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Glossary of ballet

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



À la seconde

[[[:Template:IPA-fr]]] A position of the leg to the side or a movement with the leg held to the side in second position, as in a pirouette à la seconde, in which a dancer turns with the working leg à la hauteur ('elevated') in second position.

Also, one of the directions of the body, facing the audience (i.e. en face), arms in second position, with one leg extended to second position.

À la quatrième

One of the directions of body, facing the audience (en face), arms in second position, with one leg extended either to fourth position in front (quatrième devant) or fourth position behind (quatrième derrière).

À terre

Touching the floor.


Italian, or French adage, meaning 'slowly, 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, sissonne, soubresaut).


(Meaning 'elongated.') 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, both legs held straight. There are three or four types of arabesque depending on the school.

  • First Arabesque: downstage leg extended back and upstage arm allongé in front, upstage arm either held towards second or more open towards derrière.
  • Second Arabesque: downstage leg extended back and downstage arm allongé in front (as in épaulé), upstage arm either towards second or more derrière.
  • Third Arabesque - Cecchetti/RAD: dowstage leg extended back and both arms allongé in front, upstage arm higher than downstage arm.
  • Third Arabesque - Russian: upstage leg extended back and upstage arm allongé in front, downstage arm open towards derrière.
  • Fourth Arabesque - Russian: upstage leg extended back and downstage arm allongé in front (as in croisé derrière, downstage arm open towards derrière.


(Meaning 'rounded.') A position of the hand. Rounded, in contrast with allongé ('stretched out', as in arabesque).


[[[:Template:IPA-fr]]] (Literally 'assembled.') Sometimes also pas assemblé. A jump that lands on two feet. When initiated from two feet, the working leg performs a battement glissé/dégagé, brushing out. The dancer launches into a jump, with the second foot then meeting the first foot before landing. A petit assemblé is when a dancer is standing on one foot with the other extended. The dancer then does a small jump to meet the first foot.


A position in which a 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° with the foot pointed to align with the lower leg. The knee should be higher than the foot. The arm on the side of the raised leg is usually held en haut (overhead) slightly rounded while the other arm is usually extended to the side (i.e. fourth ouvert). The working leg can be held 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, en demi pointe (ball of the foot), or en pointe (tips of the toes). Attitude was originally created to display the emotional zone of the leg: the knee to the ankle.

Avant, en

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

Arrière, en

('Backwards.') A movement towards the back, as opposed to 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] ('Seesaw.') Swinging the working leg between front (devant) and back (derrière) through first position, usually in conjunction with grands battements or attitudes. Similar to en cloche.


A principal female ballet dancer.


(Italian) A principal male ballet dancer.

Ballet technique

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.


File:Ballet barre.jpg
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.') A movement of the working (non-supporting) leg, often performed rapidly, to the front (en avant or à la quatrième devant), to the side (à la seconde), or to the back (en arrière or à la quatrième derrière).


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


(Meaning 'to beat.') A movement that ends with an extra beating of the feet, as in jeté battu.


(Literally 'broken.') A jump consisting of an assemblé with a beat of the feet/legs, changing to fifth position and back again in the air before landing. Examples: one leg could be thrust from fifth position to second position in the air with the second leg reaching the first in mid-air executing a beat before landing back in the original fifth position. An execution of brisé devant could start croisé in fifth position brushing out to fourth with a changement in air and back again to the original fifth by the time of landing. A brisé derrière would be 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 back leg thrusts up to meet the front leg, beaten to the front, and both feet landing in the starting fifth position. A dancer may practice petits battements in preparation for brisés. Brisé volé are many brisés completed in quick succession alternating from and back.

Bras croisés

(Literally 'crossed arms.') Arm placement in which one arm is extended in second position away from the audience while the other is curved in first position (Cecchetti fourth position en avant or RAD/French third position).


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.


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



(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.


(Literally 'arched.') A bending at the waist in any direction, forward, backward, or to the side.


('Chained,' plural.) Also known as "chaînés turns," a common abbreviation for tours chaînés déboulés, a series of quick, 360 degree turns that alternate the feet while traveling along a straight line or in a circular path. The majority of the turn is on the leading foot, with feet held in a tight first position en pointe or demi pointe.


(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

(Meaning 'like a bell.') Refers to grands battements executed continuously through first position to fourth devant and fourth derrière with the upper body held upright. Similar to Balançoire, which also allows slight see-saw like upper body shifting in counterpoint to the legs.

