Contretemps is a classical ballet term meaning “beating against time.” A dancer doing a contretemps looks like they are a brisé, but opening their body to the other side at the last moment. It is usually done as a preparatory step, and before the beat of the music the dancer will start a new step.
Breaking down a Contretemps
Contretemps is a compound step, meaning that it is made up of several other steps. First, a dancer extends out and stretches their back leg to the front. The other leg then pushes off the floor and closes in an assemblé behind the original back leg. The dancer then opens their body and position, beating the legs, and ending with the bottom, originally the front leg, extending front after doing a small coupé développé.
A contretemps is often done as a step to quickly change the direction a dancer is traveling and often seen during grande allegro.