Ballet Terms Dictionary

Learn Ballet Vocabulary

ballet terms dictionaryWelcome to BalletHub’s Ballet Terms Dictionary.  Here you can find and browse our online dictionary for ballet terms.  Every ballet term will include it’s definition and a simple explanation possibly along with picture and video demonstration by professional ballet dancers.  You can find new entries weekly until our entire ballet term dictionary is complete with all ballet terms!

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Allégro

In ballet, allégro is a term applied to bright, fast or brisk steps and movement.  All steps where the dancer jumps are considered allégro, such as sautés, jetés, cabrioles, assemblés, and so on. Allégro in Ballet Class In ballet class, allégro combinations are usually done toward the last part of class, as the dancer is […]

Abstract ballet

An abstract ballet is a ballet without a plot.  Often contemporary ballets are considered abstract ballets as the basis of the piece does not lie in a story, but just in its movement.

Allongé

In classical ballet, allongé is an adjective that describes a position that is stretched or made longer.  Allongé is usually used with arabesque, such as extending your arm and leg further before closing into another position.

Arabesque

In ballet, arabesque is a position where the body is supported on one leg, with the other leg extended directly behind the body with a straight knee. The standing leg can be straight or in plie, but the back leg must always be straight.  Arabesque can be found in almost every aspect of a ballet, both […]

Assemblé

An assemblé in classical ballet has many different variations, but the basics are always the same: two legs joining together in the air. In a basic form, an assemblé is when one foot slides along the floor before brushing into the air.  As the foot goes into the air, the dancer then jumps by pushing into […]

Attitude

An attitude in classical ballet is a position where the dancer is standing on one leg with the other lifted, usually to the front (devant) or back (derrière).  The leg in the air is bent at the knee so that it forms roughly a 145 degree angle. The attitude position is commonly seen throughout many […]

Avant, en

En avant in classical ballet refers to the direction of the execution for a step, specifically moving forward or to the front.  En avant is not an actual step or position itself and is almost always used with other terms, such as tendu en avant, which would mean to tendu directly toward the front.

Adagio

In ballet, Adagio refers to slow movement, typically performed with the greatest amount of grace and fluidity than other movements of dance. Adagio in Ballet Class In a classical ballet class, an adagio combination or lesson will concentrate on slow movement to help improve a dancer’s ability to control leg movement and extension, all while […]

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Balançoire

Balançoire is a ballet term applied to exercises such as grande battements or degagés.  When a dancer is doing a combination with balançoire, they will repeatedly swing their leg from front to back and may tilt their upper body slightly forward or backwards, opposite to the direction their leg is moving.

Ballerina

The term ballerina is originally meant as the rank of a principal female dancer in a ballet company.  When it was originally used, this meant that not every female dancer in the ballet company was considered a ballerina, and instead by their rank or simply as “a ballet dancer”.  Today, a leading female ballet dancer is […]

Ballerino

Ballerino is used in Italian for a “male dancer” who dances principal roles in a ballet company.  As ballerino is not commonly used in English speaking countries, it doesn’t hold much regard or honor as the term ballerina does and is sometimes used sarcastically to describe a male dancer.  Today, boys or men who dance […]

Ballet technique

The set foundation of principles and methods of movement, form and function used in ballet, used to perform and learned as a student.  Proper ballet technique is essential to being a ballet dancer.

Ballet

A theatrical dance formed by a choreographer who expresses an idea or story though solo, group dances and possibly pantomime danced by ballet dancers to musical accompaniment with costumes, lighting and scenery appropriate to the dance.

Ballet blanc

Ballet blanc is a term often applied to any ballet where the dancers wear traditional “romantic” tutus of white color, originally designed by Eugène Lami for Marie Tagliono in the ballet “La Sylphide.”  Other examples of white ballets include Giselle and Les Sylphides.

Battement Développé

Battement Développé is a classical ballet term meaning “battement developed.”  From a fifth position, the dancer moves their working foot up to a retiré position and opens to the front, side or back with a deliberate motion.  A battement développé finishes by closing back into fifth position.

Battement Fondu

Battement Fondu is a classical ballet term meaning “battement sinking down.”  During a battement fondu, a dancer’s supporting leg is slowly bent in fondu with the working foot pointing on the ankle.  As the dancer’s supporting leg straightens, the working leg also extends to a straight position in the air or with the toes on […]

Battement jeté, grand

Grand Battement Jeté is a classical ballet term meaning a “large battement thrown.” Grand battement jeté is often used in the russian school to better describe how a grand battement is “thrown.”  Its the idea that the working leg quickly gets to the top of the position as opposed to slowly.  A quicker grand battement […]

Batterie

Batterie is a classical ballet term that is used to describe all beaten steps or steps with beats as a group.  For instance, a jeté battu and a cabriolé are examples of batterie because there is a beating of the dancer’s legs when performing those steps.

Battu

Battu is a classical ballet term that means “beaten.” Any step in classical ballet that is made more technically difficult by adding a beating of the legs in the middle of the jump or step is considered battu. For example, a jeté battu would have the dancer beat their legs once before landing in a […]

Beats

A ballet dancer can make a jump more difficult by adding beats. Its basically the same as the french word “battu” which describes a jump as being “beaten.”

Bras

Bras is a classical ballet term that literally translates to “arms.”  Bras is often seen used with other terms like “port de bras.”

Ballet Master / Ballet Mistress

A ballet master or ballet mistress is a person in a ballet company whose duty is to give a daily company ballet class and rehearse ballets that the dancers will perform.  Ballet masters and mistresses are considered part of an “artistic staff” of a ballet company and will usually work very closely with both the […]

Balletomane

A balletomane is an avid ballet fan or enthusiast.  The word balletomane was invented in Russia (from around 1930) with the suffix -mane coming from the word “mania.”

