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Ballet glossary

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A significant part of ballet terminology is in the French language.



À la seconde

To the side or in second position. à la seconde usually means a step that moves sideways or a movement done to the side such as grand battement à la seconde. A technically challenging type of turn is pirouette à la seconde, where the dancer spins with the working leg in second position à la hauteur. This turn is usually performed by male dancers, and because of the technical skills required to perform it correctly, it is seen as the male counterpart of fouettés en tournant.


ADAGE (French), ADAGIO (Italian)

In music, Adagio means "slowly", and in ballet it means slow, unfolding movements.

In a classical ballet class, the Adagio portion of the lesson concentrates on slow movements to improve the dancer's ability to control the leg and increase extension (i.e., to bring the leg into high positions with control and ease).

In a Grand Pas (or Classical Pas de deux; Grand Pas d'action; etc.), the Adagio is usually referred to as the Grand adage, and often follows the Entrée. This Adage is typically the outward movement of the Grand Pas where the Ballerina is partnered by the lead male Danseur and/or one or more suitors.

In ballet, the word adagio does not refer to the music accompanying the dance but rather the type of balletic movement being performed. For example, the Grand adage of the famous Black Swan Pas de deux from Swan Lake is musically an Andante, while the choreography is Adagio.


Used to describe fast jumps, e.g. petit allégro.


Aplomb refers to stability of the position.


Literally, "in Arabic fashion." The position of the body supported on one leg, with the other leg extended behind the body with the knee straight. The back leg may either touch the floor in tendu back (called arabesque par terre), or be raised at an angle. Common angles are 45° (also called à demi hauteur), and 90° (à la hauteur). When the angle is much greater than 90° and the body leans forward to counterbalance the back leg, the pose is called arabesque penchée. There are also various arm and leg combinations, such as forward on the same side as the back leg or the other arm forward.


French for "back". A step en arrière moves backwards, away from the audience. A movement done to behind the dancer would be termed for instance grand battement en arrière.


(au sem blay) Sometimes also pas assemblé. Literally "assembled". A movement where the first foot performs a battement glissé/degagé, "swishing" out. With the dancer launching into a jump, the second foot then swishes up under the first foot. The feet meet together in mid-air, and the dance lands with both feet on the floor at the same time, in third or fifth position.


A position in which the dancer stands on one leg (known as the supporting leg) while the other leg (working leg) is lifted and well turned out with the knee bent at approximately 90-degree angle. The lifted or working leg can be behind (derrière), in front (devant), or on the side (à la seconde) of the body. If the leg in attitude derrière is resting on the floor, then the pose is known as B-plus. It is important to note that when executing an attitude position devant or derrière, the knee should be in line with the ankle, as if the whole leg would be resting on a surface. The attitude position can be performed with the supporting leg and foot either en pointe, demi pointe or on a flat foot. See also: Arabesque.


Refers to a direction to the front. A step en avant moves forwards. A movement done to the front would be for instance grand battement en avant.



French word for "balance". Also called pas balancé. It is usually executed in three counts (waltz rhythm). The dancer typically begins in fifth position, in plié. Before the first count, one foot extends in a degagé, typically to second position (though you can balancé front or back, as well). On the first count, weight transfers to that degagé foot, ending with that leg in plié and the other foot crossed behind (or in front of) the standing leg, in coupé position. On the second count, the dancer steps onto the second foot (typically on demi pointe), straightening the weight-bearing leg so the first foot, pointed, lifts slightly off the floor. On the third count, weight transfers back onto the first foot, which remains "en relevé", with the second foot in cou-de-pied again. Balancé is similar to the "step, ball-change" combination in tap dancing, though the steps in tap are typically counted "one and two" (rather than "one two three" as described above).


Ballabile (from the Italian Ballabile meaning "danceable") In ballet the term refers to a dance performed by the corps de ballet. The term Grand ballabile is used if nearly all participants (including principal characters) of a particular scene in a full-length work perform a large-scale dance.


Italian for "female dancer". Ballerina is a principal female dancer of a ballet company. The male version of this term is danseur.


A theatrical work or entertainment in which a choreographer has expressed his ideas in group and solo dancing to a musical accompaniment with appropriate costumes, scenery and lighting.


A ballet fan or enthusiast. The word was invented in Russia in the early nineteenth century.


