Salimpour Nomenclature

Suhaila Salimpour’s dance format is codified into five levels.  When documenting technique or choreography in writing, a shorthand version began to emerge; but there was variation depending on the dancer.  In 2007, Vonda Totten, Suhaila’s curriculum development partner, took on the task of creating a uniform nomenclature.  An outside committee of academics from science, linguistics, music, and other performing arts were convened to serve as an advisory board.  Each member has extensive experience in naming systems, rules, and syntax.  Each addition and evolution to the nomenclature is carefully appraised and validated before official inclusion.

Over the years, the nomenclature has expanded to include symbols and abbreviations for moves, timing, direction, and more.  Both Suhaila format and Jamila vocabulary are represented.


  • NOMENCLATURE.  The terms nomenclature, vocabulary, and terminology are interchangeable and refer to using the official School format language.  When students are instructed to prepare written documentation of their work using nomenclature, that means to use the format’s syntax.
  • SYNTAX refers to the specific ordered presentation of the nomenclature (vocabulary, terminology, and format language) when written.  Syntax was created as a means to document drills, phrases, and choreography in writing with a specific order and placement to provide consistency and ease of reading (using, when applicable, universal guidelines, protocols, and style guides).
Suhaila teaching in Santiago Chile.
Suhaila teaching in Florida.

How Much Does Nomenclature Represent?

The nomenclature and related syntax provide standardized technical and description content on a dance drill, exercise, or choreography.  While the nomenclature offers thorough detail, we emphasize that written notes typically represent only as much as 80 percent of a dance.  Especially when learning a choreography, it is always important to view the instruction and not rely on the notes.  While the the written notes give you the math, the true artistry is demonstrated in the actual movement.

For Salimpour Instructors

When teaching a Salimpour class, a teacher will use nomenclature, but won’t necessarily speak in exacting syntax.  Depending on what a teacher is explaining or assigning, material may be presented in a manner that emphasizes the teacher’s intent using a visual and/or vocal inflection.  Of course, instructors are encouraged on occasion to help students understand written syntax, but they are not limited by syntax when teaching.  Any instructor written notes and documentation should be in syntax.

Learn More

The documents below contain the latest version of the Salimpour Nomenclature and information.

Additional Curriculum Documentation

Format and Vocabulary Resources

The following documents lists the basic Suhaila format foot patterns and movements with level information.

The following documents list the Salimpour (Jamila) Vocabulary steps by level.


Below are example standard rotations for presenting class content in ongoing classes and series.