and Step Definition
In order to notate the many Israeli folk dances, it is helpful
to define some abbreviations and basic terms used to describe the
steps in a dance When describing the basic steps, it is assumed
that the starting position is standing with both feet together unless
There are 2 basic types of action – weight transfer, such
as walking and non-weight transfer such as touching or kicking.
The action is usually described for a particular foot, but the
other foot can also be used. In a sequence of steps, it is usually
obvious which foot to use next as if you start with the right, the
next action is usually with the left if both actions involve a weight
transfer, such as walking. However, if you touch or sweep or perform
some other action which does not involve weight transfer, the next
action or step is usually with the same foot, for example, sweep,
step would both be performed using the same foot.
Most Israeli dances are performed in a circle. There are exceptions,
such as the line dances, but it is convenient to describe the steps
in relation to the circle (see i, o,
a and c abbreviations).
Israeli folk dances can be broadly broken down into 3 categories.
Circle (C), Partner (P) and Line (L). Partner dances have a number
of steps which do not appear in Circle or Line dances and so when
describing these steps, a (P) appears next to the step name.
I have tried to keep abbreviations to a minimum and so the following
are the only ones used. When used in a description of steps, these
abbreviations will be in bold type.
|| in – moving or facing into the centre of the circle.
||out – moving or facing out from the centre of the circle.
||anticlockwise – this is the most common direction to start
a dance, that is, facing and initially moving anticlockwise (if standing
facing the centre, anticlockwise is to your right).
||clockwise (if standing facing the centre, clockwise is to your left).
|| forward or in front. The distinction between forward and in front
is usually obvious in the context in which this is used, for example,
cross f means cross in front of the other foot. whereas
walk f means walk forward.
||back or behind.
||If we start with the r foot, take a step forward
with the r foot and transfer your weight to this
foot. When you walk, you normally start to move the other leg after
the first has taken the step, ready to take another walking step.
You typically only walk forward or back (not sideways where the step
is described as open/close).
||Taking a step is the same as the first movement of a walk but there
is an implication that the other foot does not move. You still transfer
your weight to the foot you took the step with but leave the other
foot in its starting position. This is typically used to describe
the first action of a rocking motion, for example, step f,
rock b, etc.
||If we start with the r foot, move the r
foot sideways to the r and transfer weight to that
||If we are using the l foot, with feet initially
apart, bring the l foot next to the r
and transfer weight to that foot. If we close with a touch, we don't
transfer weight to that foot.
||With both feet apart (about shoulder width), transfer weight from
one foot to the other without moving the relative position of the
feet. Usually 1 beat per balance. If the feet are not apart just prior
to starting this step, the first balance is like an open to get into
the starting position.
||This is like a balance, balance but the body sways from side to
side as you transfer weight from one foot to the other with a pause
between each sway. This is often done with 2 beats per sway and a
hand clap on the pause beats. It can also be described as balance,
pause, balance, pause. Hands sway overhead in same direction as the
weight transfer of the feet.
||The rock is just a transfer of weight from one foot to the other
without moving the relative position of the feet. With r
foot in front of the l, starting with weight on l
foot, rock your body forward transferring weight onto the r
foot. During this action, the relative position of the feet does not
change. We can rock forward or back and start with either foot. We
normally start a rock with a step forward without moving the position
of the other foot and then a rock back onto the other foot. We can
then continue alternately rocking back and forward (without moving
the relative position of the feet) or perform other actions –
see Cherkessia. Sometimes, stepping forward and rocking back is described
as Rock And. I prefer to write step f,
||If we start with the r foot, the normal action
is: r step forward, l rock back,
r step back, l rock forward. Note
that the l foot (in this example) stays in the same
position throughout this action. There are 4 weight transfer steps
with 1 step per beat. Other variations are starting with the l
foot: l step forward, r rock back,
l step back, r rock forward. Or
starting with a step back (r in this example): r
step back, l rock forward, r step
forward, l rock back – this would be called
a back Cherkessia.
||There are several variations of this step. Note that a grapevine
is usually done in groups of 4 steps, with 1 step per beat. The movement
is to the side. The usual step is a crossing grapevine.
