Contemporary Dance

Dance Terminology

This list contains the most commons terms a dancer will hear inside a class and on stage.

References: St. Olaf College,, American Ballet Theatre

Name Definition
1st Parallel Narrow parallel position of the legs. Knees are in line with arches of feet and directly under hip joint, ‘train tracks’.
2nd Parallel Wide parallel position of the legs.
1st to 5th position of the feet See BalletTerminology.
Accent A stress or emphasis on a specific beat or movement.
Alignment The ability to efficiently organize the body in relationship to dancing.
Arabesque A position in which one leg is raised behind the standing leg.
Arch The extension up and back of the upper body and head.
Attention Mindful and conscious awareness of sensation.
Attitude A position in which weight is supported on one leg with the other leg bent & lifted either in front, side or back.
Bridge Also called a back bend.
Brush Gliding the foot along the floor.
Canon Defines a compositional structure in which one same choreographic fragment is executed by several dancers who space it out in time, usually with regular intervals.
Chainés Consecutive half turns travelling and rotating in a single direction.
Chest lift With back on the floor, chest lifts off the floor.
Conditioning Enhancement of strength, flexibility and endurance through physical training.  A dancer strives to achieve a balance of flexibility, strength, and muscular and cardiorespiratory endurance.
Contraction Tightening the abdominals, tucking the pelvis, and forming a "C" with the torso so that the shoulders are over the pelvis. [Graham technique].
Cool down Following dancing, the dancer should allow the body to gradually warm down (cool down). Abruptly stopping vigorous activity causes pooling of the blood, sluggish circulation which hampers removal of waste products, cramping, soreness and even fainting. Light activity and stretching after the dance class is recommended.
Core strength Postural tone (strength) and connectivity of major muscles of the torso, hip and shoulders.
Coupé Position where the toe of one leg touches the ankle of the standing leg (either front or back).
Cue 1- For dancers, a signal, whether verbal, visual or musical, that prompts them to move;
2- in lighting, a specific combination of light position, colour and intensity;
3- an instruction given by the stage manager.
Curve Rounding of the upper back (thoracic curve).
Extension Extension of a joint is generally to straighten it.
Flat back Position in which the legs are in parallel, the back is kept flat, parallel to the floor, with the torso hinged at the hips. [Horton technique].
Focus Conscious attention toward a certain point; with eyes, body parts, or the direction in which the dancer faces. Focus is not just confined to the eyes. It also involves the use of the whole body focus to communicate the intention of the dance.
Flexed Feet and toes are retracted back and heels are pressed forward.
Grand jeté A jump from one foot to the other foot with a large opening of the legs in the air (split).
Improvisation Movements that are created spontaneously by the dancer with or without specific direction, either individually or with other dancers. Contact improvisation is a form of instantaneous composition based on immediate response to body contact between dancers. Steve Paxton is the inventor of contact improv.
Initiation The body part or location from where movement begins. Movement can be centrally (core) or peripherally (distal) initiated.
Intention Choices concerning weight, flow, space, time and purpose by the performer, in conjunction with the dancemaker, that give meaning to the movement.
Isolations Moving one part of the body, such as the head, shoulder, ribs, or hips, while the rest are immobile.
Lunge A large, open position in which one knee is bent (usually the front), and the other is straight.
Motif This is a word that is most commonly used within the dance composition speech. It refers to a small choreographic unit (a gesture, movement or phrase) that is the main reference from which a bigger choreography (or dance piece) is built and composed.
Motif development A procedure of a dance composition method that consists of transforming a basic choreographic motif to create a larger or whole piece of dance. Variations of the motif are done through strategies like repetition, inversion, rhythmical modifications, amplification, minimization, ornamentation, deconstruction and all imaginable compositional tools.
Movement image Perception of movement from a mental and kinesthetic perspective (i.e. from the dancer's imagination and the inner perception of her/his body and movement).
Movement pick-up The ability to learn and execute movement sequences quickly.
Opposition this is a word that is mainly used during our technical trainings. The opposition of the movement of one part of the body to another serves the dancer in several ways. Opposing facilitates grater extensions, maintaining placement, balance or controlling weight. For example when raising an arm, the shoulder should go down. The direction of their movements creates an opposition (upwards and downwards at the same time) in order to maintain a right placement of the upper trunk (unless another specific placement of the trunk is wanted).
Phrase, Combination, Sequence, Pattern Terms used to describe two or more movements linked together.