Ballon means to bounce, where the dancer can show the lightness of the movement. It describes a quality, not the elevation or height, of the jump. Even in small, quick jumps (petite allégro), dancers strive to exhibit ballon.


A horizontal bar, approximately waist height, used for warm-up and exercises for ballet techniques. Warm up excersizes may sometimes include stretching and various ballet position that relax a ballerina's muscles. The study of ballet, and each class, will commonly start at the barre for everyone. Usually wooden and mounted along a wall, often with the mirrors, there are also portable barres for individuals or group work.


It is a kicking movement of the working leg (i.e. the leg that is performing a technique). Battements are usually executed in front (en avant or à la quatrieme devant), to the side (à la seconde) or back (en arrière or à la quatrieme derrière).

  • battement développé is usually a slow battement in which the leg is first lifted to retiré position, then fully extended passing through attitude position.
  • battement fondu is a battement (usually slower) from a fondu (both knees bent, working foot on the cou-de-pied of the supporting leg) position and extends until both legs are straight. It can be executed double.
  • battement frappé is a battement where the foot moves from a flexed position next to the other ankle, and extends out to a straight position, by doing so hitting the floor (the so-called frappé). In the Russian school the foot is wrapped around the ankle, rather than flexed and does not strike the floor. In this case, the frappè is given by the working foot striking the ankle of the supporting leg. Battements frappès can be executed double.
  • battement glissé is a rapid battement normally taken to 2-3 centimeters off the floor (literally means a "gliding" battement). See battement tendu jeté.
  • battement lent is a slow battement, normally taken as high as possible, which involves considerable control and strength. Both legs remain straight for the whole duration of the movement.
  • battement tendu is a battement where the extended foot never leaves the floor. The working foot slides forward or sideways from the fifth or first position to reach the forth or second position, lifting the heel off the floor and stretching the instep. It forms the preparation for many other positions, such as the ronds de jambe and pirouette positions.
  • battement tendu jeté (Russian school) is a battement normally taken to anywhere from 2 cm off the floor up to 45 degrees, depending on the style. It is the same as battement dégagé (Cecchetti) or battement glissé (French school).
  • grand battement is a powerful battement action where the dancer takes the leg as high as possible, while the supporting leg remains straight.
  • grand battement en cloche is a grand battement which continuously "swishes" forwards and backwards passing through the first position of the feet (literally: large battement with pendulum movement).
  • petit battement is a battement action where the bending action is at the knee, while the upper leg and thigh remain still. The working foot quickly alternates from the cou-de-pied position in the front to the cou-de-pied position in the back, slightly opening to the side.


A whole family of techniques involving jumps, where the feet cross quickly in front and behind each other, creating a flapping or "beating" effect mid-air and brushing through first position.

Also called beats in the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) syllabus.


A jump similar to an assemblé. One leg is thrust from the fifth position to the second position in the air; the second leg reaches the first in mid-air executing a beat. It is a traveling movement; the dancer executes an assemblé, then, doing a beat, changes fifth positions in the air. The dancer may practice petits battements in preparation for this step.

Bras Croisé

Literally "crossed arms". Arms are placed so that, when the dancer is facing one of the stage corners, one is extended to the second position away from the audience and the other is curved in first position front (Cecchetti forth position en avant).



This is a common abbreviation for tours chaînés déboulés, which is a series of quick turns on alternating feet with progression along a straight line or circle. They are also known as chaînés tournes. In classical ballet it is done on the pointes or demi-pointes (on the balls of the feet).

Changement de pieds

Literally "changing of feet". A jump in which the feet change positions in the air. For example, beginning in fifth position with the right foot front, plié and jump, switching the right to the back, landing with the left foot front in fifth position. In the Vaganova's method, petit changement de pieds indicates a changement where the feet barely leave the floor.


Chassé, literally "chased or "hunted". A slide forwards, backwards, or sideways with both legs bent, then springing into the air with legs meeting and straightened. It can be done either in a gallop (like children pretending to ride a horse) or by pushing the first foot along the floor in a plié to make the springing jump up.


Literally "tail". In music, a coda is a passage which brings a movement or a separate piece to a conclusion. In ballet a coda has essentially the same function, though it is always an independent musical movement.