Crossing grapevine l: r cross in
front, l open, r cross behind, l
Open grapevine l: l open, r
cross in front, l open, r cross
Crossing grapevine r: l cross in
front, r open, l cross behind, r
Open grapevine r: r open, l
cross in front, r open, l cross
The crossing grapevine is the default step and so is normally referred
to as a grapevine (leaving the crossing qualifier out). Given
the direction you are moving and the starting foot, you can work out
which type of grapevine should be done. Sometimes a grapevine sequence
is started while facing in the direction of travel (typically the
circle line). In this case, the first 2 steps are like walking steps
and you pivot to face i on the last 2 steps to complete
|Step behind step in front
||This is like a grapevine except the second step is behind instead
of in front as it normally is with an open grapevine. For traveling
r, the sequence is: r open, l
cross b, r open, l
||A turn is a rotation of the body and can be either clockwise c
or anticlockwise a. Note that when describing turns
or pivots, anticlockwise or clockwise is with respect to your body,
not the dance circle. When turning c (to your right),
you usually (but not always) start the turn on your r
foot. When turning a (to your left), you usually
(but not always) start the turn on your l foot. Turns
are completed using 2, 3 or 4 steps (unless otherwise noted) –
and 1 step per beat (unless otherwise noted). A full turn
is a 360 degree turn where you finish up facing the direction you
started. Turns can also be noted as being a number of quarters, for
example a ¼ turn is 90 degrees, ½ turn is 180 degrees,
etc. Note that if a full turn (360 degrees) is done in 4 steps, the
actual turn is completed in 3 steps and the 4th step is usually a
cross in front. If a turn is done in 2 steps, you actually perform
a ½ pivot on each step in order to get around. When taking
3 or 4 steps, the pivot on each one is smaller.
||The actual turn of a push turn is the same as a turn but it is preceded
with an open on the opposite foot with which you start the turn to
give you a push start. Often done when the actual turn is in 2 steps.
For example, a full push turn a in 3 beats starting
on the r would be: open r, full
turn a in 2 steps (l then r)
to finish facing the same direction that you started.
||A pivot is a rotation of the body but it is performed on one foot
in 1 beat. The amount of rotation and the direction is described as
for a turn. You would usually pivot c on the r
foot and a on the l foot but this
can vary in some dances.
|Sometimes called an oriental turn, this is a rotation of the body
around one foot while moving the other foot. If turning a,
facing i, and starting on the r
foot, a ½ pivot turn a can be described
as: Step forward on r with a ¼ pivot a,
balance on l without moving it with ¼ pivot
a to finish facing o.
||This is 4 steps in 4 beats. If starting on r the
sequence is: r step forward, l cross
in front and to the r of the r foot,
r step back, l close. The first
step is often a hop. A box step may be done slowly so that there are
2 beats per step.
|Step together step
||This step is typically done walking forward or back but can also
be done moving sideways. The rhythm is 1, 2, 3, pause (4 beats). If
done moving forward starting r, the action is: r
walk forward, l close, r walk forward,
pause. Note that the rhythm is more important that the placement of
the 2nd step which can often be ahead of the first step if that flows
better. If moving sideways, the action is: r open,
l close, r open, pause, which means
that the next action will start on the l foot in
this case. Sideways actions can also be crossing – for example:
r open, l cross, r
open, pause. The cross may be behind or in front. In this case each
action will be noted in the dance description.
|Cha-Cha or Samba
|This is typically a fast step and comes from the Cha Cha Cha ballroom
dance step. It can be described as quick, quick, slow, where the quick
steps occupy ½ a beat and the slow a full beat. It can also
be thought of as being done to a 1, 2, 3, pause rhythm and in some
ways is similar to the Step together step action. However, there is
an emphasis on the first step and it is usually done quickly with
half a beat per step. It is often done on the spot, that is, not moving
in any direction and the whole sequence is often repeated starting
with the opposite foot. The action is basically a weight transfer
from r to l to r
and then a pause (if starting on the r foot). It
can be done moving sideways, forwards or back as well as on the spot.