Pirouette In ballet, a spin or turn of the body performed on one leg. Pirouettes may be performed en dehors (turning away from the supporting leg) or en dedans (turning toward the supporting leg).
Plié Bent or bending; coordinated flexion at the hip and knee joints and dorsiflexion at the ankle joint.
Presence The ability to be aware and fully invested in the present moment.
Release Name given to a training method developed and used by contemporary dancers since the second half of the XXth century. Its main characteristic is described by its name
Relevé A lift onto half toe.
Retiré or Passé Position in which the toe of one leg touches the inside of the knee of the standing leg.
Routine A set of steps that the students practices regularly.
Skip A combination of a step and hop in an uneven rhythm.
Split Legs straight and at right angles to the body, one in front and the other behind, or one at each side
Spotting Focussing on one spot while turning to prevent dizziness.
Standing leg The weight bearing leg.
Stance It can be used to refer to the dancer's posture, positioning or placement. Depending on the technique within which the word is used, it might include bodily, physiological, anatomical, mental or general attitude issues about how the dancer organizes and projects her/him self. Read the definition for 'body placement' above to expand.
Triplet Three steps usually done in a down (plié) up (relevé), up (relevé) sequence.
Turnout a position of the legs in which the feet are pointing outwards. It is an external rotation of the limb that is executed with the whole leg, including the hip. The turnout, also called the 'en dehors' in French, has been used and developed within the ballet technique mostly, but is also used by many other dancing genres.
Turn in rotation of a limb away from the front of the body.
Warm-up Activities that raise the core body temperature and loosen the muscles before dancing. Movements designed to raise the core body temperature and bring the mind into focus for the activities to follow.

References: St. Olaf College,, American Ballet Theatre

Position of The Feet  
Position of the Arms  
Bras Bas Bournonville: Bras Bas
Cecchetti: Fifth en Bas
French: Preparation, Au Repos, or Première en Bas
R.A.D.: Bras Bas
Soviet Russian: Preparatory Position
First Position of the Arms Bournonville: First Position
Cecchetti: First Position
First Position of the Arms Bournonville: Bras Arrondis Devant or First Position en Avant
Cecchetti: Fifth Position en Avant
French: First Position
R.A.D.: First Position
Soviet Russian: First Position
Demi-seconde Bournonville: Demi-seconde
Cecchetti: Demi-seconde
R.A.D.: Demi-seconde
Second Position Bournonville: Bras à la Ligne or Second Position
Cecchetti: Second Position
French: Second Position
R.A.D.: Second Position
Soviet Russian: Second Position
Third Position of the Arms Bournonville: Third Position Low
Cecchetti: Fourth Position en Avant
French: Third Position
R.A.D.: Third Position
Soviet Russian: Small Pose
Third Position of the Arms Bournonville: Third Position en Haut
Cecchetti: Fourth Position en Haut
French: Third Position
R.A.D.: Fourth Position
Soviet Russian: Big Pose
Fourth Position of the Arms Bournonville: Fourth Position
Cecchetti: Fourth Position
French: Fourth Position
R.A.D.: Fourth Position Crossed
Fifth Position of the Arms Bournonville: A la Couronne or Fifth Position
Cecchetti: Fifth en Haut
French: Fifth Position or Bras en Couronne
R.A.D.: Fifth Position
Soviet Russian: Third Position
En avant Phrase denoting movement travelling forward.
En arrière: Phrase denoting movement travelling backward.
En face Phrase used to describe a basic body alignment taken facing downstage.
Devant 1- Term used to describe the position of the working leg placed in front of the other leg or in front of the body, as 5th devant etc.
2- Term used to describe the direction of an action which occurs in front of the body e.g. battement tendu devant, retiré devant.
Derrière 1- Term used to describe the position of the working leg placed behind the other leg or behind the body as 5th derrière.
2- Term used to describe the direction of an action which occurs behind the body, e.g. battement tendu derrière.
Croisé A basic pose of the body taken facing either downstage corner with the downstage foot front.
Pointe Shoes Terms  
  Pointe Shoes Terms
Name Definition
Arabesque A balanced pose on one leg with the other leg extended en l'air derrière. A curved position of the body from the head, through the spine to the tips of the toes of the raised leg. The arm and hand with no tension in the elbows. There are three basic arabesques: 1st, 2nd and 3rd.
