Below is a more comprehensive, advanced list of vocabulary for classical ballet. All of the definitions have been provided either through the 'Technical Manual and Dictionary of Classical Ballet' by Gail Grant or the online dictionary provided by Ballet Dictionary (www.balletdictionary.com/ballet_dictionary/). Click on any of the letters below or follow along alphabetically.


French: a-DAHZH or ah-dazj'-eh-oh. Slow. A slow, sustained movement. Adage is a French word derived from the Italian ad agio, meaning at ease or leisure. English ballet teachers use "adage," the French adaptation, while Americans prefer the original Italian. In dancing it has two meanings: (1) A series of exercises following the centre practice, consisting of a succession of slow and graceful movements which may be simple or of the most complex character, performed with fluidity and apparent ease. These exercises develop a sustaining power, sense of line, balance and the beautiful poise which enables the dancer to perform with majesty and grace. The principal steps of adagio are pliés, développés, grand fouetté en tournant, dégagés, grand rond de jambe, rond de jambe en l'air, coupés, battements tendus, attitudes, arabesques, preparations for pirouettes and all types of pirouettes. (2) The opening section of the classical pas de deux, in which the ballerina assisted by her male partner, performs the slow movements and enlèvements in which the danseur lifts, supports or carries the danseuse. The danseuse thus supported exhibits her grace, line and perfect balance while executing développés, pirouettes, arabesques and so on, and achieves combinations of steps and poses which would be impossible without the aid of her partner.

Air, en l'

Or en l' air. ahn lehr. In the air. Indicates: (1) that a movement is to be made in the air; for example, rond de jambe en l'air; (2) that the working leg, after being opened to the second or fourth position à terre, is to be raised to a horizontal position with the toe on the level of the hip.


a-lay-GROH; Italian: al-LAY-groh. Brisk, lively. Fast. Jumps performed to a quick, sharp tempo. A term applied to all bright and 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.


aa-lohn-JAY. To elongate; to stretch.


a-ra-BESK. A pose on one leg with the other leg extended to the back. One of the basic poses in ballet, arabesque takes its name from a form of Moorish ornament. In ballet it is a position of the body, in profile, supported on one leg, which can be straight or demi-plié, with the other leg extended behind and at right angles to it, and the arms held in various harmonious positions creating the longest possible line from the fingertips to the toes. The shoulders must be held square to the line of direction. The forms of arabesque are varied to infinity. The Cecchetti method uses five principal arabesques; the Russian School (Vaganova), four; and the French School, two. Arabesques are generally used to conclude a phrase of steps, both in the slow movements of adagio and the brisk, gay movements of allégro.

Arabesque á deux bras

a-ra-BESK a duh brah. Arabesque with two arms. This arabesque is taken in profile with the extended leg nearest the audience. Both arms are extended forward with the arm on the side of the supporting leg held slightly higher. The head may be held in profile or turned to the audience.

Arabesque á la demi-hauteur/
Arabesque allongée

a-ra-BESK a lah duh-MEE-oh-TUHR. Arabesque at half-height. A term of the French school. An arabesque in which the working leg is raised at right angles to the hip. Also termed arabesque allongeé. Extended or outstretched arabesque.

Arabesque allongée
á terre

a-ra-BESK a-lawn-ZHAY a tehr. Arabesque extended on the ground. In this arabesque, the body is supported on one leg which is completely bent in plié while the other leg is extended in the back with the foot well turned out and on the ground. The arms may be held en attitude, en couronne and so on. This lunge position may be taken en face, croisé or ouvert.

Arabesque á terre

a-ra-BESK a tehr. Arabesque on the ground. The arms and body are in arabesque, but the leg, usually raised, is extended in the fourth position back, pointe tendue.

Arabesque croissée

a-ra-BESK krwah-ZAY. Arabesque crossed. This arabesque presents a three-quarter view of the body and faces a front corner of the stage. The supporting leg is the leg nearer the audience. The arms may be held in a variety of positions.

Arabesque de face

a-ra-BESK duh fahss. Arabesque facing. An arabesque facing the audience. The arms may be held in a variety of positions.

Arabesque plié

a-ra-BESK plee-AY. Arabesque with a bent knee. Same as arabesque fondue.


a-sahn-BLAY. Assembled or joined together; a jump from one foot landing on two feet. A step in which the working foot slides well along the ground before being swept into the air. As the foot goes into the air the dancer pushes off the floor with the supporting leg, extending the toes. Both legs come to the ground simultaneously in the fifth position. If an assemblé is porté it requires a preparatory step such as a glissade to precede it. If an assemblé is en tournant it must be preceded by a preparatory step. Assemblés are done petit or grand according to the height of the battement and are executed dessus, dessous, devant, derrière, en avant, en arrière and en tournant. They may be done en face, croisé, effacé or écarté. Assemblé may also be done with a beat for greater brilliance. In the Cecchetti assemblé both knees are bent and drawn up after the battement so that the flat of the toes of both feet meet while the body is in the air.

