Glossary of ballet

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Because ballet became formalized in France, a significant part of ballet terminology is in the French language.


À la seconde[edit]

(French pronunciation: ​[alasəɡɔ̃d]) A movement with feet to the side or in second position, as in pirouette à la seconde, in which the dancer turns with the working leg à la hauteur (elevated) in second position.

À terre[edit]

Touching the floor.


Italian, or French adage, meaning "at ease".

  1. Slow movements performed with fluidity and grace.
  2. The section of a grand pas (e.g., grand pas de deux), often referred to as grand adage, that features dance partnering.


(Italian pronunciation: [alˈleɡro], meaning "quickly") Brisk, lively motion. An attribute of many movements, including those in which a dancer is airborne (e.g., assemblé, changement, entrechat, sauté, sissone, soubresaut).


(Meaning to "elongate") Stretched out or made longer.


The apparent elegance and precision exhibited by a confident, accomplished dancer.


A body position in which a dancer stands on one leg (the supporting leg) with the other leg (the working leg) turned out and extended behind the body, with both legs held straight.



(French pronunciation: ​[asɑ̃ble] Sometimes also pas assemblé; literally "assembled") A jump that lands on two feet. When done from two feet the working leg performs a battement glissé/dégagé, "swishing" out. The dancer then launches into a jump, with the second foot then meeting the first foot. A petit assemblé happens when a dancer is standing on one foot with the other extended. The dancer then does a small jump to meet the first foot


Attitude derrière

A position in which the dancer stands on one leg (the supporting leg) while the other leg (working leg) is raised and turned out, with knee bent to form an angle of approximately 90° and foot pointed to align with the lower leg. It should be so turned out so that the knee is higher than the foot. The arm on the side of the raised leg is usually held over the head in a curved position while the other arm is usually extended to the side. The working leg can be located behind (derrière), in front (devant), or to the side (à la seconde) of the body. The foot of the supporting leg may be flat on the floor, demi pointe (heel raised), or en pointe (on the tips of the toes). Attitude was originally created to display the emotional zone of the leg (the knee to the ankle).

Avant, en[edit]

'Forwards.' A movement towards the front, as opposed to en arrière, which is conversely a movement towards the back. For example, a step traveling en avant moves forwards towards the audience, as in sissonne en avant.




A sequence of three steps — fondu, relevé, fondu (down, up, down) — executed in three counts, typically beginning in fifth position plié. Before the first count, one foot extends in a dégagé to second position or to the front (balancé devant) or rear (balancé derrière).


[bah-lan-swahr] French: seesaw. Swinging the working leg between front (devant) and back (derrière) through first position, usually in conjunction with grands battements or attitudes. See also en Cloche.


A principal female ballet dancer.


(Italian) A principal male ballet dancer.

Ballet technique[edit]

The foundational principles of body movement and form used in ballet.


A ballet fan or enthusiast. The word is of Russian origin c. 1930, with the suffix -mane coming from maniya (mania).[1]


Showing lightness of movement in leaps and jumps. A dancer exhibiting ballon will appear to spring effortlessly, float in mid-air, and land softly.


Exercising at a portable barre. A fixed barre can be seen in the background.

A sturdy horizontal bar, approximately waist height, used during ballet warm-up exercises and training. Fixed barres are typically mounted on mirror-covered walls; portable barres can be relocated as needed.


(Meaning "beat") An alternating side-to-side movement of the working (non-supporting) leg, often performed rapidly, usually in front (en avant or à la quatrieme devant), to the side (à la seconde) or back (en arrière or à la quatrieme derrière).


A movement in which feet quickly pass each other, creating a flapping or "beating" effect, often performed in connection with jumps and turns.


(Meaning "to beat") A movement that ends with an extra beat, as in jete battu.



[Literally "broken"] A jump. One leg is thrust from the fifth position to the front in the air; the second leg reaches the first in mid-air executing a beat. An alternate execution of brisé devant starts croisé in fifth position; brisé derrière is executed similarly with the front foot initiating the movement and brushing to effacé derriére. The back foot brushes through first to dégagé effacé devant, the bottom leg thrusts up to meet the top leg and beats to the front and lands in the starting fifth position. 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[edit]

(Literally "crossed arms") Arm placement in which one arm is extended in second position away from the audience and the other is curved in first position front (Cecchetti forth position en avant).


