ideas together.


copyright: Documented evidence of exclusive ownership and use of literary, musical, or artistic works for a specific period of time.


counterbalance: Positioning of dancers so the weight of one balances the other.


counterpoint: Dancers doing different things at the same time in choreography.


craft: The technique of organizing movements into a dance following their discovery through improvisation; the act of designing and shaping a choreography; specific methods or tools used in developing a dance.


creative process: Exploration for unique solutions to complex problems, including creating works of art, new inventions, ideas, or strategies.


cubism: A modern movement in the arts characterized by abstract structure. Cubism fragments visual forms by displaying several aspects of an object at the same time. In a painting, this treatment often results in geometric shapes.


cue: The point in a dance at which appropriate changes in lighting or accompaniment need to occur; also can refer to internal or external stimuli that motivate movements.


dance by chance: A method of choreographic development based on random selection of movement or random organization of actions.


dance drama: A presentation using movement to express a message or tell a story, usually by showing relationships among the characters. (Also known as a narrative.)


dance in the round: An arrangement of movement sequences that produces a whole and is designed to be viewed from all sides rather than just the front.


dance: Many sequences of movement that, added together, produce a whole. Characteristics of a dance are organization, progression, and development, including a beginning, middle, and end. (Used interchangeably with the term choreography.)


design: The overall organization of a dance, including use of space, time, energy, and shape; a pattern traced in space or on the floor. It also can mean organizing and structuring a piece of choreography.


developmental stage: A degree or level of accomplishment through which a beginning choreographer passes.


development: The growth or expansion of movement in a dance or sounds in a musical selection.


diminution: To make a phrase of movement smaller.


direct imagery: The process of mentally visualizing movements before performing them. Direct images are like a mental rehearsal.


direct movements: Gestures or movements in which the path of the body or body part is straight and clear. The opposite of indirect.


direct pathway: Gestures or movements in which the path of the body or body part is straight and clear. The opposite of indirect.


direct pathway: The straight line traced by moving across the floor or by moving a part of the body in space. Not roundabout.


direct space: Specific and exact use of shape, pathway, and focus.


direction: An aspect of space, one of the movement elements. In dance, the eight basic directions are forward, backward, the right and left sides, and the four diagonals. It is also possible to move in a direction that falls between the basic eight.


diverge: Move, lie, or extend in opposing directions. It can also refer to thinking in an independent manner.


downstage: Movement toward the front of the stage, closer to the audience.


dynamics: The interaction of force and time; the loud and soft aspects of music.


effort actions: The combination of one element of space (either direct or indirect) with one element of time (quick or sustained) with one element of weight (strong or light).


electronic music: Accompaniment produced, altered, or reproduced through electronic means s electronic equipment in a creative manner..


element: Any one of the three components of movement—space, time, and energy or quality (also known as force). (Shape is sometimes included as a fourth element.)


embellishment: To elaborate on a phrase by adding aspects to the movement.


energy: One of the elements of movement. Energy propels or initiates movement and causes changes in movement or body position. (Used interchangeably with the word force.) Six energy qualities are described in this text: sustained, percussive, vibratory, swinging, suspension, and collapse.


ensemble: A group of dancers who perform together.


environment: The surroundings or space in which dance movement takes place. Environments can serve as the motivation for improvised movement.


essence: The fundamental nature of a person or thing.


experimental: A type of choreography that uses new movement materials or new concepts of form.


experiment: To try a variety of movement solutions to solve a specific choreographic problem.


exploration: A process producing spontaneous movement usually, but not always, based on suggestions made by a leader. The exploration process is not as in depth as improvisation.


expressionism: A modern movement in the arts characterized by the desire to depict the subjective emotions and responses of the artist, rather than the appearance of objective reality.


extension: Increasing the angle of a joint.


facial expression): A configuration or shaping of features of the face that indicates or projects feeling.


facing: The direction toward which the front of the body is positioned; where one’s face is directed.


factual question : A form of interrogation that provides an answer that is specific to a person, place, situation, or thing with which you are working. This knowledge is not transferable or universal.


flocking: The ability to adapt movement spontaneously while also maintaining spacing.


