Beginner's Information


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Tips For Beginner Dancers








Some suggestions for helping you learn!
Courtesy of Paula Messier

1. Ask questions! Ask for a step or sequence to be repeated if you don’t get it. Don't be embarrassed by asking. Others probably need the same help and may just be too self conscious to ask! Instructors want to help, but we can’t if we don’t know you’re having a problem. The speed and detail in which we may be teaching at any class varies depending on the level of the majority of the people on the floor at that time. Always try to come to an appropriate level class.

2. Be patient! You would be one in a million if you walked onto the dance floor for the first time & could instantly do it perfectly. Take home step sheets, if offered, or obtain copies from any of the listed links on my line dance pages. Practice the dances if you really want to get into this type of dancing fully. At least walk them at home even if you don't have the music. Repetition helps. No one is perfect. Just think of those little "errors" as new variations. Don’t give up!

3. Come often to classes! If you really want to become proficient, come on a regular basis. If you can find a class or a place to dance, try twice a week. Use what you want to learn.

4. Take the alternatives! If you're new to this sport, and it is a sport, I, like most instructors will give easy alternatives for the more intricate steps. Take them. Add the original steps back in when you’re more comfortable with the dance. Keep your steps small. You will be able to maintain your balance better & be able to "fix" your problems more easily. Keep your knees "soft" (don't lock the knees).You will be able to make transitions more quickly.

5. Turn technique! Learn good turn technique. It's really a must. We do so much in line and couple dancing. Turning takes practice. Sorry. There's no easy way to learn except "do it".Practice all the many kinds of turns, progressive (such as pivots ""term for couples turn", spirals, chaine') and stationary (chase "aka pivot to line dancers", paddle, etc).

6. Learn terminology! It will seem like a foreign language at first. And of course there is that pesky lag time between when you hear the words and the meaning gets to yor feet. And then you still need to actually "move your feet". Dont' worry, it will come come. Be patient. See "Basic Steps" tab on this website.

7. Music variety! Line dancing is no longer just "country". It's done to all kinds of music from pop to Latin, to rock, to rock n' roll, gospel, you name it there's probably a line dance to it. If you don’t like the song that's on right now, then wait 3 or 4 minutes and I’ll bet you will like the next one. It depends on where you dance as to what the mix will be. My classes are generally quite a variety!!

8. Dance floor etiquette! Dance floor etiquette! Rules will change somewhat from place to place so be sure to check out where you dance for the specific ones you need to know. These are “general” and a good starting place. The goal is to safely & efficiently use all the space available to the best advantage. Everyone is there to have a good time and wants to be safe. Think of the floor as to having lanes on the outside edge all the way around (like a horse track). The outside lane (closest to the rail) is the fast lane. Most experienced couple dancers will be dancing here. The inner lane is the slower lane (less experienced, partner dances, etc). You will be tempted, as a newcomer to couple dancing, to want to stay as close to the “exit” as possible. You may get run over that way! Stay to the inner lane and if you need to stop altogether then move to the center of the floor. These lanes travel in counter clockwise direction. Do not travel in a clockwise direction. This is the line of dance (CCW). Stationary dances and line dances are usually done in the center of the floor. Some clubs call out what dance you should be doing. Line dancers please do not extend your lines into those outside lines as some couple may be doing a progressive couple dance (such as two step) to a line dance song (music is music). Couple dancers, do not cut corners as many of the stationary dances and line will be traveling back & forth and while not in one spot for the moment will be back in a moment. Dances travel!! Pay attention is a new place as to the direction that a line dance is started. Different clubs, different directions. Please remember when people are turning it is much harder to watch for other dancers. Defensive dancing is important in crowded situations to avoid any injuries. Do not stand on the dance floor to hold conversations. Do not bring food or drinks onto the dance floor. If you bump into other dancers, no matter who is at fault, apologize quickly. Be careful. No one is perfect.

