As a dance, the galliard is improvised, with dancers combining together patterns of steps which occupy one or more measures of music. In one measure, a galliard typically has 5 steps, and in French such as basic step is called a cinq pas. This is sometimes written in English sources as sinkapace. The main feature that defines a galliard step is that the last two beats consist of a large jump, landing with one leg ahead of the other. This jump is called a cadence, and the final landing is called the posture. The sources generally describe doing any pattern first starting on the left foot, and then repeating it starting on the right foot.
A galliard pattern may also last twice as long, or more, which would involve 11 steps, or 17 steps, and so forth.
In addition to being an entire dance, galliard steps are used within many other forms of dance. For example, 16th century Italian dances in Fabritio Caroso's and Negri's dance manuals often have a galliard section.
One special step used during a galliard is lavolta, a step which involves an intimate, close hold between a couple, with the woman being lifted into the air and the couple turning about 270 degrees, within one 6 beat measure. La Volta was a dance favored by England's Queen Elizabeth I, who was also said to dance the galliard every morning for exercise.
Another special step used during a galliard is the tassle kick (Salti del Fiocco). These steps are found in Cesare Negri's manual, and involve a galliard step ending with a 180 degree or 360 degree spin, during which the dancer kicks out to kick a tassle suspended between knee and waist height.