Ballroom Dance Glossary

3/4 Time Signature:

A measure of music in which there are three beats, and the quarter note gets the beat. Counted as “1, 2, 3.” Most commonly used in the waltz.

4/4 Time Signature:

A measure of music in which there are four beats, and the quarter note gets the beat. Usually counted as, “1, 2, 3, 4.”

Argentine Tango:

A sensual ballroom dance that originated in South America. Tango is usually danced to the count of 16 or 32 beats with the woman held in the crook of the man’s arm and the partners dancing in a curving pattern.

Carolina Shag:

A type of partner swing dance in which the upper body barely moves while the lower body performs difficult footwork and fancy kicks.

Cha Cha:

One of the most popular of the social Latin American dances. The Cha Cha originated in Cuba and is danced in 4/4 time with the final two beats split into a triplet, hence then characteristic, “One, two, cha cha cha” rhythm in which five steps are fit into four beats.


A dance that can be performed either solo or with a partner, the dance is performed to quick music with swaying arms and fast foot movements including kicks and fast steps.


A pre-arranged set of moves and steps.


A non-choreographed period of dance in which multiple dancers or partners perform improvisational steps to music while judges rate their performance.

Competition club:

A Ballroom Dance Clubs of Atlanta community of competitive dancers that offers those who wish to participate in Competitions/Trips competitions added benefits like entry fee discounts.


A title created to denote a ballroom dancing competition (as opposed to social or exposition dancing).

East Coast Swing:

A circular, rotating partner swing dance with a 6-count basic step that follows the “triple step, triple step, rock step” pattern. East Coast Swing is considered simpler than West Coast Swing and can be danced to all tempos.


A partner dance comprised of fairly simple walking steps and side steps, often considered the “Rolls-Royce” of ballroom dance because of its slow and romantic nature. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers are the icons of Foxtrot. Frank Sinatra sang some of the greatest foxtrots and currently Harry Connick, Jr. and Michael Bublé have taken on the mantel. Truly American in origin, the Fox Trot is danced to the sounds of jazz and big band music.

Group Lesson:

One instructor teaching a small group of students or couples organized by your current level of dancing. Group lessons are best for learning basic techniques and provide a great opportunity to meet new people. For a more personalized lesson, try private lessons.

Guest Coaches

Coaches that travel to our Atlanta Midtown studio to work with students and professional dancers in preparation for DanceSport events and showcases.

International Style Ballroom Dancing:

European style ballroom dance, Britain is the keeper of the standard, but International Style is studied all over Europe. The main difference between International and American style is the emphasis during the dance, but the overall result is quite similar. Many of our competitive students compete in International style, and it is certainly available at all BDC studios.


Similar to East Coast Swing, performed to quick-paced music with lots of energy with the leg movement depicting an up-and-down pushing action.


A Latin dance that originated in Cuba and is distinguished by a 4/4 beat and a “quick, quick, slow” step tempo. Mambo is based mainly on forward and backward steps and emphasized hip movement which gives it a sensual characteristic.


A style of Latin American music and partner dance characterized by a two-step beat. Merengue can be as simple or as complicated as the dancers choose starting with a basic walk-step and progressing into more complicated moves such as turns and pretzel-like arm movements.


Popular near the beginning of the 20th century, this type of music is characterized by a syncopated or off-beat rhythm and originated in African American districts of St. Louis and New Orleans.


A slower partner dance involving a scenario where a teasing female will flirt with and then reject her male dance partner. Rumba takes place in 4/4 time and one step generally takes two beats with a basic rhythm of “quick, quick, slow” and has a distinct set of sensuous hip movements.

Practice Party:

A weekly rehearsal opportunity for dancers of all levels. Practice parties take place outside the instructional setting and are meant to allow dancers time to practice things they’ve learned in their lessons in a true-to-life dance setting. Instructors are available if you happen to have questions, but they’re more your dance partners than your teachers during a practice party.

Private Lesson:

One instructor teaching one student or student-couple. Private lessons offer a more individualized lesson in which the instructor can go into finer detail and enhance technique, more so than in a group lesson.


Generally a partner dance, but can be performed solo. While there are many styles of salsa, the basic step involves an 8 beat measure with steps on one, two, three and a break on four, steps on five, six, seven, and a break on eight. Counted in a quick “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.”


A Brazilian dance in origin, Samba is traditionally danced to a 2/4 beat, though there are three steps to a beat, which makes it feel like 3/4.  A partner dance, Samba is characterized by bouncing knees and a pendulum-like hip motions.

Swing Dance:

A style of dances that became popular as the swing style of jazz developed throughout the 1920s to the 1950s characterized by syncopated steps and a delayed or relaxed approach to timing.


Characterized by staccato, low to the ground movements and sharp head snaps, the Tango places emphasis on leading and following skills. Today’s ballroom Tango is a descendent of the well-loved Argentine Tango. The music this style of dance prefers is passionate and dramatic.


Considered a smooth gliding dance and performed in 3/4 time. Waltzes consist of three distinct steps: forward, backward, and to the side. Waltz steps are performed at a “quick, quick, quick” tempo, or “1, 2, 3. 1, 2, 3.”

West Coast Swing:

A partner dance that is a slotted and more linear form of swing than East Coast Swing. Often danced to slower music and offers more opportunity to improvise than East Coast Swing, West Coast Swing allows for more sensual movements. West Coast Swing can be danced to a variety of music including rock and roll, country, and blues.

Awards Ball:

Awards Ball is an event BDC holds twice a year. This is a celebration of our students and the progress they have made in their dancing. Besides general social dancing and the party atmosphere, students will receive certificates to signify the levels they have accomplished in their dance programs. These are held in one of our beautiful studios.

Group Classes:

Our group classes are held weekly. They consist of one instructor with a group of students going over what you do with your feet or the patterns. These classes are taught at all different levels so you will be learning with students at your level. Since we teach partnership dancing, after you are introduced to each pattern you will try it out with each partner in the class. Group classes will increase the progress on your private lesson.

Patron Parties:

Patron Parties are special parties we have for students who invest in a year’s worth of dancing during our semi-annual contests. The parties are held at the studios as well as out to exciting nightclub locations like Johnny’s Hideaway and events around Atlanta like Fernbank Natural History Museum or the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. As always, our parties are all about enjoying partnership dancing in a social setting and having fun.

Saturday Soirée:

Saturday Soirée is a party that is open to the public. It is held twice a month. The first Saturday of the month, it is held at the Duluth BDC location and the third Saturday of the month our Soirée is held at the Atlanta location. Admission is $10 per person and refreshments are BYOB but we will have set ups. One of our skilled instructors will DJ and answer any questions. It is a great opportunity to get dance practice with your friends and enjoy the sport of partnership dancing.

Summer Sweepstakes and Fall Festival:

Summer Sweepstakes and Fall Festival are contests BDC holds twice a year. It involves special costume parties, prizes, games, dancing and lots of fun. This is when BDC presents what is planned for the next six months, choose the next goal in dancing and renew our patrons.