Assemblé, grand

grahn a-sahn-BLAY. Big assemblé. The jump is higher and the working leg is swept into the air into a horizontal position or á la hauteur. The legs join in the fifth position in the air before coming to the ground.

Assemblé devant

a-sahn-BLAY duh-VAHN. Assemblé in front. Fifth position R foot front. The R foot slides out to the second en l'air and at the completion of the assemblé is closed in the fifth position front.


a-tee-TEWD. A particular pose in dancing derived by Carlo Blasis from the statue of Mercury by Giovanni da Bologna. It is a position on one leg with the other lifted in back, the knee bent at an angle of 90 degrees and well turned out so that the knee is higher than the foot. The supporting foot may be à terre, sur la pointe or sur la demi-pointe. The arm on the side of the raised leg is held over the head in a curved position while the other arm is extended to the side. There are a number of attitudes according to the position of the body in relation to the audience.

Attitude, demi

duh-MEE-a-tee-TEWD. Half attitude. A term of the French school. An attitude with the raised leg á la demi-hauteur. The arms are held in the same position as in attitude.

Attitude á terre

a-tee-TEWD a tehr. Attitude on the ground. The arms are in attitude and the foot which is usually raised is extended with the toe pointed on the ground in the fourth position back.

Attitude croissé derriére

a-tee-TEWD krwah-ZAY deh-RYEHR. Attitude crossed in back. The dancer stands facing a front corner of the stage (croisé direction) with the supporting leg nearest the audience. The raised leg is held at 90 degrees and crossed behind the body with the knee bent at a right angle and the foot held parallel or slightly below the raised knee. The body presents a three-quarter view to the audience.

croissé devant

a-tee-TEWD krwah-ZAY duh-VAHN. Attitude crossed in front. This is the position croisé devant, but the raised leg is bent with the knee pressed outward and the foot raised as high as possible. The arms are held en attitude with the high arm on the same side as the supporting leg and the head slightly inclined toward the low arm.

Attitude en promenade

a-tee-TEWD ahn prawm-NAD. Attitude, walking. When a slow turn is made en dedans or en dehors in an attitude position, the attitude is said to be en promenade. This is a temps d'adage.

Attitude épaulée

a-tee-TEWD ay-poh-LAY. Attitude "shouldered". This attitude is executed in the same manner as the Cecchetti attitude croisée but is taken facing either one of the upper corners of the room and presents a three-quarter rear view to the audience. If the pose is taken L foot, the dancer faces corner 3.


ba-lahn-SAY. To swing; to rock. Rocking step. A swinging 3-step movement that is usually done either on the musical meter of 3/8 or 6/8. This step is very much like a pas de valse and is an alternation of balance, shifting the weight from one foot to the other. Balancé may be done crossing the foot either front or back. Fifth position R foot front. Demi-plié, dégagé the R foot to the second position and jump on it lightly in demi-plié, crossing the L foot behind the R ankle and inclining the head and body to the right. Step on the L demi-pointe behind the R foot, slightly lifting the R foot off the ground; then fall on the R foot again in demi-plié with the L foot raised sur le cou-de-pied derrière. The next balancé will be to the left side. Balancé may also be done en avant or en arrière facing croisé or effacé and en tournant.


bahl-lay-REE-nah. A principal female dancer in a ballet company. In the days of the Russian Imperial Theatres the title was given to the outstanding soloists who danced the chief classical roles. At the Maryinski Theatre in St. Petersburg the ballet company consisted of ballerinas, premiers danseurs, first and second soloists, coryphees and corps de ballet.

Ballerina assoluta, prima

or prima ballerina assoluta. (PREE-mah bahl-lay-REE-nah ahs-soh-LOO-tah). First ballerina absolute. A very rarely given title to the highest ranking ballerina.

Ballerina, prima

or prima ballerina. (PREE-mah bahl-lay-REE-nah). A title for an outstanding soloist or first principal female dancer of a ballet company.


ba-LAY. A theatrical work or entertainment in which a choreographer has expressed his ideas in group and solo dancing to a musical accompaniment with appropriate costumes, scenery and lighting.

Ballet d' action

ba-LAY dak-SYAWN. A ballet with a plot or story. For example, The Sleeping Beauty.

Ballet master/mistress

The person in a ballet company whose duty is to give the daily company class and to rehearse the ballets in the company repertoire.


ba-LAWN. Bounce. Ballon is the light, elastic quality in jumping in which the dancer bounds up from the floor, pauses a moment in the air and descends lightly and softly, only to rebound in the air like the smooth bouncing of a ball. Reference ballonné.


bah-lahn-NAY. Expanded; from balloon (air balloon). A jump from one foot to the same foot as the other leg is extended outward and then returns to original position. Example: begin with the working leg to the back and the body leaning slightly forward, pass the leg through 1st position and straighten the body, then extend the leg to the front and the body leans slightly backwards. Reference ballon.

