Ballet technique is the foundational principles of body movement and form used in ballet. It is an important aspect of ballet performance because ballet (especially classical ballet) puts great emphasis on the method and execution of movement. The techniques found in classical ballet are a framework for many other styles of dance, including jazz and contemporary ballet.
Aspects of ballet technique include alignment, which refers to keeping the head, shoulders, and hips vertically aligned. Turnout refers to completing movements with legs rotated outward; this promotes clean footwork, graceful port de bras (carriage of the arms), and correct body positions, lines and angles. Other aspects of ballet technique include posture, toe pointing, keeping shoulders down, and pulling up, which combines proper posture and lifting of the muscles to increase turnout and enhance alignment and thus improve the quality of turns. Ballet technique is also used to exhibit ballon, the appearance of gravity-defying lightness, during leaps. Pointe technique is the part of ballet technique concerned with dancing on the tips of fully extended feet.
The core techniques of ballet are common throughout the world, though there are minor variations among the different styles of ballet. Together with stylistic differences, these variations produce an aesthetic and physicality of performance that is unique to each style. For example, Russian ballet exhibits high extensions and dynamic turns, whereas Italian ballet tends to be more grounded, with a focus on fast and intricate footwork.
The basic principles of ballet can be organised into broad categories.
Barre work is traditionally recognised as providing the foundation of all ballet technique. The barre is used to establish posture, turnout, placement and strength, by concentrating on specific movements and isolating muscle groups. This allows the dancer to perfect the movements with the support of the barre. In vocational training, the barre work is important in establishing the technique, whereas a professional dancer uses the barre to maintain their technique, or to focus on specific aspects of their technique that need refinement. Barre work typically combines all the key elements of ballet technique, with the exception of jumps and with a great deal of focus on the legs and feet.
Literally meaning 'small and fast, petit allegro traditionally comprises of small jumps and fast, detailed footwork.
Literally meaning 'big and fast', grand allegro traditionally comes towards the end of a ballet class and comprises of the largest and most technically challenging movements. Within a ballet, grand allegro is often used to describe the large variations towards the end of a ballet, when the dancers perform large jumps and leaps.
Ballet training places great emphasis on ballet technique because precise technique is an essential element of the aesthetics of ballet performance. Ballet technique is drilled into ballet students from the beginning of and throughout training, both to develop the desired aesthetics and to prevent injury. For example, students are taught to avoid sickling of the foot, which is an undesirable aesthetic and can result in ankle injuries when performing en pointe.