The Vaganova system currently refers to en cloche as "Passé la jambe" or "Battement passé 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

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.


In some systems, a dancer of higher rank than a member of the corps de ballet, performing in small ensembles and small solo roles but not ranked as a soloist.

Côté, de

('Sideways.') A movement to the side.


('Neck of the foot.') Position of the arched working foot raised to on or around the ankle. This could be in front (["conditional"] devant), behind (["conditional"] derrière), or wrapped (sur le cou-de-pied: devant - wrapped heel front, toes back; derrière - wrapped toes front, heel back), depending on the activity and the school of ballet.


(Meaning 'cut.') Coupé is both a step and action. It is commonly executed from cou-de-pied front to cou-de-pied back or vice versa. It may also be done from an extended leg position into fondu or directly through fifth position (as in concluding a jeté). Coupé can only be performed through a closed leg position.

The Vaganova School rarely uses the term coupé except as the preparation for specific allegros. Rather, "tombé through fifth position" is more commonly used.[3]

In the United States, "coupé" may be used to denote the position cou-de-pied, not unlike "passé" is used to denote the position retiré in addition to the action of passing through retiré.


('Run,' past participle, as in 'making small quick steps.') In most cases, this holds the calves together and the feet in a tight fifth position en pointe or demi pointe and travels forward, backward, or to either side. E.g. pas de bourrée couru (also called bourrée for short).

Croisé, croisée

(Meaning 'crossed.') One of the positions of the body or épaulement. Facing one of the corners of the stage, the body presents at an oblique angle to the audience, such that the audience can see still both shoulders and hips. The working leg may be crossed to the front (devant) or to the back (derrière).

Croisé is used in the third, fourth, and fifth positions of the legs. A dancer is in croisé devant if at a 45 angle to the audience, the downstage leg (closest to the audience) is working to the front and the arms are open in third or fourth with the downstage arm being the one in second. A dancer is in croisé derrière if at a 45 degree angle to the audience, the upstage leg (farthest from the audience) is working to the back and the arms are open in third, fourth, or allongé in arabesque with the upstage arm being the one out towards second, e.g. arabesque croisée or Russian fourth arabesque. Croisé derrière in the Russian school alternatively has the upstage leg working to the back, but the downstage arm out to second.

Examples of croisé: the front leg is the right leg and the dancer is facing the front-left corner of the stage; or the front leg is the left, and the dancer is facing his/her front-right corner.

Croix, en

(Meaning 'in the shape of a cross.') Term often used during barre exercises to indicate that a step is done to the front, to the side, to the back, and then again to the side (as in the shape of a cross), finishing closed in either first or fifth position.



A male ballet dancer.

Danseur noble

A highly accomplished male ballet dancer.


A female ballet dancer.


(Literally 'hurtled,' as in 'with great speed.') Another name denoting the same move as a chaîné (i.e. les tours chaînés déboulés). A fast sequence of half turns performed by stepping onto one leg, and completing the turn by stepping onto the other, performed on the balls of the feet or high on the toes, with the legs held very close together. These can be performed in a circle (en manège) or in a straight line (chaîné).

Dedans, en

File:En dehors En dedans.jpg
En dehors; en dedans

('Inwards.') Inside movement. Circular movement where a leg that starts at the back or the side moves towards the front. For the right leg, this is a counter-clockwise circle. For the left leg, this is a clockwise circle. For example, in a rond de jambe en dedans, starting from first position, the foot first extends to tendu back, then moves to tendu to the side, and then tendu front, and back in again to first position. In a pirouette en dedans, the body turns such that the working leg moving forward or ahead of the supporting leg. Opposite of en dehors.


(Meaning 'disengaged.') 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.

Dehors, en

('Outwards.') Circular movement where a leg that starts at the front or the side moves towards the back. For the working leg, this is a clockwise circle. For example, in a rond de jambe en dehors, starting from first position, the foot (either left or right) would first extend tendu front, move to tendu to the side, and then tendu back, and back in again to first position. In a pirouette en dehors, the body turns in the direction of the working leg (the leg raised in passé). Opposite of en dedans.


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

Demi détourné

A pivoted half turn executed on both feet. For example, if starting right foot front in 5th position, demi plié and then relevé onto demi pointe while pivoting a half turn inwards/en dedans towards the direction of the back foot (here left). The feet will have now changed position with the left foot in front in 5th position. Plié and straighten the legs.