Ballon

Ballon means “to bounce,” and in ballet refers to a dancer showing lightness and ease in jumps.  Ballon describes the quality of jump, not the height.  A ballet dancer who has great ballon would appear to pause at the height of a jump before descending and landing.  Ballon also makes jumps easier overall, because to have […]

Balloné

The term balloné in classical ballet technique is step where the leg is extended to the second or fourth position (front, side or back) at 45 degrees; then the knee is bent and the foot brough to a sur le cou-de-pied position.  At 45 degrees, it is called petit balloné and when done at 90 degrees, […]

Ballotté

A ballotté in ballet is a step in classical ballet that consists of coupé dessous performed in sequence with a rocking, swinging movement.  This step may be performed with straight knees at 45 degrees or with développés at 90 degrees.

Barre

Barre in classical ballet is a horizontal, often wooden or metal, bar that is fastened to the walls, or free-standing with supports on either side, in a rehearsal studio or class room.  While doing barre exercises, a dancer will stand and hold on to the barre for additional support. Every ballet class begins with exercises […]

Bas, en

En bas is a classical ballet term that means “low.”  This term is used by teachers and choreographers to indicate a low position of the arms.  For example, “fifth position en bas” would be low fifth position arms.

Battement

Battement is a classical ballet term which means “beating.” When a dancing is doing battement, they are essentially closing their legs in together then opening again or the other way around, staring from a closed position to an open, back to a closed.  The “closing” is whats referred to as the battement or “beating.” There […]

Battement, Grand

Grand Battement is a classical ballet term which means “large battement.”  A dancer performs a grand battement by throwing the working leg into the air from the hip and brings it back down to a position, typically fifth position.  While doing a grand battement a dancer keeps both legs straight while the rest of the […]

Battment, Petit

Petit Battment is a classical ballet term meaning “small beating” or “small battement.”  It is commonly used as a term to describe any small beating action of the leg or foot.

Battement Arrondi

Battement Arrondi is a classical ballet term that means “rounded battement.” This term describes a step when the toes of a dancer’s working foot move in a semi-circle in the air, at about 45 degrees starting from front to back(en dehors) or back to front (en dedans). Commonly in ronde jambe exercises at barre, a […]

Battement Battu

Battement Battu is a classical ballet term which means “beaten battement.” Battement battu is done by placing your working foot in a sur cou-de-pied position and taping the opposite leg’s ankle devant or derriere (back or front). Battement Battu in Ballet Class Battement Battu is typically done at barre, during a frappé exercise. Battement Battu […]

Battement Dégagé

Battement Dégagé is a classical ballet term meaning “disengaged battement.”  Usually used in Cecchetti technique, a battement dégagé is very similar to a battement tendu but done at twice the speed, with the working foot rising about 4 inches off the floor.

Brisé

Brisé is a classical ballet term meaning “broken” or “breaking.”  A brisé is when a dancer takes off from one or two feet, jumps and beat their legs and ends on one or two feet.  Brisé is either done from fifth or fourth position and can travel forwards or backwards. Basically, a brisé looks like […]

Brisé Volé

Brisé Volé is a classical ballet term that means “flying brise.”  Basically, a brisé volé is when a dancer alternates between brisé front and back in succession.  Each time the dancer jumps and lands, it is on one leg. Brisé Volé on Stage Brisé Volé is commonly seen on stage by males, particularly Bournonville ballets. […]

Balancé

A balancé in ballet is a step where a dancer moves while alternating balance between their feet.  The rhythm is usually in three counts like a waltz and has the motion of going “down, up, down” with their legs. Typically a dancer starts in a fifth or “b-plus” position (the front foot straight and back leg […]

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Cabriole

Cabriole is a classical ballet term meaning “caper.”  In a cabriole, a dancer jumps in the air off one leg as the other is thrown upwards, as the bottom leg raises to meet and beat with the top leg, the top leg continues to go higher as the bottom leg returns to the floor. A […]

Cabriole, double

A Double Cabriole is a classical ballet term given to the step where the beating of a cabriole happens twice in the air before landing.  A double cabriole is almost always done by men in classical ballet and extremely rarely by women.

Cabriole Fermée

Cabriole Fermée is a classical ballet term meaning “closed cabriole.”  The beginning and middle is the same as a standard cabriole except that a cabriole fermée has the working leg close into fifth position. A cabriole fermée is somewhat common in petit and grand allegro exercises in a ballet class.  On stage, it is more […]

Cambré

Cambré is a classical ballet term meaning “arched.” When a dancer is doing cambré, their body is bent from the waist and stretching backward or sideways with the head following the movement of the upper body and arms.

Cavalier

Cavalier is a classical ballet term that refers to the male partner of a ballerina.  While this may be the general definition, the role of the cavalier is often referenced to the partner of the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker.  While this may cause a little confusion, the definition can be more understood to […]

Cecchetti

Cecchetti used in conversation or teaching of classical ballet refers to the Cecchetti method or possibly the founder of the method, Enrico Cecchetti. Much like other methods or syllabus in ballet, Cecchetti refers to specific way or style for classical ballet technique.  These methods can be thought of a sub-technique or sub-style of the overall […]

Center, the

“The Center” is a classical ballet term which typically refers to the portion of class where the exercises are done away from the barre and in the center of the room.  Teachers can often be heard saying “Okay, now let’s come to center.”

