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Musical Theatre English Glossary
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arabesque: A balance in which one leg is extended to the back at 45 degrees or higher. Arm positions relate to the school or style of ballet.
arabesque sauté: A hop on the supporting leg while the working leg is held in the arabesque position.
arena stage: A performing space located in the middle of an auditorium and surrounded by bleacher-type seating.
attitude leap: A leap in which one or both legs are bent.
balancé: A rocking step done in 3/4 time and used in ballet. The right foot steps either forward or to the side. The left foot crosses behind it in a coupé position. The left foot steps in demi-pointe as the right foot lifts slightly off the floor and the weight is transferred back onto the right foot again. It is performed in a waltz tempo and counted "1 and a.”
ball change: A rocking step that shifts weight using two steps in one count. A step on the ball of one foot on the "and” count is followed by a step on the other foot on the beat.
ballet walks: Walks performed in a turned-out position. You must fully extend the front leg before you step onto it. As you transfer the weight onto the front leg, the toes touch the floor first and you roll through the ball of your foot. Your heel is the last part of the foot to touch the floor. The back leg is in plié, and as you transfer the weight onto the front leg and foot, the back leg pushes off the floor to propel you forward.
basic dance position: A partner position used in social dance in which the partners face each other. The man is on the left, and the woman is on the right.
blocking: Staging a scene.
body circles: An exercise that warms up the upper body. Beginning with the body fully extended and the arms reaching straight overhead, you circle your torso to the right while reaching sideways, to the floor while reaching down and looking at your legs, to the left while reaching sideways, and back to your original position. The movement is then reversed, starting the circle to the left.
bourrée: A ballet step that is a series of quick, even steps that give the illusion of gliding across the stage. It can be done in any direction.
box step: The pattern that this 6-count social dance step makes on the floor is that of a box, or square, in 3/4 time. The leader starts with the left foot stepping forward. That is followed by a step to the side with the right foot and then a step with the left foot in to meet the right foot. The right foot then steps back, the left foot steps side, and the right foot steps in to meet the left. The follower begins with the right foot stepping backward and reverses the pattern.
callback: An audition that you are invited back to so that the production staff can look at you for a second time and gain a better understanding of who you are and what your talents and abilities are.
call board: A bulletin board in the theatre that contains contact information, rehearsal schedules, and notes from the production staff.
call time: The time that performers are asked to be at rehearsal or performance.
canon: A choreographic device in which dancers begin, perform, and end the same movement phrase at different times to create a rippling effect of movement.
cattle call: An audition that is open to everyone.
châinés: A series of consecutive, traveling turns.
chassé: A sliding step in which one foot chases the other.
choreography: The use of movement in musical theatre productions to accompany music and dancing to enrich, embellish, and sometimes help define the story line.
closed position: A social dance position in which partners face each other. The man’s left hand holds the woman’s right hand. Palms are touching, and fingers and thumbs are loosely clasped around each other’s hands. The man’s right hand rests on the woman’s back, cradling her left shoulder blade. The woman’s left arm rests on top of the man’s right arm, and her left hand rests gently on his right shoulder.
cold reading: Reading from a script without having previously seen the material.
concept musical: A theatrical production that revolves around a central idea or theme, first introduced by Jerome Robbins.
contraction: A position often used in jazz dance. The torso contracts inward so that the abdomen is hollowed out and the spine forms a C shape. The pelvis is pulled forward, but the shoulders remain over the hips.
contrast: An aesthetic principle that focuses on highlighting various parts of a dance to emphasize important movements and messages. This principle helps avoid monotony.
corporate musical: Theatrical productions produced and managed by entertainment corporations.
coupé: At the front or back of the ankle or middle of the lower leg.
cue: An indication that a change will occur, such as an entrance, an exit, a scene change, or a lighting change.
cue to cue: A rehearsal during which the actors move from cue to cue so that lighting and sound may be set.
dance captain: The choreographer’s assistant who assists with teaching and rehearsing choreography.
dégagé: A brush to a pointed, stretched position of the foot about an inch (2.5 cm) from the floor.
demi-plié: A half bend of the knees in turned-out or parallel position of the feet.
demi-pointe: The heel of the foot is raised off the floor, and the dancer balances on the toes and metatarsals, or ball, of the foot.
développé: An unfolding of the leg in different directions at either 45 to 90 degrees or higher.
director: The person responsible for overseeing the development, creation, and production of a musical.