In ballet, a coda is typically the ending, or "finale", of a suite of dances known as the Grand Pas or Grand Pas d'action, and brings the suite to a close. A coda also serves the same function in a Classical Pas de deux, etc.

A coda can take many forms. For a large or complex Pas d'action or Grand Pas, the coda is usually given the title Grand coda. If a large group of dancers are in involved, it is usually titled Coda générale. The coda may serve also as the final number of a particular scene, in which case it is usually given the title Grand coda générale.

In ballet there are many famous coda. One in particular is for the Black Swan Pas de deux from Swan Lake, in which the Ballerina performs the famous 32 fouettés en tournant. Another celebrated coda is from the Le Corsaire Pas de Deux.

Corps de ballet

The ensemble of a ballet company; especially, the ensemble apart from the featured dancers.

Croisé, croisée

Meaning: crossed. One of the directions of épaulement. The dancer stands facing one of the corners of the stage; his/her body is placed at an oblique angle to the audience. The leg may be crossed to the front or to the back.

Croisé is used in the third, fourth and fifth positions of the legs. The dancer is in croisé if the front leg is the right leg, and the dancer is facing the front-left corner of the stage; or if the front leg is the left, and the dancer is facing the front-right corner, then the dancer is in croisé. In croisé position the dancer should be aligned so that the audience can see both his/her shoulders and hips.


Demi Detourne

A half turn


A male ballet dancer. The female version is ballerina.


Also known as pas dégagé. It consists in the pointing of the foot from a closed position to an open position, with the heel raised and the instep stretched.


Half, or small. Applied to plié and pointe and other movements or positions to indicate a smaller or lesser version.


At or to the back side. For example, a battement tendu derrière is a battement tendu taken to the rear.


Literally "under". Used where the front leg is brought to the back, in techniques such as the assemblé, pas de bourrée, and glissade.


Literally "over". Used where the back leg is brought to the front, in techniques such as the assemblé, pas de bourrée, and glissade.


Literally "front". For example, tendu devant would mean stretching the foot to the front, or attitude devant would mean executing an attitude to the front.


A common abbreviation for battement développé. A movement in which the leg is first lifted to retiré position, then fully extended passing through attitude position. It can be done in front (en avant), to the side (à la seconde), or to the back (derrière).


Making two of the movement, such as in double battement fondu and double rond de jambe en l'air.



Literally "escaped". A movement done from a closed (first or fifth) position to an open (second or fourth) position. There are two kinds of échappés: échappé sauté and échappé sur le pointes or demi-pointes. In an échappé sauté, the dancer takes a deep plié followed by a jump in which the legs "escape" into either second (usually when starting from first position) or fourth position (usually when starting from fifth position), landing in demi-plié. In échappé sur le pointes/demi-pointes the dancer, after taking a deep plié, springs onto pointes or demi-pointes, ending in either second position (when starting from first position) or fourth (when starting from fifth) with knees straight. In all cases, the dancer may or may not return to the initial position, depending on the choreography.

Effacé, effacée

Literally "shaded". One of the directions of épaulement in which the dancer stands at an oblique angle to the audience so that a part of the body is taken back and almost hidden from view. This direction is termed ouvert in the French method. Effacé is also used to qualify a pose in which the legs are open, not crossed. This pose may be taken devant or derrière, either à terre or en l'air. If the front leg is the right, and the dancer is facing the front-right corner of the stage, he is in effacé; or, if the front leg is the left and she is facing the front-left corner, she is in effacé. This position is the opposite of croise.


Literally "rise". A relevé without the plié, so that the dancer simply rises directly to demi or pointe from flat feet all the way to the balls of the feet.

See Relevé.


Literally "in". This term is usually used to describe the position in which the dancer is situated; i.e. en plie, en rélevé, en pointe.

En croix

Meaning "in the shape of a cross." This term is usually used when doing barre exercises such as battement tendu and battement frappé. The required movement is done to the front, then the side, then back and then again to the side (a cross shape).

En dedans

Movement within a circle so that the leg starts at the back or the side and moves towards the front. For the right leg, this is a counter-clockwise circle. For the left leg, this is a clockwise circle. For instance, in a ronds de jambe en dedans, starting from first position, the foot (either left or right) would first reach tendu back, then move to tendu to the side and then front, to end again in first position.