Ballonné, pas

pah ba-law-NAY. Ball-like or bouncing step. A step in which the dancer springs into the air extending one leg to the front, side or back and lands with the extended leg either sur le cou-de-pied or retiré. There are two kinds of ballonné: ballonné simple, which may be performed petit or grand; and ballonné compose, which is a compound step consisting of three movements. Ballonné may be executed in all the directions of the body.

Ballonné simple

ba-law-NAY SEN-pluh. Simple ballonné. This may be performed either petit or grand. In petit ballonné, the leg is extended to the second or fourth position at 45 degrees; then the knee is bent and the foot brought sur le cou-de-pied. In grand ballonné, the leg is extended at 90 degrees and finished with the foot at the knee.

Ballonné simple devant

ba-law-NAY SEN-pluh duh-VAHN. Ballonné simple in front. Fifth position R foot front. Demi-plié, sliding the R foot along the floor to the fourth position devant en l'air at 45 degrees; push off the floor with the L foot, toes extended, traveling forward; land in demi-plié on the L foot, at the same time bringing the R foor sur le cou-de-pied devant. This ballonné is performed effacé en avant or croisé en avant with the body and arms placed according to the direction of the movement. The body and arms do not move during the step, but remain in the pose.

Ballonné, sur la pointe

pah ba-law-NAY sewr lah pwent. Ballonné on pointe. This is a relevé on point with the working leg opening at 45 degrees on the musical accent. It is executed in the directions croisé, effacé and écarté, traveling forward and backward.


ba-law-TAY. Tossed. This step consists of coupé dessous and coupé dessus performed in a series with a rocking, swinging movement. The step may be performed with straight knees at 45 degrees or with développés at 90 degrees. The direction of the body is effacé with the body inclining backward or forward with each change of weight. In the Russian School, ballotté is performed traveling forward on ballotté en avant and backward on ballotté en arrière to the place from which the first jump began. In the French School and the Cecchetti method, ballotté is performed on one spot.


bar. The horizontal wooden bar fastened to the walls of the ballet classroom or rehearsal hall which the dancer holds for support. Every ballet class begins with exercises at the bar.


bat-MAHN. Beating. A beating action of the extended or bent leg. There are two types of battements, grands battements and petits battements. The petis battements are: Battements tendus, dégagés, frappés and tendus relevés: stretched, disengaged, struck and stretched-and- lifted .

Battement, grand

grahn bat-MAHN. Grand battement. Large battement. An exercise in which the working leg is raised from the hip into the air and brought down again, the accent being on the downward movement, both knees straight. This must be done with apparent ease, the rest of the body remaing quiet.

Battement dégagé

bat-MAHN day-ga-ZHAY. Disengaged battement. A term of the Cecchetti method. The battement dégagé is similar to the battement tendu but is done at twice the speed and the working foot rises about four inches from the floor with a well-pointed toe, then slides back into the the first or fifth position. Battements dégagés strengthen the toes, develop the instep and improve the flexibility of the ankle joint. Same as battement tendu jeté (Russian School), battement glissé (French School).

Battement développé

bat-MAHN dayv-law-PAY. Battement developed. From the fifth position the working foot glides up to the retiré position and forcefully opens in the required direction. On reaching the extreme point, the leg is lowered into the fifth position. This exercise is usually done en croix.

Battement en cloche, grand

grahn bat-MAHN ahn klawsh. Large battement like a bell. A term of the French school and the Cecchetti method. Grand battements en cloche are continuous grands battements executed from the fourth position front or back en l'air to the fourth position back or front en l'air, passing through the first position. Same as grand battement jeté balancé, but the body remains upright as the leg swings.

Battement fondu

bat-MAHN fawn-DEW. Battement sinking down. This is an exercise in which the supporting leg is slowly bent in fondu with the working foot pointing on the ankle. As the supporting leg is straightened, the working leg unfolds and is extended to point on the floor or in the air. The movement is done devant, derriére and á la seconde. In fondu forward, the conditional position sur le cou-de-pied devant is used. In fondu back, the basic position sur le cou-de-pied derriére is used.

Battement fondu développé

bat-MAHN fawn-DEW dayv-law-PAY. Battement, sinking down, developed. This is an exercise in which the supporting leg is slowly bent in fondu with the working foot pointing on the ankle. As the supporting leg is straightened, the working leg unfolds and is extended to point on the floor or in the air. The movement is done devant, derrière and à la seconde. In fondu forward, the conditional position sur le cou-de-pied devant is used. In fondu back, the basic position sur le cou-de-pied derrière is used.

Battement fondu développé relevé

bat-MAHN fawn-DEW dayv-law-PAY ruhl-VAY. Battement fondu developed and raised. This is peformed in the same manner as battement fondu développé. As the supporting leg straightens, the dancer rises to the demi-pointe and performs a développé at 45 or 90 degrees.