Attitude A contained position based on curves. A balanced pose on one leg with the other leg held in a curved position at 90 degrees.
Assemblé A jumping action where the legs are assembled fully stretched in 5th position in the air before landing on two feet.
Balancé A lyrical terre à terre movement set on a waltz rhythm where the accent is on the first step. Comprises three transferences of weight, often in series from side to side or forward and backwards.
Ballonné A travelling jump from one leg landing on the same leg, combined with an outward extension and inward bending action of the working leg, At the height of the jump both legs are fully stretched, with the push-off leg maintaining its line beneath the body. Executed sur place with the working leg extending devant, à la seconde, or derrrière, or travelled in the direction of the extended working leg, en avant, de côté, or en arrière.
Ballotté A rocking movement in which the weight is transferred from one foot to another, May be performed with an adage quality or sauté with an allegro quality.
Battement fondu A smoothly coordinated bending and stretching of both the supporting leg and the working leg. From 5th position or dégagé, the working foot is placed sur le cou-de-pied while the supporting leg bends to the depth of a demi-plie. The working leg then opens through a small attitude to extend to 45 degrees or 90 degrees, as the supporting leg simultaneously straightens.
Battement frappé A striking action of the foot directed towards the floor using a strong extension of the leg. An exercise to develop speed and precision in the use of the foot and ankle. The flexed working ankle begins with the heel placed sur le cou-de-pied, then the metatarsals strike the floor and the leg and foot finish in a fully stretched position at glissé height.
Battement glissé An opening and closing of the fully stretched working leg with a quick gliding action of the foot which causes the toes to be released just off the floor.
Battement jeté A sharply thrown action of the working leg opening to 45 degrees and returning strongly to a closed position. The foot slides along he floor as in battement tendu and the leg is thrown out in the required direction to a fully stretched position at 45 degrees. The leg returns firmly with strong use of the foot along the floor to a closed position.
Battement tendu The opening and closing of a stretched working leg, the foot remains in contact with the floor.
Battement piqué A battement glissé action in which the working foot opens to glissé height, lowers à terre remaining fully stretched and rebounds quickly and lightly to the previous height. May be performed devant, to 2nd or derrière. Variation: battement piqué en rond.
Battu Embellish with a beating action of the legs.
Chainés Type of turn often performed in series en diagonale en pointes. The dancer begins with the foot degagé devant, steps to the side along the line of dance making a ½ turn en dedans, and steps in 1st position making a ½ turn en dehors to complete one full turn. May be prepared with a chassé instead of a posé.
Changement A jump in which the legs begin in 5th position and change in the air at the height of the jump, separating as little as possible, to land in the opposite 5th position.
Cou-de-pied 1-Term used to describe a specific point just above the ankle bone devant or derrière.
2-Abbreviated form of sur le cou-de-pied, a phrase used to describe the placement of the working foot just above the ankle bone of the supporting leg.
Chassé A linking movement with a sliding action of the foot commencing from either an open or a closed position and ending in an open position en demi-plié. Can be taken in varying alignments and directions. See chassé temps levé, coupé chassé pas de bourrée, pas chassé, temps levé chassé pas de bourrée.
Contretemps A composite step consisting of a coupe dessous, an extended chasse en avant, a temps levé and a chasse passé en avant.
Coupé An action in which one foot cuts away the other. Often an intermediary or linking step.
Courus A series of very small, rapid, even steps en pointe with the feet well crossed in 5th position and the body remaining poised over the feet. When performed in 1st position, the legs are usually parallel. May be performed sur place, en arrière, or de côté.
Demi-pointe En demi-pointe, phrase used to describe a position in which the ball of the supporting foot/feet contact the floor. The ankle is fully extended (plantar flexed). Movements performed en demi-pointe/s may be performed en pointe/s when the dancer wears pointe shoes.
Détourné A releve in two feet with a turn.
Développé A slow and sustained unfolding action of the working leg. Can be executed with a basic port de bras, the arms and the leg synchronizing throughout the movement. May be performed devant, to 2nd, or derrière, and passé.
Echappé A jump from a closed position, either 1st or 5th, to an open position, either 2nd or 4th. A jump consisting of two sautés-from a closed to an open position on the first, then back to a closed position on the second is now termed échappé sauté fermé.
En cloche Phrase used to describe a movement of the leg that swings form en avant to en arrière, brushing through 1st position. The movement is to resemble the pendulum-like action of a bell clapper. (Battement glissé en cloche, grand battement en cloche etc.)
