Oasis of Line Dancing

Learn To Dance or Line Dance: Read Step Sheet - Make Simple

05/04/2009 23:28


The first step to learn how to read a step sheet: Learn the terminology and the step description!


A basic is one repetition of the main dance from the first count to the last not including any tags or bridges. In competition if this is danced "as written" with no variations, it is called "plain Vanilla".

Dancers who have progressed beyond beginner status will often replace a section of a dance (say 8 beats) with a compatible set of steps which is called a variation. This is often required in competitive line dancing.

A dance will have a number of counts, for example a 64-count dance. This is the number of beats of music it would take to complete one sequence of the dance. This is not necessarily the same number of steps in the dance as steps can be performed on an and count between two beats, or sometimes a step holds over more than one beat.

A restart is a point at which the basic dance sequence is interrupted and the dance routine is started again from the beginning. Restarts are used to fit the dances to the phrasing of the music.

A dance is made up of a number of movements called steps. Each step is given a name so teachers can tell dancers to perform this step when teaching a dance. The most well-known is the grapevine (or vine for short), which is usually a three-step movement to the side, with the fourth step added to complete the measure. There can be any number of movements in one step.

A tag or bridge is an extra set of steps not part of the main dance sequence that are inserted into one or more sequences to ensure the dance fits with the phrasing of the music. The term tag usually implies only a few additional counts (e.g. 2 or 4), whereas bridge implies a longer piece (e.g. 8 or 16). The terms are generally interchangeable, however.

 Step descriptions

Descriptions of some dance steps in their typical form are below. They are subject to variations in particular dances, where a stomp or a point may occur instead of a touch, for example, in the grapevine.

Chasse: One foot moves to the side, the other foot is placed next to it, and the first foot moves again to the side.

Grapevine: One foot moves to the side, the other moves behind it, the first foot moves again to the side, and the second touches next to the first. There are variations: the final step can consist of a hitch, a scuff, placement of weight on the second foot, and so forth. The name of the step is sometimes abbreviated to vine.

Weave: To the left or the right. This is a grapevine with a cross in front as well as a cross behind. Creates a slight zig zag pattern on the floor.

Triple step: This is 3 steps being taken in only 2 beats of music. Can move forward, backward, left, right or on the spot.

Shuffle step: A triple step to the front or the back, left or right side, starting on either foot. The feet slide rather than being given the staccato (short and sharp) movement of the cha-cha. There is a slight difference in the interpretation of the timing to give the element its distinctive look. It is counted as 1 & 2, 3 & 4, etc. However, the actual amount of time devoted to each of the 3 steps in the shuffle is 3/4 of a beat, 1/4 of a beat, then one full beat of music.

Lock step: A triple step backwards or forwards, starting on either foot, with the second foot slid up to and tightly locked in front of or behind the first foot before the first foot is moved a second time in the same direction as for the first step.

Other steps include applejack, botafogo, butterfly, coaster step, heel grind, hitch, jazz box, kick ball change, kick ball step, lunge, mambo step, military turn, Monterey turn, paddle, pivot turn, rock step, sailor step, scissor step, scuff, spiral turn, stamp, stomp, sugarfoot, swivet and vaudeville.



Each dance is said to consist of a number of walls. A wall is the direction in which the dancers face at any given time: the front (the direction faced at the beginning of the dance), the back or one of the sides. Dancers may change direction many times during a sequence, and may even, at any given point, be facing in a direction half-way between two walls; but at the end of the sequence they will be facing the original wall or any of the other three. Whichever wall that is, the next iteration of the sequence uses that wall as the new frame of reference.

  • In a one-wall dance, the dancers face the same direction at the end of the sequence as at the beginning.
  • In a two-wall dance, repetitions of the sequence end alternately at the back and front walls. In other words, the dancers have effectively turned through 180 degrees during one set. The samba line dance is an example of a two-wall dance. While doing the "volte" step, the dancers turn 180 degrees to face a new wall.
  • In a four-wall dance, the direction faced at the end of the sequence is 90 degrees to the right or left from the direction in which they faced at the beginning. As a result, the dancers face each of the four walls in turn at the end of four consecutive repetitions of the sequence, before returning to the original wall. The hustle line dance is an example of a four-wall dance because in the final figure they turn 90 degrees to the left to face a new wall.

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