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German-English Dance Terms Dictionary

A Dictionary of German-English Dance Terms

compiled by Karin Dean-Kraft

Every dancer should have a good grasp of dance terms.  At many Volkstanzabende, a Tanzleiter (dance leader) will first describe the dance with these terms, then have one couple slowly show the dance while he narrates.  After this, the couples join in to the music as it is played at the correct tempo.

Absatz-Spitze- heel-toe step.

Aufstellung- formation. Describes how the partners align to each other.  Zu einander - toward each other.  Gegen einander - away from each other.Hinter einander - behind each other.

        Auseinander- Apart

        Aussenfuss- outside foot; refers to the foot away from your partner.

Boarischer- A dance form done to many different melodies with a number of variations.  Consists of four Wechselschritte followed by four Dreherschritten.  One  way is for the couple to take two Wechelschritte apart (auseinander), beginning on the outside foot; two Wechselschritte back towards each other starting on the inside foot (wieder 'zam), then dancing four Dreherschritte together. The Dreherschritte are done with "Schwung" (lively fashion) --the free leg is bent at the knee and raised slightly, but there is NO hop.  (This dance form is also called a Rheinlnder.)  It can be a couples dance or danced as a foursome ("Kutschenboarischer").

Dreherschritt or Dreher: pivot step (drehen = to turn).

Fassung- hold; how the dancers maintain contact.

Galoppschritt- gallop or fast slide step.  Can be done either sideways or forward.  One foot moves forward, the other closes to the first. Pattern repeats with the same foot leading. Done in an uneven rhythm.  It's a Nachstellschritt done very quickly.  Often ends in a Schlussprung or end spring, where you land on both feet.

Gegentanzrichtung- opposite the line of direction of the dance.  Nearly always clockwise.

Gehschritt- walking steps in time to the music; sometimes called Marschierschritt or marching step.

Hoffassung-- "court" dance position. Sometimes called Rheinländerfassung. Partners stand side by side, boy a little to the left and behind the girl. Boy holds right hand of woman which is slightly bent in his strethed right. She stretches her left arm and holds his bent left hand.  Arms are held at shoulder height.

Hupfschritt - step-hop. Step on one foot, hop on it; step forward on the other foot and hop on it.

Innenfuss- inside foot; refers to the foot closest to your partner.

Landler -a flat-footed walking step done in 3/4 time, steps are of equal length, no step is emphasized.

Kehrtwendung-- step and turn 180 degrees at the same time

Klatschen or paschen- clap hands either together or on thighs or other body part.

Kreis, Kreismitte, Kreisaussen  - circle, middle of circle, away from middle of circle

Kreuzfassung- crossover dance hold or skater's position. Partners stand side by side facing Tanzrichtung joining right hands and left hand.  Right hands over left.

Marschierschritt- marching step, steps in time to the music; also called Gehschritt or walking step.

Mazurkaschritt- Mazurka step. Step forward on one foot, close other foot to first, transfer weight to second and then hop on second foot.  The first foot is slightly bent at the knee and raised off the floor during the hop. The first step forward is done by the couple leaning into the step and bending the leading legs at the knee.  (The step comes from Poland.)

Offene Tanzfassung-- Open dance hold: Girl and Boy hold inside hands, boy with left hand on hip, girl with right hand on hip or sometimes on the small of her back.

Nachstellschritt- Step-close step (-schritt).  Step left, close right foot, transfer weight to right foot.  (Or step right, close left).  Steps always begin with the same foot.  Can be done sideways (most common), forwards, or backwards.

Normale or Gewöhnliche Tanzfassung-- Ballroom dance hold (normal or conventional dance hold "-fassung").  Couple facing each other, girl's right/boy's left held out at a relaxed height, elbows bent.  Boy has right hand on small of girl's back, she has her left hand on his shoulder or upper arm.  The Normale Tanzfassung can begin either with the boy's back to the center of the circle, the girl's back to the center of the circle, or the couple turned slightly to face the line-of-dance (Tanzrichtung) of the dance.

        Rückwärts- backwards

Rundtanz- round dance; refers to the couples dancing a waltz or Landler in between the figure elements of the dance. (In a Schuhplattler, this refers to the Trio or Landler portion of the dance.)

Schritt- step

Tanzrichtung- Line of direction of the dance.  Nearly always counterclockwise.

Tupftritt, Dipfen-- touch-step: tap the toe of the foot one step in front of you and then return the foot to its original position.  Dipfen (verb) mean "to dot."  Kreuztupftritt - swing one leg across the other and tap your toe, then return the foot to its original position.

        Vorwärts- forward

Walzerschritt- waltz step.  Done in 3/4 time.  Not the same as a Landler.

Wechselschritt- Two-step or "changing step": Step forward on one foot, close other foot to it and step forward again on the first foot.  Repeat beginning on the other foot.  (Step left, close right, step left; step right, close left, step right.)  This step can also be done to the side or at an angle; or first in one direction (right) then in the other (left).

Wiederholen or Wiederholung-- to repeat or a repetition

        Wieder 'zam-- wieder zusammen -- come together again

Zwiefacher- A couples dance which alternates between even and uneven rhythms, sometimes at irregular intervals.  The most common form alternates between waltz and Dreher (pivot) steps.  There are many melodies.


SOURCES: Tanz rüber, tanz nüber: Eine Auswahl fränkischer Tänze (published by the Bayerische Landesverein für Heimatpflege);  Chiemgauer Tänze, (published by the Bayerishe Landesverein für Heimatpflege); the Tanzbeschreibungsheft from "Bairische Tanzweisen" by Sigi Ramstötter; Handbuch des Deutschen Volkstanzes by Aenne Goldschmidt; and Karin Gottier's "A Small German-English Glossary of Folk Dance Terms," compiled for The North-American Federation of German Folk Dance Groups.

Compiled in April 1998

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