floor pattern: A pathway traced on the floor using locomotor movements.


flow: To transmit energy from one part of the body to another; the movement of a costume in relation to the actions in a dance.


focal point: A place where the audience readily looks onstage or within a group of dancers.


focus: A place where dancers direct their faces and eyes. Also a point of attention for the audience.



follow: To simultaneously copy the movements of another dancer, while facing the same direction as the leader.


force: One of the elements of movement. Force propels or initiates movement, or causes changes in movement or body position. (Used interchangeably with the word energy.)


form: The overall shape, organization, or development of many movement sequences.


framework: A description or suggestion that limits movement materials discovered during exploration or improvisation. Also a diagram depicting the creative movement process in dance.


genre: A class or category of dance that encompasses a particular form, content, and style.


geometric: Descriptive of dances that do not communicate feelings or messages. The emphasis is on movement variation, line, and design. (In this text, the word abstract means the same thing.)


global imagery: A suggestion or motivation for movement that is general and directed at the whole body.


ground bass: A choreographic form usually providing the movement materials for only part of a dance. In a ground bass, a phrase is repeated throughout while a more complex series of movements is performed by other dancers. The more complex actions play against the simple movements.


group shapes: A cluster of dancers positioned fairly close together so they can be viewed as a unit.


image: A mental picture or bodily (kinesthetic) feeling.


impact: Phrasing that starts easy and slow but speeds up and gets stronger along the way until you reach full speed and strength at the end of the movement.


improvisation: A process producing spontaneous movements stemming from a specific stimulus; a more complete and inner-motivated spontaneous movement experience than exploration.


impulse: 1) A burst of energy greater than what came before or after. An impulse provides the urge to move. 2) Phrasing that starts with a pulse of energy but then gradually fades away.


incubation:  A stage of the creative process in which the problem is put aside to germinate.


indirect imagery: A motivation for movement that is outside the body. Indirect images are like a metaphor. An example is to move like a feather floating on the breeze.


indirect movements: Gestures or movements in which the path of the body or body part is wavy or multidirectional. The opposite of direct.


indirect pathway: The curved line traced by the whole body as it travels across the floor or by a part of the body in space. Takes a more roundabout route than following a direct pathway.


indirect space: Nonspecific and general use of shape, pathway, and focus.


informal concert:  A program of separate dances performed for the public in a setting such as a gymnasium or dance studio rather than on a stage.


initiation: How the movement begins.


inner initiation: Movement that begins from a central point in the body and moves outward.


inspiration: Anything that has the potential to initiate movement during improvisation. The beginning step in the creative movement framework. (Used interchangeably with intent.)


intent: The motivation that stimulates movement. (Used interchangeably with inspiration.)


interactive: Two-way communication facilitated by computers between dancers and various forms of technology.


interpersonal space: The area between two or more people; an aspect of nonverbal communication.


intonation cues: The use of pitch in delivery of words or sounds to convey information about movement.


involvement: The process of focusing on movement and body sensations that requires more than a superficial level of attention.


inward focus: The process of paying attention to stimuli that come from within oneself.


isolation: Movements restricted to one area of the body, such as the shoulders, rib cage, or hips. Isolations are prevalent in jazz dance.


kinesthetic imagery: A motivation that describes the bodily feeling stimulated by the resulting movements.


kinesthetic sense: A mode of receiving information from sense organs that provides information about body position, tension, and movement.


kinesthetic sympathy: The bodily reaction in dance audience members that is below conscious level.


kinesthetic:  Pertaining to sensations from the body that relate information about body position, movement, or tension. One of the learning styles sometimes known as the tactile /kinesthetic sense.


learning style: The preferred mode of understanding information. Some people are visual, some are auditory, and others are tactile or kinesthetic learners.


lecture-demonstration: An informal performance that includes verbal explanations of dance elements and theories together with movement demonstrations of the theories.


level: An aspect of space, one of the movement elements. In dance, the three basic levels are high, middle, and low.


light: Movement that has less apparent effect of gravity in the weight effort. The opposite of strong.


line: A spatial aspect of dance movement; lines are created in space as dancers move or are created through the placement of parts of the body. Line can be curved, straight, or a combination of these two.


