Glossary of ballet

Glossary of ballet

Ballet is a formalized type of dance; ballet dance is usually performed on stage as part of a ballet dance work which includes mime, acting, and is set to music. Dancers can perform either en pointe or demi-pointe; in ballet class, the dancers work either at the barre or in centre floor.

A significant part of ballet terminology is in the French language, because ballet became formalized in France.

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À la seconde

To the side or in the second position. À la seconde usually means a step that moves sideways or a movement done to the side such as grand battement à la seconde. A technically challenging type of turn is pirouette à la seconde, where the dancer spins with the working leg in second position à la hauteur. This turn is usually performed by male dancers, and because of the advanced skills required to perform it correctly, it is seen as the male counterpart of fouettés en tournant.


ADAGE (French, Gallicism from the Italian original), ADAGIO (Italian). From the Italian combination of the preposition A + AGIO (noun) with a D in between the two As for phonetic reasons (and elision): ad agioadagio (literally, at ease). In song, Adagio means "slowly", and in ballet it means slow, enfolding movements. In a classical ballet class, the Adagio portion of the lesson concentrates on slow movements to improve the dancer's ability to control the leg and increase extension (i.e., to bring the leg into high positions with control and ease). In a Grand Pas (or Classical Pas de deux, Grand Pas d'action, etc.), the Adagio is usually referred to as the Grand adage, and often follows the Entrée. This Adage is typically the outward movement of the Grand Pas where the female dancer is partnered by the lead male dancer and/or one or more suitors. In ballet, the word adagio does not refer to the music accompanying the dance but rather the type of balletic movement being performed. For example, the Grand adage of the famous Black Swan Pas de deux from Swan Lake is musically an Andante, while the choreography is Adagio.


Meaning brisk, lively. A term applied to all bright, fast, or brisk movements. All steps of elevation such as the entrechat, cabriole, assemblé, jeté and so on, come under this classification. The majority of dances, both solo and group, are built on allegro. The most important qualities to aim at in allégro are lightness, smoothness and ballon.


Aplomb refers to stability of the position.


Arabesque is the position of the body supported on one leg, with the other leg extended behind the body with the knee straight.


French pronunciation: [asɑ̃ble] Sometimes also pas assemblé. Literally "assembled". A jump which is launched from one foot and landed on both feet, where the first foot performs a battement glissé/degagé, "swishing" out. With the dancer launching into a jump, the second foot then swishes up under the first foot. The feet meet together in mid-air, and the dancer lands with both feet on the floor at the same time, in third or fifth position.


Natalia Dudinskaya in attitude en pointe

A position in which the dancer stands on one leg (known as the supporting leg) while the other leg (working leg) is lifted and well turned out with the knee bent at approximately 90-degree angle. The lifted or working leg can be behind (derrière), in front (devant), or on the side (à la seconde) of the body. If the leg in attitude derrière is resting on the floor, then the pose is known as B-plus. In some styles of ballet, such as RAD, the foot should be below the knee, creating an obtuse angle at the knee. In others, such as the Balanchine and Russian styles, the foot must be in line with the knee or above it, creating an angle that is 90-degrees or less. The attitude position can be performed with the supporting leg and foot either en pointe, demi pointe or on a flat foot. See also: Arabesque.


"Forwards", to the front, as opposed to arrière.For example, a step travelling en avant moves forwards, towards the audience, e.g. sissonne en avant.



It is usually executed in three counts The dancer typically begins in fifth position, in plié. Before the first count, one foot extends in a degagé, typically to second position however balancé devant or derrière are also possible. Balancé is often confused with pas de valse, a waltz step. However, when doing a balancé the three steps make a "down, up, down" motion (fondu, relevé, fondu), whereas in pas de valse, a true waltz, the motion is "down, up, up" (fondu, relevé, relevé).


Ballabile (from the Italian Ballabile meaning "danceable") In ballet the term refers to a dance performed by the corps de ballet. The term Grand ballabile is used if nearly all participants (including principal characters) of a particular scene in a full-length work perform a large-scale dance.


Italian for "female dancer". Ballerina is a principal female dancer of a ballet company who is also very accomplished in the international world of ballet, especially beyond her own company. Most female dancers who dance ballet are called (female) ballet dancers. Ballerina, therefore, is a critical accolade bestowed on very few female dancers, somewhat similar to the title diva in opera. The male version of this term is danseur noble (French).

In the original Italian, the terms ballerino (a male dancer, usually in ballet) and ballerina do NOT imply the accomplished and critically acclaimed dancers denoted by the terms ballerina and danseur noble when used in English. They simply mean (ballet) dancer (ballerino/ballerina) in Italian. Other terms in Italian that convey an accomplished female ballet dancer are prima ballerina and prima ballerina assoluta (however the term étoile is used at the Scala ballet company in Milan). Danzatore (male) and danzatrice (female) are general terms in Italian to signifiy dancers.