It is also considered an inside movement: in a pirouette en dedans the dancer spins towards the side of the supporting leg.

The opposite is en dehors.

En dehors

Literally "outwards". Movement within a circle so that the leg starts at the front or the side and moves towards the back. For the right leg, this is a clockwise circle. For the left leg, this is a counter-clockwise circle. For instance, in a ronds de jambe en dehors, starting from first position, the foot (either left or right) would first reach tendu front, then move to tendu to the side and then back, to end again in first position.

It is also considered an outside movement: in a pirouette en dehors the dancer spins towards the side of the working leg (the leg raised in passé). En dedans is the opposite.


Interweaving or braiding. A step of beating in which the dancer jumps into the air and rapidly crosses the legs before and behind each other, usually jumping from the fifth position and landing back in the fifth position. Entrechats are counted from two to ten according to the number of crossings required and counting each crossing as two movements, one by each leg; that is, in an entrechat quatre each leg makes two distinct movements. Entrechats are divided into two general classes: the even-numbered entrechats, or those which land on two feet -- deux, quatre, six, huit and dix -- and the odd-numbered entrechats, or those which land on one foot -- trois, cinq, sept and neuf.

For example: in an entrechat-quatre starting from fifth position, right foot front, the dancer will jump crossing his/her legs and beating first the right heel on the back of the left heel, then at the front of the left heel, landing in the same position he/she started.


In ballet, the term Entrée has two meanings:

  1. Entrée can refer to the opening number in a suite of dances known as the Grand Pas (or Grand Pas d'action; Classical Pas de deux; etc.) The Entrée typically precedes the Grand adage, and is typically a short number which serves as an introduction for the suite. One famous Entrée is the opening number of the famous Paquita Grand Pas Classique, in which the lead Ballerina and the corps de ballet perform a waltz. Another famous Entrée is the opening waltz to the Black Swan Pas de deux from Swan Lake. When the term Entrée refers to the opening number of the Grand Pas, etc., it is referred to in musical terms as the Intrada.
  2. Entrée can also mean a number in which the lead character or characters of a ballet make their initial appearance on stage. One famous Entrée occurs in the first act of the Petipa/Tchaikovsky ballet The Sleeping Beauty, in which the Princess Aurora makes her Entrée during her birthday celebrations. Another occurs in the first act of the Petipa/Minkus ballet La Bayadère, in which the temple dancer Nikiya makes her entrance during the festival of fire. The opening harp candenza of the celebrated Le Corsaire Pas de Deux serves as the musical Entrée, as the Danseur also makes his Entrée before the Grand adage.


Literally "shouldering". Rotation of the shoulders and head relative to the hips in a pose or a step.



The dancer springs into the air, landing on the front foot with the back foot raised. The back foot then slides through to the front. During the spring the body is turned slightly inwards towards the front foot with the face turned away.


Literally "to melt". Abbreviation for a battement fondu. The dancer slightly bends one leg, and puts their pointed toe in front of the other leg with the bent knee.


Literally "whipped". The term indicates either a turn with a quick change in the direction of the working leg as it passes in front of or behind the supporting leg, or a quick whipping around of the body from one direction to another. There are many kinds of fouetté: petit fouetté (à terre, en demi-pointe or sauté) and grand fouetté (sauté, relevé or en tournant). An introductory form for beginner dancers, executed at the barre is as follows: facing the barre, the dancer executes a grand battement to the side, then turns the body so that the lifted leg ends up in arabesque position.

Fouetté jeté

literally "whipped throw". A leap which starts as a fouetté and then the second leg also kicks in front.

Fouetté rond de jambe en tournant
For history, see main article on 32 fouettés en tournant.

A turn made by using a fouetté. For each turn the dancer stands momentarily on flat foot and in plié, as the working leg is extended in fourth position en l'air (or à la hauteur) front then whipped around to the side as the working foot is pulled in to touch behind the supporting knee. That creates the impetus to spin one turn as the dancer executes a relevé, rising onto pointe. Done properly, the dancer remains in place. The famous 32 continuous fouettés in the coda of the "Black Swan" Pas de Deux from Swan Lake are a bravura performance designed to express the strength and triumph of the character.

In the Vaganova method, the leg is extended à la seconde instead of fourth position front.