A flashy, showy and elaborate style of dance that involves a lot of elaborate steps and style to similar music. Usually during a key solo.


Quick, even movements, often en pointe, giving the appearance of gliding. The word originates from an old French dance resembling the gavotte.[citation needed] See also pas de bourrée.



Meaning caper. An allegro step in which the extended legs are beaten in the air. Cabrioles are divided into two categories: petite, which are executed at 45 degrees, and grande, which are executed at 90 degrees. The working leg is thrust into the air, the underneath leg follows and beats against the first leg, sending it higher. The landing is then made on the underneath leg. Cabriole may be done devant, derrière and à la seconde in any given position of the body such as croisé, effacé, écarté, and so on.


Also known as "chaînés turns", a common abbreviation for tours chaînés déboulés, a series of quick, 360 degree turns on alternating feet while traveling along a straight line or circle path. The majority of the turn is on the leading foot, with feet held in a tight, first position releve. In classical ballet it is performed en pointe or demi pointe (on the balls of the feet).


Literally "changing". 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 vocabulary, petit changement de pieds indicates a changement where the feet barely leave the floor.



Literally "chased", a slide forward, backward, or sideways with both legs bent, then springing into the air with legs straight and together. It can be done either in a gallop or by pushing the leading foot along the floor in a plié to cause an upward spring. It is typically performed in a series or as part of a combination of other movements.

Cloche, en[edit]

Meaning "as a bell". Refers to grand battements executed continuously devant and derrière through the first position. See, also, Balançoire. Note: the Vaganova system currently refers to this movement as "Passe' la Jambe" and "Battement Passe' la Jambe".[2]


Literally "tail", the concluding segment of a performance or suite of dances comprising a grand pas (e.g., grand pas de deux). A particularly large or complex coda may be called a grand coda. If a large group of dancers participate, the terms coda générale or grand coda générale may be used.

Corps de ballet[edit]

The ensemble of a ballet company; especially, the ensemble apart from the featured dancers. Being a part of the corps means one is neither a soloist nor a principal dancer.


A dancer of higher rank than a member of the corps de ballet, but not yet a principal, who performs in small ensembles.

Côté, de[edit]

Sideways—a step to the side.


Meaning 'cut'. Coupé is both a step and action: Coupé means to close, cut or tombe' (fall) exchanging the from one leg to another and its by the ballet shoe, exchanging weight from one leg to another through a closed position, usually fifth, (rarely first or third). It is commonly executed from a sur le cou de pied front to sur le cou de pied back or vice versa. (Cou de pied positions vary greatly from method to method, school to school.) But it also may be done from an extended leg position into fondu or directly through fifth position. It can only be performed through a closed leg position. (Note: If the dancer closes, cuts or tombe'e (fall) exchanging the from one leg to another through an open position such as second or fourth it is referenced as "tombe' or tombée.[3] The Vaganova School rarely uses this term for this action, except as the preparation for specific allegros. Rather, "Tombé through fifth position" is more common.[4] In the United States, "Coupe" is confused with "Cou de pied" and Sur le cou de pied.[citation needed]


Meaning 'ran' (past participle) in small quick steps. In most cases calves are kept together and feet are in a tight fifth position. Couru can be done en pointe or demi pointe, traveling forward, backward or to either side. For example, pas de bourrée couru.

Croisé, croisée[edit]

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 dance studio); or if the front leg is the left, and the dancer is facing his/her 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.



A male ballet dancer.

Danseur noble[edit]

A highly accomplished male ballet dancer.


A female ballet dancer.


A fast sequence of half turns performed by stepping onto one leg, and completing the turn by stepping onto the other, the dancers stepping high on the toes and with the legs held very close together. These can be performed in a circle (en manège) or a straight line (chaîné).