Used in Italian for "male dancer". A Ballerino is a male dancer of a ballet company in Italy. He is referred to as a "danseur" in a ballet company in France. These terms are rarely used in English. Since ballerino is not used in English, it does not enjoy the same connotation as ballerina (see above for a detailed explanation of these terms). A regular male dancer in Italy is called a danzatore, while ballerino usually denotes a male ballet dancer in Italy. In the English speaking world, boys or men who dance classical ballet are referred to as (male) ballet dancers.


A ballet fan or enthusiast. The word was invented in Russia in the early nineteenth century.


Ballon means to bounce, where the dancer can show the lightness of the movement. It describes a quality, not the elevation or height, of the jump. Even in small, quick jumps (petite allégro), dancers strive to exhibit ballon. A dancer exhibiting ballon would spring off the floor and appear to pause mid-air before landing.


Exercising at a portable barre. A fixed barre can be seen in the background.

A horizontal bar, approximately waist height, typically made of wood or metal, that used for ballet warm-up exercises. Ballet classes commonly begin at the barre, and consist of half their total class time at the barre. Fixed barres are typically mounted along mirror-covered walls. There are also portable barres that can be relocated as needed.


A kicking movement of the working leg (i.e. the leg that is performing a technique). Battements are usually executed in front (en avant or à la quatrieme devant), to the side (à la seconde) or back (en arrière or à la quatrieme derrière).

  • battement développé is usually a slow battement in which the leg is first lifted to retiré position, then fully extended (or "unfolded") passing through attitude position.
  • battement fondu is a battement (usually slower) from a fondu (both knees bent, working foot on the cou-de-pied of the supporting leg) position and extends until both legs are straight. The working leg can end up on the floor (a terre) or off the floor (en l'air). It can be executed double.
  • battement frappé is a battement where the foot moves from a flexed or 'cou-de-pied' position next to the ankle of the supporting leg, and extends out to a straight position quickly and forcefully, and by doing so hitting the floor (the so-called frappé). In the Russian school the foot is wrapped around the ankle, rather than flexed and does not strike the floor. In this case, the frappé is given by the working foot striking the ankle of the supporting leg. Battements frappés can be executed double, with beats alternating front and back of the standing leg's ankle before striking out.
  • battement glissé (French school) or "dégagé" (Italian School) or "jeté" (Russian school) is a rapid battement normally taken to 2-3 centimeters off the floor (literally means a "gliding" battement). See battement tendu jeté. Typically, on this exercise, the accent of the movement with the downbeat of the music is on the closing in of the feet, as opposed to the extending of the leg.
  • battement lent is a slow battement, normally taken as high as possible, which involves considerable control and strength. Both legs remain straight for the whole duration of the movement.
  • battement tendu is a battement where the extended foot never leaves the floor. The working foot slides forward or sidewaysor backwards from the fifth or first position to reach the forth or second position, lifting the heel off the floor and stretching the instep. It forms the preparation for many other positions, such as the ronds de jambe and pirouette positions.
  • battement tendu jeté (Russian school) is a battement normally taken to anywhere from 2 cm off the floor up to 45 degrees, depending on the style. It is the same as battement dégagé (Cecchetti) or battement glissé (French school).
  • grand battement is a powerful battement action where the dancer brushes and kicks the leg as high as possible, keeping it straight, while the supporting leg also remains straight.
  • grand battement en cloche is a grand battement which continuously "swishes" forwards and backwards passing through the first position of the feet (literally: large battement with pendulum movement).
  • petit battement is a battement action where the bending action is at the knee, while the upper leg and thigh remain still. The working foot quickly alternates from the cou-de-pied position in the front to the cou-de-pied position in the back, slightly opening to the side.


A whole family of techniques and steps involving turns and jumps, where the feet cross quickly in front and behind each other, creating a flapping or "beating" effect and brushing through first position.

Also called beats in the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) syllabus.


[Literally "broken"] A jump. One leg is thrust from the fifth position to the second position in the air; the second leg reaches the first in mid-air executing a beat. An alternate execution of brisé devant starts croisé in fifth position; brisé derrière is executed similarly with the front foot initiating the movement and brushing to effacé derriére. The back foot brushes through first to degagé effacé devant, the bottom leg thrusts up to meet the top leg and beats to the front and lands in the starting fifth position. It is a traveling movement; the dancer executes an assemblé, then, doing a beat, changes fifth positions in the air. The dancer may practice petits battements in preparation for this step.

Bras Croisé

Literally "crossed arms". Arms are placed so that, when the dancer is facing one of the stage corners, one is extended the second position away from the audience and the other is curved in first position front (Cecchetti forth position en avant).


The word originates from an old French dance resembling the gavotte. In ballet it is used to describe quick, even movements often done en pointe, the movement gives the look of gliding.

See: Pas de bourrée



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.


This is a common abbreviation for tours chaînés déboulés, which is a series of quick turns on alternating feet with progression, or chain, along a straight line or circle. The turns are done with the feet in a small, tight first position releve. "Spotting" of the head is used to avoid dizziness in this and all turning exercises in ballet. They are also known as chaînés tournes. In classical ballet it is done on the pointes or demi-pointes (on the balls of the feet).