Demi pointe

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


(Literally 'behind.') At or to the back. For example, a battement tendu derrière is a battement tendu to the rear.


(Literally 'under.') Used to indicate that the front leg should be brought to close behind the other leg during a step. For example, assemblé, pas de bourrée, and glissade can be designated as under or dessous.


(Literally 'over.') Used to indicate that the back leg should be brought to close in front of the other leg during a step. For example, assemblé, pas de bourrée, and glissade can be designated as over or dessus.


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


Common abbreviation for temps développé. A movement in which the leg is first lifted to retiré, then fully extended outward, passing through attitude. It can be done to the 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 'spread,' as in 'separated.') One of the basic positions of the body facing the audience at an oblique angle and with the downstage leg open 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 on the same side as the working leg (i.e. the downstage arm) raised en haut and the other arm in second (i.e. fourth ouvert). The gaze is directed to the raised arm along the same diagonal.

In schools that recognize an écarté derrière, such as the French school, écarté devant is described above, and écarté derrière differs in having the working leg in second being on the same side as the corner the body is facing, i.e. the upstage leg is the working leg; the upstage arm is en haut.


(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, a dancer takes a deep plié followed by a jump in which the legs "escape" into either second (usually when initiating from first position) or fourth position (usually when initiating from fifth position) landing in demi-plié. In échappé sur le pointes/demi-pointes a dancer begins with a deep plié, springs onto les pointes or demi-pointes, ending in either second position (when starting from first position) or fourth (when starting from fifth) with knees straight. The dancer may or may not return to the initial position, depending on the choreography.

Effacé, effacée

(Literally 'erased,' as in 'obscured.') One of the positions of the body or épaulement in which a dancer stands at an oblique angle to the audience such that part of the body is almost hidden from the audience's view. The working leg is the upstage leg (farthest from audience), and the arms are such that the downstage arm (nearest the audience) crosses the body or the face (such as in fourth ouvert with the downstage arm en haut). This position is the opposite of croisé and is considered ouvert ('open'). Effacé may also be used to qualify a pose in which the legs are open (i.e. not crossed).

In schools that recognize an effacé derrière, such as the French and Russian schools, the above describes effacé devant, and effacé derrière differs in having the downstage leg working to the back with the downstage arm remaining the one en haut.

Examples of effacé: right working leg and dancer facing corner to his/her front-right (stage right), or left working leg and dancer facing corner to his/her front-left (stage left).


Rising to en pointe or demi pointe from straight legs and flat feet. This is in contrast to relevé ('rerise'), in which the dancer rises from plié (bent knees).


(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 avant

See Avant

En arrière

See Arrière

En cloche

See Cloche

En croix

See Croix

En dedans

See Dedans

En dehors

See Dehors

En face

See Face

En pointe

See Pointe


File:Entrechat six.jpg
Entrechat quatre

"A step of beating in which the dancer jumps into the air and rapidly crosses the legs before and behind."[4] 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.


('Shouldered.') One of the positions of the body or épaulement where the body is at an oblique angle to the audience, the downstage arm is allongé in front and the downstage shoulder appears prominent to the audience as the downstage leg works to the back (e.g. second arabesque).


('Shouldering.') Rotation of the shoulders and head relative to the hips in a pose or a step. This term only to the movement of the body from the waist up. The head generally looks over shoulder that is forward.


Face, en

('Facing, in front of.') En face indicates facing something directly, generally the audience.


[[[:Template:IPA-fr]]] (Past participle, 'given way.') A sliding of the back foot to the front. Used in conjunction with a proceeding step. Failli is typically used as shorthand for a sissonne failli, indicating a jump from two feet landing on one with the back foot then sliding through to the front. (I.e. From croisé, the downstage leg brushes out on the jump, the body changes direction in the air to land the sissonne ouverte in effacé; the back leg which is upstage slides through in a chassé passé to fourth in front. The failli here is the chassé passé.) Failli can also be phrased with arabesque, for example, (arabesque failli) to indicate the brushed follow-through of an arabesqued leg from elevated behind to fourth in front as lead-in to a following step.

First position (feet)

Turned out legs with the feet pointing in opposite directions, heels touching.

Fermé, fermée

('Closed.') Converse of ouvert(e) ('open'). Fermé may refer to positions (the first, fifth, and third positions of the feet are positions fermées), limbs, directions, or certain exercises or steps. Example: a sissonne fermée ends with closed legs.