Courtesy of Paula Messier


Below please find some definitions of basic line dance terms. These are terms that are used frequently in our beginner line dances. These step descriptions are compiled from various sources. There is “no one set” of line dance “official” terms. And I am certainly, not even remotely, trying to do that. But what I would like to do is give the beginners, where I teach, some of the terms I will be using as cues for our dances and how I use them. We want you to have fun and learn as quickly as possible and understanding certain basic steps is a big part of learning.

Basic Steps


AND Example: & 1 or 1&
Half of a quick count. Used to denote a ½ beat of music.
BALL CHANGE Quick change of wt. from the ball of one ft. to the opposite 
BPM Beats Per Minute
BRIDGE (tag) An extra set of steps not part of the main dance that are inserted into one or more parts of the dance to make it fit the music.
BRUSH The ball of the designated foot lightly "brushes" the floor as it swings either forward or back (no wt. change).
(pronounced shah-say)
A 3 step pattern. Step to the side on first beat, bring other foot over to meet that one (together step/w/wt. change), then step side again on next count. Side, together, side. Can be right or left. aka side shuffle.
: step side right w/R ft, step together w/L, step side R w/R again. Usually counted as 1 & 2.
COASTER (BACK) Video Example: right back coaster – back w/R ft, together with L, forward w/R.
Three steps, usually syncopated, stepping back, together, forward. Usual counts are 1&2
COASTER (FORWARD) Video Example: left forward coaster – forward with/L ft., together with R, back w/L.
Three steps, usually syncopated, stepping forward, together, forward. Usual counts are 1&2
COUNT Example: 32 ct. dance.
A dance will state it has a number of counts in it. This is the number of beats of music it will take to complete one repetition or sequence of the dance. Important: Remember the number of steps may not be equal to the number of beats.
CROSSING SHUFFLE Video Example: R crossing shuffle: cross R over L, small R side step, cross R over L. Usual counts are 1&2If it is a R crossing shuffle your body will be facing slightly diagonal left.
R crossing shuffles move to L. L crossing shuffles move to R. Crossing one foot in front of the other on 1st count, then taking a small side step w/the other (keep this one slightly back) on the & count, then cross once again in front on ct. 2. Body will be at a slight diagonal during this.
FOOT POSITIONS Video There are 5. (1) Feet together (2) Feet parallel, hip width apart (3) Heel to instep. Can be extended. (4) Forward or back (in the tracks) (5) Toe to heel.
Can be extended.
GRAPEVINE (aka Vine) Video Example: R vine – step side R, then cross L behind, then step side R.
A continuous traveling step pattern to the side with crosses behind or in front. Vines can also have a turn variation in them, usually turning ¼, ½ or even ¾ on the 3rd count.
(aka Rolling Vine)
We also have “rolling vines” where the 3 steps will equal a full 360 degrees (or some portion thereof). Example: R rolling vine – turn ¼ over R shoulder step fwd. w/R ft, continue over R shoulder turning ½ & stepping back w/L, then finish by turning ¼ more over R shoulder to face original wall and step side R.
HITCH Lift knee up w/wt. on opposite leg.
HOLD To do no movement for a set number of beats.
JAZZ BOX (aka Jazz Square)
Example: (a.) step fwd w/R, cross L over R, step back w/R, step side L. (b) cross R over L, step back w/L, step side R, step fwd. w/L.
A dance pattern consisting of 4 weight changes. It may start with a forward step or a cross step. When the 4th step is a together step it should correctly be called a jazz triangle, BUT you will very seldom see that done. It is usually still called and written as a jazz square or box.
KICK BALL CHANGE Video Example: R kick ball change is done by kicking fwd. w/R ft, bring ball of R ft back to center, then change weight immediately to L ft.
Counted 1 & 2, 3 steps to 2 beats of music) Can be either R or L
KICK BALL CROSS Video Kick your lead ft. fwd (sometimes will be angled, check step sheets), return lead ft. to center & slightly back, cross other ft. in front of your lead ft. Usually syncopated.
: Kick R ft. fwd. on count 1, bring back to center (slightly back of center) on "&" count, then cross L in front of R (wt. ends on L).