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.


Chassé, literally "to chase". A slide forwards, backwards, or sideways with both legs bent, then springing into the air with legs meeting and straightened. It can be done either in a gallop (like children pretending to ride a horse) or by pushing the first foot along the floor in a plié to make the springing jump up.

Cloche, en

Meaning "as a bell". Refers to grand battements executed continuously devant and derrière through the first position. See grand battement en cloche. Note: the Vaganova system currently refers to this movement as "Passe' la Jambe" and "Battement Passe' la Jambe". [1]


Literally "tail". As in music, a Coda is a passage which brings a movement or a separate piece to a conclusion.

In ballet, the coda is usually the "Finale", a set of dances known as the Grand Pas or Grand Pas d'action and brings almost all the dancers onto the stage. A particularly large or complex coda may be called a Grand coda. If a large group of dancers are concerned, the terms Coda générale or Grand coda générale may be used.

In ballet there are many famous codas, such as the one found in Le Corsaire Pas de Deux. The so-called Black Swan Pas de deux from the ballet Swan Lake features the famous coda where the ballerina performs 32 fouettes en tournant.

Côté, de

Sideways. Used to indicate that a step is to be made to the side, either to the right or to the left.


Meaning 'to cut'. Coupé is both a step and action: Coupe' means to close, cut or tombe' (fall) exchanging the from one leg to another, exchanging weight from one leg to another through a closed position, usually fifth, (rarely first or third). It is commonly executed from a sur le cou de pied front to sur le cou de pied back or vice versa. (Cou de pied positions vary greatly from method to method, school to school.) But it also may be done from an extended leg position into fondu or directly through fifth position. It can only be performed through a closed leg position. (Note: If the dancer closes, cuts or tombe'e (fall) exchanging the from one leg to another through an open position such as second or fourth it is referenced as "tombe' or tombe'e.[2] Note: The Vaganova School rarely uses this term to describe its action, except as the preparation for specific allegros. Rather, "Tombe' through fifth postion" is more common. [3] Note: particularly in the United states, "Coupe' " is universally confused with "Cou de pied" and Sur le cou de pied.[4]


Small quick steps in most cases calves are kept together can also be described as "massaging the floor with your feet".

Corps de ballet

The ensemble of a ballet company; especially, the ensemble apart from the featured dancers.

Croisé, croisée

Meaning: crossed. One of the directions of épaulement. The dancer stands facing one of the corners of the stage; his/her body is placed at an oblique angle to the audience. The leg may be crossed to the front or to the back.

Croisé is used in the third, fourth and fifth positions of the legs. The dancer is in croisé if the front leg is the right leg, and the dancer is facing the front-left corner of the stage (or dance studio); or if the front leg is the left, and the dancer is facing his/her front-right corner, then the dancer is in croisé. In croisé position the dancer should be aligned so that the audience can see both his/her shoulders and hips.



A fast sequence of half turns performed by stepping onto one leg, and completing the turn by stepping onto the other, the dancers stepping high on the toes and with the legs held very close together. These can be performed in a circle (en manège) or a straight line (chainé).

Demi Detourné

A half turn executed on both feet. Start right foot front (5th position). Demi plie and then releve onto the demi pointe whilst making a 1/2 turn, lower through demi plie. The feet will have now changed position and the left foot should now be in the front. To finish pull the legs up and stand in 5th position. This is frequently used at the barre to change from one side to the other side during class exercises.

Danseur noble

A highly accomplished male ballet dancer. The female version is ballerina (Italian) or danseuse (French). A danseur noble is not just any dancer in the world of ballet, but one who has received international critical accolodes from the dance community. Please see entry above for ballerina for a more detailed explanation of this concept. Most boys and men who dance classical ballet are just called ballet dancers.


To disengage. See Battement tendu jeté.


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


At or to the back side. For example, a battement tendu derrière is a battement tendu taken to the rear. point/face behind you


Literally "under". Used where the front leg is brought to the back, in techniques such as the assemblé, pas de bourrée, and glissade.


Literally "over". Used where the back leg is brought to the front, in techniques such as the assemblé, pas de bourrée, and glissade.


Literally "front". For example, tendu devant would mean stretching the foot to the front, or attitude devant would mean executing an attitude to the front. point/face to front


A common abbreviation for battement développé. A movement in which the leg is first lifted to retiré position, then fully extended passing through attitude position. It can be done in front (en avant), 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 "discard", but also flat, like a card. One of the basic positions of the body in which the dancer assumes a position with the body facing downstage on a diagonal and points the downstage leg 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 that is on the same side as the working leg raised in the air and the other arm trailing in second. The gaze is directed nearly to the raised arm along the same diagonal.


