Pas de deux is a classical ballet term meaning “Dance for two” or “steps for two.” Pas de deux can be used to describe many “dances for two” and is usually used in context or with another word to describe what pas de deux. Often dancers will shorten pas de deux to simply “pas” since most other terms with “pas” in the beginning are never really shortened.
For example, a conversation between two students might be “What pas de deux are you going to do with Matt?” and the other might reply, “We’re going to dance the Giselle Act 2 pas.”
Almost every classical ballet has at least one pas de deux. For example, in Giselle, there is a pas de deux in Act 1 known as the “Peasant Pas de Deux” and one in Act 2 between Giselle and Albrecht usually simply referred as “the Act 2 Giselle Pas.”
Some of the most famous pas de deuxes include ones from Le Corsaire, Don Quixote, The Nutcracker, and Romeo and Juliet.
The term pas de deux is often misused on the popular show “So You Think You Can Dance.” The judges and host often use the term as a style of dance by saying something like “Up next, we’ll see Jennifer and Adam wow us dancing the pas de deux.” This is a funny way to use the term because the term pas de deux is not a style, just a reference to a dance that has two dancers, usually a guy and girl, usually in a classical or contemporary duet. So really, almost all of the duets on the show would be, as they say it, “the pas de deux” since the dancers perform many contemporary duets.