Battement fouetté

bat-MAHN fweh-TAY. Whipped battement. See fouetté á terre.

Battement frappé

bat-MAHN fra-PAY. Struck battement. An exercise in which the dancer forcefully extends the working leg from a cou-de-pied position to the front, side or back. This exercise strengthens the toes and insteps and develops the power of elevation. It is the basis of the allegro step, the jeté.

Battement frappé pointé

bat-MAHN frah-PAY pwen-PAY. Battement struck and pointed. The movement starts in the second position with the working foot pointe tendue. The working foot beats the supporting leg sur le cou-de-pied devant, then is extended to the second position pointe tendu á terre. The foot returns sur le cou-de-pied derriére and the movement is repeated alternately with the strong accent in the pointed position. Battement frappés pointés may also be executed en croix. They may also be done with a relevé on the supporting leg. In this case, the supporting heel is lowered into a demi-plié as the working foot points in the open position and is raised as the working foot beats sur le cou-de-pied. See Battement frappé.

Battement pique, petit

puh-TEE bat-MAHN pee-KAY. Little pricked battement. Dégagé the working foot to the second or fourth position á terre, then lift the toe slightly. Lower the foot, striking the pointed toes on the floor, then immediately raise the foot and close to the fifth position.

Battement sur le
cou-de-pied, petit

puh-TEE bat-MAHN sewr luh koo-duh-PYAY. Small battement on the ankle. This is an exercise at the bar in which the working foot is held sur le cou-de-pied and the lower part of the leg moves out and in, changing the foot from sur le cou-de-pied devant to sur le cou-de-pied derrière and vice versa. Petits battements are executed with the supporting foot à terre, sur la demi-pointe or sur la pointe.

Battement soutenu

bat-MAHN soot-NEW. Battement sustained.

Battement tendu

bat-MAHN tahn-DEW. Battement stretched. A battement tendu is the commencing portion and ending portion of a grand battement and is an exercise to force the insteps well outward. The working foot slides from the first or fifth position to the second or fourth position without lifting the toe from the ground. Both knees must be kept straight. When the foot reaches the position pointe tendue, it then returns to the first or fifth position. Battements tendus may also be done with a demi-plié in the first or fifth position. They should be practiced en croix.


ba-TEW. Beaten. Any step embellished with a beat is called a pas battu. As, for example, in assemblé battu.


The dancer executes a beat during a jump by striking the calves sharply together. There are three classifications of beats: pas battus, entrechats and brisés.


brah. Arms


bree-ZAY. Broken, breaking. A small beating step in which the movement is broken. Brisés are commenced on one or two feet and end on one or two feet. They are done dessus, dessous, en avant and en arrière. Fundamentally a brisé is an assemblé beaten and traveled. The working leg brushes from the fifth position to the second position so that the point of the foot is a few inches off the ground, and beats in front of or behind the other leg, which has come to meet it; then both feet return to the ground simultaneously in demi-plié in the fifth position.

Brisé en avant

bree-ZAY ah na-VAHN. Brisé forward. This brisé s commenced with the front foot, which beats in the front and closes in the back. Brisé en avant can best be described as an assemblé dessous traveled forward and beaten.


ka-bree-AWL. 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, derriére and á la seconde in any given position of the body such as croisé, effacé, écarté, etc.


kahn-BRAY. Arched. The body is bent from the waist, backward or sideways, the head following the movement of the body.


The male partner of the ballerina.


sheh-NAY. Chains, links. This is an abbreviation of the term "tours chaînés déboulés": a series of rapid turns on the points or demi-pointes done in a straight line or in a circle.


sha-SAY. Chased. A step in which one foot literally chases the other foot out of its position; done in a series.

Chassé en tournant

sha-SAY ahn toor-NAHN. Chassé turning. Execute a tour en l'air, land on the back foot and chassé en avant.


This is the term applied to one who composes or invents ballets or dances.


This is a term used to describe the actual steps, groupings and patterns of a ballet or dance composition.


see-ZOH. Scissors. This is a scissor-like movement made by opening the feet to a wide second position sur les pointes, or by jumping into the air and opening both legs to the second position en l'air.


The daily lesson taken by dancers throughout their career.

Classical ballet

(1) The traditional style of ballet, which stresses the academic technique developed through the centuries of the existence of ballet. (2) A ballet in which the style and structure adhere to the definite framework established in the nineteenth century. Examples of classical ballets are Coppélia, The Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker and Swan Lake.

Classical walk

A slow, dignified walk done by the ballerina and danseur noble at their entrance and during the adage of a grand pas de deux. As the pointed toe stretches forward it reaches the ground first, then the heel is lowered so that the foot is slightly turned out in the fourth position. The moment the heel touches the ground, the weight is transferred forward, then the back knee bends and with a small développé the back foot steps forward to repeat the step.