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

Effacé, effacée

Literally "erased" or "obscured". One of the directions of épaulement in which the dancer stands at an oblique angle to the audience so that a part of the body is taken back and almost hidden from view. This direction is termed ouvert in the French ballet vocabulary. Effacé is also used to qualify a pose in which the legs are open (not crossed). This pose may be taken devant or derrière, either à terre or en l'air. If the front leg is the right, and the dancer is facing the front-right corner of the stage (or dance studio), he is in effacé; or, if the front leg is the left and she is facing her front-left corner, she is in effacé. This position is the opposite of croisé.


Literally "rise". A relevé without the plié, so that the dancer simply rises directly to demi or pointe from flat feet and straight legs all the way to the balls of the feet.

See Relevé. high in the air


Literally "in". This term is usually used to describe the position in which the dancer is situated; i.e. en plie, en rélevé, en pointe......

En croix

Meaning "in the shape of a cross" or "the cross." This term is usually used when doing barre exercises such as battement tendu and battement frappé. The required movement is done to the front, then the side, then back and then again to the side (a cross shape) closing in either first or fifth position.

En dedans

Movement within a circle so that the leg starts at the back or the side and moves towards the front. For the right leg, this is a counter-clockwise circle. For the left leg, this is a clockwise circle. For instance, in a ronds de jambe en dedans, starting from first position, the foot (either left or right) would first reach tendu back, then move to tendu to the side and then front, to end again in first position.

It is also considered an inside movement: in a pirouette en dedans the dancer spins towards the side of the supporting leg. The opposite is en dehors.

En dehors

Literally "outwards". Movement within a circle so that the leg starts at the front or the side and moves towards the back. For the working leg, this is a clockwise circle. For instance, in a ronds de jambe en dehors, starting from first position, the foot (either left or right) would first reach tendu front, then move to tendu to the side and then back, to end again in first position.

It is also considered an outside movement: in a pirouette en dehors the dancer spins towards the side of the working leg (the leg raised in passé). En dedans is the opposite. Many people have trouble and confuse en dedans and en dehors. En dehors can be remembered with the phrase "En dehors, out the door."


"A step of beating in which the dancer jumps into the air and rapidly crosses the legs before and behind."[5] 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.


In ballet, the term Entrée has two meanings:

  1. Entrée can refer to the opening number in a suite of dances known as the Grand Pas (or Grand Pas d'action; Classical Pas de deux; etc.) The Entrée typically precedes the Grand adage, and is typically a short number which serves as an introduction for the suite. One famous Entrée is the opening number of the famous Paquita Grand Pas Classique, in which the lead Ballerina and the corps de ballet perform a mazurka. Another famous Entrée is the opening waltz to the Black Swan Pas de deux from Swan Lake. When the term Entrée refers to the opening number of the Grand Pas, etc., it is referred to in musical terms as the Intrada.
  2. Entrée can also mean a number in which the lead character or characters of a ballet make their initial appearance on stage. One famous Entrée occurs in the first act of the Petipa/Tchaikovsky ballet The Sleeping Beauty, in which the Princess Aurora makes her Entrée during her birthday celebrations. Another occurs in the first act of the Petipa/Minkus ballet La Bayadère, in which the temple dancer Nikiya makes her entrance during the Festival of Fire. The opening harp candenza of the celebrated Le Corsaire Pas de Deux serves as the musical Entrée, as the Danseur also makes his Entrée before the Grand adage.


Literally "shouldering". Rotation of the shoulders and head relative to the hips in a pose or a step.



The dancer springs into the air, landing on the front foot with the back foot raised. The back foot then slides through to the front. During the spring the body is turned slightly inwards towards the front foot with the face turned away.

Fish dive

This is a term used in partnering for various lifts in which the danseuse is supported by the danseur in a poisson position. He may hold her above his head in a horizontal fish dive or she may fall from a sitting position on his shoulder and be caught in a fish dive, and so on.


Literally "melted". Abbreviation for a battement fondu. A term used to describe a lowering of the body which is made by bending the knee of the supporting leg. Saint-Leon wrote, "Fondu is on one leg what a plie is on two."


Literally "whipped". The term indicates either a turn with a quick change in the direction of the working leg as it passes in front of or behind the supporting leg, or a quick whipping around of the body from one direction to another. There are many kinds of fouetté: petit fouetté (à terre, en demi-pointe or sauté) and grand fouetté (sauté, relevé or en tournant). Similar to a frappe. An introductory form for beginner dancers, executed at the barre is as follows: facing the barre, the dancer executes a grand battement to the side, then turns the body so that the lifted leg ends up in arabesque

Fouetté jeté

Literally "whipped throw". A leap which starts as a fouetté and then the second leg also kicks in front.

Fouetté rond de jambe en tournant

Dancer performing Fouetté en tournant
For history, see main article on 32 fouettés en tournant.

A turn made by using a fouetté. For each turn the dancer stands momentarily on flat foot and in plié, as the working leg is extended in fourth position en l'air (or à la hauteur) front then whipped around to the side as the working foot is pulled in to touch behind the supporting knee. That creates the impetus to spin one turn as the dancer executes a relevé, rising onto pointe. Done properly, the dancer remains in place. The famous 32 continuous fouettés in the coda of the "Black Swan" Pas de Deux from Swan Lake are a bravura performance designed to express the strength and triumph of the character.