Chaînés

Chaînés is a classical ballet term that means “chains” or “links.”  When a dancer is doing chaînés or “chaîné turns” What do Chaînés Look Like Chaînés or “chaîné turns” is when a dancer is performing a series of turns on both feet, picking up each foot back and forth in order to keep moving in […]

Changé

Changé is a classical ballet term meaning “changed.” A changé is not a step on its own, instead it is added on to names of other steps to describe a dancer’s feet changing places.  Simply, if the right foot started in front at the beginning of the step, but is now in the back with […]

Changement

Changement is a classical ballet term meaning “change” but as a jump. What does a Changement look like A changement is when a dancer performs a jump from fifth position with the feet, jumping and changing the foot position in the air so they land with the opposite foot in front.  So a dancer performing […]

Chassé

Chassé is a classical ballet term meaning “to chase.” Chassé is considered a basic step and is commonly seen throughout ballet and other forms of dance. What does a Chassé look like When a dancer is doing a chassé, they have one foot extended forward, the back foot then “chases” and meets up with the front […]

Chassé en tournant

Chassé en tournant is a classical ballet term meaning “chase, turning.”  This is when a dancer performs a chassé but does a single turn in the air as the feet and legs come together, then lands on the back leg with the front leg extended front.  Like chassés, chassé en tournants can be done in […]

Choreographer

A Choreographer is the term or title for a person who creates ballets or dances.  To be a choreographer, you must create original dances or choreographic works, but the steps themselves do not necessarily need to be inventive.  Meaning, a dance made by a “ballet choreographer” will contain tons of steps that are part of […]

Choreography

Choreography is a classical ballet term assigned to the actual steps, patterns and grouping of steps that make up a ballet or dance.  While it is used in classical ballet, the term choreography is used to describe steps in a dance for every single form of dance.  Choreography can describe anything from the first ballet created […]

Cinq

Cinq is a classical ballet term simply meaning “five.”  Cinq is a direct translation and means nothing more than the number five.  For example, an entrechat cinq describes a jump that the legs together beat 5 times.  Or pas de cinq, would describe a dance for five ballet dancers.

Class

Class or ballet class is a lesson taken by a dancer or ballet dancer.  For serious students or professional dancers, class is taken at least once daily, usually five or six days out of the week. For a student, dedication and resources to take a daily class is practically necessary for any hope at a […]

Classical Ballet

The term Classical Ballet has a couple meanings.  It can be used to describe a style as well as a type of ballet. As a style of ballet, the term classical ballet is used to describe the traditional style of ballet, which features the academic technique developed and taught over the centuries. As a type […]

Classical Walking

A classical walk or walking classically describes the way a ballet dancer may walk in a ballet.  Walking that is done “classically” is often done to show nobility or to look regal.  A classical walk is always, or should, be done by a ballerina and her partner in principal roles as they move around stage.  […]

Cloche, en

En cloche is a ballet term that means “like a bell.”  It is usually used as “battement en cloche“ which has the dancer going back and forth between battement front and back, passing through first position. En cloche gets the term because as the leg goes back and forth between front and back positions, it […]

Coda

A Coda is a classical ballet term that refers to the finale of a group of dancers and more often, the finale of a pas de deux. In the typical structure of a pas de deux in classical ballet, the coda is the fourth section, having just followed the female’s variation.  In a pas de […]

Compound Step

A Compound Step in classical ballet is a term used for a step made up of two or more other steps.  It is not usually used within a classroom, but basically just explains that a step doesn’t have to be completely original to be called its own step. For example, a brisé is made up […]

Contretemps

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. […]

Corps

Corps is a classical ballet term simply meaning its french translation, “body.”  It is most commonly used with “corps de ballet.”

Corps de Ballet

Corps de Ballet is a classical ballet term that refers to the dancers in a ballet that dance as a group.  It is also a rank within a ballet company’s structure. A Corps de Ballet role in a ballet does not usually have a particular name for each person, as opposed to soloist or principal […]

Coryphée

Coryphée is a classical ballet term that means “leader.”  It is only applied to a leader of the corps de ballet, not to a soloist or prinicpal, and is sometimes a rank within very large ballet companies, such as Paris Opera Ballet.  The term isn’t widely used nor is a dancer ever signified as “the […]

Côté, de

de côté is a ballet term that describes another step to be performed “to the side.”  This can be done to either the left or right.

Cou-de-pied, sur le

Sur le cou-de-pied is a ballet term meaning “on the ‘neck’ of the foot.” This term is for a position of the foot, not an actual step.  The position of sur le cou-de-pied is when the working foot is placed on the other leg between the base of the calf muscle and the top of […]

Coupé

Coupé is a classical ballet term meaning “cut” or “cutting.”  A coupé describes a step where one foot cuts the other foot away, taking its place.  Its usually done as an in-between step for a larger step, such as a coupé jeté or a coupé-chassé en tournant (the typical preparation for many big jumps for […]

Coupé-jeté en tournant

coupé-jeté en tournant is a classical ballet term that is usually called “coupé jeté.” It is an intermediate step that is basically a split jeté with a turn in between. A coupé jeté is usually done as a series en menège, or in a circle, but can also be done as a single step. As […]

Coupé-chassé en tournant

A coupé-chassé en tournant is a classical ballet term that describes a step where a dancer is turning in the air in a coupé position.  More specifically, it is almost always a preparation, especially for men for grand allegro. For example, a male dancer will commonly do a coupé-chassé en tournant before a sauté basque.  […]

Croisé

Croisé is a classical ballet term meaning “crossed.”  Croisé is one of the directions of épaulement.  Basically, a croisé position is when the legs appear crossed from the audience.  This can be done in croisé derriére or croisé efface, or back and front. Croisé is used to describe any position of the body and legs, […]

Croix, en

En croix is a classical ballet term meaning “in the shape of a cross.”  This term is usually used in ballet class and lets a dancer know the step should be done to the front, side and then back.  Doing steps en croix can also be done in reverse where they start from the back, […]

Csárdás

Csárdás is a classical ballet term that is simply the name for the national dance of Hungary.  A typical csárdás is has two sections, a slow (lassú) and fast (friska) movement. It was first introduced in ballets as a character dance in the first act of Coppélia in 1870.  Csárdás dancers typically wear boots or heeled […]

Cuisse

Cuisse is a classical ballet term that means “thighs.”  It is used to help the dancer understand where the action of the step should take place.  For example, its always used with another term, such as tendu cuisse.