En croix Phrase used to describe a sequence repeated devant, to 2nd, derrière, and again to 2nd, or the reverse.
En dedans 1- Phrase used to describe an inward circling action of the working leg, either à terre or en l'air. With the right leg, this motion is in a counter-clockwise direction. See rond de jambe à terre en dedans, rond de jambe en l'air en dedans.
2- Phrase used to describe a turn of the body toward the supporting leg, e.g., to the right when standing on the right leg. See, pirouette en dedans, pose pirouette en dedans.
En dehors 1- Phrase used to describe an outward circling action of the working leg, either à terre or en l'air. With the right leg, this motion is in a clockwise direction. See rond de jambe à terre en dehors, rond de jambe en l'air en dehors.
2- Phrase used to describe a turn of the body away from the supporting leg and toward the working leg e.g., to the left when standing on the right leg. See, pirouette en dehors, pose pirouette en dehors.
Entrechat quatre A jump in which the legs change to beat, and return to land with the same leg devant. There are four interweaving actions.
Epaulement A rotary action in the upper torso combined with the use of head and eyes, which enhances the dancer's line and sense of poise. For example, when closing in 5th position of the feet with épaulement, the spine rotates so that the shoulder corresponding to the front foot comes slightly forward and the eye line turns slightly in that direction.
Failli A composite step consisting of a sissonne showing the 5th position en l'air, and a chassé passé en avant. The dancer starts in 5th position, jumps into the air holding the 5th position, separates the legs while travelling very slightly forward and lands on the front leg with the back leg en arabesque
Fouetté 1- A turn of the body away from the extended leg which often maintains its position in space. May be performed with the working leg à terre or en l'air, with the supporting leg pivoting flat or en demi-pointe, or performing a rise relevé or sauté.
2- A whipping action of the lower leg or of the entire leg, sometimes involving a turn of the body.
Glissade A connecting step travelling in any direction and performed à Terre. The basic glissade is travelled sideways.
Grand battement An exercise in which the working leg is raised from the hip into the air and brought down again, the accent being on the downward movement, both knees straight. This must be done with apparent ease, the rest of the body remaining quiet. The function of grands battements is to loosen the hip joints and turn out the legs from the hips. Grands battements can be taken devant, derrière and à la seconde.
Grand jeté A large leap travelling forward from one foot to the other. Taken to various arabesque lines.
Grand plié A full bending of the knees over the toes. The bending action causes the heels to be released from the floor. During the straightening of the legs, the heels are lowered to the floor as soon as possible, making the movement continuous. In 2nd position however, because there is a wider base, the heels remain on the floor.
Grand rond de jambe en l'air A slow sustained circling action of the leg en l'air tracing a 180 degrees arc parallel to the ground. As an exercise, the action begins with a developpé to 4th at 90 degrees and ends with closing in 5th position.
Pas de bourrée Terre à terre steps performed in a continuous movement in any direction. Demanding quick, precise foot work. Can vary with the use of either the front or back foot on the initial extension.
Pas de chat A light, springing step moving sideways from 5th to 5th, jumping off one foot and landing on the other foot before closing en demi-plié.
Petit battement A small sideways beating action of the working foot on the cou-de-pied of the supporting leg.
Pirouette A spinning action performed on one leg either en dehors or en dedans. The aim is to whirl en demi-pointe or en pointe with the body in one single piece except for the head, which moves independently according to a practice known as spotting. The turn may be taken away from the supporting leg (en dehors) or toward it (en dedans), with the working leg in a position such as retiré devant.
Port de bras 1- A carriage of the arm or arms. May involve movement of the torso; port de bras with forward bend or with side bend.
2- A term for a category centre exercises or an individual exercise that concentrates on graceful, flowing movements of the arms, body, head and eye line.
Relevé 1- A leg action which begins en demi-plié or en fondu, arrives end demi-pointes or en pointes with a strong and speedy stretch of the legs, and finishes again en demi-plié or en fondu.
2- Term referring to a step performed with a relevé action as opposed to for example, a jump. Taken in 1st, 2nd, 4th or 5th position of the feet. May also be performed from two feet to one or from one foot to one.
Retiré A drawing up action of the working foot to retiré position, a position just below knee height.