literal choreography: Choreography that communicates a story or message to the audience. Also, to copy the shapes or movements of an inspiration.


locomotor: A term used to describe dance movements that travel across space.


lyric: A term describing a movement genre characterized by actions that are smooth, calm, and controlled.


manipulation: Varying of movement, particularly in terms of space, time, energy, or shape.


marking: To perform movements minimally, rather than full out. Marking is reserved for rehearsals.


mental image: A picture created in the mind or a specific type of bodily feeling.


metaphor: An image or movement motivation that is likened to an outside object. Collapsing like a pat of melting butter is a metaphor for how to move very slowly to the floor.


meter: The divisions of music into small groups of beats. Usually each grouping has the same number of underlying beats.


mind–body connection: The concept that thoughts in the mind can affect the body, and that changes in the body can alter the mind.


minimalism: A movement form based on the repeated use of the same movement or movement phrase with only slight changes.


mirror: To copy the movements of another person while facing that person.


mixed meter: A metric division of beats in which the separate groupings differ in terms of the number of underlying beats per measure.


mode of sensing: One of the various channels or ways of receiving information from the outside world. Sight and touch are two modes of sensing.


motif: Small section of movement that expresses a central idea or theme of the dance.


motivation: The starting point for creative movement. (Used interchangeably with the word stimulus.)


movement manipulation: A method of changing an action, movement, or phrase so that it looks and feels different. The elements of space, time, energy, and shape can be used to manipulate movement.


movement phrase: “Sentence” of dance or a grouping of meaningful movements. Usually larger than a motif.


movement potential: The range or degree of motion possible in a joint of the body.


movement vocabulary: Specific steps, gestures, and shapes of the body that make up the dance. The building blocks of a particular dance or choreography.


narrative: A choreographic form that tells a story. Also known as a dance drama.


natural form: A form of the choreography that follows a pattern found in nature, such as the progression of the seasons.


negative space: Area between parts of a dancer’s body or between two or more dancers. Negative space is part of the overall visual design of choreography.


nonliteral choreography: Choreography that emphasizes movement manipulation and design without the intent of telling a story. Nonliteral works communicate directly through movement and need no translation.


nontraditional: Choreography created with experimental rather than established methods and forms.


nonverbal communication: A message conveyed without the use of words.


observe: To notice or view with attention in order to learn something. One of the thinking tools used by creative people.


opposition:  The act of moving or facing the body in a different direction from the movement direction or facing used by another dancer.


organic: Pertaining to a dance or sequence of movements that has an interrelationship of parts similar to the form or organization of parts in nature.


outer initiation: Movement that begins from the outer edges of the body or from the environment and moves toward the center.


overall development: The form or development of a sequence of movements or an entire dance as it progresses from beginning to end. (Also known as overall shape.)


pantomime: A nonverbal but realistic use of action and gesture as a means of expression. Dance is more abstract than pantomime.


path or pathway: The designs traced on the floor as a dancer travels across space; the designs traced in the air as a dancer moves various body parts.


pattern: The organization of movements into recognizable relationships. Also refers to the organization of sounds into identifiable groupings.


pedestrian: Descriptive of movements from daily life that are not traditionally done in dance, such as sitting, standing, eating, or typing.


perceiving: Achieving an awareness or understanding based on sensory information.


percussive: Phrasing that is precise and sharp and works well in synchronized movement.


phrase: A unit of movement marked by an impulse of energy that grows, builds, and finds a conclusion, and flows easily and naturally into the next movement phrase.


phrasing: Using the building blocks of dance form to create small movement units, many of which make up a dance.


pitch: The high and low aspects of music as determined by the frequency of sound waves.


plasticity: The quality or state capable of changing, engaging with the novel, and being open to change.


polycentrism: Movement that originates in several places or centers in the body, such as hips, ribs, and neck, simultaneously.


polyrhythmic music: Contains multiple rhythms in a single piece of music.


position: The relative placement of a dancer or dancers with respect to other performers or areas onstage. It can also refer to the location of one body part in relation to the rest of the body.


