Dance terms in folk dance

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Folk dances usually consist of different dance figures , steps and dance sequences, which are mostly relatively simple, but sometimes also a little more complex. This article describes the most common basic terms in folk dance as they are common in Germany and in German-speaking countries. Some figures and steps have found their way to other countries, including North America, where they are used under their own names in square and round dance . In return, a number of English terms from the squares and rounds are now known in German-speaking folk dance and, in addition to the German terms, are common or at least understandable.

Starting positions

Flank circle

The dancers (in pairs: flank double circle) form a circle, one of the shoulders (flank) is turned towards the center of the circle, front in dance direction or against dance direction. With the flank double circle in the dance direction the dancer stands closer to the center of the circle, against the dance direction the dancer stands.

Front circle

The dancers form a circle, back or face is turned to the center of the circle, also forehead circle (if in pairs, then standing to each other, dancers with their backs to the center of the circle: forehead double circle)

Circular socket

Everyone turns their face to the center . If a couple dance: the dancer stands on the left, his dancer on the right.

Hands: hanging down (V-version) or raised (W-version). In some countries (e.g. Greece and Israel) the following applies: the right hand, the 'giving', is below, the left is the 'receiving', is above.



The side facing away from the partner (as opposed to the inside )

Outer foot

In the couple dance, the foot that is further away from the partner. Depending on the position towards the partner, this can be the right foot and the left foot. (in contrast to inner foot )


Parallel to each other, but in opposite directions


The side facing the partner (as opposed to the outside )

Inner foot

In the couple dance, the foot that is closer to the partner. Depending on the position towards the partner, this can be the right foot and the left foot. (in contrast to outer foot )

Left turn

Counterclockwise rotation, left shoulder back, right shoulder forward.

Clockwise rotation

Clockwise rotation, left shoulder forward, right shoulder back.

Free leg

Unloaded leg (Ggs .: standing leg )


Stressed leg (Ggs .: free leg )

Dance partner

  • Dancer (abbreviation or Ter )
Mr ( He ) / Boy ( Bu )
Male dance partner
Signs in a schematic dance description Λ
  • Dancer (abbr. Tin )
Lady ( Da ) / Girl ( )
Female dance partner
Signs in a schematic dance description

In German folk dance as well as in square dance , the dancer stands to the left of his partner.

Dance direction

  • Mitsonnen (abbreviation: ms)
Designation of the direction of dancing in the clockwise direction (in the circle to the left)
  • Opposing suns (gs)
Designation of the dance direction counterclockwise (in the circle to the right)

When dancing on a circular path, i.e. in a large circle, the dance couples always move in opposite directions, i.e. counterclockwise (unless otherwise stated).

Dance versions

Get through

The hands of the neighbors take hold of the circle, for example in a circle dance .

One-handed setting

  • Leadership version: dancer left, dancer right. The dancer holds the dancer's left hand at chest height with the right hand. The dancer's palm points upwards, the dancer puts her left hand with the back of the hand upwards lightly - without weight and without convulsive composure - in the dancer's hand.
  • Open version: (hand in hand). The dancer's right grasps the dancer's left; the clasped hands hang loosely.
    • In comparison: the rights of the dancer summarizes the rights of the dancer (or vice versa)
  • Hang in (hook in): The dancer hangs herself in with the dancer.

Forbidden capture

Closed or ordinary version, but shifted to the side so that the right shoulders are opposite each other and the dancers can walk past each other.

Closed versions

Shoulder ring setting

Dancer and dancer put their hands on each other's shoulders, dancers put their arms outside, look at each other, shoulders parallel. The arms are stretched. If there is a lot of crowd, they are angled slightly (traditional shape).

Hip shoulder capture

As before, only the dancer puts his hands on the dancer's hips.

Hip shoulder capture open

Both look in the dance direction. The dancer's right hand rests on the dancer's right hip. She places her left hand on the dancer's right shoulder; the outer hands take hip support or hang loosely.

Kiekbusch catchment ( Rhineland catchment )

The dancer stands diagonally to the left behind the dancer. With his right hand he holds the dancer's right hand, with his wrist resting on the dancer's right shoulder, the left hands are grasped at the sides. Also possible in opposite directions.

Cross mount

Dancer and dancer opposite, looking at each other. The boy grabs the girl's right with his right hand and the girl's left with his left. By turning it apart, this socket can also be used when looking together in one direction.

Back cross frame

Dancer and dancer side by side, looking in the same direction. The boy grasps the girl's right behind her back with his right hand and the girl's left behind his back with his left.

(Ordinary) round dance version

  • Open round dance version: dancer on the left, dancer on the right. Both shoulders form approximately a right angle. The dancer grips the dancer with his right hand roughly in the middle of the back. Her left hand rests on his right shoulder, his left and right arms are loosely stretched at chest height. The hands are taken. The dancer's left palm points upwards, the dancer puts her right hand into it.
    • Note: When dancing, the dancer must never want to support or want to hold onto the dancer's left with her right hand. The hand must “float” in the dancer's hand without weight or pressure.
  • Rotation capture: As before, but facing each other, both shoulders parallel. The dancer's right is on the dancer's left shoulder blade.
  • Arm ring setting: As above, but the dancer's left hand supports the dancer's arm at the elbow. The dancer's right rests in the crook of the elbow of the dancer's left arm.
    • Note: Particularly useful when there is a lack of space (old, traditional form).