Fish dive

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


File:CF46618267 109996904033.gif
Dancer performing Fouetté en tournant

(Literally 'whipped.') Common shorthand for fouetté rond de jambe en tournant. A turn that begins with the supporting leg in plié. As the supporting foot transitions to demi pointe or en pointe, the working leg extends forward and then whips around to the side as the working foot is retracted to the supporting knee (in retiré), creating the impetus to rotate one turn. The working leg returns out of retiré nearing the end of a single rotation to restart the entire leg motion for any successive rotations.

Fouetté jeté

(Literally 'whipped throw.') A leap that begins with a fouetté.



(Literally 'glide.') A traveling step starting in fifth position from demi-plié. The leading foot brushes out to dégagé as weight bears on the trailing leg, weight is shifted to the leading leg via a jump and the trailing foot extends out of plié into degagé. The leading foot lands tombé and the trailing foot slides in to meet the leading foot in fifth position demi-plié. A glissade can be done en avant, en arrière, dessous (leading front foot ends back), dessus (leading back foot ends front), or without a changement of feet.

Glissade précipitée

('Precipitated.') A quick glissade generally done leading into a following step, such as with glissade jeté or glissade assemblé.

Grand écart

(Literally 'big gap.') Opening the legs to 180°, front or sideways. Known as 'spagat' in German or 'the splits' in English,

Grand plié

A full plié or bending of the knees. The back should be straight and aligned with the heels with the legs are turned out and knees over the feet. As a movement from standing to bent, it should be fluid.

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 in a grand battement, as opposed to from développé (or an 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.

Grand pas

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 some 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.



"A male dancer's step in which the dancer jumps into the air with the legs drawn up, one in front of the other, then reverses their position [...] several times before landing with the feet apart again."[5] This step can look akin to swimming in air.



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

('Open, opened.') Converse of fermé(e) ('closed'). Ouvert 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, this 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

('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

File:Pas de bourrée, jazz dance technique.webm
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

('Step of the cat.') A jumps sideways where while in mid-air the legs are successively bent (as in two retirés) bringing the feet up as high as possible, 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.

In the Cecchetti and French schools, this may be referred to as a saut de chat ('jump of the cat').

Italian pas de chat

Also called grand pas de chat. A jump where the front leg extends with a développé and the back leg remains in passé until landing.

Pas de cheval

('Step of the horse.') A movement of the leg from cou-de-pied to a small developpé and sharply back to the starting position with a tendu.

Pas de deux

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

Pas de poisson

(Literally 'step of the fish.') A type of soubresaut, or a jump without a change of feet. From fifth position, a 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

A dance by four dancers.

Pas de trois

A dance by three dancers.

Pas de valse

('Waltz step.') A traveling step done to music in 3/4 time, either directly or while turning (en tournant).


(Literally 'passed.') Passing the working foot through from back to front or vice versa. Generally used to refer to retiré passé, indicating passing the foot of the working leg past the knee of the supporting leg (on, below, or above) from back to front or front to back. Retiré passé may initiate or complete by sliding the working foot up or down the supporting leg from or to the floor, may be executed directly from an open position such as in pirouette from fourth, or may transition from knee to another position such as arabesque or attitude (as in développé). A chassé can also pass through from back to front as in (sissonne) failli: chassé passé.


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

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.


(Meaning 'bent.') A smooth and continuous bending of the knees outward with the upper body held straight.

In demi-plié a dancer bends the knees while maintaining turn-out with the thighs and knees ending directly above the line of the toes without releasing the heels from the floor. As soon as the bottom of the bend is reached, the bend is reversed and the legs are straightened smoothly.

Pointe, en

An en pointe foot in a pointe shoe

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

Pointe technique

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

Pointe work

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

(Literally 'carriage of the arms.') An exercise for the movement of the arms (and in some schools, the upper body) to different positions. For example, a basic port de bras exercise could move from fifth en bas (i.e. bras bas or preparatory position) to first arm position, to second arm position, back down to fifth en bas. A full port de bras could move from fifth en bas to fifth en haut (i.e. overhead) and back down. The port de bras movements vary by school and by action.

The phrase port de bras is sometimes used (in some parts of the world) to indicate a bending forward, backward, or circularly of the body at the waist, generally to be followed by bringing the upper body back to center/upright again, e.g. "port de bras forward," "port de bras back," "circular port de bras." Bending at the waist is otherwise known as cambré or port de corps.