Literally "hit" or "strike". See Battement frappé describing hitting the floor or an ankle with a moving foot.



Literally, to slide. This is a traveling step starting in fifth position with demi-plié: the front foot moves out to a point, both legs briefly straighten as weight is shifted onto the pointed foot, and the other foot moves in to meet the first. A glissade can be en avant, en arrière, dessous, and dessus; start in fifth position plie, push off back foot moving the front foot foward and bringing the back foot that you pushed off on in the front landing in fifth position.

Grand Pas and Grand Pas d'action

Literally, big or large step. A Grand pas is a suite of individual dances that serves as a showpiece for lead dancers, demi-soloists, and possibly the corps de ballet. In the context of a full-length ballet the Grand pas is considered a Pièce de résistance. The Grand pas is merely a display of dance, and in no way contributes to the ballet's story.

If the Grand pas does contribute to the ballet's story, then it is known as a Grand Pas d'action.

When a Grand Pas is referred to as a Grand pas classique, it simply means that classical technique prevails and no character dances are included.

A Grand pas usually consists of the Entreé, the Grand adage, occasionally a dance for the corps de ballet (often referred to as the Ballabile), optional variations for the demi-soloists, variations for the lead Ballerina and/or Danseur, and a final coda (sometimes referred to as a Coda générale or Grand coda) which serves to bring the whole piece to a grand conclusion.

One famous Grand Pas was created by Marius Petipa in 1881 for his revival of Joseph Mazilier's ballet Paquita. This is known today as the Paquita Grand Pas Classique, and is danced by many companies throughout the world.

A rather elaborate Grand Pas is taken from the 1862 Petipa/Pugni ballet The Pharaoh's Daughter, which was revived in 2000 after decades of being absent from the stage. The dances are presented in Petipa's original order: Entrée, Variations for 3 demi-soloists, Grand adage, Waltz for the corps de ballet, variations for the three lead soloists, and the final Coda générale.

There are many famous Grand Pas d'action as well, one being from the first act of the 1890 Petipa/Tchaikovsky ballet The Sleeping Beauty. This consists of the famous Grand adage known as the Rose Adagio, a Dance for the Maids of Honor and Pages, the Variation of the Princess Aurora, and the Coda, which is interrupted by the evil fairy Carabosse who gives the Princess Aurora the poisoned spindle. In the context of the full-length ballet, this particular Grand Pas d'action helps contribute to the action, with the Princess Aurora choosing between her four prospective princes and receiving a rose from each.

Many Grand Pas and Grand Pas d'action are often extracted from full-length works and performed independently.

Differing forms of a Grand pas

-Grand pas de deux – a Grand pas which serves as the Pièce de résistance for the principal male and female characters of a full-length ballet. When more soloists are included, then the title changes as follows: Pas de trois, Pas de quatre, etc.
-Grand pas classique – when the Grand pas consists of no character numbers and only serves to demonstrate classical technique.
-Grand ballabile – when the Grand pas serves as a showpiece for not only soloists but for a large corps de ballet.

Grand plié

A full plié, or bending of the knees. The back should be straight and aligned with the heels, and the legs are turned out with knees over the feet. As a movement, it should be fluid. It may also be in preparation for another movement such as a leap.

Grand jeté

A long horizontal jump, starting from one leg and landing on the other. It is most often done forward and usually involves doing full leg splits in mid-air. The front leg brushes straight into the air, as opposed to performing a dévelopé or "unfolding" motion. The back leg follows making the splits in the air. Also called grand écart en l'air, and referred to in some schools as Saut de chat, or Grand Pas de Chat. It can be performed en avant (forward), à la seconde (to the side), en arrière (backward), and en tournant (turning en dedans).



Jete is a type of jump from one foot to the other ( like a leap). Usually started off with a strong chase.


Ouvert, ouverte

Open or opened. It indicates certain positions of the body or the limbs; for instance the second and fourth positions are positions ouvertes. In the French school it also indicates a direction of the body similar to éffacé.



In general, partnering is an effort by both the male and female dancers to achieve a harmony of movement so that the audience is unaware of the mechanics to enjoy the emotional effects. Also known as pas de deux, or dance for two.

For a male dancer, partnering includes lifting, catching, and carrying a partner, also assisting with leaps, promenades and supported pirouettes. For a female dancer, partnering means helping with that help.