In the Vaganova method, the leg is extended à la seconde instead of fourth position front.


Frappé means to "strike". See Battement frappé describing hitting the floor or an ankle with a moving foot.



Literally, to glide. This is a traveling step starting in fifth position with demi-plié: the front foot moves out to a point, both legs briefly straighten as weight is shifted onto the pointed foot, and the other foot moves in to meet the first. A glissade can be en avant, en arrière, dessous, and dessus; start in fifth position plie, push off back foot moving the front foot forward and bringing the back foot that you pushed off on in the front landing in fifth position.

Grand écart

Literally, great gap. Also known as 'spagat' in German or 'splits' in English, is when the dancer opens his/her legs in 180°, front or sideways.

Grand plié

A full plié, or bending of the knees. The back should be straight and aligned with the heels, and the legs are turned out with knees over the feet. As a movement, it should be fluid. It may also be in preparation for another movement such as a leap. Often done in first, second, third, fourth, or fifth position.

Ballerina performing a grand jeté during Don Quichotte at the 2010 Prix de Lausanne

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, as opposed to performing a dévelopé or "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. Very likely or commonly used in modern ballet, as well.

Grand Pas and Grand Pas d'action

Literally, big or large step. A Grand pas is a suite of individual dances that serves as a showpiece for lead dancers, demi-soloists, and possibly the corps de ballet. In the context of a full-length ballet the Grand pas is considered a Pièce de résistance. The Grand pas is merely a display of dance, and in no way contributes to the ballet's story.

If the Grand pas does contribute to the ballet's story, then it is known as a Grand Pas d'action.

When a Grand Pas is referred to as a Grand pas classique, it simply means that classical technique prevails and no character dances are included.

A Grand pas usually consists of the Entreé, the Grand adage, occasionally a dance for the corps de ballet (often referred to as the Ballabile), optional variations for the demi-soloists, variations for the lead Ballerina and/or Danseur, and a final coda (sometimes referred to as a Coda générale or Grand coda) which serves to bring the whole piece to a grand conclusion.

One famous Grand Pas was created by Marius Petipa in 1881 for his revival of Joseph Mazilier's ballet Paquita. This is known today as the Paquita Grand Pas Classique, and is danced by many companies throughout the world.

A rather elaborate Grand Pas is taken from the 1862 Petipa/Pugni ballet The Pharaoh's Daughter, which was revived in 2000 after decades of being absent from the stage. The dances are presented in Marius Petipa's original order: Entrée, Variations for 3 demi-soloists, Grand adage, Waltz for the corps de ballet, variations for the three lead soloists, and the final Coda générale.

There are many famous Grand Pas d'action as well, one being from the first act of the 1890 Petipa/Tchaikovsky ballet The Sleeping Beauty. This consists of the famous Grand adage known as the Rose Adagio, a Dance for the Maids of Honor and Pages, the Variation of the Princess Aurora, and the Coda, which is interrupted by the evil fairy Carabosse who gives the Princess Aurora the poisoned spindle. In the context of the full-length ballet, this particular Grand Pas d'action helps contribute to the action, with the Princess Aurora choosing between her four prospective princes and receiving a rose from each.

Many Grand Pas and Grand Pas d'action are often extracted from full-length works and performed independently.

Differing forms of a Grand pas —

-Grand pas de deux – a Grand pas which serves as the Pièce de résistance for the principal male and female characters of a full-length ballet. When more soloists are included, then the title changes as follows: Pas de trois, Pas de quatre, etc.



When the dancer jumps and pulls both legs up to passe position at the same time. The feet don't touch, but the legs are similar to a butterfly sitting position



Jeté is a jump from one foot to the other similar to 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, such as petit jeté, grand jeté, en tournant, jeté entrelacé, etc.


Movements (Noverre's seven)



Ouvert, ouverte

Open, opened. This 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 the term is used to indicate a position or direction of the body similar to effacé.



In general, partnering is an effort by both the male and female dancers to achieve a harmony of movement so that the audience is unaware of the mechanics to enjoy the emotional effects. Also known as pas de deux, or dance for two.

For a male dancer, partnering includes lifting, catching, and carrying a partner, also assisting with jumps, promenades and supported pirouettes.


Literally, "step". In ballet, the term pas often refers to a combination of steps which make up a dance (typically, in dance forms such as jazz, hip-hop, tap, etc., this is called a routine). Pas is often used as a generic term when referring to a particular suite of dances, i.e. Pas de deux, Grand Pas d'action, etc., and may also refer to a variation. The use of the word pas when referring to a combination of steps which make up a dance, is used mostly in Russia, and much of Europe, while in English speaking countries the word combination is often used.

