Effective learning requires a clearly defined lexicon for communication. The following is a list of terms we commonly use in class.


Beat – Repetitive accent in the music composed of downbeats and upbeats. The metronome for partner dancing.
Downbeat – Strong beat that starts a bar of music and continues on the odd counts: 1, 3, 5, 7. Typically a low frequency note like a bass drum. Strongest on 1 and 5.
Upbeat – Energetic beat that hits on the even counts: 2, 4, 6, 8. Typically a brief high frequency note like a snare drum. Usually more consistent and easier to identify than the downbeat. Clapping or snapping feels natural on the upbeats.
Bar (measure) – 4 beats (down up down up) (Assuming a typical 4/4 time signature).
Music count – Counting music 2 bars (8 beats) at a time: 12345678 12345678 …
Phrase – Unit of musical composition (verse, chorus, etc.). Typically 32 beats long [4 sets of 8]. Exceptions exist, such as “12-bar blues” which uses 48 beat phrases [6 sets of 8].

Break – A musical accent created by removing or softening the beat and then reintroducing it with emphasis.
Phrase change – Ending of one phrase and beginning of another. Typically the strongest breaks in a song.


Leader – Person who decides on and initiates the next movement or pattern in a dance.
Follower – Person who responds to the movement initiated by the leader.
Step – Transfer of weight from one foot to another.
Pattern count – Count indicating when dancers should step during a movement or pattern.
Double – 2 steps in 2 beats (down up). Counted as “12”, “Walk Walk”, or “Slow Slow”.
Triple – 3 steps in 2 beats (down up). Counted as “1&2”, “Tri-ple Step”, or “Quick Quick Slow”.
Off-phrase dance – A dance where the pattern count is not always perfectly aligned to the music count (e.g. West Coast Swing).
Open – Dance position in which dancers are connected by one or both hands at a distance.
Closed – Dance position in which dancers are primarily connected through backward pressure of the follower’s left shoulder blade against the leader’s right hand.
Close Embrace – Hug-like dance position where dancers are primarily connected by forward pressure of their torsos. The torsos are offset so the follower’s center presses against the leader’s right ‘suspender’, and the leader’s right arm wraps lightly around the follower’s back. Used in Blues, Argentine Tango, etc..
Hammerlock – When a person’s arm is bent behind their back.
Tuck – A change in the follower’s direction of rotation.

Directions of Rotation

CW – Clockwise (when viewed from above); rotation to one’s right.
CCW – Counter-clockwise (when viewed from above); rotation to one’s left.

West Coast Swing

Anchor – The re-establishing of connection that signals the end of one pattern and the beginning of the next.
Slot – The imaginary line / area along which the follower moves until reaching the anchor.
Push – Follower stays in front of the leader, staying on the same end of the slot. Counted 12 3&4 5&6, or Walk Walk, Tri-ple Step, Tri-ple Step.
Pass – Follower passes the leader once, ending on the other end of the slot. Counted 12 3&4 5&6, or Walk Walk, Tri-ple Step, Tri-ple Step.
Whip – Follower passes the leader twice, ending on the end of the slot they started. Counted 12 3&4 56 7&8, or Walk Walk, Tri-ple Step, Walk Walk, Tri-ple Step.

Pass Patterns

On the Leader’s Left side

Left Side Pass – Follower turns 0.5 CCW with the arms kept low.
  Variation: Send Out (Throw Out) – Left Side Pass from closed to open
Passing Tuck (Tuck) – Follower turns 0.5 CW under the arms.
  Variation: Tuck Out – Passing Tuck from closed to open
Inside Roll (Inside Turn) – Follower turns 1.5 CCW under the arms.
  Variation: Free Spin – Inside roll while disconnected.
Roll In Roll Out – Follower turns 1.0 CCW and then 0.5 CW.
  Variation: Fold – Roll In Roll Out using a hammerlock

On the Leader’s Right side

Underarm Pass (Underarm Turn) – Follower turns 0.5 CCW while passing under the arms.
Freedom Pass (Fake Reverse Whip) – Follower turns 0.5 CCW while disconnected.
Fake Whip – Follower turns 0.5 CW with the arms kept low.
Dallas Tuck (Texas Turn) – Follower turns 1.5 CCW under the arms.
Outside Roll (Double Outside Turn) – Follower turns 2.5 CCW under the arms.