Pas de basque

"step of the Basques". Halfway between a step and a leap, taken on the floor (glissé) or with a jump (sauté); it can be done moving toward the front or toward the back.

The dancer starts in fifth position croisé and executes a plié while brushing the front leg out to tendu front. The front leg does a demi rond de jambe to the opposite corner in the back while the dancer turns to face the other front corner. The weight is quickly transferred onto the working leg (the one that was front). The dancer brushes the supporting leg through first position and then executes a chassé forward onto the supporting leg and closes in croisé.

Pas de bourrée

It consists of three quick steps. When done à la seconde the feet usually change positions (right left right). ((back, side, front))

Pas de chat

"dance of the cat". The dancer jumps sideways, and while in mid-air, bends both legs back to touch the feet to the buttocks, with knees apart. The Dance of the Cygnets from Swan Lake involves sixteen pas de chat, performed by four dancers holding hands with their arms interlaced. A jump. Leap off the left leg, starting from a plié and raising the right leg into retiré. In midair, raise the left leg into retiré, too, so your legs form a diamond shape in the air. Land on the right leg with the left leg still in retiré; then bring it down, landing in another plié.

Pas de chat, grand

A jump similar to a grand jeté where the leg extends to the front with a developpé.

Pas de cheval

"dance of the horse". The dancer does a coupé then a small developpé and tendu back into starting position.

Pas de deux

meaning "step of two". Pas de deux is a duet usually performed by a female and a male dancer. A famous pas de deux is the Black Swan pas de deux. See also Pas de deux.

Pas de poisson

"step of the fish". Same as temps de poisson. This is a type of soubresaut, or a jump without change of feet. From fifth position, the dancer executes a deep demi plié and jumps arching the back with the legs straightened behind, so that the whole body is curved like a fish jumping out of water.

Pas de valse

"waltz step". A traveling step done to music in 3/4 time, either straight or while turning (en tournant).


As a position passé means when a foot is placed near or on the other knee.

As a movement passé refers to the working foot passing close to the knee of the standing leg. When the foot arrives by the knee, it passes from the front to the back or back to front, and continues either to return to the floor by sliding down the supporting leg or into an arabesque or attitude etc.

See Retiré.

Petit saut

small jump, in which the feet do not change positions in mid-air; also called temps levé sauté in the Vaganova method.


Literally "pricked". A movement in which the strongly pointed toe of the lifted and extended leg sharply lowers to hit the floor then immediately rebounds upward. Same for some as the term pointé.

Also a movement in which the dancer transfers a stance from one leg in plié to the other leg by stepping out directly onto pointe or demi-pointe with a straight leg; for example, a piqué arabesque.


A controlled turn on one leg, starting with one or both legs in plié and rising onto demi-pointe (usually for men) or pointe (usually for women). The non-supporting leg can be held in retiré position, or in attitude, arabesque level or second position. The pirouette may return to the starting position or finish in arabesque or attitude positions, or proceed otherwise. A pirouette is most often en dehors turning outwards toward the back leg, but can also be en dedans turning inwards toward the front leg. Although ballet pirouettes are performed with the hips and legs rotated outward ("turned out"), it is common to see them performed with an inward rotation ("parallel") in other genres of dance, such as jazz and modern.

Turning technique includes spotting, in which a dancer executes a periodic, rapid rotation of the head that serves to fix the dancer's gaze on a single spot. Spotting is particularly important in traveling turns such as tours chaînés or piqués because it helps the dancer control the direction of travel while keeping balanced.

Pirouettes can be executed with a single or multiple rotations.


Literally "bending of the knees". A smooth and continuous bending of the knees.

This can be grande-plié, a bend to the deepest position where the heels lift off of the floor. For demi-plié the dancer bends knees until just below the hips, while maintaining classical turn-out at the hip joints, allowing the thighs and knees to be directly above the line of the toes and the heels to stay on the floor.

Pointe work

Performing steps while on the tips of the toes.

Port de bras

Literally "carriage of the arms". Sometimes misspelled "porte-bras". Movement of the arms to different positions. The basic port de bras exercise moves from bras bas to first arm position, to second arm position, then back down to bras bas. A full port de bras moves from bras bas to fifth overhead and back down.