positive space: The space where the dancers’ bodies or parts of their bodies are located.


potential: The number or kinds of movements possible in each of the joints of the body.


preparation: The actions or processes that one goes through to get ready to do creative work.


project: To throw one’s energy out toward the audience; to make movement onstage more visible or alive; to be exact in terms of movement expression.


prop: An object that is separate from the dancer’s costume but that is a part of the action or spatial design in a choreography or that contributes to the meaning of a dance.


public domain: Creative materials that are not protected by copyright because the rights have expired, been forfeited, or are not applicable.


pulse: The underlying and steady beat in dance or music. The pulse is divided into groupings, or measures, with a specific number of beats per measure; a rhythmic pattern is created over and in relation to the pulse. (Used interchangeably with beat.)


quality: Movement characteristics determined by the specific use of energy. Sustained, percussive, and vibratory are movement qualities.


quick: Movements of a short duration within the time effort. The opposite of sustained.


realism: A movement in the arts characterized by a faithful representation of nature or life without distortion or idealization.


rebound: Responding to the natural momentum of the movement. This frequently means bouncing back to the opposite direction of the movement.


rehearsal: The creation, setting, and run-through of a dance.


repetition: A principle of choreographic form based on using movements or phrases again in a work. Repetition adds closure because the audience feels familiar and more involved with repeated movements.


response: Feelings that result from involvement with an inspiration. Part of the framework of creative movement.


retrograde: Backward performance of a movement sequence or theme.


rhythm: A structure of patterned movement through time.


rhythmic cues: The patterned delivery of words or sounds to convey information about movement.


rondo: A musical and dance form in a verse-and-chorus structure, taking on the form ABACADA, where A represents the chorus. Can be repeated with any number of verses.


section: Part of a dance smaller than the whole that contains many phrases.


semblance: An object or work of art that has the appearance of or resembles something else. An abstraction is the semblance of the real thing.


semi-structured: Refers to movement experiments or improvisations that solve a problem or answer a question.


sensing: Experiencing through any of the sensory modalities such as vision, hearing, or the kinesthetic sense.


sensory modality: A method of receiving environmental stimuli by means of the various human sense organs, such as the eyes and ears.


sequence: A series of movements longer than a phrase but much shorter than a section of a dance; similar to a combination. Also refers to the ordering of movements and phrases in a choreography.


sequential sequence: Movement that follows one after the other in nonadjacent body parts.


sequential: An arrangement of movements or phrases producing an overlapping effect in time.


shape: One of the movement elements. An interrelated arrangement of body parts of one dancer which can be angular, rounded or a combination of the two; the visible makeup or molding of the body parts of a single dancer; the overall visible appearance of a group of dancers. Also the overall development or form of a dance. When used as a verb, shape means to give form and development to choreography.


shifting transition: Abrupt movement changes from one step to the next.


sight lines: Lines of visibility between the audience and the stage.


silence: An absence of movement in which dancers hold a position.


simultaneous initiation: Body parts all beginning to move at once.


simultaneous sequence: Movements occurring at the same time.


size: An aspect of space, one of the movement elements. Size can vary from the smallest possible performance of a movement to the largest.


space: One of the elements of movement; its visible aspect. The dancer moves in and through space. Dance movement takes up space, and a dance is performed in a space. Direction, level, size, focus, pathway, and position are the aspects of space described in this text. An altered use of these aspects allows the choreographer to use space in different ways. Shape is also spatial, but treated as a separate element in this text.


spatial design: A pattern traced in space with the whole body or a part of the body.


specific imagery: A motivation for movement that creates a mental picture or a bodily feeling and is directed at one part of the body.


speed: Ability to propel the body from one place to another.


splicing: Inserting different or new material into the existing movement motifs.


staccato: Pertaining to short, crisp movements or sounds.


stage left: A direction indicating movement to the performer’s left side while that performer is facing the audience.


stage right: A direction indicating movement to the performer’s right side while that performer is facing the audience.


step: A codified, or set, movement in dance that has a specific name. Ball change is a tap step and glissade is a ballet step.


stimulus: Something that incites or initiates an action. (Used interchangeably with motivation.)