Shoulder setting

  • In couple dances, for example in the country dance: the boy puts his hands on the girl's shoulders (from the outside), the girl puts hers on the boy's shoulders (from the inside).
  • In circle dances: Your own hand rests on the shoulder (occasionally on the upper arm) of the neighbor. The taller one usually places his arms from behind on the neighbour's shoulders.

Swing setting

Dancer and dancer stand opposite one another, offset to one side, the right hand is placed on the right shoulder of the dance partner, the left hands grasp underneath. Rotation with swing steps.

Vortex setting

Right shoulder to right shoulder, two-hand grip. The right arms are straight, the left are sharply angled. Same opposite.

Two-hand grip

Dancer and dancer opposite, looking at each other. Both unlike hands are either hanging or held at chest height.

Dance steps

Eighth crotch

Sideways movement, in which the first foot is put to the side, the second behind ("Achter rüm") and the first foot is put to the side again. Often, at the end, you hop once on the first foot, while the second foot swings sideways over the first foot. Usually two figure eight steps are danced in a row, one to the right, the second back to the left or opposite.

Another variant ends the figure eight step with a final jump in place.

Balance step

Simple form: side step to the left, provide right foot without strain, side step to the right, provide left foot without strain.

Traditional form: sideways step to the left, provide right foot, rapid load change right-left, then opposite to the right, to the right.

Chassee (gallop)

Usually as a side canter ( continuous , rapid lateral readjustment step with a light, springy jump. During the jump, the following leg is drawn towards).

Three step (step change walk)

(Change step in three-quarter time) This is to be carried out like the change step, except that each step corresponds to a quarter note. Left foot in front, right foot readjust, left foot in front again and vice versa.


Three steps forwards or backwards depending on the dance style, in uneven beats.

Walking step

Put one foot in front of the other, regularly transferring body weight from one leg to the other.

Sliding step

A gliding, space-saving hopping step with only very little upward movement.

Hamburg regression

In Hamburg and the surrounding area, this is only called a step backwards .

With dance movements in the enclosed circle, when changing direction, the outer foot of the circle takes a step backwards, on which the dancer turns around. With a change of direction from co-sun to opposite sun this is the left foot.

The prerequisite for this step is that the circle figure is also started with the outer foot.

This step, which is common in Low German folk dance, is used, for example, in the beginning and end circles of quadrilles and circular dances, in circles for two pairs, girls or boys, and in mills. It is usually performed with dances in walking steps, less often with alternating or hopping steps.


Spring off one foot and land on the same foot.

Cross-dab kick

Cross one leg over the other with lightly dabbing the toe of the crossed leg diagonally in front of the standing leg. There is no weight transfer.

Landlerschritt (stepped waltz)

The three partial movements of the waltz step are clearly separated ( = Landler step ), the feet are placed on the whole sole (stepped).

Mazurka step

The dancer and the dancer hop forward with their outer feet, the dancer with the left, the dancer with the right. In the 2nd and 3rd cycle time, both of them jump up twice while straightening their bodies and advancing slightly on the inner foot.

Tracking step

One step and placing the other foot aside without transferring the weight. A sequence of follow-up steps can therefore only be carried out alternately left and right.

Adjustment step

  • forward: One foot steps forward, the other is adjusted with weight transfer to the basic position. A sequence of adjustment steps can therefore only be carried out with the same foot.
  • sideways: As before, but sideways left or right.
  • backwards: one foot steps back, the other is adjusted.

Polka step

(Alternating step in an even beat) Step sequence of the dancer (two alternating steps): left / right / left - pause - right / left / right - pause. The dancer starts with the right foot.

Reel step

A series of skips that is danced in place.

One foot is placed behind the other. With a hop, the back foot takes the place of the front foot, while the front foot is again placed backwards. The upper body is kept as calm as possible, almost stiff. The hands are held behind the back

A sequence of 4, 8 or 16 reel steps is common.

Scottish step

Step sequence: Alternating step with each hopping on the fourth eighth with simultaneous slight knee lifts. Scheme: left-right-left-hop / right-left-right-hop.

Scottish dab kick

The free leg crosses in front of the supporting leg, touches the ground with the tip (1st quarter, cross-dabbed step) and then performs a second uncrossed dabbing step diagonally forward from the supporting leg (2nd quarter); the free leg is placed unloaded next to the supporting leg (3rd quarter), pause on the 4th quarter.

Swing hopping step

Three times, in odd intervals. A walking step is followed by a hopping step, whereby the leg that is swung forward is crossed in front of the other.

Swing step

Dance partners stand next to each other, look in the opposite direction, the two right feet always stay close together. Move to the right almost in place, move quickly to the left. This results in a clockwise rotation around the pair axis.