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Danseur

Danseur is a classical ballet term simply meaning “male dancer.”  There are several variations or types of danseur. Premier Danseur means “First Dancer” and is a title for a leading male dancer of a company. The Paris Opera Ballet company uses the rank of premier danseur étoile for their top male position, meaning “First Star […]

Dedans, en

En Dedans is a classical ballet term meaning “inward.” En dedans is always attached to another ballet term to describe the direction it should move. For example, a pirouette en dedans would mean that a dancer is pushing their back leg to the front and turning “inward” to their supporting leg. Another definition to think […]

Dégagé

Dégagé is a classical ballet term meaning “disengage.”  A dégagé is when a dancer moves their leg off the floor from a position with a pointed foot and straight leg to the front, side or back.  It gets its name dégagé because the step is a movement, not a position, where a leg “disengages” from […]

Dehors, en

En dehors is a classical ballet term meaning “outward.”  En dehors is added to other steps and terms to describe which way a step should be moving. For example, a pirouette en dehors would mean that the dancer would turn “outward” away from the supporting leg. Another way to think of en dehors is “from the […]

Demi

Demi is a classical ballet term meaning “half.”  It is the direct translation of the french word and should always be a part of another term. For example, demi-plie, means “half bend at the knees.”  Demi is used less commonly for other terms like demi-arabesque, meaning “half arabesque,” or demi-tour, meaning “half-turn.”    

Derrière

Derrière is a classical ballet term meaning “back” or “behind.” Its a term that describes the position or direction for another step or term. For example, a tendu derrière would describe a tendu “to the back” with the back leg from fifth position.

Dessous

Dessous is a classical ballet term meaning “under.”  This a term used with other terms to describe that a leg or arm should pass behind the other. For example, an assemblé dessous would have the working leg close behind the supporting leg in the air.  It is the opposite of its counterpart, dessus.

Dessus

Dessus is a classical ballet term meaning “over.” It describes other steps or terms where the working leg or foot should pass over or infront of the supporting leg. For example, an assemblé dessus would have the working leg (or first leg) close in front of the supporting leg.  Dessus is the opposite of dessous.

Détourné

Détourné is a classical ballet term meaning “turned aside.” A dancer does a détourné by turning once completely around on both feet, on demi-pointe or pointe(for women on pointe of course). As the dancer turns, the feet position are reversed.  So if the right foot was in front to start the détourné, it will finish […]

Détourné, demi

Demi Détourné is a classical ballet term meaning “half turn aside.”  A demi détourné is when a dancer will do a half turn on both feet on demi-pointe or pointe, while switching the position of the feet as they finish.  It gets its meaning from the ballet terms demi and detourné. A demi detourné is […]

Deux

Deux is a classical ballet term simply meaning its french translation, “two.” It is most commonly used with another term, pas de deux, which means “dance for two.”

Devant

Devant is a classical ballet term meaning “in front.”  Devant is used along with a step, movement or placing of a limb in front of the body.  When used with another step such as tendu devant, it is meant that the working foot is closed in front.  

Développé

Développé is a classical ballet term meaning “to develop,” or “developing movement.”  A Développé is a movement where the dancer’s working leg is drawn up to the knee of the supporting leg and extended to an open position. As the working leg is brought up, the standing leg is typically straight while also keeping the […]

Divertissement

Divertissement is a classical ballet term meaning “enjoyable diversion.”  A divertissement is a grouping of dances called “entrées” that are part of classical ballets.  These short dances are typically added to a ballet to display more dancers’ talents whether as solos or in a group piece.  The divertissement isn’t always necessarily vital or directly related […]

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Emboîté

Emboîté is a classical ballet term meaning “fitted together.” An emboîté is a type of jeté where the dancer moves and alternates their legs in a bent position, springing from the floor into front attitudes.  This step is best shown with a photo or video demonstration which we will have for your soon!

Écarté

Écarté is a classical ballet term meaning “separated, thrown apart.” It is one of the eight directions of the body. In écarté, (specifically écarté devant) a dancer is facing their entire body to one of the two front corners of their square box. (a box drawn perfectly around the dancer that is has its front […]

Échappé

Échappé is a classical ballet term meaning “slipping movement” or “escaping.” A dancer does an échappé with their legs and feet.  Starting in a closed position, usually fifth position with the feet, the dancer slides both feet out equally into either second or fourth position. A standard échappé is done without the dancer’s feet never […]

Effacé

Effacé is classical ballet term meaning “shaded.”  The term describes another step or pose in which the legs looks open, or not crossed, when seen from the front. You can say that effacé is the opposite of croisé. A dancer can perform a step effacé devant or derriére, and either à terre (on the floor) or […]

Extension

Extension is an English classical ballet term describing a dancer’s ability to raise and hold a leg extended in the air.  Having good extension is particularly important for women in classical ballet, but is also increasingly important for men. Having great and proper extension does not happen over night and is the final product of many […]

Entrechat

Entrechat is a classical ballet term meaning “interweaving” or “braiding.”  It describes when a dancer jumps into the air and beats their legs by changing the position of their legs and feet to the front or back of each other.  This beating action with the legs could be described as looking “braided” since each leg […]

Entrelacé

Entrelacé is a classical ballet term meaning “interlaced.”  A dancer performs an entrelacé by battementing one leg to the front while plieing on the other, then jumping and landing on the first leg while completing a half turn in the air. The second leg, or the push off leg, typically ends in an arabesque. An entrelacé […]

Enveloppé

Enveloppé is a classical ballet term meaning “enveloped.”  This step or movement can be considered the opposite of développé. When a dancer performs an enveloppé, they start with the working leg stretched to either the front, side or back.  The leg is then brought into either cou-de-pied or passé and then usually closed to fifth position.