(Meaning 'to disengage.') In between a tendu and a grande battement, the foot brushes against the floor and raises to about 45 degrees. It is usually a sharp and fast movement. It is done to prepare for jumps such as grand jeté, assemblé, and brisé, in which the foot must brush against the floor. Common abbreviation for battement dégagé.

Primarily a Cecchetti/RAD term, this is also known as battement tendu jeté in the Russian School or battement glissé in the French School.


Meaning "half". Applied to plié and pointe and other movements or positions to indicate a smaller or lesser version.

Demi détourné[edit]

A half turn executed on both feet. Start right foot front (5th position). Demi plié and then relevé onto the demi pointe while making a half turn, lower through demi plié. The feet will have now changed position and the left foot should now be in the front. To finish, pull the legs up and stand in 5th position.

Demi pointe[edit]

Supporting body weight on the balls of one or both feet with heels raised above the floor.


At or to the back side. For example, a battement tendu derrière is a battement tendu taken to the rear. Point/face behind you.


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


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


(Literally "front") Facing or moving to the front, as in tendu devant or attitude devant.


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 (devant), 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 "discard", but also flat, like a card. One of the basic positions of the body in which the dancer assumes a position with the body facing downstage on a diagonal and points the downstage leg in second position, along the other diagonal, either touching the floor or en l'air. The arms are held in an attitude position with the arm that is on the same side as the working leg raised in the air and the other arm trailing in second. The gaze is directed nearly to the raised arm along the same diagonal.


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 les 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[edit]

Literally "shadowed" or "obscured". 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 ballet vocabulary. 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 (or dance studio), he is in effacé; or, if the front leg is the left and she is facing her front-left corner, she is in effacé. This position is the opposite of croisé.


Rising to en pointe or demi pointe (on the balls of the feet) with straight legs beginning with feet flat on the floor. This is in contrast to relevé, in which the dancer rises with plié (knees bent).


Meaning 'in'. A preposition used in description of a dancer's position (e.g., en plié, en relevé, en pointe) or holding the meaning 'towards' when describing direction of a movement (en avant, en arrière, en dedans, en dehors = 'to the front,' 'to the back', 'to the inside,' 'to the outside').

En croix[edit]

Meaning "in the shape of a cross" or "the 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) closing in either first or fifth position.

En dedans[edit]

En dehors; 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 rond 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 the working leg moving forward or ahead of the supporting leg. The opposite is en dehors.

En dehors[edit]

Literally "outwards". Movement within a circle so that the leg starts at the front or the side and moves towards the back. For the working leg, this is a 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. Many people have trouble and confuse en dedans and en dehors. En dehors can be remembered with the phrase "En dehors, out the door."

En pointe[edit]

An en pointe foot in a pointe shoe

Supporting body weight on the tips of the toes, usually while wearing structurally reinforced pointe shoes.


Entrechat quatre

"A step of beating in which the dancer jumps into the air and rapidly crosses the legs before and behind."[3] For example: in an entrechat-quatre starting from fifth position, right foot front, the dancer will jump crossing her/his legs and beating first the right thigh on the back of the left thigh, then at the front of the left thigh, landing in the same position she/he started. For an entrechat-quatre, three changes of the feet are made in the air, ultimately changing which foot was front.


  1. The initial part of a grand pas, which serves as an introduction for the suite of dances comprising the grand pas.
  2. The initial appearance of a lead character or characters of a ballet on stage.


Literally "shouldering". Rotation of the shoulders and head relative to the hips in a pose or a step. This term refers only to the movement of the body from the waist up. Head generally looks over shoulder that is forward.



"To give way". A spring onto one foot landing with the back foot raised, then sliding the back foot to the front.

First position (feet)[edit]

Feet flat on the floor and pointing in opposite directions, with heels touching.

Fish dive[edit]

A fish dive lift

A partnering dance lift, often performed as part of a pas de deux, in which the male dancer supports the female in a poisson position.


Literally "melted". Abbreviation for a battement fondu, a lowering of the body that is made by bending the knee of the supporting leg. Saint-Léon wrote, "Fondu is on one leg what a plié is on two."