Dab kick

A foot is placed with the tip in front, at an angle or sideways. In the second cycle time, it is usually returned to the basic position without any load.

Waltz step

Change step in an uneven cycle, therefore without a break, each of the three sub-steps has the same time value. In folk dance, the dancer usually starts with the left foot on the first cycle time, the dancer starts at the same time. Opposite beginning in the next bar.

Alternating step

(even beat) Left foot forward, right foot readjust, left foot forward again, pause. The dancer's rhythm is: left-right-left-break / right-left-right-break. The dancer begins opposite. Opposite beginning in the next bar.

Cradle step

Follow-up step left and right sideways one after the other with slight heel raising and lowering. Result: left-right / right-left. When moving back, the previously adjusted foot begins.

Dance figures


(French or American)
(see hand tour )

Dosido (Dosado), Seesaw

"Back to back" (from French dos à dos ): Those standing opposite each other in square dance walk, without changing their direction of view, right shouldered back to back past each other and then left shouldered backwards to the starting point. If you first pass with a left shoulder, this figure is called Seesaw .

Hand tour

Right-handed or left-handed one full turn around the common axis with walking steps. The right hands are raised to eye level, the forearms are against each other.


The partners are facing each other in the flank circle (dancer looking in, dancer against the dance direction), reach out their right hand, walk right-shouldered past each other, give the left hand to the partner approaching next in the circle, now walk left-shouldered past each other, etc.

Girl chain

  • Folk dance: "Changing girls" or "Girls changing places"
The dancers of the opposite pairs of a set swap places by passing each other in the middle with a right shoulder and briefly shaking their right hand. At the opposite place they are led around by the strange dancer at the place 1 × in opposite directions
  • Square Dance: "Ladies Chain"
Two couples face each other in square dance . The dancers give each other their right hands, change places past each other and give the opposing dancer their left hand. The counter-dancer grabs it with his left hand and holds his hands up chest high, while he places his right hand on her right hip, on which her right hand rests ( courtesy turn ). In this version he leads the dancer with 4 steps counterclockwise up to the direction of view to the opposite pair. If the figure is carried out with four pairs, the hand position of the ladies when changing places takes place in a star connection of the right hands, which is rotated clockwise to the opposite.


The dancers - usually four - stretch out their right (or left) arm, grasp their wrists and walk a circle clockwise (counterclockwise).

Tour de Main

(see hand tour )


Both hands of the partner are grasped and raised above head level, so the partners turn around themselves several times, at the same time or one after the other in alternation. The dancer turns to the left, the dancer to the right (or vice versa).

Round dances

Turner (two-step turner)

Round dance setting, rotation around the common axis to the right or left, the upper body leans a little outward when swinging. The dancer begins on the first cycle time with the left foot backwards or sideways, the dancer with the right foot forwards. Dancer and dancer alternately step half a shoe length between their partner's feet with their right foot. The feet are close together, the right feet always stay in front. Two steps make a complete turn, hence the name two-step rotator .

Dreher (three-step turner)

With two steps and a dab step, the couple completes a complete turn in two-quarter time. Lady and gentleman do not dance synchronously, the dab kick comes staggered in time.

Dancer: dab kick with right foot (without strain); Dancer: left foot forward into the turn.

Dancer: right foot backwards in the turn; Dancer: dab kick with right foot (without strain)

Dancer: left foot forward; Dancer: right foot.

After these three steps the couple is back in the dance direction; the next rotation follows immediately.


Slow round dance in three-quarter time, introduce the right foot in the 1st quarter and add the left foot in the 3rd quarter, then put the right foot back in the 1st quarter and add the left foot in the 3rd quarter (a quarter turn to the right per measure).

Länders round dance

Rotation with country steps , like in a waltz. Six steps usually result in a turn. The dancer starts on the left, the dancer on the right. The partial steps are clearly separated in that the feet are placed on the whole sole (stepped on).

Polka round dance

Alternating step ( polka step ) in a straight cycle, built into a continuous turning movement left or right, with a slight elevation on the ball of the third step. The dancer starts with the left foot, the dancer with the right.

Polka Franzee round dance

Three polka steps in a straight beat (alternating step), with the fourth step hopping (light hopping step) with the same foot as with the third step, the other foot is lifted slightly, otherwise like a polka round dance.


Rotation with swing steps forward around the common axis, mostly in square dance .

Waltz round dance

A sequence of Walzer steps alternately forward and backward, installed in a continuous rotational movement (right Walzer, links waltz). Two waltz steps (two bars) result in a complete rotation. In folk dance, in contrast to ballroom dancing, the dancer begins the waltz with the left foot sideways or backwards in the direction of rotation. (Dancer always opposite).


Dancer and dancer stand close to each other, their hands are held. The left arm is bent at shoulder height, the right arm is stretched out in front of the neighbor's chest. The feet are close together, the body is tilted outwards, the dancers step around each other in each step, which results in a quick turn to the right. You can switch to turning to the left by twisting your arms.