Line Dance Steps

Line dances are usually phrased as either an 8-beat dance or a 6-beat dance, the latter being known as waltzes. You should not confuse a line dance "waltz" with a ballroom waltz - whilst some line dance waltzes are very similar to ballroom waltzes (especially when done as a partnered dance), other's are anything but. Strictly speaking, it is the song that is phrased in either 6 or 8 beat and this phrasing is imposed on the dance, but since this is written for line dancers, not musicians, I'll not worry about the distinction.

Whether a line dance is a 6-beat or an 8-beat phrased dance, it can be broken up into blocks or 6 or 8 counts - something that is immediately obvious when you look at a dance sheet (there are exceptions, but that's the choreographer playing games). A beginner dance is usually 32 counts long (for an 8-beat phrased dance) or 4 lots of 8 counts. Most waltzes are 48 counts, beginner or not.   

Whether a line dance is a 6-beat or an 8-beat phrased dance, it can be broken up into blocks or 6 or 8 counts - something that is immediately obvious when you look at a dance sheet (there are exceptions, but that's the choreographer playing games). A beginner dance is usually 32 counts long (for an 8-beat phrased dance) or 4 lots of 8 counts. Most waltzes are 48 counts, beginner or not.   

Heel Dig

As simple as digging one heel into the ground, this can be performed with an accent by bending the supporting leg. A further accent/variation is to hop out of the step instead of simply stepping back onto your foot.

Double Heel Dig

For faster dances, sometimes a double heel dig is called for; where you, with your weight firmly planted on your left leg, quickly dig your right heel into the ground twice, usually to the front and slightly to the side.

Grapevine (or Vine)

Travelling to the right or the left side, this step is performed (to the right), as follows:

1. Right foot steps to the right.

2. Left foot crosses behind the right one.

3. Right foot steps to the right.

4. Left foot closes to the left side of the right foot.

Grapevine Variations: As you become more advanced, vary the fourth step of the grapevine by replacing it with a heel dig or by scuffing the bottom of your boot against the floor and bringing your left foot back up into the air.

Weave

Combining the grapevine with a cross in front as well as a cross behind, this move will let the dancer travel in zigzag on the floor. One complete cycle looks like this:

1. Step your right foot to the right.

2. Cross your left foot behind your right foot.

3. Step your right foot to the right.

4. Cross your left foot in front of your right foot.

5. Repeat steps 1-4 as many times as you want. To end the weave, do steps 3 and 4 of the grapevine step to complete the weave.

Jazz Square or Jazz Box

You may know this step from jazz class. It can be performed to the right or the left, it's often performed twice in a row in the same direction.

1. Step your right foot across your left foot.

2. Step your left foot back and to the side.

3. Step to the right side with your right foot.

4. Close your left foot to the left side of your right foot.

Triple Step

This is three steps in a musical triplet during two beats of music travelling in any direction. Similar to a Step-Ball-Change in tap dancing, this step involves the following three steps (or opposite if starting with the left foot instead of the right):

1. Step onto your right foot.

2. Step onto the ball of your left foot, placing your weight on the foot

3. Step quickly onto the right foot without having lingered on the left. The weight transfer to your left foot should only have been deep enough to free you to pick up your right foot and step onto it.

Charleston

While it's not always called the Charleston, this step is frequently used in country line dancing (it probably will be called 'step-tap, step-tap' by the caller):

1. Step forward onto your right foot.

2. Step your left foot forward, in front of your right foot, but don't put your weight on it.

3. Step backwards onto your left foot.

4. Tap your right foot behind your left one then repeat.

Kick-Ball-Change

A favorite in cowboy boots, this step is easy to perform but looks difficult because it is executed quickly:

1. With your weight firmly on your left foot, kick your right foot in front of you, leading with the heel.

2. Step your right foot behind you, but only put your weight on the ball of your foot in order to quickly again transfer your weight in step three.

3. Step hard (loudly) onto your left foot.

Ball Change       

Step onto the ball of one foot (on & count), step and/or change weight onto the other foot. (Often accompanied by a previous step, e.g. kick-ball-change)

Bump         

Bump hips to the side. Bumps (or hip bumps) may be done to the beat or they may be syncopated.

Cha Cha

Three steps in place, done to two beats of the music. (Similar to a shuffle, however it is done on the spot)

Close    

Step together (i.e. "Close right" means step right foot beside the left)

Coaster Step

Step the designated foot back, step the other foot beside the first (on &), step the designated foot forward. A coaster may be done forward, in which case it is called a "forward coaster". Unless specified, a coaster is always "back".

