Pas de deux

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This article is about the ballet term. For other uses, see Pas de deux (disambiguation).
Dancers performing Paquita pas de deux entrée

In ballet, a pas de deux (French, literally "step of two") is a dance duet in which two dancers, typically a male and a female, perform ballet steps together.[1][2] It usually has five parts, consisting of an entrée (introduction), an adagio, two variations (a solo for each dancer), and a coda (finale).[1] The pas de deux is characteristic of classical ballet and can be found in many well-known ballets, including Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, and Giselle.[1] It is often considered to be the bravura highlight of a ballet and is usually performed by a leading pair of principal dancers.[2]


The pas de deux is effectively a suite of dances that share a common theme, often symbolic of a love story or the partnership inherent in love, with the dancers portraying expressions of affectionate feelings and thoughts between romantic partners.[1][3][2] It is most often performed by a male and a female (a danseur and a ballerina) though there are exceptions, such as in the film White Nights, in which a pas de deux is performed by Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines.[1]

A pas de deux usually begins with an entrée (literally "entrance"), which serves as a short prelude to and also unequivocally denotes the beginning of the dance suite. During the entrée, the dancers first appear on the stage and, typically with great pageantry, acknowledge each other and position themselves near each other in preparation for the subsequent adagio. Depending on the choreography, the ballerina and danseur may enter the stage simultaneously or at different times.

The adagio or adage (meaning "slowly") part of a pas de deux features graceful and elaborate partnering by the dancing pair. In the adagio, the ballerina performs elegant, often slow and sustained movements while the danseur supports her. The danseur, in turn, strives to maintain a display of poise and seemingly effortless strength while providing support for the ballerina. The danseur may support the ballerina in a variety of common ways, including lifting her, holding and steadying her during turns, and offering a steady arm or hand for her to use as a "virtual barre" when she performs balancing feats that would be difficult or impossible without assistance.[1][4]

Upon completion of the adagio, the dancers separate and each dancer, in turn, takes center stage and performs a variation (a solo dance).[2] In general, the variations are intended to showcase spectacular, acrobatic leaps and turns, as well as the skills and athleticism of the individual dancers. The danseur's variation is usually performed first, followed by the ballerina's variation.

The coda (literally "tail") is the concluding segment of a pas de deux. Typically, it is a recapitulation of earlier segments of the pas de deux, consisting of elements that are characteristic of the adagio, variations, or both.[2]


The pas de deux first appeared in ballet in the early eighteenth century, as the entree to an opera or ballet by a couple performing identical dance steps, perhaps holding hands or separately. Throughout the Baroque period the form developed to show more dramatic content. For example, in John Weaver's The Loves of Mars and Venus of 1717, the character of Mars was told to represent "gallantry, respect, ardent love and adoration" while Venus was instructed to show "bashfulness, reciprocal love, and wishful looks".[3]

In the late 18th and early 19th century a romantic pas de deux developed involving closer physical contact, ballerinas pointing on their toes in the hands of their partners. As the 19th century progressed the form became a showcase for the skills of the increasingly sophisticated ballerina.

The ballets of the late 19th Century, particularly of those of Marius Petipa at the Imperial Theatre of St. Petersburg, introduced the concept of the grand pas de deux, which often formed a climactic moment of a scene or a whole performance. This involved a consistent format of entree and adagio by a pair of leading male and female dancers, and then virtuosic solos first by the male and then by the female dancer, followed by a finale. This kind of dance, as found in Nutcracker and Swan Lake, was often performed separately from the remainder of the ballet.[3]

The grand pas de deux never became an entirely rigid structure, and during the twentieth century became more integrated with the progress of the story in the ballet, with a growing amount of acrobatic content.[3]

Notable Pas de deux[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Bedinghaus, Treva. "What is a pas de deux?". Retrieved 2014-03-11. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Greskovic, Robert. Ballet 101: A Complete Guide to Learning and Loving the Ballet. p. 194-195. 
  3. ^ a b c d Cohen, Selma Jean (2004). International Encyclopedia of Dance. Oxford University Press. p. 105-108. 
  4. ^ Kersley, Leo. A Dictionary of Ballet Terms. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Richard Elis and Christine Du Boulay, Partnering - The fundamentals of pas de deux, Wyman and sons 1955
  • Anton Dolin, Pas de deux - The Art of Partnering, Dover Publications 1969
  • Charles R. Schroeder, Adagio, 1971 Regmar Publishing Co.
  • Kenneth Laws and Cynthia Harvey, Physics, Dance and the Pas de Deux, Schirmer books 1994
  • Nikolaij Serebrennikov, Marian Horosko, Pas De Deux: A Textbook on Partnering, University of Florida, 2000
  • Suki Schorer, On Balanchine Technique, Partnering section, p. 383, Knopf 1999, ISBN 0-679-45060-2