do si do: Used in folk or square dances, this figure begins with two dancers facing each other. They pass by each other right shoulder to right shoulder, pass each other back to back, and then return to their original positions by passing left shoulder to left shoulder. During a do si do, the dancers stay facing the same direction the entire time.
downstage: The front of the stage nearest the audience.
dress rehearsal: A complete rehearsal in full costume and makeup.
dry tech rehearsal: Only the technical crew is present to use the equipment.
dynamics: The intensity of the energy used during a movement.
elevé: A rise to the toes and metatarsals, or ball, of the foot with straight legs.
fan kick: In this kick, the working leg crosses in front of the body and arcs up to create a half circle before coming down on the opposite side.
flat back: In this position, you bend forward from the hips at a 90-degree angle and have the back straight and parallel to the floor. You should focus down and keep your neck in line with the rest of the spine.
flexed foot: A position in which the foot bends at the ankle, the arch of the foot is pulled toward the shin, and the toes extend upward.
flick: Moving the foot from a full-foot position to a pointed position in the air with a flicking motion to increase foot articulation.
focus: Where the dancer is looking when dancing.
forced arch: A rise to the toes and metatarsals, or ball, of the foot with a bent knee.
full-foot position: The entire foot is on the floor with the weight equally distributed between the toes, metatarsals, and the heel.
grand battement: A brush of the leg to a height of 90 degrees or higher.
grand jeté lift: The dancer being lifted begins with one leg in demi-plié, executes a leap forward, and lands on the other leg in a demi-plié. The dancer who is doing the lifting places his hands on the waist of his partner, demi-pliés, and lifts her as she leaps, supporting her and increasing the height of her jump.
grand plié: A full bend of the knees in turned-out or parallel foot position.
grapevine: A step in which one foot steps to the side and the other foot steps across in front of it. The original foot then steps to the side again, and the other foot steps across behind it. The pattern that it creates is that of grapevine growing. Each step receives half a count. The first cross in the grapevine can be either back or front.
heel and toe: The heel of one foot touches the floor and is followed by the toes of the same foot touching the floor. Used in folk dance.
high level: The space overhead that we occupy when we jump or stand on our toes.
hitch kick: A hitch kick begins in a lunge position. The back leg brushes forward, and as the dancer jumps into the air, the second leg brushes forward while the first leg is coming down for the dancer to land on in a demi-plié. During this jump, the legs pass each other in a scissor-like manner. A hitch kick may also be performed with the first leg coming to a bent position and the second leg brushing straight or to the back, with both legs brushing backward instead of forward.
house manager: The person responsible for the box office and everything that happens in the seating area and lobby of the theatre.
improvise: To act out a scene or situation spontaneously.
inside-hands joined position: The partners stand side by side. The man extends his right arm and offers his right hand to his partner, and the woman places her left palm in the man’s right hand. Both place their outside hands on their hips.
integration musical: A musical play in which music, acting, and dance all work together to tell a story.
in the round: A performance on an arena stage that can be seen from all directions.
isolations: Keeping the body still while moving only certain parts like the head, shoulders, ribs, or hips.
jazz hands: The hands are opened wide so that the palms are facing the audience and the fingers are splayed open. Made popular by Bob Fosse.
jazz runs: Jazz walks that are done quicker and cover more distance with each step. The dancer should appear to be gliding across the floor.
jazz split: One leg extends in front of the body, and the back leg bends at the knee as the dancer slides to the floor.
jazz square: The feet trace the shape of a square on the floor. To do a jazz square to the left, the right foot crosses in front, the left foot steps back about 12 inches (30 cm) behind the right foot, the right foot steps 12 inches to the right of the left foot, and the left foot steps 12 inches in front of the right foot to complete the pattern. The step can be reversed by starting on the left foot.
jazz walks: These walks are similar to ballet walks in that on each step the dancer touches the floor first with the toe, rolls through the foot, and touches the heel on the floor last. Jazz walks are done in demi-plié with long strides. Arms are usually used in opposition so that when you are stepping forward with the right foot, the left arm is extended to the front and the right arm is extended to the back.
jeté: The literal translation is "thrown.” A jeté is any leap that transfers weight from one leg to the other.
leap: A traveling jump that transfers weight from one foot to the other.
lighting designer: Uses lighting to ensure that all areas of the stage and the performers are visible at the right times, to set the mood, to direct the audience’s attention, and to indicate the time of day during scenes.
load-in: Moving the set, hanging the lighting instruments, setting up the sound, and bringing in the costumes and props for a production.
low level: Close to the floor.