Compound step

A step made up of two or more steps or portions of steps under one name.


kawr. Body.

Corps de ballet

kawr duh ba-LAY. The dancers in a ballet who do not appear as soloists.

Corps de face

kawr duh fahss. Body facing front.

Corps penché de coté

kawr pahn-SHAY duh koh-TAY. Body bending to the side.

Corps penché en avant

kawr pahn-SHAY ah na-VAHN. Body bending forward.

Côté cour

koh-TAY koor. "Court side", a stage direction. In French theater's this is the dancer's left-hand side of the stage or the public's right.


koo-duh-PYAY. Neck of the foot. The part of the foot between the ankle and the base of the calf is termed the cou-de-pied

Cou-de-pied, sur le

sewr luh koo-duh-PYAY. On 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.


koo-PAY. Cut, cutting. A movement that calls for the foot to be sharply pulled off the floor and placed either in front or back of the ankle.

Coupé brisé/
Coupé jete

koo-PAY bree-ZAY/koo-PAY zhuh-TAY. A compound step consisting of coupé dessous and jeté battu dessus. After the coupé dessous the working leg is taken around to the back for the jeté battu dessus. The beat should be done with both legs behind, not under the body.

Coupé dessous

koo-PAY duh-SOO. Coupé under. A coupé is said to be dessous or under when one foot cuts under the heel of the supporting foot.

Coupé-foutté raccourci

koo-PAY-fweh-TAY ra-koor-SEE. This compound step consists of a coupé dessous, the foot that is cut away being whipped out to seconde en l'air, then whipped to the back of the supporting leg with a petit fouetté followed by a temps levé. The step can be done in two ways: low, with the toe brushing the ground and a small temps levé; or high, with the extension at hip level and a well-lifted temps levé.


koo-REW. Running.


kmJah-ZAY. Crossed. One of the directions of épaulement. The crossing of the legs with the body placed at an oblique angle to the audience. The disengaged leg may be crossed in the front or in the back.





dahnss. Dance.


dahn-SUHR. Male dancer.


dahn-SUHZ. Female dancer.


day-ga-ZHAY. Disengaged or disengaging step. Pointing of the foot in an open position with a fully arched instep. It is not a transfer of weight.

Dégagé en l'air

day-ga-ZHAY ahn lehr. Dégagé in the air.


duh-MEE. Half position.


duh-MEE-a-ra-BESK. Half arabesque.


duh-MEE-a-tee-TEWD. Half attitude.


duh-MEE-plee-AY. Half-bend of the knees. All steps of elevation begin and end with a demi-plié. See Plié.


duh-SOO. Under. Indicates that the working foot passes behind the supporting foot. As, for example, in pas de bourrée dessous.


duh-SEW. Over. Indicates that the working foot passes in front of the supporting foot. As, for example, in pas de bourrée dessus.


dayv-law-PAY. Time developed, developing movement. Through common usage the term has become abridged to développé. A développé is a movement in which the working leg is drawn up to the knee of the supporting leg and slowly extended to an open position en l'air and held there with perfect control. The hips are kept level and square to the direction in which the dancer is facing.

Développé passe

dayv-law-PAY pa-SAY. Développé passing. The working foot passes the supporting knee from front to back and extends in développé, or the working foot passes the supporting knee from back to front and extends in développé.

body alignment

The direction in which the dancer stands in relation to the audience is very important. If all the steps and poses were taken en face, the dance would be very monotonous.


ay-sha-PAY. Escaping or slipping movement. An échappé is a level opening of both feet from a closed to an open position. There are two kinds of échappés: échappé sauté, which is done with a spring from the fifth position and finishes in a demi-plié in the open position, and échappé sur les pointes, or demi-pointes, which is done with a relevé and has straight knees when in the open position. In each case échappés are done to the second or fourth position, both feet traveling an equal distance from the original center of gravity.

Échappé sauté

ay-sha-PAY soh-TAY. Échappé, jumping or springing. This position is done to either the second or fourth position. The direction of the body can be en face or facing any of the directions. Échappé sauté is done either grand or petit.


eh-fa-SAY. Shaded. 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 method. 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.


ay-lay-va-SYAWN. Élévation is the ability of a dancer to attain height in dancing. It is a term used to describe the height attained in springing steps such as entrechats, grands jetés and so on, combined with ballon so that the dancer jumps with a graceful elasticity like the bouncing movement of a rubber ball which touches the ground a moment and then rebounds into the air. The elevation is reckoned by the distance between the pointed toes of the dancer in the air and the ground. In alighting after a pas d'élévation the tips of the toes should reach the ground first, quickly followed by the sole and then the heel. All steps of' elevation begin and end with a demi-plié.


ahn. In.


ahn-shen-MAHN. Linking. A combination of two or more steps arranged to fit a phrase of music.