Diagonal      

45 degrees out from the centre of the Line of Dance (direction).

Fan      

Toe-fan: with feet together, turn toes of nominated foot out 90 degrees (pivoting on the heel) & return. 

Heel-fan

Same thing but the heel swings out, pivoting on the ball of the foot.

Heel Splits        

With weight on both toes & feet together, turn both heels out to opposite sides, then back again. (Also known as Buttermilk)

Heel Strut   

Step heel of foot forward, drop toes to the floor. (Known as a strut or a heel-toe strut).

Toe Strut    

Step toe forward, drop heel to the floor. Also known as a strut or a toe-heel strut.

Hitch              

Hitch the knee up with weight on opposite foot.

Hold

Hold your position for the specified counts of music before taking another step. (This is actually one of the hardest "steps" since you have to remember to do nothing).

Lock-step         

The designated foot crossed closely in front or behind the other foot. (Often done as part of a step sequence, e.g. a lock-shuffle, a lock-vine or a "step, lock").

Monterey Turn   

Unless specified a Monterey turn is always a 1/2 turn. It may be 1/4, 3/4 or full. The following is for a right-Monterey turn - reverse directions for a left. Touch toes of right foot to the right side, keeping weight on the left foot (count 1). Turn 1/2 turn right and step right foot next to left taking the weight onto right foot (count 2). Touch left toes to left side (count 3). Step left foot beside right with weight on the left foot (count 4). This is not really a beginner step, however quite a few "beginner" dances have Monterey Turns.

Over        

Crossing one foot over the other. 

Pivot Turn

A simple turn, a pivot is a half turn. Dances often use two pivot turns in a row in order to complete a full 360 degree rotation:

1. Step forward onto your right foot, but keep the weight centered on the ball of your foot.

2. with your weight evenly distributed between both feet, turn your body a half turn to the left, ending up with your left foot in front.

Rock     

Change weight from one foot to the other without changing position. This is done with the knees slightly bent.

Rock Step/Rock Replace/ Rock Recover        

This is one of the most miss-used steps in the line dance lexicography. Technically, you rock onto the designated foot (either forward, backwards, to the side or crossing) and then step onto the other foot, transferring weight. Your position changes only on the "step" part. In practice, most choreographers, instructors and dancers actually do a "step/rock, rock" - stepping forward, back etc with the designated foot using a rocking-like motion and then rocking back onto the other foot (this foot doesn't move). Because of this confusion, the most correct description of what's actually done would be "Rock/step, replace", however it's usually (and incorrectly) known as a "rock step". 

Scoot         

Slide/hop the weighted foot forward, backward or sideways whilst the other foot is hitched.

Scuff   

Move the specified foot by gently sliding the ball of the foot across the floor.

Shuffle 

Three steps in any direction done to two beats of the music. Step the designated foot in the designated direction, step the other foot beside the first (on the and count) and then step the first foot in the same direction again. E.g. a "shuffle forward" would be - step one foot forward, step the other foot beside the first, step the first foot forward again. (Also known as a Chassé when done to the side).

Slide    

With the weight on one foot, drag or slide the other foot up to the weighted foot. Usually done to either 1 or 2 beats.

Toe Strut    

Step toe forward, drop heel to the floor. Also known as a strut or a toe-heel strut.

Waltz        

Step the nominated foot forward or back, step the other foot together, step the nominated foot in place.

Cross Unwind

The cross or unwind is where one foot crosses over the other and then, while on the balls of your feet, you make a half turn so your legs are uncrossed.

Hook

The hook is where you raise one leg and cross it over the other leg just below the knee.

Splits and twists

The heel split is when you put your weight on your toes and spread your heels out and back. Do the opposite for a toe split. Heel twists are similar to heel splits in that your weight is put on your toes, but instead of just spreading your heels, you twist your heels while keeping your toes in one place.

Pivot

The pivot is where you put one foot forward and pivot and on the ball of the other foot. If you put your left foot forward, pivot to the right. If you put your right foot forward, pivot to the left.

Stomp and Strut

The stomp is self-explanatory - it's where the foot is put on the floor with force. But there's also a heel stomp where your weight is on the heel when placed on the floor. There are two types of struts: the heel toe and toe heel. The heel toe strut is where the heel is placed down first, followed by the toe. The toe heel is just the opposite.

There are, of course, many more terms used in line dancing.