Can You Dance Through This Dancing Lingo Quiz?

By: Zoe Samuel
Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

Dancing is one of the best things humans enjoy. It's fun, it's free, it's exercise, it's a way of bonding with others. It can be by turns reassuring, romantic, entertaining, challenging, and even beautiful. Before kids can speak in full sentences, they are usually delighted to dance: even in their cradles, they will bop along to a good beat. Many animals use dancing to attract a mate, and certainly many humans try that particular tactic, albeit with enormously varying success. Even so, dancing is a way to bring us all together in celebration, fun and flirtation. 

As Sir William Lucas says in Jane Austen's beloved novel, "Pride and Prejudice," "What a charming amusement for young people... There is nothing like dancing, after all. I consider it as one of the first refinements of polished societies." Still, we mustn't forget the reply from Mr. Darcy: "Every savage can dance." 

The difference between dancing, and dancing well, can be a very substantial one. Good dancing technique will elevate something clumsy or ridiculous into something beautiful and transfiguring - and that means study, practice and knowing the craft. 

Dancers, like experts in any other field, typically study for 10 or more years to become really good, and in so doing they pick up a vast vocabulary. Let's see if you know it!

What is the name of the ballet term defined as "a bending of the knees outward by a dancer, with the back held straight"?

A plie is basically a sort of upright dip where you move just your knees. It's the easiest move in ballet.

What is a pirouette?

A pirouette is found in many kinds of dancing. It is basically a spin or whirl round and round.

What sort of dance is "stripping the willow"?

Stripping the willow is one of the easiest and simplest reels. It requires at least six people, ideally eight - and can include up to 100.

What is the name for a "beating movement of the legs"?

A battement is when one leg is moved from the other and then back again. Sounds violent.

What is triple-step?

Triple-step takes two beats and can go "quick-quick-slow," "one-and-two" or "three-and-four"

What is the right word for when a straight leg draws a circle on the floor?

A rond is where the toe of a straight leg draws a circle on the floor. Similar to "round."

During a walk in Latin dance, which part of the foot hits the floor first?

Most forms of dance have a walk, but Latin dance is unusual for having one where the toe hits first.

What is an allemande?

It's from Germany, but it's also a move in country music where dancers link arms or hands and turn together.

What is the name for a pose in which one leg is raised in back or in front with knee bent, usually with one arm raised?

This is another pose in ballet and some other dances - but it's also good to have the right attitude when you dance!

Where does Morris dancing come from?

Morris dancing is a group dance from the 1500s. It had characters including a fool and a boy on a hobby horse

What is a pas de deux?

A pas de deux is a dance for two that has an entree, an adagio, solo sections and a joint coda.

What is the name of a famous soft shoe dance created at the Cotton Club?

The shim-sham is a little bit like the Charleston... if you have bad knees!

Which of these is not a kind of swing dance?

Swing includes things like East Coast, West Coast, Lindy, ragtime jazz, jitterbug, boogie woogie, etc.

What instrument is used during a tarantella?

The tarantella requires that women use a tambourine, which provides rhythm and also a little extra music.

What dance, typically performed by women in a row, involves high kicks to a very famous piece of music?

The can-can was considered very risque when it was invented, as it made the skirt fly up and allowed some viewing of what was under it!

What is a barrida?

A barrida is a pretty sexy move - an elaborate leg sweep - during probably the sexiest dance of all. Everybody tango.

What do they call the highest-ranked dancer at the Paris Opera?

It literally means the star - etoile. What a lofty goal!

What is a dancer doing if they are "en travesti"?

This is a French term that is also used in the theater.

What is an ocho?

Argentine tango includes a figure-eight movement called an ocho, from the Spanish word for eight.

What is a patada?

Patada is just the Spanish word for kick. It is a kind of fancy salsa kick.

What dance is the predecessor of the cha-cha?

The cha-cha started as an offshoot of the mambo but went via the triple mambo first, which is where the "cha-cha-cha" part comes from.

What is it called when a dancer can appear to be suspended in the air in a jump?

It comes from a variant spelling of balloon, since it means floating like one.

What does the kicking leg do in a fan kick?

A fan kick is in modern jazz. The leg sweeps in front of the body.

In tap dance, what is a bell or click?

This is the ruby slippers move, only done while airborne.

In tap dance, what is the difference between a brush and a spank?

A brush is scuffing the ball of the foot along the ground forward. A spank is the reverse.

What is it called when a couple struts together with high kicks?

This is a pre-Civil War dance developed by slaves competing for a cake. That is the same origin as the phrase "takes the cake."

What is an enrosque?

An enrosque is a tango move that means twist. The tango is very dramatic.

Part of the rumba comes from Africa. Where is the rest from?

The rumba's rhythms can be traced to tribal African ceremonies - but with a Spanish flavor.

What is the jump move called in which the legs open in second position in the air?

It's another ballet term that is not too advanced.

What is the name of the party at which Irish or Scottish dance is performed?

A ceili is a dance for Irish or Scottish folk music. It is usually a riotously fun affair with set dances where people dance in groups of 6, 8, or even 100

What is a premier danseur?

This comes from French. It literally means "male boss."

What is it called in a dance for two when the leader supports the follower's weight while one foot or both remains on the floor?

It's one of the easiest moves - but making it look good takes years! Sometimes two hands provide support; sometimes more is added by the flyer linking their leg around the lead's supporting leg.

Why did the turkey trot become popular?

The turkey trot means four hopping steps on one leg, then the other. The Vatican tried to get rid of it, which of course made it a huge hit.

What is dancing on pointe?

Dancing on blocked shoes "sur les pointes" is very difficult to get right. It isalso called "full point."

In ice dancing, what is a quad?

The quad is probably the toughest legal move in ice dancing, and almost no one can land one.

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