ahn-truh-SHAH. Interweaving or braiding. A step of beating in which the dancer jumps into the air and rapidly crosses the legs before and behind each other. Entrechats are counted from two to ten according to the number of crossings required and counting each crossing as two movements, one by each leg; that is, in an entrechat quatre each leg makes two distinct movements. Entrechats are divided into two general classes: the even-numbered entrechats, or those which land on two feet—deux, quatre, six, huit and dix—and the odd-numbered entrechats, or those which land on one foot—trois, cinq, sept and neuf.


ahn-TRAY. Entrance. The term is given to the arrival of a dancer or group of dancers who perform a number in a divertissement. The term also applies to the beginning of a grand pas de deux in wihch the danseuse and dansuer make their entrance.


ahn-vuh-law-PAY. Enveloped.


ay-pohl-MAHN. Shouldering. The placing of the shoulders. A term used to indicate a movement of the torso from the waist upward, bringing one shoulder forward and the other back with the head turned or inclined over the forward shoulder. The two fundamental positions of épaulement are croisé and effacé. When épaulement is used the position of the head depends upon the position of the shoulders and the shoulder position depends upon the position of the legs. Épaulement gives the finishing artistic touch to every movement and is a characteristic feature of the modern classical style compared to the old French style. which has little épaulement.

Exercices à la barre

eg-zehr-SEESS a lah bar. Exercises at the bar (or barre). A group of exercises performed by the dancer while clasping a bar with one hand. This bar, generally a cylindrical piece of wood is fastened horizontally to the walls of the practice room at a height of about three feet six inches from the floor. Bar exercises, or side practice, are the foundation of classical ballet and are to the dancer what scales are to the pianist. Every ballet lesson begins with these exercises. It is at the bar that the dancer acquires the fundamental training for the attributes he must possess. These exercises are essential for developing the muscles correctly, turning the legs out from the hips and gaining control and flexibility of the joints and muscles. The exercises at the bar can be simple or varied but in general they include the following movements:
(l) Pliés in the first, second, fourth and fifth positions. (2) Battements tendus. (3) Battements dégagés. (4) Battements fondus. (5) Ronds de jambe à terre. (6) Battements frappés. (7) Adagio. (8) Petits battements sur le cou-de-pied. (9) Ronds de jambe en l'air. (10) Grands battements.


ay-kee-LEE-bruh. Equilibrium; aplomb. (1) The ability of the dancer to balance and hold a pose. (2) The balancing of the body on dem-pointe or full pointe in any required position.


ay-tahn-DEW. Outstretched, Extended, The second half a plié when the legs straighten.

Extended positions
of the arms

When the arms and hands are held straight in any position, the position is said to be extended or ouverte.


eks-tahn-SYAWN. Term used to describe the ability of a dancer to raise and hold her extended leg en l'air. A dancer is said to have a good extension if, when doing a développé à la seconde, she is able to hold and sustain the raised leg above shoulder level.


fehr-MAY. Closed. Indicates that both feet are in a closed position or that the feet are at the end of a step are brought to a closed position.

Fish dive

This is a term used in double (supported) work 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.


fawn-DEW. Sinking down. A term used to describe a lowering of the body made by bending the knee of the supporting leg. Saint-Léon wrote, "Fondu is on one leg what a plié is on two." In some instances the term fondu is also used to describe the ending of a step when the working leg is placed on the ground with a soft and gradual movement.


fweh-TAY. Whipped. A term applied to a whipping movement. The movement may be a short whipped movement of the raised foot as it passes rapidly in front of or behind the supporting foot or the sharp whipping around of the body from one direction to another. There is a great variety of fouettés: petit fouetté, which may be devant, à la seconde or derrière and executed à terre, sur la demi-pointe or sauté; and grand fouetté, which may be sauté, relevé and en tournant.

Fouetté á terre

fweh-TAY a tehr. Fouetté on the ground. A term of the Cecchetti method for a petit fouetté.


frah-PAY. To strike; to strike powerfully; a quick action of the leg. Example: the working leg's foot is placed in the front of the supporting leg's ankle, quickly throw the foot forward then softly bring it back to the ankle. This movement can be done front, side, or back, and can also be done with beats.


glee-SAD. Glide. A traveling step executed by gliding the working foot from the fifth position in the required direction, the other foot closing to it. Glissade is a terre à terre step and is used to link other steps. After a demi-plié in the fifth position the working foot glides along the floor to a strong point a few inches from the floor. The other foot then pushes away from the floor so that both knees are straight and both feet strongly pointed for a moment; then the weight is shifted to the working foot with a fondu. The other foot, which is pointed a few inches from the floor, slides into the fifth position in demi-plié. When a glissade is used as an auxiliary step for small or big jumps, it is done with a quick movement on the upbeat. Glissades are done with or without change of feet, and all begin and end with a demi-plié. There are six glissades: devant, derrière, dessous, dessus, en avant, en arrière, the difference between them depending on the starting and finishing positions as well as the direction. Glissade may also be done sur les pointes.