Rond de jambe à terre A circling action of the working leg along the floor either en dehors or en dedans. An essential movement to develop and maintain the maximum turnout and control of both the supporting and working legs, the movement is continuous both legs are fully stretched, and the toe of the working foot maintain contact with the floor throughout.
Rond de jambe en l'air A circling action of the lower leg in which the foot begins and ends in 2nd position at 45 degrees. Taken either en dehors or en dedans.
Sissonne fermée A jump with a scissors-like action, taken from two feet, travelling, and landing on one foot before closing. The scissors-like action is performed by one leg (designated as the working leg) with the other leg stretched below the body in the air. Sissonne fermée lands on one leg with the working leg immediately closing en demi-plié.
Sissonne ouverte Similar to Sissonne fermée, Sissonne ouverte ends with the working leg sustaining its open position en fondu.
Soubresaut A jump from 5th position which lands in 5th position with the same foot in front. At the height of the jump, the legs are strongly drawn together with the feet fully stretched in 5th position.
Tombé An off-balance action resulting in a transfer of weight from one foot to the other. The dancer begins on one foot, with the working leg extended en l'air then shifts the weight momentarily off balance in the direction of the outstretched leg and gradually lowers it to receive the body weight, often ending en fondu with the free foot á terre or en l'air.
Turn-out Maximum outward rotation of the leg at its hip joint.
Name Definition
Arch This is the opposite of a contraction. The mid section pushes forward and the back arches curving the back.
Axel Turn An axle turn is basically two turns in one. It starts with a chainé turn then without stopping one leg goes to passé position and the other joins it in a jump before landing. The arms pull in for the chainé - then for the axel jump one stays in first position front while the other opens to second then circles above your head and down.
Ball Change This is a change of weight between both feet. Change weight and do a stamp-stamp.
Barrel Jump Basically a jump in the air with both legs bent back from the knee and both arms in the air in any basic pose.
Barrel turn A turn with your arms straight out but one is higher then the other and as you turn the arms switch heights. The arms can stay opened or closed during the actual turning action. The body stays bent forward and the dancer spots the floor or to the front.
Bounce Basically a swing type step or bounce to a step.
Cake Walk A type of diagonal walk with each step the foot raises as far up as to the knee – like an obnoxious type of exaggerated walk almost with an arched back. This was developed in the old days back when slavery was still happening and the black entertainers would do this walk to imitate the white high society as a parody. So it was a comical satire that turned into a dance step!
Cat Walk A type of walk where one leg smoothly crosses over the other in a tango like fashion or a “cat like” way with the other foot bending back from the knee and the other extends forward.
Catch Step This is a flat footed ball change.
Chassé A basic ballet move that is used in all styles. A chasse is a kind of gallop where one foot chasses the other. It is a traveling step.
Coffee Grinder This is a turning step that starts with a pirouette fouetté jump and one leg is bent while the other is in 2nd position. So do the fouette and a little jump while in mid turn. Others say this movement is closer to the ground while the body squats and one leg is bent and positioned unfer the working leg. Then the straight, free leg does a floor circle around your body and the supporting leg hops over the working leg as it is going – which describes more of a Russian move that a breakdancing move is now derived from. Both types of movement are basically called the same thing but the former is a more typical jazz mvoement.
Contraction A basic modern movement used in all styles. This is where the dancer contracts the mid section and pull back against a movement for emphasis.
Dolphin This is a movement where the body flows in a snake type movement starting from the chest moving up. Shakira does this a lot! By the way, this movement is named several different things! We can call it the “s” move, the snake etc etc..
Drop and Recover This is more of a modern dance step but can be used in jazz as well. It’s when a dancer has to drop to the floor in a controlled fall from a position.
Fall A way for the dancer to fall to the ground in a graceful and controlled movement that appears natural.
Fall Over the Log A step where the dancer steps out onto one foot while the other foot lifts and points at the knee of the other. In ballet terms it would be considered a “piquè passé”.
Fan Kick This is a round about kick where the body stays aligned but the leg kicks high in a fan motion starting inward and around or vice versa.
Flick A jazzy and sassy way of doing a développe enveloppé. Basically the working leg sneaks up the supporting leg and flicks out straight ahead.
Flick Kick Another ballet move done in a jazzy way which is basically a développé battement. This is when the working leg again sneaks up the supporting leg in a passé then jets out to a high kick in a flicking motion. This is a very “Fosse” like movement.