LOCK Video A tight cross of the feet
LUNGE Video Transferring of wt. to a bent leg w/ free leg extended. Can be fwd, diagonal or side.
MONTEREY TURN Video May have a variety of degree of turn (1/2, 1/4, 3/4 or even full 360). Touch toe out to side on count 1, turn whatever amount on the ball of the weighted foot bringing the "side touch toe" in to center & changing weight to it on count 2, touch other toe to side on count 3, then step the touching foot at center next to the weighted foot on count 4.
Example: Right monterey turn (1/2) - Touch R toe to R side on count 1, turn 1/2 turn over R shoulder bringing R ft. next to left on count 2, touch L toe to L side on count 3 and bring L ft. in to center and step on it on count 4 (wt ends on L).
PIVOT (Turn) Video Example: a ½ pivot turn is a step fwd w/R, turn ½ or 180degrees over L shoulder, and change weight to L foot. Turns can be various amounts such as 1/8, ¼, ½, etc.
A term that causes much debate. A true pivot turn is a traveling turn executed with the thighs locked & the feet apart in 5th position. This type of turn is used in “couple dancing” particularly common in two step. BUT in line dancing it is a term used when you step forward w/one ft., turning (amt. of turn may vary), and then changing wt. to the other ft If you were to step fwd w/L you would be turning over the R shoulder. It’s not necessary to determine what is the way it “should be” only know thats the way “it is in line dancing at this time”.
RESTART While in general denotes just to begin the main dance again, it will be noted occasionally on some dances that you will be restarting the dance again after only doing a portion of it. Again used to make the dance fit the music.
ROCK STEPS Video Example: R fwd rock – step fwd with R, then rock back onto L recovering your weight.
Two weight changes in opposite directions using 2 beats of music. Fwd and back rock steps are done in 5th foot position, side rock steps in second position.
SAILOR SHUFFLE Video Example: R sailor shuffle – place R ft behind L, step side L, then step side R recovering your weight. Your cts. would be 1 & 2.
Can be either R or L. Cross ft. behind, step side with the other, and side w/original ft. This dance pattern is accomplished by leaning in the opposite direction of the back crossing foot.
SHUFFLE Video Example: step side R, together w/L, step side R A triple step.
Side shuffles are executed by stepping to the side, bring the other ft. next to it, & stepping to the side again. Fwd or Back shuffles: Fwd/Back, together (either in 1st or 3rd ft. positions), fwd/back.)
STEP A weight change to that foot
STRUTS Video Can be toe/heel.  Example: Touch toe to floor on count 1, then drop the heel on count 2 taking weight to that foot. Can be heel/toe: Touch heel of foot to floor on 1st ct. then drop toe on 2nd. Can move fwd, back, to the side, diagonal, & crossing.
SWITCHES Video Touching one ft. out, returning it to center transferring weight, then extending opposite out. Can be toes, heels, forward, side, etc.
Example: side switches - touch R toe to R side, bring back to center and change wt. to R, touch L toe to L side, usually bringing L back in to center (but will depend on specific dance. Check your step sheet) Syncopated cts 1 & 2 &.
TAP (aka Touch) The toe or heel of the foot touches or taps the floor w/no weight change.
TOGETHER To bring the one foot next to the other, w/ wt. change
WEAVE Video Example: step side R, cross L in frt., step side R, cross L behind
Alternating crossing behind and in front. Can start w/side step, or cross in front, or cross behind. You will find them in various numbers, 4, 6, 8,etc.
* Remember I am not a dictionary, another instructor’s beginner terms list may be different, they may use the terms a little differently than I do. This list hopefully though will help those of you in my classes to understand how to do these steps.
If you have any questions, please feel free to email me or see me at class. Please do not quote me to your instructors and say “Paula said this was the way to do it”. I wish there was a set of official terms too, but until there is, each of us will just continue to do the best we can, interpreting all the step sheets to the best of our ability. This list will help you get through my classes.
~ Paula Messier