When going sideways, an open Cha-Cha implies an "open,
close, open, pause" sequence of steps, for example going to your
r starting on the r foot. A crossing
Cha-Cha implies that the first step is a cross in front, for example
going to your r starting on the l
foot. This could be described as: "l cross f,
move other foot behind and slightly to r of l
foot, l cross f, pause".
||This step is done to a 1, 2, 3, pause rhythm. It can be done to
the l or the r.
For a l side Yemenite: l open, r
balance, l cross in front of r,
Note that there are only 3 steps but they are always done in 4 beats
– there is always a pause at the end of the sequence.
For a r side Yemenite: r open, l
balance, r cross in front of l,
Yemenite steps are often done in pairs. Due to there being only 3
steps, a r side Yemenite is often immediately followed
by a l side Yemenite. Note that if the side Yemenite
step is repeated the way it is described above, you would gradually
creep forward due to the crossing step. Thus it is common to modify
the second step (the balance) so that it is slightly behind the body
so that the crossing step will move you slightly to the left or right
but not forward or back.
This step is done to a 1, 2, 3, pause rhythm.
For a l back Yemenite: l step
back, r close, l step forward,
For a r back Yemenite: r step
back, l close, r step forward,
The body should display a rocking action as you move back and then
forward. The 2 back steps should be on the balls of your feet.
A variation of this step is sometimes: l step back,
r rock forward (foot stays in same place), l
step forward (back to where it started), pause.
|Behind and in front
||This is like a back Yemenite step but done while moving sideways
and the 1st and 3rd steps are a crossing action. If moving to the
r, the action is: l cross behind,
r open, l cross in front, pause.
|Open cross back
||This combination of steps appears in many dances and is usually
followed with the same pattern on the other foot. It is often done
immediately after a full turn in 2. There are 3 steps to 3 beats.
The sequence to the r is: r open,
l cross in front, r rock back. This
would often be followed by: l open, r
cross in front, l rock back.
Step behind step touch
| This step sequence is to the left or right side and consists of
the following steps.
To the r: r open, l
cross behind, r open, l touch next
to r. Note that as the last step is a touch, the
same foot is used for the next step.
To the l: l open, r
cross behind, l open, r touch next
The arms are typically held horizontally to each side at shoulder
height, with hands on the shoulders of the people next to you.
||This step consists of 3 walking steps (starting on either foot)
in 3 beats and on the 4th beat, you pivot 180 degrees (½ turn)
on the foot that took the third step. This usually repeats coming
back to your starting position where you pivot another 180 degrees
back to face the direction you started. If the third step is on your
r, then the pivot is c. If the third
step is on your l, then the pivot is a.
Note that some dances only use half of this step (walk, walk, walk,
pivot) with another step sequence following - in this case the step
is described as Na'ale.
|Heel toe and
||If starting on your r, place your r
heel on the floor in front of you and look up - this is usually 2
beats. Then step on the ball of your r foot slightly
behind you for 1 beat while looking down and then step on your l
foot for 1 beat. Thus the rhythm is 1, pause, 3, 4.
|Kick ball step
||For the r, kick out in front with the r
foot, then step on the ball of the r foot next to
the l and then step on the l foot
on the spot, then pause. The rhythm is 1, 2, 3, pause.
||Move quickly off the ground by bending and then extending both legs
||Like a jump but on one foot only.
||Take a step and quickly hop on the same foot.
||Jump (or just step) onto both feet at the same time with legs apart
and bend the knees as if to sit down. This is often followed by a
pause and then a hop on one or other of the feet.
||Lifting and straightening of the r knee (kicking
action) while bouncing (hopping) on the l leg.(on
the first count), followed by a step onto the r foot
(on count of 2). May start with the other foot. If followed by another
Debka, start on the other foot.
||Kick r foot across body followed by step onto r
next to l, then onto l, then pause.
Count is 1, 2, 3, pause.
||Hop onto the r leg while lifting the l
(on count of 1) followed by jumping back onto the l
(on count of 2).
Note that in partner dances, both boy and girl normally start on
their outside feet, that is boy on l and girl on
r and their steps are often mirror images of each
|Standard Hold (P)
||Boy facing girl. Boy's l arm is held out to the
l side bent at the elbow with l
hand holding girl's r hand at about shoulder height.