Épaulment

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 […]

Étoile

Étoile is a classical ballet term meaning “star.” The term is used as a rank in the Paris Opéra ballet to signify a leading dancer.  Étoile is considered the same rank as a principal dancer in other companies.

F

Frappé

Frappé is a classical ballet term meaning “struck.”  A frappé is a step almost always done at the barre as an exercise to improve quick and precise movement of the legs feet.  To do a frappé, the dancer usually starts with the outside leg in a flexed, turned out position lifted off the floor with […]

Fouetté turns

Fouetté turns is a classical ballet term meaning “whipped turns.”  A fouetté turn is when a dancer, usually female, does a full turn in passe (pirouette), followed by a plie on the standing leg while the retiré leg extends to  croise front and rond de jambes to the side (a la seconde).  As the leg […]

Fouetté

Fouetté is a classical ballet term meaning “whipped.” The term fouetté is used with others to describe different steps, however, it almost always describes the quick whipping action of a dancer’s leg or body. Fouetté as a jump For example, a dancer could do a fouetté saute where they jump in the air with a […]

Fondu

Fondu is a classical ballet term meaning “sinking down.”  It describes both the movement and the quality of a dancer where they are doing a plié on a single leg.  If you think of a plié being for two legs, a fondu is the same, just for one. Fondu is one of the most beneficial […]

Flic-Flac

Flic-Flac is a classical ballet term meaning “a crack of a whip.”  It describes a ballet dancer “flicking” a foot on the ground and around the standing leg, then another quick hit of the floor to arrive in a coupe position. A flic-flac can be done both en dedans and en dehors and is usually done […]

Fish dive

A fish dive, or just a “fish,” is a classical ballet term describing a step where the ballerina is in a retiré position and held low to the ground by a male dancer.  A fish can be done simply from arabesque where the male places his hands around the ballerina’s waist and under the thigh […]

Finger Turns

A finger turn is a classical ballet term describing a step where the girl is turning while being partnered by a male dancer. Their only connection during the turn is, as you can guess, by the fingers or hands. A finger turn is typically done with the male dancer slight behind and to the left […]

Finale

Finale is a term used in classical ballet to mean “the end of a ballet.”  Finale is not exclusive to ballet, as its used commonly in English and it’s originating language, Italian, to describe the end of something. In terms of classical ballet, a finale is usually the last dance or section of a ballet […]

Fermé

Fermé is a classical ballet term meaning “closed.”  It is used along with other terms to describe how the legs are or are ending in a step.  For example, a sissone fermé is when a dancer jumps into the air in a sissone and closes to both feet in fifth position.  This jumping and landing […]

Failli

Failli is a classical ballet term describing a step where the dancer seems to degage each leg to the front immediately after the other with a small jump.  A failli is usually done as a preperation step for jumps and is considered an in-between step. Because of the nature of a failli, it helps a […]

Face, en

En face is a classical ballet term describing the direction a dancer is facing and is one of the directions of the body.  En face means the dancer is facing directly towards the audience. An easy way to remember en face is to think that you’re looking at the audience “face to face”, and if you’re […]

G

Grande

Grande is a classical ballet term meaning “big” or “large.”  It is always used to describe another step.  For example, grande allegro translates to “big jumps.”  Or, grande jete means “big throw.” It is important to know that you don’t simply add “grande” to any word to mean you make it bigger and expect a […]

Glissade

Glissade is a classical ballet term meaning “glide.”  It is a traveling, usually small, jump that is usually used to link other steps together.  It can be considered an in-between step. A dancer performs a glissade by plieing in fifth position, sliding (or gliding) one foot out into a degage side.  The working leg reaches […]

Gargouillade

Gargouillade is a classical ballet term meaning “rumbling.”  A dancer performs a gargouillade by degageing one leg to the side, then doing a small rond de jambe with that leg while pushing off the floor with the other leg and then doing a rond de jambe with that leg!  The rond de jambes must both […]

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Haut, en

En Haut is a classical ballet term meaning “high.”  It is a term used to describe another ballet term that is asked to be done in a high position.  Most commonly, it is used with “fifth en haut” which is almost always referring to a high fifth position of the arms. Fifth position en haut […]

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Jeté

Jeté is a classical ballet term meaning “throwing” or “thrown.”  Though often used with another term, jeté usually describes a type of jump where the dancer extends one leg then jumps off the floor with the other.  Many jumps are forms of jetés. A jeté in its most simple presentation usually refers to a petit […]

Jeté, petit

Petit jeté is a classical ballet term meaning “small throw.”  It describes a jump where a dancer throws, or brushes, one leg into the air, then pushes off the floor with the other jumping into the air and landing on the first leg. As you may have guessed, a petit jeté is commonly seen in […]

Jeté, grand

Grand jeté is a classical ballet term meaning “big throw.”  It describes a big jump where the dancer throws one leg into the air, pushes off the floor with the other, jumping into the air and landing again on the first leg. A grand jeté is considered a basic grand allegro step that is often […]

Jeté battu

Jeté battu is a classical ballet term meaning “beaten throw.”  It almost always describes a petit jeté that is beaten with straight legs before landing in cou-de-pied. Many intermediate and almost every advanced ballet class will have jeté battu as part of a petite allegro combination.  It is often seen on stage as well by […]

Jeté entrelacé

Jeté entrelacé is a classical ballet term meaning “interlaced throw.”  It describes a step where the dancer throws one leg in the air, jumps and brings the other leg up to meet the first leg, while switching their body position half way around, then landing in an arabesque. Many intermediate and advanced ballet classes will […]