Freeze Just what you think it means…to freeze a movement! This type of movement (or lack thereof) is more of an accent on music then a movement. It gives a moment flare and emphasis in a subtle way.
Funk This is more of a energy then a specific movement that tells the dancer to get into the music and ride with it or grove with it in a loose and fun way. Funk is also a rhythm and a type of music.
Head-roll Speaks for itself! A head roll is letting the head move around it’s entire circular access in a controlled but relaxed fashion while the body stays aligned and in position. Head and hand rolls where a very popular movement Bob Fosse used. He liked small rolling movements as in his choreography from “Cabaret”.
Hinge This is when the body is aligned but it is being tipped from the knees down with the feet on the ball pushing it forward.
Hip Walk A basic jazz walk that jets the hips out in a circular sexy movement with the arms rounded in back while in pliè.
Hip-fall This is a controlled drop to the floor whether on knees or feet and a slide through till the body is on the floor on it’s side and one arm is straight out against the floor.
Hip-roll This is an isolated roll of the hips while the rest of the body stays in position.
Hitch Kick This is like the famous “Karate Kid” finale kick! You give a little jump up with one knee in the air, and as soon as you kit the ground the other leg whips into a high kick. The former move is a preparation for the high kick
Hop This is a jump off of one foot that lands on the same foot. Like in hop scotch…
Jazz Drag This is a jazz walk or hip walk with a drag in it. Sort of a dragging jazz walk.
Jazz Run A running jazz walk! This requires a fluidity and grace to make it look natural and not awkward.
Jazz Split This is a split on the floor with the back leg bent upward from the knee. Sometimes the knee can be grabbed or the head can be arched back towards it.
Jazz Walk A low gravity type of walk where the body is in pliè and the shoulders and arms are curved in opposition while walking forward. This is without a hip roll. The Hip walk is the same but with a hip roll.
Jump Over the Log This is a jump from one leg to the other that is a little more grand but not big enough to make a flying leap. It’s a control leap from one leg to the other. In jazz a slick and catlike form must be kept for the movement to “gel”.
Kick This is a high kick that throws the working leg in the air in a controlled manner, while the supporting leg and body stay properly aligned in the jazz position of choice.
Knee Fall This requires knee pads! It’s a fall onto the knees which usually preludes another move and lands as a “punch” in the choreography.
Knee Slide This is a very “rock n roll” move! It requires knee pads as well so you can slide across the floor on your knees without floor burn (ouch)!
Knee Turn A 360 degree turn or the like but on both knees or one knee (usually two).
Lay Out This is the jazz moves of all jazz moves. The layout is a difficult one to master for some. The body must be flexible to kick out and within’ the kick the body will lean into it with the leg still high, and the entire torso will follow it until it’s parallel with the floor and the arms follow behind (or above) it.
Name Definition
Theatre A place which houses an auditorium and a stage.
Lobby The room or space between front entrance up to the point where tickets are surrendered.
Foyer The space or room behind auditorium, between lobby and the seats. The foyer does not have seats.
Loges A balcony of less than seven rows of seats. In an exceptionally large balcony, the loges would be the extreme front row of seats provided there are less than seven and in front of a cross-aisle.
Auditorium, House The large room where the audience is seated. Stage personnel refer to this as the House.
Beam Location of lighting in the auditorium ceiling for illuminating the fore-stage and front part of the stage proper. Sometimes referred to as the Beam position.
Proscenium Wall: Structural wall separating the auditorium from the stage.
Proscenium Arch Opening through which audience views the performance. Also known as Proscenium Opening. When the word proscenium is used alone, it means the Proscenium Arch.
Proscenium Line Imaginary line where place of the proscenium intersects the stage floor. For accuracy, this is aligned with the stage side of the proscenium columns.
Stage The area where actors perform but includes the side and rear areas for handling equipment.
Apron The usually curved area of the stage closest to the audience.
Backstage, Offstage Usually the entire stage area not visible to the audience.
Backdrop The drop farthest upstage in most settings. Also a large curtain, sometimes with a picture or design.
Curtain Line The imaginary line across the stage floor which follows the line of the front curtain.
Grand Drape, Main Rag The front, often decorative, curtain of a stage.
Cyclorama (usually just “cyc”) A large, usually white, curtain that is lit to create setting and masks the back of the stage behind the set.
Wings The areas to the left and right of the stage out of view to the audience. A part of the backstage area.
Legs Narrow curtains in the wings to mask the backstage areas.