Dancer performing Fouetté en tournant

(Common term for fouetté rond de jambe en tournant) A turn that begins with the dancer supported on one flat foot in plié (with bent knee). The working leg is extended and then whipped around to the side as the working foot is retracted to the supporting knee, thus creating the impetus to spin one turn. The working foot transitions to demi pointe (heel raised) or en pointe (on toe tips), and the dancer rotates in place.

Fouetté jeté[edit]

Literally "whipped throw". A leap that begins with a fouetté.



Literally, a glide. 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 forward and bringing the back foot that you pushed off on in the front landing in fifth position.

Grand écart[edit]

Literally, great gap. Also known as 'spagat' in German or 'splits' in English, is when the dancer opens his/her legs in 180°, front or sideways.

Grand plié[edit]

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. Often done in first, second, third, fourth, or fifth position.

Grand jeté[edit]

A grand jeté

A long horizontal jump, starting from one leg and landing on the other. Known as a split in the air. It is most often done forward and usually involves doing full leg splits in mid-air. It consists basically of a grand écart with a moving jump. The front leg brushes straight into the air, as opposed to performing dévelopé or "unfolding" motion. The back leg follows making the splits in the air. It can be performed en avant (forward), à la seconde (to the side), en arrière (backward), and en tournant (turning en dedans).The dancer must remember to hit the fullest split at the height of the jump, with weight pushed slightly forward, giving the dancer a gliding appearance. Very likely or commonly used in modern ballet, as well.

Grand pas[edit]

A suite of individual dances that serves as a showpiece for lead dancers, demi-soloists, and in some cases the corps de ballet, often regarded as the pièce de résistance of a ballet. It usually consists of an entreé, a grand adage, and a coda, which brings the suite to a conclusion. After the adage, it may include a dance for the corps de ballet (often referred to as the ballabile), variations for demi-soloists, variations for lead ballerina and danseur, or combinations of these.

Various types of "grand pas" are found in ballet, including:

  • A grand pas d'action is one that contributes to a ballet's story.
  • In a grand pas classique, classical ballet technique prevails and no character dances are included.
  • A grand pas de deux serves as the pièce de résistance for the principal male and female characters of a full-length ballet.
  • A grand pas danced by three or four dancers is a grand pas de trois or grand pas de quatre, respectively.


Hortensia (saut-de-chat in the Cecchetti school)[edit]

The dancer while in mid-air, bends both legs up (two retirés) bringing the feet up as high as possible, with knees apart sideways forming a diamond shape.



A leap in which one leg appears to be "thrown" in the direction of the movement (en avant, en arrière, or sideways). There are several kinds of jetés, including jeté ordinaire, petit jeté, grand jeté, and tour jeté (ABT) / grand jeté en tournant (Fr./Cecc.) / jeté entrelacé (Rus.).


Ouvert, ouverte[edit]

Open, opened. This may refer to positions (the second and fourth positions of the feet are positions ouvertes), limbs, directions, or certain exercises or steps. In the French School the term is used to indicate a position or direction of the body similar to effacé.



Dancing performed by a pair of dancers, typically a male and a female, in which the pair strives to achieve a harmony of coordinated movements so that the audience remains unaware of the mechanics. A dance that is focused on a single pair of partnering dancers is a pas de deux. For a male dancer, partnering may involve lifting, catching, and carrying a partner, and providing assistance and support for leaps, promenades and pirouettes.


(Literally "step") A dance, or a suite of dances as in grand pas.

Pas de basque[edit]

"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. This step can also be found in Scottish highland dance.

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[edit]

Jazz dance pas de bourrée, which differs slightly from ballet

(Meaning "step of bourrée") A quick sequence of movements beginning with extension of the first leg while demi plié, closing the first leg to the second as both transition to relevé (demi pointe or en pointe), extending the second leg to an open position while relevé, and closing the first leg to the second in demi plié (or optionally with legs straight if performed quickly or as the final step of an enchainement). Variants include:

  • pas de bourrée derrière - 'behind' / pas de bourrée devant - 'front'
  • pas de bourrée dessus - 'over,' initially closing the working foot in front / pas de bourrée dessous - 'under,' initially closing the working foot behind
  • pas de bourrée en arriere - 'traveling backward' / pas be bourrée en avant - 'traveling forward'
  • pas be bourrée en tournant en dedans - 'turning inward' / pas de bourrée en tournant en dehors - 'turning outward'
  • pas de bourrée ouvert - 'open,' an open->closed->open sequence
  • pas de bourrée piqué - 'pricked,' with working leg quickly lifted after pricking the floor
  • pas de bourrée couru - 'running,' also 'flowing like a river'

Pas de chat[edit]

Pas de chat

"the step of the cat". The dancer jumps sideways, and while in mid-air, bends both legs up (two retirés) bringing the feet up as high as possible, 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.

Italian pas de chat[edit]

Also called grand pas de chat, one where the front leg extends with a developpé and the back remains in passé until landing.

Pas de cheval[edit]

"step of the horse". The dancer does a cou de pied then a small developpé and tendu back into starting position.

Pas de deux[edit]

(Meaning "step of two") A dance duet, usually performed by a female and a male dancer.

Pas de poisson[edit]

(Literally "step of the fish") A type of soubresaut, or a jump without change of feet. From fifth position, the dancer executes a deep demi plié and then jumps arching the back with straight legs behind, so that the body is curved like a fish jumping out of water. Also called temps de poisson.

Pas de quatre[edit]

A dance by four dancers.

Pas de trois[edit]

A dance by three dancers.

Pas de valse[edit]

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


Literally 'to pass', placing or passing the working foot near (on, below or above) the knee of the supporting leg. When passing by the knee, the foot passes from front to back or back to front and then may slide down the supporting leg to the floor or transition into a position such as arabesque or attitude.


Arabesque penché

Tilting the body forward about the hip of the supporting leg so that the head is lower than the working leg, as in arabesque penché.

Petit saut[edit]

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


(Meaning 'pricked'). A movement in which the raised, pointed foot of the working leg is lowered so that it "pricks" the floor and then either rebounds upward or becomes a supporting foot. In the latter case it may be used to transfer a stance from one leg to the other by stepping out directly onto an en pointe or demi pointe foot, and often immediately precedes a movement that entails elevating the new working leg, such as piqué arabesque.

In Cecchetti and RAD, the term posé is used instead of piqué in the latter case: piqué arabesque and ABT piqué turn/tour piqué (en dedans) / Rus. tour dégagé = RAD/Cecc. posé arabesque and posé turn/posé en tournant.


A turn on one leg, often starting with one or both legs in plié and rising onto Relevé (usually for men) or pointe (usually for women). The non-supporting leg is held in Passé. A pirouette may return to the starting position or finish in arabesque or attitude positions, or proceed otherwise. It 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. Spotting technique is usually employed to help maintain balance. Pirouettes can be executed with a single or multiple rotations.


Demi plié

Means "bend", from the verb plier, to bend. A smooth and continuous bending of the knees. A bending of the knees outward by a ballet dancer with the back held straight.

For demi-plié the dancer bends the knees until just below the hips while maintaining turn-out at the joints, allowing the thighs and knees to be directly above the line of the toes without releasing the heels from the floor. The intention here is keep the heels on the ground as long as possible. In either instance, the motion is fluid and does not stop in downward bend. As soon as the bottom of the bend is reached the bend is reversed and the straightening of the legs is begun, equally as smoothly.

Pointe technique[edit]

The part of classical ballet technique that concerns pointe work (dancing on the tips of the toes).

Pointe work[edit]

Performing steps while on the tips of the toes, with feet fully extended and wearing pointe shoes, a structurally reinforced type of shoe designed specifically for this purpose. Most often performed by women.


Literally "fish". A body position in which the back is arched and legs are crossed in fifth position or the working leg is held retiré. This position may be assumed while jumping or in partnering lifts, as in a fish dive.

Port de bras[edit]

Literally "carriage of the arms". Sometimes misspelled "porte-bras". An exercise for the movement of the arms to different positions, it is considered a simple movement but a dancer works hard to make it seem graceful, poised and seamless. The basic port de bras exercise moves from fifth en bas to first arm position, to second arm position, then back down to fifth en bas. A full port de bras moves from fifth en bas to fifth overhead and back down but a variation of sequence is common.