Example: See Video

See Page with this video


A term of the Cecchetti school. From a fondu, the dancer steps with a straight leg into demi-pointe or pointe, then brings the working leg into a coupé, so that, if the step is repeated, the leg will execute a petit developpé. This can be done in any direction or turning (this is also known as tour piqué).

Positions of the arms

There are two basic positions for the arms. In one, the dancer keeps the fingers of both arms almost touching to form an oval shape, either almost touching the hips, or at navel level, or raised above the dancer's head. In the other, the arms are extended to the sides with the elbows slightly bent. These positions may be combined to give other positions.

Names differ according to the school/method followed, such as Vaganova, French, Cecchetti, etc., so that a third Russian position is the equivalent to a Cecchetti fifth position en haut.

Positions of the feet

The basic five positions of the feet on the floor were set down by the dancing master Pierre Beauchamp in the late 17th century. Two more positions were introduced by Mr. Serge Lifar during his career as Ballet Master at the Paris Opéra Ballet (1929–45, 1947–58); their use nowadays is mostly limited to Lifar's choreographies.

Pulling Up

Pulling up is critical to the success of a dancer because without it, the simple act of rising up would be extremely difficult. It involves the use of the entire body. To pull up, a dancer must lift the ribcage and sternum but keeps the shoulders relaxed and centered over the hips which requires use of the abdominal muscles. In addition, the dancer must tuck under and keep their back straight as to avoid arching and throwing themselves off balance.



Literally "lifted". Rising from any position to balance on one or both feet on at least demi-pointe which is heels off the floor or higher to full pointe where the dancer is actually balancing on the top of the toes, supported in toe shoes. Smoothly done in some versions, a quick little leap up in other schools.

See Elevé.

Retiré position

The working leg is raised to the side, with knee sharply bent so the toe is pointed next to the supporting knee (front, side, back). Common pose during standard pirouette, intermediate position for other moves. Also called raccourci (ra-koor-SEE) in the French school.

Retiré devant

The working leg is raised just in front of the knee cap (but can be raised higher) and is sharply bent and "turned out" to the side. It is a common pose during standard pirouette both en dedans and en dehors, and an intermediate position for other moves, such as battement développé front.

Rond de jambe

Literally "circle of the leg". Actually, half-circles made by the pointed foot, returning through first position to repeat; creating the letter 'D' on the floor. From front to back rond de jambe en dehors, or from back to front rond de jambe en dedans.

  • Rond de jambe à terre: straightened leg with pointed toe remaining on the ground to sweep around.
  • Rond de jambe en l'air: in the air. The leg is lifted to the side, movement is only below the knee. If the thigh is horizontal, the toe draws an oval approximately between the knee of the support leg and the second position in the air. If the thigh is in the lower demi-position then the oval is to the calf of the support knee.
  • Rond de jambe attitude: the leg is swung around from the front around to the side into attitude position behind as the supporting foot goes en pointe. (see also Attitude)
  • Demi-grand rond de jambe: the leg is straightened and sustained horizontal to make the circle to the side. If not reversed, foot returns past the knee.
  • Grand rond de jambe: the leg is straightened and sustained at grand battement height, with the foot making the circle high. Requires advanced "extension" flexibility and strength. If not reversed, foot returns past the knee.


Step hop and run

One step with a pointed toe, a hop with your toe on your knee and two runs, and repeat that.


A term of the Russian and French schools; it indicates a sudden spring or jump from both feet, traveling forward in either croisé or effacé position and landing on both feet in the same position as they started.


Literally "jump". As adjectives, sauté (masc.) or sautée (fem.) (soh TAY) are used to modify the quality of a step: for instance, échappé sauté indicates an échappé performed while jumping.

Saut de chat

in the French school, the term indicates a step similar to the Italian pas de chat, where the working foot is brought to raccourci derrière instead of being raised to the side of the knee, and the landing is done on fondu on the leg that started the movement, while the other leg is in raccourci devant. The raised foot is then lowered to fifth position front.

Second position, seconde

Any position with parts separated to the side.


A term that refers to the reverse of a turnout. It occurs when the dancers ankle is facing inward as well as the toes, creating a D-like shape. It is also notably harmful to one's instep when performed repeatedly.

