Dance Dictionary

This page is a work in progress. I am trying to put together a dictionary of steps that dancers and teachers can use as a reference. I don’t want to limit this to just Belly Dance since with Tribal there is always fusion going on. I hope to always be adding and changing. If there is a move you need and it is not in the list please comment and I will try to respond as quick as possible.

Accent/Beat Drills  – A technique of learning a dance step by varying the accents or rhythms of the step. It is often done for steps that are basic but require precision.

Arabic (Tribal) – A two count move where the dancer steps is on their toes with one foot infront of the other. The step alternates stepping on the front then back foot, while competing an undulation in the time of the two steps. A walking or ¾ shimmy can be added as a variation. This move can also be turned. Arms are usually up.

Chest Figure Eight- A figure eight motion of the chest which involves the combination of both chest lift and a chest drop applied over a chest slide.

Chest Slide- A side movement of the chest caused by contracting the opposite upper oblique abdominal muscle.

Chest Circle – A circular motion of the chest. This is usually done on a horizontal plane. It can also be down on a vertical plane.

Chest Pop- A rising of the chest causes by a contraction of the muscles in the upper back between the shoulder blades.

Chest Drop- A lowering of the chest caused by a contraction of the top abdominal muscles and a release of the upper back muscles behind the shoulder blades.

Figure Eights (Hips)

Horizontal : A figure eight motion with the hips in a horizontal plane parallel to the floor. It can be in the direction of forward-pulling where the motion starts to the back and moves forward or backward-pulling where the motion starts to the front and moves back.

Vertical: A figure eight motion with the hips in a vertical  plane perpendicular to the floor. It can be in the direction of Mias where the motion starts to the up and moves down or in the direction of taxeems where the motion starts to the down and moves up.

Hip Drop– A strong usually sharp fall of the hip caused by the release of the lower oblique abdominal muscles and sometimes contraction of opposite glut muscle.

Hip Pop– A strong usually sharp lift of the hip caused by the contraction of the lower oblique abdominal muscles.

Head Roll – A circular motion of the head

Hip Circle – A circular motion of the hip. It can in the vertical or horizontal plane of the hips. The vertical hip circles are usually done on one side.

Pelvic Roll – A circular motion of the pelvis. The roll consist of a tuck and a release of the pelvis which is connected in a fluid motion.

Piston Hips –A variation on the hip drop where the hip moves down and back, causing an elongation in the front of the hips. This is also a prep move for doing ¾ shimmies on the down.

Speed Drills – A technique of learning a dance step by varying the tempo of the step. It is often done by starting the step at a standard speed/tempo and cutting in half, than in half again, last the step’s speed back up.

Shimmy–  A rhythmic oscillation of the hips. In traditional Egyptian shimmy the hips go from left to right lifted by the oblique muscles on the sides of the stomach. The shimmy can also be done with a lower balance point and the many motion coming from the straightening and bending of the knees.

Shimmy (3/4)- A shimmy with a triplet rhythm that follow a up, out, down or down, out, up  hip motion depending on whether it is ¾ shimmies on the up or down respectively.

Side Snake/Side Undulation – A sequential engagement of the stomach muscles in the side direction. The movement often starts at the top of the head and travels down.

Snake Arms –A wave-like motion with the arms that begins at the shoulder with a shoulder roll and ends at the finger tips. The motion can be done with one arm or two. It can also be done to the front or side. It is generally down with the arms alternating up and down.

Undulations- (camel) A sequential engagement of the stomach muscles. The movement often starts at the top of the torso and travels down. It can also be reversed by starting with a tuck of the pelvis at traveling up.

Three Step Turn – A turn which involves three steps in which the dancer steps to the side, back and front (putting feet together). This turn can be done on the toes or flat feet.

Torso Twist- Similar to a head roll, but is down with the shoulders. The shoulders go backward in a circle motion. The movement is usually ended with a snake arm or wave in the arms.

Turkish/ Turkish Shimmy – A two count move where one foot alternates front and back. It can be varied by adding a walking or ¾ shimmy on top. The arms tend to stay to out to the side with slight movements left or right.

Wrist/Hand Floureos – A circular motion with the wrist in which the finger tips move in toward the hand and out away from the hand.


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  1. Cool dictionary!!! Love the idea. So many times I’ve heard a dance move name but didn’t know the meaning of it. Tks!

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