strong: Movement in which there is a lot of firmness and power or indulgence in gravity in the weight effort. The opposite of light.


structured improvisation: Spontaneous movement based on predetermined rules or within a predetermined framework.


study: A short dance having a beginning, middle, and end and that deals with only one or a few aspects of choreographic craft.


style: A personal or characteristic manner of moving or choreographing. In both dance and music, style can refer to the time period in which the work originated, the specific developmental procedures used, or the cultural context of the work.


subconscious: A term describing a state of mind in which information or ideas exist below the threshold of conscious awareness, or below the conscious level.


subject matter: The theme or ideas dealt with in a choreography.


successive sequence: Movement that follows one after the other in adjacent body parts.


successive: Movement that articulates or bends each joint along the way. In the case of the arm this means moving the shoulder, elbow, then wrist in order or the reverse. In the case of the leg, this means moving the hip, knee, and then ankle or the reverse.


suite: A choreographic form with a moderate first section, a slow second section, and a lively third section.


surrealism: A modern movement in the arts and literature characterized by the representation of dreams or irrational and unusual arrangement of materials.


suspended: A term that describes a use of energy that gives a feeling of stopping temporarily or hovering in midair.


sustained: A use of energy that is slow, smooth, and controlled.


swing (phrasing): Phrasing that oscillates between moments of full release and moments of suspension.


swinging: A use of energy that traces an arc in space. In a swing, the dancer must relax and give in to gravity on the downward part of the arc and apply energy during the upward action.


symmetrical: A visually balanced body shape or grouping of dancers.


syncopation: Placement of accents where they usually do not occur in the metric organization of both music and movement.


tableau: A section of a dance in which different movements are performed simultaneously in the same stage space.


tactile: Related to the sense of touch; a type of stimulus for movement. A sensory modality sometimes discussed in conjunction with the kinesthetic sense.


technique: Learned movement skills; the ability to use specific methods to create a dance.


tempo: The speed of movement as it progresses faster, more slowly, or on a steady even beat or pulse.


texture: The density or sparseness of a piece of music. Can also be used to describe dance movement.


theme and variations: A choreographic form in which the fundamental idea, or theme, is repeated in altered form or accompanied in a different manner.


theme: One or several movement phrases that fit together and are developed from the same idea or intent. Can also mean the basic idea of a whole dance.


thinking tools: Different ways of thinking such as observing, imaging, or recognizing patterns.


time: One of the elements of movement. A choreography develops a form through time. The aspects of time discussed in this book are movement speed, accents, silences, and rhythm. Altering the aspects of time creates changes in a dance.


timing: The rate of speed at which movement is performed, particularly with reference to the underlying beat or pulse.


tone:  The quality or feeling in movements. The quality, pitch, or modulation of a musical sound.


transformational transition: One step gradually evolving into the following one.


transformation: Changing appearance, structure, or form. One of the thinking tools used by creative people.


transition: An aspect of choreographic form that provides a bridge from one phrase of movement into the next or between sections of choreography. Transitions should fit with dance movements and should not stand out.


unison: Everyone moving together doing the same thing at the same time.


unity: A principle of choreographic form in which phrases fit together. Each phrase is important to the whole.


upstage: A term indicating movement toward the back of the stage, away from the audience.


variation: The act or process of changing movement, usually by using the movement elements of space, time, quality, and shape.


variety: A principle of choreographic form that involves sufficient changes in movement to keep the audience’s interest while still maintaining unity of the whole.


vertical dance: A performance that takes place on the face of a wall or rock cliff.


vibratory: Phrasing that alternates in quick, rapidly changing patterns.


virtual dancer: A dancing image created through the use of computer software and hardware.


virtual entity: The illusion that the audience sees when viewing a dance. The visual apparition is different from the physical moving bodies of the dancers. It encompasses elements that do not exist in physical reality, but are created artistically by the choreographer.


visual imagery: A motivation for movement that is like a picture in the mind.


visualize: To see or form an image in the mind.


visual: Related to the sense of sight; descriptive of a type of stimulus for movement. One of the learning styles.


vocabulary cues: The names of steps and movement techniques used for instruction.