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Leotard

A leotard is a tight fitting clothing piece as part of a practice or performance outfit for dancers that covers the torso and typically straps around the shoulders.  Leotards come in many varieties, including differences in sleeve lengths (long-sleeve, mid arm, cap) and straps around the shoulders or back (spaghetti strap, racer back, thick strap).  […]

Line

Line is a classical ballet term that describes the outline of a dancer’s complete body while performing steps or poses.  Striving for a “good line” is very essential to the success of a professional dancer or advanced student. The term line is sometimes confused with an actual line, meaning how most people use line as […]

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Manèges

Manèges is a classical ballet term meaning “circular.”  It describes when a dancer does steps in a circular pattern around the stage. Usually, manèges will be a reptetition of one or two steps, but can also be a combination of several.  For example, a coupé jeté manèges is typically done by a male dancer in […]

Mazurka

A mazurka is a polish folk dance that is featured in many classical ballets as a character dance.  Mazurkas are typically done in 3/4 time as the musical tempo.  A mazurka featured in a classical ballet usually features a group of corps de ballet dancers and a lead, soloist couple.  The costumes generally include longer, […]

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Ouvert

Ouvert is a classical ballet term meaning “open forward.”  It is another way to describe a step is done effacé and is the opposite of a step done croisé. For example, a step with the right leg forward will travel toward the right corner of the room.  An easy way to remember what the ballet […]

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Plié

A plié is when a dancer is basically bending at the knees.  They are typically done in 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th positions in classical ballet, both at the barre and center in classes.  Correct use and development of a plié is a basic but essential movement to a dancer’s technique. Pliés are often seen […]

Pas

Pas is a classical ballet term meaning “step.”  This is why many classical ballet steps begin with pas!  Most ballet terms that have pas in the beginning are describing a ballet step that has a transfer of a weight, just like you do every time you take a step as you walk!  Simple, right? The […]

Pas de couru

A pas de couru is a classical ballet term meaning “running step.”  It is a very common preparatory step for many grandé allegro jumps such as a grandé jeté.  A dancer doing a pas d’couru will look like they’re kicking their legs infront of themselves with a specific rhythm.  For example, a dancer will degage […]

Pas de action

Pas de action, or pas d’action, is a classical ballet term meaning “dance action.”  It describes a scene in a ballet where the story is being told through expressive movements, dance and/or mime.  Almost every classical ballet has a pas d’action since they are all almost story ballets. Examples of pas d’action include: Giselle, where […]

Pas de basque

Pas de basque is a classical ballet term meaning “basque step.”  It gets its name because the step was taken from the national dances of the Basques. A dancer doing a pas de basque will start in fifth position with the right foot in front.  Doing a plié on the left leg, the dancer extends […]

Pas de bourrée

Pas de bourrée is a classical ballet term meaning “beating steps.”  A Pas de bourrée has many forms that mostly relate to the direction the dancer is moving or if the legs are bending or staying straight.  It gets its defintion because a dancer doing a pas de bourrée will have his or her legs […]

Pas de chat

Pas de chat is a classical ballet term meaning “cat’s step.”  It gets its name because the step resembles how a cat jumps. A dancer does a pas de chat by starting in fifth position with the right foot in back.  The dancer pliés then jumps with the right leg going into a passé (also […]

Pas de cheval

Pas de cheval is a classical ballet term meaning “horse’s step.”  It gets its name because a pas de cheval resembles how a horse pulls in its leg before kicking it out again. When doing a pas de cheval, a dancer will start in fifth position, lift the front leg into cou-de-pied, then extend front […]

Pas de deux

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 […]

Pas de quatre

Similar to a pas de deux, pas de quatre is a classical ballet term meaning “dance for four.” One of the most famous pas de quatre is the dance of the four little swans, or the “pas de cygnets” in the second act of Swan Lake.  This shows the four female dancers with their arms […]

Pas de trois

Pas de trois is a classical ballet term meaning “dance for three.”  Very similar to the idea of a pas de deux, just with one more dancer! A pas de trois usually assumes there is partnering, so at least one male is dancing with two women dancers or two men and one female dancer. There […]

Pas de valse

Pas de valse is a classical ballet term meaning “waltz step.”  It is usually done individually by female dancers, but is sometimes done with a partner. A dancer doing a pas de valse will extend and step one leg as the other brushes front while decorating the step with classical looking port de bras.  A […]

Passé

Passé is a classical ballet term meaning “passed.”  It refers to the movement when a dancer goes through a retiré position, which is when one leg is bent so it looks like a triangle with the foot placed near the other leg’s knee. In ballet class, passé is often used instead of retiré to describe […]

Penché

Penché is a classical ballet term meaning “leaning.”  When a dancer is doing or in a penché they are usually bent forward over one leg with the other in arabesque well above 90 degrees.  A penché’s arabesque leg can be at many different heights and doesn’t necessarily need to be pointing straight to the ceiling […]

Petit, Petite

Petit or Petite are classical ballet terms meaning “small.”  It is a descriptive term used with other ballet terms to show that the step is done small.  For example, petite allegro, means “small jumps,” or a petit jeté means a “small jeté.” Petite is usually used to mean the opposite of grande.  Petit is usually […]

Pied

Pied is a classical ballet term meaning “foot” with its plural from as pieds for “feet.”  Its a ballet term that is used with other terms to describe the main action of a dancer’s feet.  For example, cou-de-pied means “neck of the foot” and describes a dancer wrapping their foot, or pied, around the top […]

Piqué

Piqué is a classical ballet term meaning “pricking” and is a descriptive word to be used with other ballet terms.  For example, a piqué turn would describe a “pricking turn.”  It is meant to describe how a dancer transfers weight onto a leg on full pointe or high demi-pointe which is also known as piqué […]