A term of the Cecchetti school. From a fondu, the dancer steps with a straight leg onto a demi pointe or en pointe foot, 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[edit]

Arms held in Cecchetti's "Spanish fourth" position

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.

Different schools (training methods), such as Vaganova, French, and Cecchetti, Russian often use different names for similar arm positions. For example, a third Russian position is the equivalent to a Cecchetti fifth position en haut.

Positions of the feet[edit]

The standard, basic placements of feet on the floor. Modern-day classical ballet employs five positions, known as the first position, second position, third position, fourth position, and fifth position.

Pulling Up[edit]

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. The feeling of being simultaneously grounded and 'pulled up' is necessary for many of the traditional steps in ballet. 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 lift their lower abdominals and keep their back straight as to avoid arching and throwing themselves off balance. Use of the inner thigh muscles as well as the 'bottom' is very helpful in pulling up. Pulling up is also essential to dancer en pointe in order for them to balance on their toes.



Four of something, as in pas de quatre (a dance by four dancers).


Meaning Fourth.



An attitude presented on a turn.[5]


Rising onto the balls or toes of one or both feet by pivoting feet downward at the ankles, or supporting the body with feet in the resulting demi pointe (raised heels) or en pointe (on the tips of the toes) orientations. See also elevé.


A position of the working leg in which the leg is raised to the side and turned out, with toe pointed and knee sharply bent so that the toe is located directly in front of or behind the supporting knee. This is commonly used in pirouettes and as an intermediate position in other movements.

Retiré devant[edit]

Working leg in 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.


A bravura jump in which one lands on the leg from which one pushes off after that leg travels around the other leg lifted to 90 degrees.

Rond de jambe[edit]

(Meaning 'leg circle.') Half-circle made by the pointed foot, from front or back through second position to the opposite starting position (back or front) and returning through first position again to repeat, in effect tracing out the letter "D." Starting front going back is called rond de jambe en dehors while starting back and going front is called rond de jambe en dedans.

  • Demi-grand rond de jambe: the leg is extended and sustained off the ground at lower than 90 degrees from the body to draw a semi-circle in the air.
  • Grand rond de jambe: the leg is extended and sustained at grand battement height to draw a semi-circle in the air.
  • Rond de jambe à terre/par terre: 'on the ground.' The extended leg with pointed toe remains on the ground to sweep around in a semi-circle.
  • Rond de jambe attitude: the leg is swung around from front to side and into attitude position behind as the supporting foot goes en pointe. (See also attitude.)
  • Rond de jambe en l'air: 'in the air.' The leg is lifted and sustained to the side (à la seconde), with movement being limited to below the knee. If the thigh is held at 90 degrees from the body, the toe draws a circle approximately between the knee of the supporting leg and second position in the air. If the thigh is held lower (e.g. 45 degrees), the circle is drawn to the calf of the supporting leg.



Literally "jump". As adjectives, sauté (masc.) or sautée (fem.) French pronunciation: ​[sote] are used to modify the quality of a step: for instance, "'sauté arabesque indicates an arabesque performed while jumping.

Saut de chat[edit]

A jump similar to a "grande jété" where the front leg extends with a développé.

Second position (arms)[edit]

Slightly rounded arms, raised to the side with elbows and wrists slightly below the shoulders.

Second position (feet)[edit]

Feet flat on the floor and pointing in opposite directions, with heels approximately one foot apart.


A term that refers to the reverse of a winging of the foot. If a dancer sickles an en pointe or demi pointe foot, the ankle could collapse to the outside, resulting in a sprained ankle. If it is the working foot sickled, it will make the dancer look amateurish and untrained. Working foot to the side should be straight and mildly winged when foot is to the front or back.



A jump done from two feet to one foot. Named after the originator of the step. In a sissonne over the back foot closes in front and in a sissonne under the front foot closes behind. Exceptions to the traditional sissonne include sissonne fermee, sissonne tombe, and sissonne fondue, which all finish on two feet.


