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Home > Dance Terminology

Tap Dance Terminology A-Z



Accent: This is emphasizing a part of the music or dance with a tap sound.

Ad Lib: This is another word for “improvise” which means to dance freely outside the bounds of choreography.





Back Flap: This is a step that brushes back, steps then drops the heel.

Back-Front: Simply a ball change.

Ball Beat: A basic dropping of the ball of the foot.

Ball Change: Alternately weight on the balls of the feet from each foot. This can be done in any direction.

Ball Tap: Just what it says, place the ball of your foot on the ground then tap down.

Bandy Twist: A basic tap movement originated by Jim Bandy, who danced in the Vaudeville days.

Barrel Roll, Barrel Turn: This is a 360 degree of the body while the arms are extended in a “windmill”.

Bells: This is a click of the heels against each other while in the air from a jump.

Brush: : A full brush of the foot against the ground. This can be done in any direction. Basically, the you flex the knee then strike the ball of the foot against the floor then the leg raises in the other direction to follow through the movement.

Brush Step: : A brush with a step on the end of it which is the same as a “flap”.

Brush Flat: A basic brush as described above but with the entire flat of the foot striking against the floor rather then just the ball.

Buck: Exactly the same as a chug (as defined below). This is a forward movement with an emphasized heel drop. It’s like scuffing the floor forward with the heel.

Buck and Wing: Black American clog dance marked by wing-like steps; this was the forerunner of the present style of Rhythm Tap.

Buffalo: A side traveling movement. It can also be executed in place.

Bumps: A bump of the hip that was done often in Burlesque dancing.





Cake Walk: Strutting across the stage on the balls of the foot in an exaggerated walk with the heels kicking back with each step and the back arched.

Carryback: A backward tap movement.

Carryover: A forward tap movement.

Catch: This is a movement where the toe of one foot strikes the toe of the other foot – this can be done with the heel too (heel to heel)…

Catch Step : This is a ball change starting with the back foot bringing one foot in front of the other.

Chop: A backward straight legged step that takes a bit of weight!

Chug: This is the same as a “Buck” as described above. It’s a forward and forceful scuff of the floor with the heel that pushes forward about 3 inches.

Cincinnati: This is a backward movement which moves from one foot to the other alternating back and forth.

Clap: Just what you think! A hand clap ;)

Click: A joyful jump in the air clicking the heels together.

Click Toes: A balance on the heels while clicking the toes together in the air.

Clip: A striking on the heel against the toe of the opposite foot or striking the toe against the heel of the opposite foot.

Cluster: A group of tap sounds performed in rapid succession.

Contrast: This is the variation of rhythm patterns in relation to one another.

Cork Screw: A twisting motion where the foot is balanced on the heel and the toe is raised. This movement is sometimes referred to as a “Tanglefoot”.

Counterpoint: Rhythms that are complimentary to each other.

Cramp: This is a forceful heel drop starting from the ball or toe of the foot down.

Cramproll: This is a use of the cramp movement in a series of steps.

Cross:This is an old term, it consists of five sounds starting with a waltz clog then a time step, but crossing them.
Cross Bar: A side traveling movement where one leg crosses in front of the other.

Cross Leg Walk: A basic movement making one tap sound for each beat of music.

Crossover: A movement employing a crossing of one foot in front of the other.

Cubanola: An old used for what we now know as a “Traveling Time Step”.

Cut (or Cut-Out): A leg swing from one side to the other that strikes the heels together.





Dig: A forward digging movement (into the floor) that can be done with the ball of the foot of the heel.

Dig Ball: A strike of the ball of the free foot forward in a forceful movement.

Dig Heel: A hard strike of the heel in any direction.

Dig Tap: Striking the hall of the free foot forward in a forceful movement. This can be done with the toe turned in or turned out and this movement does not take weight.

Double: An old term for a Shuffle. The term was derived from the fact that a Shuffle constitutes two sounds.

Double Ball Change: An old term for Shuffle - Ball Change which is done in two different rhythm patterns.

Double Heel Click: This is a very old term which basically means a “shuffle” and a “bell” done together.

Double Hop: This is a shuffle with a hop proceeding it.

Double Hop Step: More commonly known as an "Irish" or a "shuffle, hop, step." This movement usually is executed in two different rhythm patterns.

Double Irish: A shuffle-hop-step then a shuffle-ball-change - done in that particular order.

Double Jump: This is a shuffle then a leap forward to the same foot.

Double Wings: The Double Wing is executed with six distinct sounds (see the definition of “wings”)


Drag (or Draw): A foot drag or draw on the floor in any direction.

Draw Back: Rocking back on the heels of both feet, then at the same time, brush both feet back, landing on the balls of both feet at the same time.

Drum Slap: A "flap" was once called a "slap", thus the "Drum Slap."





Eccentric: An old form of comedic character dance.

Essence: A movement associated with “soft-shoe” dancing, containing varied rhythm patterns.






Fan Kick: One foot extends forward and upward, which will make a “fan” movement outwardly. Like in a chorus line.

Fall: It's like a leap that's exaggerated in a comedic way taking the grace out of the leap and making it appear like a fall though still controlled.

Falling Off the Log: A twisting motion going sideways (like a "grapevine").

Flap: A quick brush step to the front. Strike forward to the floor, then step forward and put weight on the working foot. Usually done forward but can be done in other directions as well.

Flat Tap: Strike forward (or any direction), the flat foot.

Flat Step: Strike down the flat foot.

Flea Hop: Slide from one foot to the other.

Flip: A basic Back then a "brush" and a "step".

Flop: A flat footed tap where the straight leg striking the floor.

French Twist: A traveling movement working on demi-pointe then moves forward in a twisting motion like the Fren





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