Piqué tour (turn)

Piqué tour is a classical ballet term meaning “pricked turn”  It is most commonly used as simply “pique turn” which is a very common step for female ballet dancers. A dancer doing a piqué tour, or piqué turn, will step directly on to a full point (when in pointe shoes) or a high demi-pointe right […]

Piqué manege

Piqué manege is a common classical ballet term meaning “piqués in a circle.”  It is a shortened term that usually means “pique turns in a circle” or a “pique turn menage.” A piqué manege is usually done in ballet class by female ballet dancers and is very commonly done in performances in female variations by […]

Pirouette

Pirouette is a classical ballet term meaning “spin.”  It describes when a dancer is turning around one leg with the other off the ground and in a position, most commonly in passé.  A pirouette can be done either en dedans, turning in towards the supporting leg that the dancer is turning on, or en dehors, […]

Pirouette a la seconde

Pirouette a la seconde is a classical ballet term meaning a “spin with leg to the side” or “spin with leg in second position.” A dancing performing a pirouette a la seconde will be turning on their supporting leg with their other leg to the side and straight with a pointed foot.  It can be […]

Promenade

Promenade is a classical ballet term meaning “a walk.”  A promenade is when a dancer turns around on one leg with the standing leg’s heel on the floor, while the other leg is in a position such as an arabesque or attitude derriere.  It is different than a pirouette, where a dancer is on releve […]

Préparation

Préparation is a classical ballet term simply meaning preparation!  A preparation step is a position or movement in ballet that prepares a dancer for another, usually more difficult, step. One of the best examples of préparation is when a dancer does a plié in fourth position before a pirouette en dehors.  Another good example would […]

Pirouette en dedans

A pirouette en dedans is a classical ballet term that describes a pirouette turning inward toward the standing leg.  For example, if a dancer is turning on the right leg, the dancer will be turning to the right in an en dedans pirouette. Pirouettes en dedans are an intermediate ballet step but very commonly seen […]

Pirouette en dehors

A pirouette en dehors is a classical ballet term meaning “a spin, turning outward” and describes when a dancer turns toward the direction of the leg they lift into the turning position.  For example, a dancer with their left foot in front, will lift the right foot into the pirouette and also turn to the […]

Placement

Placement is a ballet term used to describe the specific position in space a dancer should have their body, arms, legs, feet, hips, hands, fingers, and so on. For example, a dancer may be given a correction to work on “placement of your head” if their head isn’t facing the correct direction for a step. […]

Pointe Shoes

Pointe shoes are the shoes that ballerinas wear to be safely supported and dance on the tips of their toes in classical and contemporary ballet. They are possibly the most recognizable object aside from a tutu relating to ballet. Today, pointe shoes are made using several different materials including glue, fabrics, threads, and wood. The […]

Polonaise

A polonaise is a dance within a classical ballet done in 3/4 time. It is most often seen as a processional dance in ballets like Swan Lake or The Sleeping Beauty where there are royal courts leaving, or sometimes entering, a scene. When doing a polonaise step, a dancer take two steps forward on demi-pointe, […]

Port de Bras

Port de bras is a classical ballet term meaning “movement of the arms.” It describes how dancers move their arms from one position to another. For example, if a ballerina moves her arms from first position to fifth position, that is considered a port de bras. When doing proper port de bras, dancers will move […]

Port de Bras, Grande

In class, teachers sometimes use the ballet term port de bras to instruct students to do a specific stretch at barre. For example, a teacher may say “… and port de bras forward and back” after a tendu combination at barre. The students would then place their arms, likely in a high fifth, and bend […]

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Quatrième

Quatrième is a classical ballet term meaning “fourth.” It is used to refer to fourth position, usually of the feet. The term quatrième is used for a wide range of other ballet terms, but many teachers do not regularly use it. For an example of using quatrième, a teacher may say “pirouette à la quatrième […]

Quatre

Quatre is a classical ballet term meaning “four.”  It is usually used with other terms to show many should be done, for example beats in petite allegro, such as entrechat quatre.  

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Raccourci

Raccourci is a classical ballet term meaning “shortened.”  It is the same as the ballet term retiré and most commonly used in the French School of ballet. In raccourci, a dancer has his or her working leg in the air at second position, ideally at 90 degrees, with the knee bent so the foot’s toes […]

Ramassé

Ramassé is a classical ballet term meaning “picked up.”

Régisseur

Régisseur is a classical ballet term that is a title for someone who restages or rehearses a ballet company. Depending on the size of the ballet company, there may not be a specific title of a régisseur with all of the rehearsing or restaging left up to the ballet masters or mistresses. A régisseur may […]

Relevé

Relevé is a classical ballet term meaning “raised.”  It describes the action when a dancer rises up and seemingly is standing “on their toes” in a demi-pointe or a fully en pointe. Relevé is a ballet step that is taught to beginner’s in some of the earliest classes. It can be done in many different […]

Relevé lent

Relevé lent is a classical ballet term meaning “slow raising.”  It is usually used in the Russian Schools of ballet. It describes when a dancer starts in one of the basic ballet positions of the feet with straight legs, then lifts one leg off the floor while raising up to relevé on the supporting leg […]

Renverse

  A ballet dancer performing a renverse will bend their body from the waist,both sideways and backwards, with the head following the movement of the body. A renverse takes place during a turn and only applies to three steps: a pirouette, a pas de bourree en tournant and a detourne. There are different types of […]

Retire

Often called passe, retire is actually the position in which a ballet dancer raises their thigh en l’air with the knee bent so that the pointed foot is placed either in front, behind or to the side of the supporting knee. The difference between passe and retire is that passe is the actual movement in […]

Retombe

Retombe is a classical ballet term that simply describes when a ballet dancer falls back again to the original position from where they started. The ballet term retombe is used mainly in the French School and the Cecchetti method.