A term of the Cecchetti school and RAD. From a fondu, a 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 (the later also known as tour piqué).

Positions of the arms

File:Ballet grace.jpg
Arms held in Cecchetti's "Spanish fourth" position

There are two basic positions of the arms. In one, the dancer keeps the fingers of both arms almost touching to form an oval/round shape, either near the hips, 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, such as Vaganova, French, and Cecchetti, Russian often use different names for similar arm positions. The Russian school names three arm positions while the other schools name five.

  • Bras bas ('arms low') (RAD)/bras au repos ('at rest') (French), preparatory position (Rus.), or fifth en bas (Cecc.) holds the arms low and slightly rounded near the hip.
  • First position holds the arms round or oval in front of the body somewhere between the naval and breastbone (depending on the school and movement), the fingertips of the hands approaching each other. In Cecchetti, the hands stay a little lower at tutu height.
  • Second position in all schools holds the arms extended out to the side, the inner part of the upper arm parallel to the ground with the forearms and palms facing the audience. The roundness and shoulder height of the arms varies by school.
  • Third position in the French/RAD schools holds one arm in second with the other arm in first. The Russian equivalent of this may be petit bras.
  • Third position in Cecchetti holds one arm in a Cecchetti first and the other arm in demi-seconde.
  • Third position in the Russian school holds both arms slightly rounded overhead. This is equivalent to fifth position (en haut) in other schools.
  • Fourth position or fourth ouvert ('open') consists of one arm en haut ('high,' i.e. raised overhead) and the other open to second position. This is called fourth en haut in Cecchetti. The Russian school does not designate a fourth position; the Russian equivalent may be grand bras.
  • Fourth position croisé ('crossed') or Spanish fourth in Cecchetti consists of one arm en haut and the other held in first position/Cecchetti fifth en avant.
  • Fifth position in the French/RAD schools and fifth en haut in Cecchetti holds the arms en haut slightly rounded, fingertips approaching each other. This is called third position in the Russian school, which does not designate a fifth (or fourth) position. Cecchetti also recognizes a fifth en bas, the preparatory/bras bas position in other schools, and a fifth en avant, arms rounded between naval/chest height, known as first position in other schools.


  • Demi-bras ('half arms') holds the arms between first and second position, outstretched with palms presented towards the audience.
  • Demi-seconde ('half second') holds the arms low out to the side as if grazing the tutu, palms generally down.

Positions of the body

There are eight to eleven positions of the body in ballet, eight in Cecchetti and RAD and ten or eleven in the Russian and French schools. The general positions are croisé, à la quatrième, effacé, à la seconde, écarté, and épaulé. Cecchetti and RAD's eight include croisé devant, à la quatrième devant, effacé (devant), à la seconde, croisé derrière, écarté, épaulé, and à la quatrième derrière. The Russian school further divides effacé and épaulé into effacé devant, effacé derrière, épaulé devant, and épaulé derrière, and the Russian arm positions on croisé derrière are the converse of Cecchetti/RAD's. In addition, the French school further divides écarté into écarté devant and écarté derrière.

Positions of the feet

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

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.[6]


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.

Relevé lent

('Lifted slowly.') Abbreviation of battement relevé lent. Term from the Russian school indicating raising the leg slowly from pointe tendu to 45 degrees or higher off the ground. Contrasts with (battement) tendu jeté, aka dégagé, in which the leg brushes out propulsively from a position through tendu to elevated off the ground, and (temps) développé, in which the leg passes through retiré (or petit retiré) to à la hauteur or demi-hauteur, i.e. elevated off the ground.


File:Retire or passe position in ballet.jpg
Working leg in retiré devant

A position of the working leg in which the leg is raised turned out and bent at the knee to the side 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 such as 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

(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.



[[[:Template:IPA-fr]]] (Literally 'jumped.') Used to indicate a step executed jumping, e.g. sauté arabesque is an arabesque performed while jumping on the supporting leg.

Saut de chat

In RAD and American ballet, saut de chat refers to a jump similar to a grande jété differing in that the front leg extends through a développé instead of a grand battement. This is called a grande jété développé in other schools.

In the French and Cecchetti schools, saut de chat refers to what RAD/ABT call a pas de chat.

