Often enough, when in a dance class, if the instructor is not used to beginners, he or she will use terms like "chasse" - which is like a gallop, or "ball change". It can become confusing to a beginner to hear, "okay, down 2,3,4, kick your leg, then chasse, back, side, front, ball change!" Listed below is a guide that explains what the most widely used terms mean. The Ballet Dictionary has a comprehensive list of ballet vocabulary. Beginners need not to memorize all the given terms, as the language of ballet is well over 400 years old and the terms are just as extensive.

Ballet Dictionary
Courtesy of the American Ballet Theatre

Basic Jazz Vocabulary

Ball Change

A ball change is a change of weight distribution on the balls of the feet. This is a popular transitory step in many jazz dance routines.


Stolen from ballet, this step resembles a galloping motion, as one foot literally "chases" the other. This is often used in jazz dance terminology to describe a way to travel across the stage, or flow two moves together.


Used in more modern jazz routines, a drop is when a dancer executes a controlled fall from an isolated position.


This jazz dance term is also used in varying styles of dance, used to describe an arm or leg extended outward and held for a determined pause of movement.

Fan Kick

The body stays in place while one leg starts inward and kicks all the way around to its original position. These are often used in kick lines and Broadway-style routines, such as Fosse influenced choreography.

Jazz Walk

Posture is low, and feet slightly drag across the floor in this modified walk used for traveling across the stage. Variations include the jazz run and jazz drag.

Knee Turn

A basic chene turn, only it is executed on one or both knees.


One leg is kicked up in the air, while the torso is leaned back into as dramatic an arch as possible. Head should be dropped back and arms should also be extended backward, almost able to touch the floor.

Pivot Step

One foot steps in front of the other, and then the body pivots around back into the original position.


Following an isolated pose, the body "releases" into a freer form.

Stag Leap

A very high jump, simulating splits in the air, only one leg is bent so the foot is tucked under the knee.

*Contemporary dance style does not have vocabulary of its own; however, it often uses movement from ballet and jazz in its own style.**