Reverence, grande

A grande reverence is the elaborate curtsy performed by a female dancer after a performance to acknowledge the applause of the audience. Students, both male and female dancers, can also perform a grande reverence at the end of class to show respect to their teacher (and, if present, piano accompanist). The grande reverence exercise is […]

Rivoltade

Rivoltade is a classical ballet term meaning “to turn over.”  The definition of this ballet term matches pretty well with the overall look of the step.  A male dancer performing a rivoltade will battement one leg in the air and then jumps over it with the other leg. A rivoltade may be executed from many […]

Rolling in

Ballet dancers who struggle with turn-out will often try to force their legs and feet into a turned out position, often causing the ankles to roll in. If there is too much weight on the inside of a dancer’s foot it is called rolling in and is not the correct way for ballet dancers to […]

Romantic ballet

A romantic ballet is a style of ballet which was largely produced during the early nineteenth century. Romantic ballets have a strong focus on presenting a mood and cast of different characters to tell a story. They are often performed in romantic tutus, which are long tulle skirt that either goes to the knees or […]

Rond

Rond is a ballet term meaning “round” or “circular.”  It is often seen at the beginning of other steps and simply describes their circular or rounding movement. For example, at the barre, it is very common for a dancer to perform a series of rond de jambes en l’air as an exercise.

Rond de Bras

Rond de Bras is a classical ballet term meaning “circles of the arms.”  It simply describes the overall picture and roundness of a ballet dancer’s position of the arms arms such as first positions, or fifth position of the arms.  Generally, rond de bras is not a very commonly used ballet term.

Rond de Jambe

Rond de Jambe is a classical ballet term meaning “round of the leg” or “circular movements of the leg.”  A Rond de jambe is a very common step and is seen done in various forms throughout ballet class and performances by both male and female ballet dancers. Ronds de jambe, as a step, can be […]

Royale

Royale is a classical ballet term that describes when a dancer jumps in the air and beats their legs once before changing the position of their feet and landing.  When the dancer lands this jump, the leg that started in front should now be in back. A royale is considered a petit allegro or medium […]

The Russian School

The French dancer Jean-Baptiste Lande founded the Russian School in 1738 in St. Petersburg where his French influence continued under other great teachers. Then in 1885, Virginia Zucchi, a famous Italian ballerina, performed in St. Petersburg and showed a different style of ballet. Where the Russian ballet dancers were taught to have a soft, elegant […]

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Sauté

Sauté is a classical ballet term that can be used alone or with another term to mean the step is performed while jumping. When used alone, it simply means “jump” and may be often repeated by a teacher during a combination in a ballet class… “Sauté, sauté, sauté, close fifth!” Two examples of it being […]

Seconde, à la

À la seconde in classical ballet typically goes along with another term to indicate that it should be done with the feet in second position or the step should be done “to the side.”  For example, tendu à la seconde would mean a tendu to the side.

Sur les Pointes

Sur les Pointes is a classical ballet term that means “on the points” or on the tips of a dancer’s toes wearing pointe shoes. It is another way of saying a step is done “en pointe.” Ballet technique formed without the term or steps being done sur les pointes because pointe shoes were not yet […]

Spotting

Spotting is a ballet term that describes the action of a dancer’s head while turning.  Learning how to spot correctly is a very important part of technique in all forms of dance, especially in classical ballet. When spotting correctly, a dancer becomes much less dizzy (if at all) while turning, allowing for many turns in […]

Soutenu

Soutenu is a classical ballet term meaning “sustained” and describes a ballet dancer turning in a sus-sous or fifth position en pointe and ending up with the opposite foot in front.  It is commonly done in both classes and on stage during performances by both beginner and professional dancers. A dancer will most commonly learn […]

Sus-sous

Sus-sous, or sous-sus, is a classical ballet term that translates to “over-under” and describes when a dancer springs onto releve demi-pointe or pointe, quickly placing the back foot more closely behind the front in fifth position with fully stretched legs.  The look a dancer having finished a sus-sous is a releve in a fifth position […]

Soubresaut

Soubresaut is a classical ballet term describing when a dancer performs a quick jump from two feet and lands on two feet in fifth position, traveling slightly forward during the jump.  This jump is usually seen in all levels of ballet classes from beginner to professional levels by both male and female dancers.  It can […]

Sissonne

Sissonne is a classical ballet term that describes a dancer jumping from two feet and splitting their legs “like scissors” in the air before landing.  It is a very common and popular ballet step, seen in performances and throughout classes of most skill levels. A sissonne in its most simplest form is commonly taught to […]

Sickling

Sickling is a ballet term that is used to describe a dancer’s foot that is incorrectly placed or pointed, causing it to look curved inwards when looking at the front view of the leg.  A dancer will often receive the correction of sickling many times thought out training and even into professional careers. A sickled […]

Saut de Basque

Saut de basque is a classical ballet term that describes a traveling jump in which the dancer jumps and turns in the air with one leg placed in a retire position.  A dancer first grande battements one leg (leaving it straight in the jump), as they push off the floor with the other leg and […]

Saut de Chat

Saut de chat is a classical ballet term that describes a type of jump.  Which jump in particular, depends on the school of technique. Saut de chat in the French School In the french school, saut de chat translates to “cat’s jump” which is similar to an Italian pas de chat. A dancer performing a […]

Supporting Leg

Supporting leg is a classical ballet term that describes a dancer’s leg that is supporting their whole body while the other leg is free to do another step.  A dancer’s supporting leg is often called a “standing leg.” For example, if a dancer is in retire with their right leg during a pirouette, their supporting […]

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