Second position (feet)

Legs turned out with feet pointing in opposite directions and heels at least shoulder-width apart.


A term that refers to the reverse of a winging, indicating a foot where the heel is too far back so the toes are in front of the ankle and heel, breaking the line of the leg at the ankle. If a dancer sickles an en pointe or demi pointe foot, the ankle could collapse to the outside, resulting in a sprain. A working foot should be straight to the side and mildly winged 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 (dessus) the back foot closes in front, and in a sissonne under (dessous) the front foot closes behind. Sissonnes which finished on two feet include the sissonne fermée, sissonne tombée, and sissonne fondue.


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.


(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 so that the two legs appear as one. This may be performed in place or while traveling. Sous sous is the equivalent term used in the Cecchetti method.

Soutenu en tournant

('Sustained.') Similar to tours chaînés (déboulés), a soutenu turn is a turn usually done in multiples in quick succession. The dancer first executes a demi plié while extending the leading leg in tendu, stepping onto that leg en pointe/demi-pointe (making it the standing leg), then bringing the other leg to 5th position in front of the standing leg and finally turning (effectively, an unwinding motion). At the end of the rotation, the originally crossed-over foot in front should now be in 5th position behind.

Common abbreviation of assemblé soutenu en tournant (Cecc.). This is known as a glissade en tourant in the Russian school.

When done at the barre en demi-pointe to switch sides, only half a turn is done instead of a full turn, and the foot does not extend out into tendu. Differs from a détourné in that there is a repositioning of the feet on finishing (and a crossing action, if not initiated in 5th) vs. just a pivot to half turn.


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

Sur le cou-de-pied

[[[:Template:IPA-fr]]] (Literally 'on the neck of the foot.') The arched working foot is placed wrapped at 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 foot 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. On the accent derrière (back), the heel of the working leg is placed behind the leg with the toes pointing to the back. The action of alternating between devant and derrière is seen in a petit battement.



(Literally 'stretched.') Gradually extending the working leg to the front (tendu devant), side, or back, passing from flat to demi-pointe to point where only the toes are touching the floor (tendu à terre), or only the pointed toes are elevated (en l'air). A common abbreviation for battement tendu.

Temps levé

(Literally 'time raised.') A term from the Cecchetti school indicating a hop on one foot while the other is 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 specifically indicates a spring from fifth position while raising one foot to sur le cou-de-pied. In the Russian and French schools, this is known as sissonne simple.

Temps levé sauté

(Literally 'time raised jumped.') A term from the Russian school. This can be executed with both feet from first, second, third, fourth, or fifth position starting with a demi-plié, leading to a jump in the air that lands with the feet in the same position as they started. (Otherwise known as simply a saut or sauté.) This can also be performed from one foot, while the other maintains the same position it had before starting the jump (i.e. the same as temps levé).

Temps lié

('Time linked.') A term indicating the transfer of weight from one leg to another by shifting through to the position without any sort of gliding or sliding movement.

Tours en l'air

(Literally 'turn in the air.') A jump, typically done by males, with a full rotation in the air. The landing can be on both feet, on one leg with the other extended in attitude or arabesque, or down on 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.


(Literally 'fallen.') The action of falling, typically used as a lead-in movement to a traveling step, e.g. pas de bourrée. A tombé en avant begins with a coupé to the front moving to a dégagé to fourth position devant, the extended foot coming down to the floor with the leg en plié, shifting the weight of the body onto the front leg and lifting the back leg off the floor in dégagé (to fourth derrière). A tombé through second starts with a dégagé of the leading leg to second position, the leading foot coming to the floor with the leg in plié, and the trailing leg lifting off the floor in dégagé to (the opposite-side) second position. A tombé en avant can also be initiated with a small sliding hop instead of a coupé.

In the Vaganova school, the full term is sissonne ouverte tombée.

Triple Runs

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


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


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




A solo dance.


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

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See also


  1. "Balletomane". 2011. Retrieved December 23, 2011. 
  2. Barker/Kostrovitskaya: 101 Lessons in Classical Ballet - 1977
  3. 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. 
  4. Grant, Gail (1982). Technical Manual and Dictionary of Classical Ballet (3rd revised ed.). New York: Dover Publications. ISBN 0-486-21843-0. OCLC 8756882. 
  5. Grant, Gail. Technical Manual and Dictionary of Classical Ballet, Third Edition, Dover Publications, 1982, p. 62.
  6. 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

  • 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