Soutenu en tournant

Similar to tours chaînés, a soutenu is a series of turns in quick succession. The dancer must first execute a demi plié while extending the leading leg in a tendu position and then stepping up on a tight leg and beginning the turn while simultaneously bringing the other leg up to a raised position while finishing a full 360 degree turn.

Sous-sus, Sus-sous

Typically executed from fifth position, a dancer rises up onto the pointes or demi-pointes with the feet touching and ankles crossed in a particularly tight fifth position relevé. This can be performed in place or traveling forward, backward or to the side. At the barre after the plié exercises is part of the warm up for center pointe work. Sous-sus is a term of the Cecchetti school, while sus-sous is used in the French and Russian schools.

Sur le cou-de-pied

Literally means, "on the neck of the foot". This is a position in which the working foot is placed on the ankle of the supporting leg.


Triple Runs

One big step, followed by two little steps, can be done in a circle.


Literally, "to point"; a common abbreviation for battement tendu.

Temps levé

A term of the Cecchetti method, meaning 'time raised', or 'raising movement'. This is a hop from one foot with the other raised in any position. The instep is fully arched when leaving the ground and the spring must come from the pointing of the toe and the extension of the leg after the demi-plié.

In the Cecchetti method the term also means a spring from the fifth position, raising one foot sur le cou-de-pied. In the Russian and French schools this is known as sissonne simple.

Temps levé sauté

A term of the Russian school, meaning 'time raised jumped'. It can be done in first, second, third, fourth or fifth position. The dancer, after a demi-plié, jumps in the air and then lands with the feet in the same position as they started. It can also be performed from one foot, while the other keeps the same position it had before starting the jump (e.g. on cou-de-pied).

Tours en l'air

Literally "turn in the air". A jump, typically for a male, with a full rotation. The landing can be to both feet; on one leg with the other extended in attitude or arabesque; or down to one knee, as at the end of a variation. A single tour is a 360° rotation, a double is 720°. Vaslav Nijinsky was known to perform triple tours en l'air.


Typically a beginning movement. For a tombé en avant, the dancer begins with a coupé front and then, after extending the leg from the coupé in fourth position front (or second or fifth back, if the tombé is to be done on the side or backward), switches the weight distribution and leans on the extended leg, which is placed on the floor in a deep plié. This leaves the working leg straightened but lifted slightly off the floor. Often this movement is used before executing traveling steps such as a pas de bourrée.

It is also possible not to perform the coupé at the beginning of the movement, but rather reach the fourth position front directly from fifth position with a little 'sliding' hop.

Turn-out, turnout

A rotation of the leg from the hips, causing the knee and foot to also turn outward. Properly done, the ankles remain erect and the foot arch remains curved and supporting.

Turn-out technique is a defining characteristic of Classical Ballet. Not all dancers do have a perfect turn-out; but it is definitely a measure for selection. In beginner classes, a less-than-perfect turn-out is tolerated to save stress to knee joints until the ability is acquired.



Can be used to describe a type of ballet music, counted as "one, two, three."

It is also a step in ballet dance, which can be done in a variety of ways. The waltz step is also counted as "one, two, three." The common waltz step begins as stepping on the right foot and brushing the left forward into degage, then stepping left, right, while changing the direction of the body to the opposite direction you are traveling, then stepping on the left foot and brushing the right foot back behind you, then stepping right, left again to face back in the same direction. The waltz step can be repeated in a chain as long as desired. The position of the arms varies among styles.

See also


  • Ryman, R. (1998). Dictionary of Classical Ballet Terminology. Princeton Book. ISBN 0-9524848-0-3. 
  • Vaganova, A. Basic principles of classical ballet. Dover Publications, Inc. ISBN 0-486-22036-2. 
  • Beaumont, C. Theory and practice of classical theatrical dancing - methode Cecchetti. Dover Publications, Inc. ISBN 0-486-23223-9. 
  • Grant, G (1982). Technical manual and dictionary of classical ballet. Dover Publications. ISBN 0-486-21843-0. 
  • Sinclair, J (1981). A dictionary of ballet terms. Da Capo Press. ISBN 0-306-80094-2. 
  • Minden, EG (2005). The Ballet Companion. Simon and Schuster Inc. New York City, New York.. 

External links

Published - February 2009

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