Glissade devant

glee-SAD duh-VAHN. Glissade in front. This glissade travels to the side and is commenced with the back foot, which finishes in the front.

Glissade piquée

glee-SAD pee-KAY. Glissade pricked.


glee-SAY. Glided, gliding.


grahn/grahnd. Big, large. As, for example; in grand battement. (To find terms starting with "grand," look up the second word of the term.)

Jeté, pas

pah zhuh-TAY. Or pas jeté. Throwing step. A jump from one foot to the other in which the working leg is brushed into the air and appears to have been thrown. There is a wide variety of pas jetés (usually called merely jetés) and they may be performed in all directions.

Jeté battu

zhuh-TAY ba-TEW. Jeté beaten. Both jeté dessus and jeté dessous may be beaten.

Jeté derriére

zhuh-TAY deh-RYEHR. Jeté in back. Term of the Cecchetti method.

Jeté devant

zhuh-TAY duh-VAHN. Jeté in front. Term of the Cecchetti method.

Jeté en avant

zhuh-TAY ah na-VAHN. Jeté forward. This is done in either petit or grand.

Jeté entrelacé

zhuh-TAY ahn-truh-la-SAY. Jeté interlaced. A term of the Russian School. This jeté is done in all directions and in a circle. It is usually preceded by a chassé or a pas couru to give impetus to the jump. In the French School this is called "grand jeté dessus en tournant"; in the Cecchetti method, "grand jeté en tournant en arrière."

Jeté, grand

grahn zhuh-TAY. Large jeté. In this step the legs are thrown to 90 degrees with a corresponding high jump. It is done forward to attitude croisée or effacée, and to all the arabesques. It may also be done backward with the leg raised either croisé or effacé devant. Grand jeté is always preceded by a preliminary movement such as a glissade, pas couru or coupe.

Jeté en avant, grand

grahn zhuh-TAY ah na-VAHN. Large jeté forward. A big leap forward preceded by a preliminary movement such as a glissade, which gives the necessary push-off. The jump is done on the foot which is thrown forward as in grand battement at 90 degrees, the height of the jump descending on the strength of the thrust and the length of the jump depending on the strong push-off of the other leg which is thrust up and back. The dancer tries to remain in the air in a definitely expressed attitude or arabesque and descends to the ground in the same pose. It is important to start the jump with a springy plié and finish it with a soft and controlled plié.

Jeté, petit

puh-TEE zhuh-TAY. Small jeté. From a demi-plié in the fifth position the working foot glides along the floor until it reaches a position à la demi-hauteur. The supporting foot springs from the floor and the landing is made in fondu on the working leg with the other foot extended in the air or sur le cou-de-pied. Petit jeté is done dessus, dessous, en avant, en arrière and en tournant.

Jeté passé

zhuh-TAY pa-SAY. Jeté passed. There are three kinds of jeté passé, forward, backward and to the side. All forms are preceded by a step into a demi-plié or a pas couru of three or five steps with an emphasis on the demi-plié at the end of the pas couru.


A tightly fitting practice or stage costumer for dancers, covering the body, mainly the torso, leaving the thighs free.


The lifting of the danseuse by her male partner

Lyrical dancing

A poetic style of dancing with a lovely, flowing quality.


The art of using the face and body to express emotion and dramatic action.


All the steps, poses and movements are subject to certain terms which indicate to the dancer in what direction or in what manner any given step or position is to be executed.

Movements in dancing

There are seven movements in dancing: élancer, to dart; étendre, to stretch; glisser, to glide or slide; plié, to bend; relever, to raise; sauter, to jump; tourner, to turn round


There is no universally accepted system of recording the choreography of ballets although many systems of dance notation have been devised by dancers and choreographers. At present, there are two systems of notation in general use, Labanotation and Benesh notation.


The term refers to the "law" by which the arm position is in opposition to the leg that is in front, whether that leg is the supporting or the working leg.


oo-VEHR/oo-VEHRT. 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.


pah. Step. A simple step or a compound movement which involves a transfer of weight. Example: pas de bourrée. "Pas" also refers to a dance executed by a soloist (pas seul), a duet (pas de deux). and so on.

Pas assemblé

pah a-sahn-BLAY. Assembled step. A basic step of allégro.

Pas d'action

pah dak-SYAWN. Dance action. A scene in a ballet that expresses emotion or tells a story by means of mime and dance.

Pas de bourrée

pah duh boo-RAY. Bourrée step. Pas de bourrée is done dessous, dessus, devant, derrière, en avant, en arrière and en tournant, en dedans and en dehors, on the point or demi-pointe.

Pas de bourrée devant

pah duh boo-RAY duh-VAHN. Pas de bourrée in front.

Pas de bourrée piqué

pah duh boo-RAY pee-KAY. Pas de bourrée pricked. The free foot is picked up sharply sur le cou-de-pied or en retiré on each step. Pas de bourrée piqué may be done on the points or demi-pointes, dessous, dessus, en tournant en dedans and en tournant en dehors.