Push Patterns

Push Break (Sugar Push) – Follower compresses 3& and is redirected back on 4, no turning.
Push Tuck (Sugar Tuck, Lazy Man Tuck) – Follower turns 1.0 CW under the arms after tucking on 3&.
Push Roll / Push Turn – Follower turns 1.0 CCW. Can be lead like an Inside Roll with less rotation or an Underarm Pass with more rotation.

Whip Patterns

Entrances (4 beats)
Basic Whip – Follower turns 0.5 CW
  Variation: Open Whip (Hustle Whip, Crossbow Whip) – Follower turns 0.5 CW in open
  Variation: Blind Man’s Whip (Back Whip) – Leader turns 0.25 CCW into a hammerlock
Reverse Whip – Follower turns 0.5 CCW. Can be like a Freedom Pass or Underarm Pass.
  Variation: Reverse Open Whip – Follower turns 0.5 CCW in open
Basket Whip – No Turning for the Follower

Exits (4 beats, 2 beats for turning basic)
Turning Basic – Follower turns 0.5 CW
Basic Whip – Follower turns 0.5 CW
Inside Turn – Follower turns 0.5 CCW
Outside Turn – Follower turns 1.5 CW
  Variation: Outside Release – Disconnected Outside Turn
  Variation: Apache – Outside Turn from Follower’s right hammerlock
Double Outside Turn – Follower turns 2.5 CW

Other Common Patterns

Starter Step – Two triples in closed to establish a connection at the start of a dance. First triple travels to leader’s left, follower’s right. Second triple anchors the follower’s left shoulder backward, loading the connection to the leader’s right hand.
Slingshot – Follower is stopped facing perpendicular to the slot on the leader’s left side.
Hip Catch – Follower is stopped facing perpendicular to the slot on the leader’s right side.
One-Footed Spins (Attitude Spins, Finger Spins) – Follower stops travelling and spins in place on one foot.

Intermediate Concepts

Elasticity – Providing a slight stretch before count 1 to increase momentum and reduce the energy needed to lead counts 1 and 2.
Rolling Count – Adding extra syllables to the pattern count to encourage smooth movement, such as elasticity and rolling of the feet.
Lead Projection – Indicating the next pattern through alignment during the anchor of the previous pattern.
Extension – Extending a pattern by an even number of extra beats. Used to stylize, play, travel to a new spot on the floor, or recover connection after a mistake.
Level Change
Drifting the anchor

Advanced Concepts

Under/Over-rotation – Starting or ending patterns in an over or under rotated position.
Footwork Variation / Syncopation – Altering the footwork and rhythm of a pattern while maintaining the same partner connection.
Invitational Lead – Lightening of the lead to invite the follower to extend, stylize, or alter the pattern.
Compaction – Stringing two patterns together by removing the first two walks of the second pattern. Often done with a Rock & Go or by catching the follower in an over-rotated position (hip catch, arm catch).
Rock & Go – Compaction in which the follower does a rock step on 5& and a forward step on 6 (assuming 5&6 are the anchor counts). The forward step on 6 becomes the 2 of the next pattern. Counted “5&2”, or “Rock&Go”.
Double Resistance – Anchor that uses leverage, compression, leverage on 5 6 1 (assuming 5&6 are the anchor counts).
Scrolling – When the leader travels instead of the follower to move the partnership to a new location (e.g. Leader’s roll out starting on 4)
Bending – Changing the positions of dancers in a pattern (relative to the slot) to create a different pattern.
Triplet Timing – Delaying the “&” weight transfer in a triple to match swung or triplet music.
Pulsing – Emphasizing every up beat in a consistent way, such as using staccato movement or repeated body isolations.
Constant Connection
Acceleration – Increasing of energy to speed up parts of a pattern.
Deceleration – Slowing parts of a pattern, often preceded by an accelerated movement for contrast.