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

It consists of three quick steps i.e. behind, side, front, often ending in a demi plié. It means 'Step of Bourrée', Bourrée being an Auvergne dance.

There are different kinds of pas de bourrée :

  • pas de bourrée dessus-dessous,
  • pas de bourrée dessous-dessus,
  • pas de bourrée dessus-dessus,
  • pas de bourrée dessous-dessous.

Dessous (literally under) means closing the foot in front of, dessus (literally over) means closing the foot behind.

Pas de chat

"the step of the cat". The dancer jumps sideways, and while in mid-air, bends both legs up (two retirés) bringing the feet up as high as possible, with 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. A jump. Leap off the left (front)leg, starting from a plié and raising the right (back) leg into retiré. In midair, raise the left leg into retiré, too, so your legs form a diamond shape in the air. Land on the right leg with the left leg still in retiré; then bring it down in front, landing in another plié.

Pas de chat, grand

A pas de chat where the front leg extends with a developpé and the back remains in passé until landing.

Pas de cheval

"step of the horse". The dancer does a cou de pied then a small developpé and tendu back into starting position.

Pas de deux

meaning "step of two". Pas de deux is a duet usually performed by a female and a male dancer. A famous pas de deux is the Black Swan pas de deux. See also Pas de deux.

Pas de poisson

"step of the fish". Same as temps de poisson. This is a type of soubresaut, or a jump without change of feet. From fifth position, the dancer executes a deep demi plié and jumps arching the back with the legs straightened behind, so that the whole body is curved like a fish jumping out of water.

Pas de valse

"waltz step". A traveling step done to music in 3/4 time, either straight or while turning (en tournant).


As a position passé means when a foot is placed near, on, or below the other knee.

As a movement passé refers to the working foot passing close to the knee of the standing leg. When the foot arrives by the knee, it passes from the front to the back or back to front, and continues either to return to the floor by sliding down the supporting leg or into an arabesque or attitude etc.

See Retiré.

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.


Literally "pricked". A movement in which the strongly pointed toe of the lifted and extended leg sharply lowers to hit the floor then immediately rebounds upward. Same for some as the term pointé.

Also a movement in which the dancer transfers a stance from one leg in plié to the other leg by stepping out directly onto pointe or demi-pointe with a straight leg; for example, a piqué arabesque.


Literally means to "whirl" is a controlled turn on one leg, starting with one or both legs in plié and rising onto demi-pointe (usually for men) or pointe (usually for women). The non-supporting leg can be held in retiré position, or in attitude, arabesque level or second position. The pirouette may return to the starting position or finish in arabesque or attitude positions, or proceed otherwise. A pirouette 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.

Turning technique includes spotting, in which a dancer executes a periodic, rapid rotation of the head that serves to fix the dancer's gaze on a single spot. Spotting is particularly important in traveling turns such as tours chaînés or piqués because it helps the dancer control the direction of travel while keeping balanced.

Pirouettes can be executed with a single or multiple rotations.


Literally "bent". A smooth and continuous bending of the knees.

This can be grand-plié, a bend to the deepest position. For demi-plié the dancer bends knees until just below the classical hips while maintaining turn-out at the joints, allowing the thighs and knees to be directly above the line of the toes. In either instance, the motion is fluid and does not stop in downward bend. As soon as the bottom of the bend is reached the bend is reversed and the straightening of the legs is begun, equally as smoothly.

Pointe work

Performing steps while on the tips of the toes, using a special blocked shoe; pointe shoes. Although mostly a female dancers' skill, nowadays it is not unknown for male dancers to receive training in pointe work.


Meaning fish. A position of the body in which the legs are crossed in the fifth position or the working leg is brought to a retiré position with the back arched. This pose is taken while jumping into the air or in partnering when the danseuse is supported in a poisson position by her partner.

Port de bras

Literally "carriage of the arms". Sometimes misspelled "porte-bras". An exercise for the movement of the arms to different positions, it is considered a simple movement but a dancer works hard to make it seem graceful, poised and seamless. The basic port de bras exercise moves from fifth en bas to first arm position, to second arm position, then back down to fifth en bas. A full port de bras moves from fifth en bas to fifth overhead and back down but a variation of sequence is common.

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A term of the Cecchetti school. From a fondu, the dancer steps with a straight leg into demi-pointe or pointe, 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 (this is also known as tour piqué).

Positions of the arms

Arms in Cecchetti's "Spanish fourth" position.

There are two basic positions for the arms. In one, the dancer keeps the fingers of both arms almost touching to form an oval shape, either almost touching the hips, or 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 (training methods), such as Vaganova, French, and Cecchetti, Russian often use different names for similar arm positions. For example, a third Russian position is the equivalent to a Cecchetti fifth position en haut.

Positions of the feet

The basic five positions of the feet on the floor were set down by the dancing master Pierre Beauchamp in the late 17th century. Two more positions were introduced by Serge Lifar during his career as Ballet Master at the Paris Opéra Ballet (1929–45, 1947–58); their use nowadays is mostly limited to Lifar's choreographies.