lunge: A position frequently used in jazz choreography. The weight is shifted onto one leg that is in demi-plié while the other leg is held straight.
middle level: The space that we move in on a daily basis.
minstrel shows: America’s first musical shows that included cast members who sang, danced, and played instruments during the 1800s.
movement qualities: Describes how energy is applied to create a motion. The various qualities are sustained, percussive, swinging, vibratory, suspending, and collapsing.
music director: The person responsible for overseeing the teaching and playing of the music in a musical production.
negative space: The empty space between body parts or between people.
notes: Feedback from the director and choreographer to improve the production.
one-hand joined position: In social dance, the same as the two-hands joined position but each partner uses only one hand.
pas de bourrée: A step used to change weight from one foot to the other that can travel back, side, and front. For the basic pas de bourrée to the side, the left foot steps on relevé behind the right, the right steps on relevé to the right side, and the left foot closes full foot in front. The step is completed in two counts.
pas de chat: The cat step. If the dancer is traveling to the right, from demi-plié the right leg is lifted to a retiré back position. As this foot begins to return to the floor, the left leg lifts to a retiré front position before both feet sequentially land in the original position. When traveling to the left, the jump begins with the left foot. The step is executed in one count.The cat step. If the dancer is traveling to the right, from demi-plié the right leg is lifted to a retiré back position.
pathways: The patterns created on the floor as a dancer moves through the space.
pique turn: In this turn the dancer steps onto demi-pointe on a straight leg and draws the other leg into a coupé or retiré position while turning. It can be executed in either a parallel or turned-out position. If it is done in a turned-out position, the coupé or retiré is placed behind the supporting leg.
pirouette: A turn on one leg in relevé.
pit orchestra: A group of musicians who play the music during performances of a musical.
pivot turn: Turn used to change the facing of the body. It can be executed as a quarter turn or a half turn. The working leg steps forward on the ball of the foot, and the supporting leg remains in place as the pivot point. The feet remain in this position as the body turns, rotating on the balls of the feet.
places: Cue the stage manager gives performers when they must get to where they need to be when the show begins.
pointed foot: A position in which the foot extends from the ankle as the arch lifts and the toes stretch.
polka: This three-step movement begins with a hop. Beginning with the weight on the right foot, the dancer hops on the right and then steps left, right, left. The step then reverses with the hop on the left foot and stepping right, left, right. It can travel in any direction and is counted "and 1, 2, 3 and 1, 2, 3.” It is commonly used in folk dances.
port de bras: The carriage of the arms in ballet.
positive space: The space filled by the body.
producer: The person who oversees all parts of the production.
proscenium arch theatre: A theatre in which a raised stage is separated from the audience by an arch that frames the stage.
read-through: A rehearsal at which all performers look at the script together for the first time and read through their parts.
relevé: A rise to the toes and metatarsals, or ball, of the foot that begins and ends with a demi-plié.
repetition: An aesthetic principle that focuses on recurring movements throughout the dance. Repetition provides a connection to the audience members instead of a constant bombardment of new sensory input.
retiré: A position in which one leg is bent and the toes are touching the front, back, or side of the other knee.
rock step: A rocking step in social dance that transfers the weight from one foot to the other.
sauté: A jump in place that can be performed by starting on two feet and landing on two feet or starting on one foot and landing on the same foot.
sauté lift: In this lift, the person being lifted can be in a variety of positions. The feet can be in any dance position, and a lift can be performed with one leg in coupé, retiré, arabesque, or extended to the front or the back. The dancer being lifted begins with a demi-plié and jumps straight up, holding the position.
scenic designer: The person responsible for creating a set that will work well in the performance space and help create the director’s vision.
schottische: This folk dance step moves sideways. The dancer steps the right foot out, steps together with the left foot, steps out with the right foot, and hops on the right foot. The step is then reversed starting and ending on the left foot. It is counted "1, 2, 3 and.”
scissor leap: A leap in which the legs switch position in the air.
seated shoulder lift: In a shoulder lift, the lifter places his hands on his partner’s waist. Both dancers demi-plié. The dancer being lifted jumps as her partner straightens his legs and lifts her to sit on his shoulder.
semiopen position: In this social dance position, the partners stand beside each other. Their bodies are turned at a 45-degree angle to each other. The man places his right hand below the woman’s left shoulder blade with his elbow slightly bent. The woman’s left arm rests gently on the man’s right arm, and her left hand is in front of his right shoulder. Both partners extend their outside arms and hold hands.
shine position: A social dance position in which the partners face each other without touching.
