Facts & Terms

Dance facts and terminology that every parent and dancer should know:

What is Marley?
Marley is a special slip-resistant and smooth floor that is designed especially for dancing. It feels a little more like rubber, which makes it perfect for slippery shoes like point shoes, but it is actually a heavy duty, slip resistant vinyl.

Why do dancers say, “break a leg” before a performance? 
Well dancers are often a very superstitious performer. Many dancers even create their own rituals, ceremonies and good luck sayings before performances. Dancers believe that wishing each other “good luck”  is actually extremely bad luck. There are varying theories as to why this tradition began, but the one that is most widely accepted in the theater world comes all the way from the Shakespearean era.  Apparently, if audiences enjoyed a wonderful performance they would tip the actors by throwing money onto the stage.  So the actors would hope to kneel down and “break their leg” to pick up their tips.  Hence why they would wish each other a successful performance with “break a leg!” What ever you do,  don’t say, “Good Luck!”

What is spacing or blocking?  
When a teacher spaces or blocks a dance this means that they are assigning dancers a specific spot on the stage or their performance space.  They will often talk about the relationship of the dancers to each other, the set, wings, stage etc…

Visual Guide to Stage Directions

Stage directions and terminology?
The stage is divided into Stage Right, Stage Left, Downstage and Upstage and are from the performers perspective.  Stage Right will be the dancers right side and therefore the left is the dancers left side.  Downstage refers to the area of the stage closest to the audience and therefore Upstage is towards the back of the stage farthest from the audience.  This terminology came from older theaters which often had a raked stage. These stages gave the audience a better view by inclining the stage.  Which meant it sloped downwards and therefore the actors were at a higher elevation upstage.

What is rosin?
Rosin is commonly used by dancers, especially ballet dancers on pointe, to reduce slippage on clean wooden dance floors or stages.  “Rosin, also called colophony or Greek pitch (Pix græca), is a solid form of resin obtained from pines and some other plants, mostly conifers, produced by heating fresh liquid resin to vaporize the volatile liquid terpene components. It is semi-transparent and varies in color from yellow to black. At room temperature rosin is brittle, but it melts at stove-top temperatures” according to its Wikipedia page. Dancers use the room temperature form.  It comes in the shape of “rocks” and dancers then crush it, typically with the foot or shoe to create a powder.  You might see a little box in the corner of the classroom, or more typically in the back of the classroom, with a powder substance inside.  Dancers are usually dipping their shoes in there regularly.  You can usually purchase it anywhere that dance shoes are sold.

In reference to the dance that is! A very crucial and long process that dancers go through before performing a dance on stage.  It is called cleaning the dance.  The teacher, choreographer, coach or lead dancer will break down all the details of the dance slowing to make sure that each dancer had the correct details in place.  They will go over counts, directions, arm motions, head placement, quality of movement, patterns etc..  All in an effort to help the performance look seamless and synchronized as well as to help the performers confidence.  

Here is an example of an extremely “clean” dance.


What is a Leo?
Ballet slang, short for the word Leotard.

What is the Green Room?
This refers to the room closed to the stage where the dancers will meet right before they go onstage.

This is referring to a negative action of your feet. Check out this blog that explains Sickling in detail!

PDC 2010, © Contemporary Images

Example of Light Projection on a Cyc
PDC 2010, © Contemporary Images

What is a Cyc?
This is a term that is used commonly when you are getting ready for a performance in a theatre. Short for the term Cyclorama, it is pronounced “sike”. The Cyclorama is a large cloth wall the fills the rear of the stage or TV studio. It is typically used to create colored backgrounds or shapes by projecting light onto it.  These special thick fabric screens can be ridiculously expensive therefore, you will often hear your dance directors or stage professionals instructing you to be very careful and/or stay far away from the Cyc.

AD, SM, and ASM?
AD is short for Artistic Director, SM is short for Stage Manager and ASM is short for the Assistant Stage Manager.

Do you know? Fun Dance Trivia!
Six Artists have won the “Best Choreography in a Video” Award for choreographing or co-choreographing their own videos, who are they?
The MTV Video Music Award for Best Dance Video was first awarded in 1989, to whom?
Who was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2004 for her contribution to dance?
Who is considered the Father of Jazz Dance Technique?
The very first U.S. copyright ever granted to a recorded dance composition was for which score?


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