In first position the dancer stands with hips turned out, heels touching together creating as close to a straight line with the feet as possible. In second position the dancer stands turned out in a straight line as in first position, but with heels about one foot apart. In third position the dancer stands turned out similar to first position but the heel of the front foot touching the arch of the back foot. In fourth position feet are turned out with the front foot about one foot away from the back, if the heel of the front foot is in line with the heel of the back foot, it is called an "open" fourth position, if the heel of the front foot is in line with the toes of the back foot it is called a "closed" fourth position. In fifth position the foot is turned out as in first position, but the toes close to the heels of the other foot, so that the legs are crossed over further than in third 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. 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 tuck their pelvis under and keep their back straight as to avoid arching and throwing themselves off balance. Pulling up is also essential to dancer on pointe in order for them to avoid putting more weight than necessary onto their toes.



Meaning four, it is often used to indicate the number of something in ballet, such as entrechat-quatre and pas de quatre.


Meaning Fourth.



Literally "lifted". Rising from any position to balance on one or both feet on at least demi-pointe which is heels off the floor or higher to full pointe where the dancer is actually balancing on the top of the toes, supported in pointe shoes. Smoothly done in some versions, a quick little leap up in other schools.

See Elevé.

Retiré position

The working leg is raised to the side, turned out, with knee sharply bent so the toe is pointed in front of or behind the supporting knee. Common pose during standard pirouette, intermediate position for other moves.

Retiré devant

The working leg is raised just in front of the knee cap (but can be raised higher) and is sharply bent and "turned out" to the side. It is a common pose during standard pirouette both en dedans and en dehors, and an intermediate position for other moves, such as battement développé front.

Rond de jambe

Literally "circle of the leg". Actually, half-circles made by the pointed foot, returning through first position to repeat; creating the letter 'D' on the floor. From front to back rond de jambe en dehors, or from back to front rond de jambe en dedans.

  • Rond de jambe à terre: straightened leg with pointed toe remaining on the ground to sweep around.
  • Rond de jambe en l'air: in the air. The leg is lifted to the side, movement is only below the knee. If the thigh is horizontal, the toe draws an oval approximately between the knee of the support leg and the second position in the air. If the thigh is in the lower demi-position then the oval is to the calf of the support knee.
  • Rond de jambe attitude: the leg is swung around from the front around to the side into attitude position behind as the supporting foot goes en pointe. (see also Attitude)
  • Demi-grand rond de jambe: the leg is straightened and sustained horizontal to make the circle to the side. If not reversed, foot returns past the knee.
  • Grand rond de jambe: the leg is straightened and sustained at grand battement height, with the foot making the circle high. Requires advanced "extension" flexibility and strength. If not reversed, foot returns past the knee.



A term of the Russian and French schools; it indicates 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 "jump". As adjectives, sauté (masc.) or sautée (fem.) French pronunciation: [sote] are used to modify the quality of a step: for instance, "'sauté arabesque indicates an arabesque performed while jumping.

Saut de chat

A jump similar to a "grande jété" where the front leg extends with a développé.

Second position, seconde

Second position of the leg - The dancer stands with feet turned out along a straight line as in first position, but with the heels about one foot apart. The term seconded generally means to or at the side, Second position of the arm - raises your arms to the side. Keep your arms slightly rounded. Lower your elbows slightly below your shoulders. Make sure your wrists are lower than your elbows. Keep your shoulders down, your neck long and your chin up.


A term that refers to the reverse of a winging of the foot. If a dancer sickles the foot on pointe or demi-pointe, the ankle could collapse to the outside resulting in a sprained ankle. If it is the working foot sickled, it will make the dancer look amateurish and untrained. Working foot to the side should be straight and mildly winged when foot is to the front or back.


A jump done from two feet to one foot or in some cases two. Named after the originator of the step.

Soutenu en tournant

Similar to tours chaînés, a soutenu is a series of turns in quick succession. The dancer must first execute a demi plié while extending the leading leg in a tendu position and then stepping up on a tight leg and beginning the turn while simultaneously bringing the other leg up to a raised position while finishing a full 360 degree turn.

Sous sous

Literally under under. Typically executed from fifth position, a dancer rises up onto the pointes or demi-pointes with the feet touching and ankles crossed in a particularly tight fifth position relevé. This can be performed in place or traveling forward, backward or to the side. At the barre after the plié exercises, is part of the warm up for center pointe work. Sous sous is a term of the Cecchetti school.


A split is a configuration of the legs to a straight 180 degree (or more, oversplit), they can be done in right, left, or center positions, the ability to do a split also demonstrates the flexibility of the dancer. Splits are usually done as floor work, barre work or incorporated into dances; the ability to do splits is critical to ballet dancers as it allows for proper execution of certain movements, for example, the Grand Jeté, Arabesque Penchée and many other movements. Proper execution of a ballet split includes turned out legs from the hip and pointed feet, without proper technique it may be harmful or impossible for the dancer to perform a proper split. A notable difference between front splits in ballet and gymnastics is the turnout of the back leg, in gymnastics the back leg faces downwards, in ballet the back leg faces to the side.