sitz probe: German term meaning “seated rehearsal” during which the cast and orchestra meet for the first time and play and sing through the music while sitting.
sound designer: The person responsible for being certain that performers and musicians can be heard, that the sound is balanced in the theatre, and that all necessary sound effects are in place.
soutenu turn: A turn in which the feet exchange positions. The working leg crosses in front of the supporting leg as the dancer turns away from the working leg. During the turn, the feet slide past each other and exchange positions. This turn can also be executed in the opposite direction by crossing the working foot behind the supporting leg.
spatial awareness: Being attuned to others’ personal space and being certain to remain in your own personal space during class and rehearsals.
split: One leg extends in front of the body while the other extends behind the body. A split can be a seated position on the floor or a position aimed for in a jump or leap.
stage directions: Labels given to different areas of the stage to assist with blocking, such as downstage, upstage, center stage, stage right, and stage left.
stage left: Standing center stage, the area to the performer’s left.
stage manager: The person responsible for scheduling, cues, taking notes, calling cues during the show, and communicating with everyone involved in a production as well as overseeing each performance.
stage right: Standing center stage, the area to the performer’s right.
stag leap: A jazz leap in which the front leg is bent so that its toes touch the extended back leg.
stamp: In folk dance, a downward movement of the foot that does not transfer weight but makes a sound.
step: Used in folk dance to transfer weight from one foot to the other.
step hop: Used in social, folk, and other dance forms, a step from one foot onto the other, shifting the weight. The dancer steps on one foot, hops, lands on the same foot, and then steps on the other foot, hops, and lands. It is counted “1 and 2.”
supporting leg: The leg that supports the dancer while the working leg is free to gesture or move.
swing (musical theatre): A member of the cast who is required to understudy many roles in the production so that he or she may immediately assume responsibility for a role should a fellow actor be unable to perform.
tableaus: Groups of posed still dancers depicting scenes.
technical director: The person who oversees all the technical aspects of a production, including lighting, sound, and set design.
technical rehearsal: A rehearsal in which lighting and sound are added to the acting, singing, and dancing in a production.
tech rehearsal: The rehearsal at which everyone involved in the show is present and all the technical aspects are added to the production.
tendu: The foot slides on the floor to a stretched and pointed position before returning to the starting position.
three-step turn: A full traveling turn completed in three steps and three counts.
thrust stage theatre: A theatre in which the stage extends out into the audience and is surrounded by the audience on three sides.
tilt: Bending the back laterally to create an off-balance, asymmetrical position. It is often performed with one leg extended in second position.
tombé: A falling movement; a transfer of weight from one foot to the other in different directions. The tombé is used in ballet and other dance forms.
triple step: In this social dance step, the dancer takes three steps in two counts, stepping on the right foot, then on the ball of the left foot, and concluding with another step on the right foot. This step is counted “1 and 2.” A series of triple steps are often done together and can move in various directions.
triple threat: A performer who can act, sing, and dance.
tuck jump: The dancer steps out on one foot while the other foot is bent up under the body. To complete the jump, the dancer then bends the other foot up under the body so that both legs are in a tucked position at the same time. Both feet land at the same time in demi-plié. This jump is done in a parallel position.
two-hands joined position: A social dance position in which the partners stand facing each other. Both the man and the woman hold their elbows by their sides with their forearms extended. They can both have their palms facing down, and the man can place his thumb in the woman’s palm and wrap his fingers around the top of her hands. Alternatively, the man can have his palms facing up and place his thumb on top of the woman’s fingers and his fingers in her palm.
unison movement: Movement that everyone performs in the same way at the same time.
upstage: The back of the stage space, away from the audience.
variety: An aesthetic principle that focuses on using various movements, steps, pathways, and directions to challenge the dancer and keep the audience interested.
vaudeville: Family entertainment shows that were about two hours long and were composed of eight song and dance acts.
waltz: Used in ballet, this traveling step is performed in 3/4 time and begins by a step on the right foot as the left leg brushes or extends forward. The dancer then takes two steps forward on demi-pointe, first left and then right. The step is then typically repeated, starting with the left foot. It is counted “1 and a.”
waltz step: Used in social and folk dance, this step is done in 3/4 time. One foot steps forward while the second foot steps to the side. The step is completed as the original foot steps sideways to meet the other foot. Each step receives one count.
wardrobe and makeup supervisor: The person in charge of costume and makeup design in a theatrical production.
working leg: The leg that is gesturing or lifted into the air.