Trap An opening in the stage floor for actors to pass through to make entrances and exits.
Clear the Stage A direction given to all dancers to leave the stage area prior to the beginning of a play.
Places The direction for all dancers to go to their proper position and be ready for the beginning of a play or scene.
Run Through An uninterrupted rehearsal of a scene, act, or the entire choreography. Typically a run-through does not contain many of the technical aspects of a performance, and is primarily used to assist performers in learning dialogue and to solidify aspects of blocking.
Bows, Curtain Call The carefully choreographed appearance of actors on stage after the performance to acknowledge the applause of the audience.
Heads Up! A term of warning used to call attention to overhead danger.
Stage Manager Person responsible for the physical set up, actors, and technical cues of a production as it is performed.
Cue The command given to technical departments to carry out a particular operation. E.g. Fly Cue or Sound Cue. Normally given by stage management, but may be taken directly from the action (i.e. a Visual Cue).
Stand-By A warning given to dancers and technical staff by stage management that a cue is imminent.
Blocking precise movement and positioning of dancers on the stage.
Technical Rehearsal Usually the first time the show is rehearsed in the venue, with lighting, scenery and sound. Costumes are sometimes used where they may cause technical problems (eg Quick changes). Often a very lengthy process. Often abbreviated to the Tech.
Dress Rehearsal A rehearsal or series of rehearsals in which the ensemble dresses as they will dress at the performance for the audience. The entire performance will be run from beginning to end, exactly as the real performances will be, including pauses for intermissions.
Première (from the French première, meaning “first”) is the very first performance.
  Stage Directions
Backstage The area of the stage that is not seen by the audience.
Upstage The area of the stage that is the furthest from the audience.
Downstage The area of the stage that is the closest to the audience.
Stage Right The right side of the stage from the dancer’s point of view (facing the audience).
Stage Left The left side of the stage from the dancer’s point of view (facing the audience).
Center Center of the stage.
Full Front Facing the audience.
Full Back Facing away from the audience.
Cross Movement from one area of the stage to another.
Props (Properties) Small hand held items used by dancers.
Decor Furnishings, properties, draperies, and decorations of setting.
Practical Scenery that is useable. A door, or window that will open, etc.
Backlight Light coming from upstage, behind scenery or actors, to sculpt and separate them from the background.
Blackout Complete absence of stage lighting. Blue working lights backstage should remain on and are not usually under the control of the board, except during a Dead Blackout (DBO), when there is no onstage light. Exit signs and other emergency lighting must remain on at all times.
Color Filter A sheet of plastic usually composed of a colored resin sandwiched between two clear pieces. The colored filter absorbs all the colors of light except the color of the filter itself.
Cross Fade Bringing another lighting state up to completely replace the current lighting state. Also applies to sound effects / music.
Downlight A light from directly above the acting area.
Follow Spot Usually, a powerful instrument usually fitted with its own dimmer, iris, color magazine and shutters mounted in or above the auditorium, used with an operator so that the light beam can be moved around the stage to follow an actor.
Gobo A thin metal plate etched to produce a design which can then be projected by a profile spotlight (E.g. Foliage, Windows).
House Lights The auditorium lighting which is commonly faded out when the performance starts.
Light Curtain A lighting effect which, when an area is diffused with smoke, produces a wall of light.
Slides Slides are used to project still archive images or textures.
Lighting effects Moving cloud / rain / fire effects can be achieved using a powerful lantern known as an effects projector with a motorized glass disc painted with the required effect.
Gobos See Gobo.
Video Video projection is now being used to bring television pictures to the large screen. Images can be front projected or back projected depending on the amount of space and the effect required. For example, if dancers are required to walk in front of the screen and not have the image appearing on them, back projection is the only answer.
Smoke Machine Electrically powered unit which produces clouds of white non-toxic fog (available in different flavors/smells) by the vaporization of mineral oil. Specially designed for theatre & film use.
Dry Ice Frozen solid carbon dioxide (CO2) which produces clouds of steam-loaded CO2 gas forming a low-lying mist or fog when dropped into boiling water.
Snap A lighting or sound cue with no fade time - the cue happens instantly.
Spotlight General term for any lantern with a lens system.
Strobe Device giving a fast series of very short intense light flashes which can have the effect of making action appear intermittent. Because strobe lighting can trigger an epileptic attack in sufferers, the use of a strobe must be communicated to the audience before the performance begins.

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