Sur le cou-de-pied

Literally, "to wrap around the neck of the foot". The working foot is placed on 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 is placed in front of the leg, while the toes point to the back, allowing the arch of the foot to 'hug' the leg, giving it the meaning "on the neck of the foot". On the accent derrière(back), the heel of the working leg is placed behind the leg with the toes point to the back. The action of alternating between devant and derrière is seen in the petit battement.

Sway back

Arching the back too far, resulting in an appearance of bad posture.



Literally, "stretched"; a common abbreviation for battement tendu. Usually done as an exercise at the barre from first or fifth position, the working leg is extended to either the front, side or back, gradually along the floor until only the tip of the toe remains touching the floor (tendu a terre) or even further stretched so that the tip of the toe comes up off the floor a few inches (en l'air). A tendu can also be used in preparation for other more complex steps, such as pirouettes, or leaps.

Temps levé

A term from the Cecchetti vocabulary, meaning 'time raised', or 'raising movement'. This is a hop from one foot with the other 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 term also means a spring from the fifth position, raising one foot sur le cou-de-pied. In the Russian and French schools this is known as sissonne simple.

Temps levé sauté

A term from the Russian vocabulary, meaning 'time raised jumped'. It can be done in first, second, third, fourth or fifth position. The dancer, after a demi-plié, jumps in the air and then lands with the feet in the same position as they started. It can also be performed from one foot, while the other keeps the same position it had before starting the jump (e.g. on cou-de-pied).

Tours en l'air

Literally "turn in the air". A jump, typically for a male, with a full rotation. The landing can be to both feet; on one leg with the other extended in attitude or arabesque; or down to 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.


The act of falling. Typically a beginning movement. In the Vaganova school, its complete name is sissone ouverte tombé. For a tombé en avant, the dancer begins with a coupé front and then, after extending the leg from the coupé in fourth position front (or second or fifth back, if the tombé is to be done on the side or backward), switches the weight distribution and leans on the extended leg, which is placed on the floor in a deep plié. This leaves the working leg straightened but lifted slightly off the floor. Often this movement is used before executing traveling steps such as a pas de bourrée.

It is also possible not to perform the coupé at the beginning of the movement, but rather reach the fourth position front directly from fifth position with a little 'sliding' hop.

Triple Runs

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

Turn-out, turnout

A rotation of the leg from the hips, causing the knee and foot to also turn outward, away from the center of the body. This rotation allows for greater extension of the leg, especially when raising it to the side and rear. Properly done, the ankles remain erect and the foot arch remains curved and supporting. Signs of improper turn-out are the knee pointing forward while the foot point sidewards (turning out from the knee), and rolling in of the ankle. Every single step in classical ballet is performed with hips, knees and feet as turned out as possible, except when otherwise specified by choreography. Turn-out is a defining characteristic of classical ballet which distinguishes it from other forms of dance. A perfect turn-out would be the ability to effortlessly rotate the legs from the hips so that the feet and knees pointed, not straight ahead of the body, but directly to the outsides of the body. Not all dancers have a perfect turn-out; but it is definitely a measure for selection in the competitive world of ballet. In beginner classes, a less-than-perfect turn-out is tolerated to save stress to knee joints until the ability is acquired. But as students progress to pre-professional and professional levels, perfect or near perfect turn-out is almost always a requirement for employment and success.



Can be used to describe a type of ballet music, counted in 3/4 music tempo (as "one, two, three").

It is also a step in ballet dance, which can be done in a variety of ways. The waltz step actually involves three steps performed on each count of the "(and) one, two, three". The common waltz step begins as stepping on the right foot on the "and" count and brushing the left forward into degagé (on the first count), then stepping left, right in demi-pointe (here the dancer may change the direction of the body to the opposite direction he/she is traveling for a pas de waltz en tournant), then stepping on the left foot and brushing the right foot front (back if doing the en tournant), then stepping right, left again (to face back in the same direction for the en tournant variation). The waltz step can be repeated in a chain as long as desired. The position of the arms variation

Contents: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
See alsoReferencesExternal links

See also


  1. ^ Barker/Kostrovitskaya: 101 Lessons in Classical Ballet - 1977
  2. ^ Grant: Technical Manual and Dictionary of Classical Ballet
  3. ^ Vaganova: Basic principals of Classical Ballet 1946 - Chujoy Translation 1953
  4. ^ A previous edit of this glossary made this mistake.
  5. ^ Grant, Gail (1982). Technical manual and dictionary of classical ballet. New York: Dover Publications. ISBN 0-486-21843-0. 
  • 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. 
  • Grant, Gail (1982). Technical Manual and Dictionary of Classical Ballet (3rd revised ed.). New York: Dover Publications. ISBN 0-486-21843-0. OCLC 8756882. 
  • 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 074326407X. 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. 
  • 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. 

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