Épaulment is a classical ballet term meaning “shouldering” and describes the placement of a dancer’s shoulders in relation to the lower half of the body.
A dancer demonstrating épaulment will slightly twist their torso from the waist upward so that one shoulder has now moved forward and the other back. The head is then turned or slightly inclined over the front shoulder.
It is important to remember that the look of the shoulders twisting slightly is because the dancer is spiraling their whole upper body beginning at the waist, not just twisting the shoulders.
Épaulment is often taught to advanced students since a dancer already needs to have an idea of keeping their body square and engaging their core muscles before being asked to use épaulment with other steps. Since the look of correct épaulment tends to look more styled and polished and less “academic,” many professionals use it as a part of any step that is done in croisé or effacé. Epaulment is never, or shouldn’t ever, be done en face.