Boy's r arm around girl with hand just below l
shoulder blade. Girl's l hand behind boy's r
shoulder with her l arm supported by his r.
|Israeli Hold (P)
||Boy raises l hand above head and holds girl's l.
Boy's r hand is around girl's waist on the small
of her back and girl's r hand is around boy's waist
in a similar position.
|Open Hold (P)
||Boy and girl face each other and hold hands at waist height. Boy's
l to girl's r and boy's r
to girl's l.
|Sweetheart or Varsouvienne Position (P)
||Boy stands to l of girl and slightly behind her.
Boy's r hand holds girl's r hand
at her r shoulder. l hands are held
in front of boy at chest height.
|Promenade Hold (P)
||Hands are in a standard hold but the bodies form a V with the boy's
r side next to the girl's l side
at the apex of the V. Both are facing towards the opening of the V,
ready to walk in that direction.
|Pressure turn (P)
||This is a full turn c in 2 steps while holding
your partner in a standard hold (pressed together to make the turn
easier). For the first step, the boy steps with his l
foot positioned to the l of the girl and the girl
with her r foot placed between the boy's feet. Both
perform a ½ pivot on that foot while taking another step around
on their opposite feet with another ½ pivot on the second step
to complete the turn. Normally performed while traveling a
around the circle line.
||Both start on same foot. When starting with r foot,
boy stands facing girl but with girl to his r so
that both r shoulders are roughly in line. Both boy
and girl do a large box step so that they move past each other, then
are back to back and then finish up where they started.
|Paso doblé (P)
||Boy and girl change places in 4 steps while both do a ½ turn
– boy turns c with girl on his r,
girl turns a. Hold hands in front of each other,
boy's l to girl's r, boy's r
to girl's l. Boy's steps are: l
rock b, r walk, l
walk and pivot c, r rock b.
Girl's steps are: r rock back, l
walk, r walk and pivot a, l
|Wrap the girl (P)
||In an open hold, the girl turns a to face
the same direction as the boy (typically in 2 steps). Do not release
hands so the boy's r arm is wrapped around the girl's
waist from behind holding her l, and the girl's l
arm is wrapped in front of her body holding the boy's r.
During the turn, the boy's l and girl's r
hands go over the girl's head. They finish held in front just below
||Hands in standard hold. Do a full turn c
in 4 steps. Boy starts on l, girl on r.
Body has a rocking motion from left to right for each step (l
when boy steps on l).
Common Step Combinations
There are a number of step combinations that are so common that
they have been given a name which sometimes relates to either the
dance that they derived from or a choreographer who uses them frequently.
||Going to l or r starting on r:
Open Cha-Cha to side, cross b, rock f.
Repeat starting on other foot and going in the opposite direction.
When you cross b, you often do ¼ pivot (a
if cross is on l foot), and then pivot back on the
rock f. There are 2 beats for the Cha-Cha (1, 2,
3, pause) and 1 beat each for the other 2 steps. When done in a partner
dance, boy and girl face each other during the Cha-Cha and are on
||Typically facing i and travelling a
starting on r: Open, cross b, open
with 1/2 pivot c, open, cross b,
open with 1/2 pivot a. These 6 steps are done without
pauses to 6 counts. This step comes from the dance Eretz Eretz.
Face partner in standard hold with girl to boy's l.
Boy: l step f to r
of girl, r rock b. Girl: r
step b, l rock f.
Cha-cha while doing ½ turn a. Girl finishes
on r of boy.
Boy: r step f to l of
girl, l rock b. Girl: l
step b, r rock f.
Cha-cha while doing ½ turn c. Finish in
||Open r and lift, pause while lifting l
leg behind, l cross b, r
rock f. Often repeats to the other side starting
on other foot. Can start on either foot. The rhythm is 1, pause, 3,
||Boy and girl are facing each other in an open hold. Boy starts on
l and is moving to his l, girl to
r, on opposite feet. Open, cross b,
open, cross f, pressure turn, boy walks for 2 while
girl does full turn c. One beat per step.