A sudden spring or jump from both feet, traveling forward in either first third or fifth position and landing on both feet in the same position as they started.

Sous sus[edit]

Literally "under over". Typically executed from fifth position, a dancer rises to en pointe or demi pointe with feet touching and ankles crossed in a tight fifth position relevé so that the two legs appear as one. It may be performed in place or while traveling. Sous sous is the equivalent term used in the Cecchetti method.

Soutenu en tournant[edit]

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.


A configuration of the legs in which legs are extended in opposite directions, either to the side (straddle split) or with one leg forward and the other in back (front split) with back leg turned out. It is employed in various movements, including grand jeté and arabesque penchée.

Sur le cou-de-pied[edit]

French pronunciation: ​[syʀləkudɘpje] Literally, "on the neck of the foot". The working foot is placed on the part of the leg between the base of the calf and the beginning of the ankle. On the accent devant (front), the heel of the working is placed in front of the leg, while the toes point to the back, allowing the instep (cou-de-pied in French) of the working foot to "hug" the lower leg, thus giving the position its name. On the accent derrière (back), the heel of the working leg is placed behind the leg with the toes point to the back. The action of alternating between devant and derrière is seen in the petit battement.

Sway back[edit]

Arching the back too far, resulting in an appearance of bad posture.



(Literally "stretched") Gradually extending the working leg to the front (tendu devant), side or back, until only the toes touch the floor (tendu à terre), or further until toes are elevated (en l'air). A common abbreviation for battement tendu.

Temps levé[edit]

A term from the Cecchetti vocabulary, 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[edit]

A term from the Russian vocabulary, 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).

Temps lié[edit]

A term for the transfer of weight from one leg to another.

Tours en l'air[edit]

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.


The act of falling. Typically a beginning movement. In the Vaganova school, its complete name is sissone ouverte tombé. 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.

Triple Runs[edit]

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


Turnout in first position of the feet

Rotation of the legs at the hips, resulting in knees and feet facing away from each other.


A classic ballet skirt, typically flat at waist or hip level, made of several layers of tulle netting or tarlatan.




A solo dance.


A sequence of steps performed in sync with waltz music, as in pas de waltz en tournant.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Balletomane". 2011. Retrieved December 23, 2011. 
  2. ^ Barker/Kostrovitskaya: 101 Lessons in Classical Ballet - 1977
  3. ^ a b Grant, Gail (1982). Technical Manual and Dictionary of Classical Ballet (3rd revised ed.). New York: Dover Publications. ISBN 0-486-21843-0. OCLC 8756882. 
  4. ^ Vaganova, Agrippina (1969). Basic Principles of Classical Ballet: Russian Ballet Technique. Trans. Anatole Chujoy. New York: Dover Publications. ISBN 0-486-22036-2. OCLC 439604642. 
  5. ^ Jennings, Luke (10 November 2011). "MoveTube: Anthony Dowell dances the Prince's solo from Swan Lake Act I". Guardian (London, UK). Retrieved 12 June 2012. 

General references[edit]

  • Beaumont, Cyril W.; Idzikowski, Stanislas (1975) [1922]. A Manual of the Theory and Practice of Classical Theatrical Dancing (Méthode Cecchetti). New York: Dover Publications. ISBN 0-486-23223-9. OCLC 2304002. 
  • Kersley, Leo; Sinclair, Janet (1981) [1977]. A Dictionary of Ballet Terms (3rd revised ed.). New York: Da Capo Press. ISBN 0-306-80094-2. OCLC 4515340. 
  • Minden, Eliza Gaynor (2005). The Ballet Companion: A Dancer's Guide to the Technique, Traditions, and Joys of Ballet. New York: Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-6407-X. OCLC 58831597. 
  • Glossary of Dance Terms. New York: New York City Ballet. 2010. 
  • Ryman, Rhonda S. (1998). Dictionary of Classical Ballet Terminology (2nd ed.). London (Hightstown, NJ): Royal Academy of Dancing (distributed in the U.S.A. and Canada by Princeton Book). ISBN 0-9524848-0-3. OCLC 39625207. 

External links[edit]