Skip to main content
California Department of Education Logo


Visual and Performing Arts: Dance Content Standards.

AB form. A two-part compositional form with an A theme and a B theme. The binary form consists of two distinct, self-contained sections that share either a character or quality (such as the same tempo).

ABA form. A three-part compositional form in which the second section contrasts with the first section. The third section is a restatement of the first section in a condensed, abbreviated, or extended form.

abstraction. An idea or concept conveyed through movement and removed from its original context.

accent. A strong movement or gesture.

aesthetic criteria. Standards applied in making judgments about the artistic merit of a work.

alignment. The relationship of the skeleton to the line of gravity and base of support.

axial movement. Movement anchored to one spot by a body part. Only the available space in any direction is used while the initial body contact is being maintained. Movement is organized around the axis of the body and is not designed for travel from one location to another. Also known as nonlocomotor movement. Examples include stretching, bending, turning in place, gesturing.

balance. A state of equilibrium referring to the balance of weight or the spatial arrangement of bodies. Designs may be balanced on both sides of center (symmetrical) or balanced off center (asymmetrical).

ballet. A classical Western dance form that originated in the Renaissance courts of Europe. By the time of Louis XIV (mid-1600s), steps and body positions underwent codification.

body image. An acceptance of one's body as it is in a positive way, with recognition of the possibilities of its capabilities and limitations.

canon. A passage, movement sequence, or piece of music in which the parts are done in succession, overlapping one another.

choreography ("dance writing"). The creation and composition of dances by arranging or inventing steps, movements, and patterns of movements.

contrast. To set side by side to emphasize differences. In dance two contrasting movements might differ in energy; space (size, direction, level); design (symmetrical/asymmetrical, open/close); timing (fast/slow, even/uneven); or two or more different themes or patterns.

counterbalance. A weight that balances another weight. In dance it usually refers to one or more dancers combining their weight in stillness or in motion to achieve a movement or design that is interdependent. Any limb moving in one direction must be given a counterweight.

dance. Movement selected and organized for aesthetic purposes or as a medium of expression rather than for its function as work or play.

dance forms. The organization or plan for patterning movement; the overall structural organization of a dance or music composition (e. g., AB, ABA, call and response, rondo, theme and variation, canon, and the interrelationships of movements within the overall structure).

dance phrase. A partial dance idea composed of a series of connecting movements and similar to a sentence in the written form.

dance sequence. The order in which a series of movements and shapes occurs.

dance structures. The way in which a dance is constructed or organized; a supporting framework or the essential parts of a dance.

dance study. A short work of dance that investigates a specific idea or concept and shows a selection of movement ideas. It can be improvised or composed.

dynamics. The energy of movement expressed in varying intensity, accent, and quality.

focus. In general, a gathering of forces to increase the projection of intent. In particular, it refers to the dancer's line of sight.

folk/traditional dance. Dance associated with a nationalistic purpose, usually performed today as a surviving portion of a traditional celebration and done for social gatherings or as recreation.

force/energy. An element of dance characterized by the release of potential energy into kinetic energy. It utilizes body weight, reveals the effects of gravity on the body, is projected into space, and affects emotional and spatial relationships and intentions. The most recognized qualities of movement are sustained, percussive, suspended, swinging, and collapsing.

genre. A particular kind or style of dance, such as ballet, jazz, modern, folk, tap.

gesture. The movement of a body part or combination of parts, with emphasis on the expressive aspects of the move. It includes all movements of the body not supporting weight.

improvisation. Movement created spontaneously that ranges from free-form to highly structured environments, always including an element of chance.

intent. The state of having one's mind fixed on some purpose.

isolation. Movement done with one body part or a small part of the body. Examples are rolling the head, shrugging the shoulders, and rotating the pelvis.

jazz dance. Dance marked by movement isolations and complex, propulsive polyrhythms. It is an outgrowth of African-American ragtime, jazz, spirituals, blues, work songs, and so forth and is considered an American dance style.

kinesthetic principles. Physics principles that govern motion, flow, and weight in time and space, including, for example, the law of gravity, balance, and centrifugal force.

labanotation. A system for analyzing and recording human movement invented by Rudolf von Laban (1879-1958).

locomotor. Movement progressing through space from one spot to another. Basic locomotor movements include walking, running, galloping, jumping, hopping, skipping, sliding, leaping.

modern dance. A type of dance that began as a rebellion against steps and positions and values expressive and original or authentic movement. It is a twentieth-century idiom.

motif. A distinctive and recurring gesture used to provide a theme or unifying idea.

movement pattern. A repeated sequence of movement ideas, a rhythmic movement sequence, a spatial design on the floor or in the air, or a specific relationship or grouping of people.

movement problem. A specific focus or task that serves as a point of departure for exploration and composing, usually with specific criteria.

musical phrasing. The grouping and articulation of a group of notes that form a logical unit.

musicality. Attention and sensitivity to the musical elements of dance while creating or performing.

partner and group skills. Skills that require cooperation, coordination, and dependence, including imitation, lead and follow, echo, mirroring, and call and response.

pathways. A line along which a person or a part of the person, such as an arm or head, moves (e. g., her arm took a circular path, or he traveled along a zigzag pathway).

phrasing. The way in which the parts of a dance are organized.

postmodern dance. A type of dance introduced by Merce Cunningham that emerged in the 1960s and is generally characterized by a departure from narrative theme and evocative emotion.

principles of composition. The presence of unity, continuity (transitions), and variety (contrasts and repetition) in choreography.

projection. A confident presentation of one's body and energy to communicate movement and meaning vividly to an audience. It also refers to performance quality.

pulse. The underlying and consistent beat.

repetition. The duplication of movements or movement phrases within choreography.

retrograde. The act of taking a sequence of choreography and reversing the order from back to front.

rhythm. A structure of movement patterns in time; a movement with a regular succession of strong and weak elements; the pattern produced by emphasis and duration of notes in music.

shape. The positioning of the body in space: curved, straight, angular, twisted, symmetrical, or asymmetrical.

skills. Technical abilities; specific movements or combinations.

social dance. Dance done in a social setting. It is traditionally referred to as ballroom dance but includes all popular social dances performed with or without partners.

space. An element of dance that refers to the immediate spherical space surrounding the body in all directions. Use of space includes shape, direction, path, range, and level of movement. Space is also the location of a performed dance.

spatial. Of or relating to space or existing in space.

stylistic nuance. A subtle difference in style of meaning; the subtle or slight movements that identify the distinct characteristics of a particular performer or the dances of a particular choreographer or period.

tap dance. A type of dance that concentrates on footwork and rhythm. This type of dance grew out of American popular dancing, with significant roots in African-American, Irish, and English clogging traditions.

technique. The physical skills of a dancer that enable him or her to execute the steps and movements required in different dances. Different styles or genres of dance often have specific techniques.

tempo. The speed of music or a dance.

time. An element of dance involving rhythm, phrasing, tempo, accent, and duration. Time can be metered, as in music, or based on body rhythms, such as breath, emotions, and heartbeat.

transition. The bridging point at which a single movement, the end of a phrase, or even the end of a larger section of a dance progresses into the next movement, phrase, or sequence.

unison. Dance movement that takes place at the same time in a group.

unity. The feeling of wholeness in a dance achieved when all of the parts work well together.

variety in dance. A quantity or range of different things. To maintain audience interest, the composition choreographer must provide variety within the development of the dance. Contrasts in the use of space, force, and spatial designs as well as some repetition of movements and motifs provide variety.

work. A piece of choreography or a dance.

Questions: State Board of Education | 916-319-0827 
Last Reviewed: Friday, March 23, 2018