Say What? (Guide to Ballroom Speak)

Ballroom has its own language, just like any art or sport.  I’ve put together explanations of some of the most common terms or phrases you might hear at a competition or your studio or read in my blog articles. I will continue to update this page as I think of more terms or someone makes a request.

CBM/CBMP – Contra Body Movement/Contra Body Movement Position, refers to dance technique in which different parts of the body are postioned or moving contra to each other. Example: Your right side leads while you move your left foot forward.

Comp – simply short for competition

Heat – a numbered event at competition, the method by which the comp is organized. Entries, such as a single dance of pre-bronze rumba, are assigned heat numbers. You have to listen for the heat numbers to be announced to keep track of when you should be dancing at a comp.

Latin – an international style of ballroom that includes rumba, cha cha, jive, samba, and paso doble

On-deck area – corner of the ballroom at competition where competitors gather just before they go onto the floor to dance

Pro-am – short for professional-amateur.  See What is Pro-am?

Rhythm – the American counterpart to latin, includes rumba, cha cha, east coast swing, bolero, and mambo

Round(s) – general term for all dances in one style.  If your teacher wants to do rounds during a lesson, it means you’re going to go through your routines of each dance in the style you’re working on, one after another, just like you would at a competition.

Scholarship – an entry at competition that includes multiple dances, usually with a cash prize to at least the top three dancers.  For example, when I compete in a smooth scholarship, I dance waltz, tango and foxtrot, and I get one placement based on the results of all three dances.

Showcase – general term for dance performance. Among the independent studios that I’ve been involved in, showcases are basically dance recitals. You and a partner have a choreographed routine to a song of your choosing and you perform it on stage in front of an audience.  No judging or competition, just performance.  I have also heard the term used in reference to competitive events through franchised studios.

Single dance – an entry at competition that includes only one dance.  Each dance is judged separately, so if you danced a round, you could place differently in each dance.

Smooth – the American counterpart to standard, includes waltz, tango, foxtrot, and Viennese waltz

Standard – also known as international ballroom, this style includes waltz, tango, foxtrot, Viennese waltz, and Quickstep

Team match – a mini competition usually involving two or more dance studios. It typically takes place at one of the participating studios. You receive critiques from the judges instead of placements.

Top teacher/student – an award given to a teacher or student at a competition who scored the most points.  Points are given for the number of entries you (or your stdents) have and how well you (or your students) place in those entries. Similar awards are given for the top studio.


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