Pas de chat

pah duh shah. Cat's-step. The step owes its name to the likeness of the movement to a cat's leap.

Pas de deux

pah duh duh. Dance for two.


pah-SAY. To pass; a position and/or movement that requires the working leg to have its foot pointed to the side of the supporting leg's knee.

Pas seul

pah suhl. Solo dance.


pee-KAY. Pricked, pricking. Executed by stepping directly on the point or demi-pointe of the working foot in any desired direction or position with the other foot raised in the air. As, for example, in piqué en arabesque, piqué développé and so on.

Piqué á terré

pee-KAY a tehr. Piqué on the ground. This is a term of the French school to denote a position of the foot in the second or fourth position with the heel raised and only the tip of the toes touching the ground, the weight of the body being supported on the other foot.


peer-WET. Whirl or spin. A complete turn of the body on one foot, on point or demi-pointe. Pirouettes are performed en dedans, turning inward toward the supporting leg, or en dehors, turning outward in the direction of the raised leg. Correct body placement is essential in all kinds of pirouettes. The body must be well centered over the supporting leg with the back held strongly and the hips and shoulders aligned. The force of momentum is furnished by the arms, which remain immobile during the turn. The head is the last to move as the body turns away from the spectator and the first to arrive as the body comes around to the spectator, with the eyes focused at a definite point which must be at eye level. This use of the eyes while turning is called "spotting." Pirouettes may be performed in any given position, such as sur le cou-de-pied, en attitude, en arabesque, à la seconde, etc.

Pirouette en attitude

peer-WET ah na-tee-TEWD. Pirouette in attitude. The turn is performed either en dedans or en dehors and the preparation is taken from the fourth position.

Pirouette sur le

peer-WET sewr luh koo-duh-PYAY. Pirouette on the ankle. This is a complete turn of the body on pojnt or demi-pointe with the free foot raised sur le cou-de-pied devant or retiré devant. The higher position with the foot pointed in front of the knee is usually used by girls, while boys usually keep the foot sur le cou-de-pied. The turn is done either en dedans or en dehors and may be single, double, triple, etc. The preparation for the turn is taken from the fifth, fourth or second position. As a rule, all pirouettes en dedan finish in front of the supporting leg, while all pirouettes en dehors finish behind the supporting leg.


pla-SAY. Placed. A term to describe the correct placing of the dancer's body, arms, legs and head in any of the dancing positions either á terre or en l'air.


plee-AY. Bent, bending. A bending of the knee or knees. This is an exercise to render the joints and muscles soft and pliable and the tendons flexible and elastic, and to develop a sense of balance. There are two principal pliés: grand plié or full bending of the knees (the knees should be bent until the thighs are horizontal) and demi-plié or half-bending of the knees. Pliés are done at the bar and in the centre in all five positions of the feet. The third position is usually omitted. When a grand plié is executed in either the first, third or fourth position croisé (feet in the fifth position but separated by the space of one foot) or the fifth position, the heels always rise off the ground and are lowered again as the knees straighten. The bending movement should be gradual and free from jerks, and the knees should be at least half-bent before the heels are allowed to rise. The body should rise at the same speed at which it descended, pressing the heels into the floor. In the grand plié in the second position or the fourth position ouverte (feet in the first position but separated by the space of one foot) the heels do not rise off the ground. All demi-pliés are done without lifting the heels from the ground. In all pliés the legs must be well turned out from the hips, the knees open and well over the toes, and the weight of the body evenly distributed on both feet, with the whole foot grasping the floor.

Pointe shoes

The satin ballet shoes used by dancers when dancing sur les pointes. The ballet shoes of Marie Taglioni, the first major ballerina to dance on her points, were not blocked but were padded with cotton wool. Later (about 1862) the toes of the ballet slippers were stiffened (blocked) with glue and darned to give the dancer additional support. Today the toes of pointe shoes are reinforced with a box constructed of several layers of strong glue in between layers of material.

Port de bras

pawr duh brah. Carriage of the arms. The term port de bras has two meanings: (1) A movement or series of movements made by passing the arm or arms through various positions. The passage of the arms from one position to another constitutes a port de bras. (2) A term for a group of exercises designed to make the arms move gracefully and harmoniously. In the Cecchetti method there are eight set exercises on port de bras.In the execution of port de bras the arms should move from the shoulder and not from the elbow and the movement should be smooth and flowing. The arms should be softly rounded so that the points of the elbows are imperceptible and the hands must be simple, graceful and never flowery. The body and head should come into play and a suggestion of épaulement should be used. In raising the arms from one position to another the arms must pass through a position known in dancing as the gateway. This position corresponds to the fifth position en avant, Cecchetti method, or the first position, French and Russian Schools. In passing from a high position to a low one, the arms are generally lowered in a line with the sides. Exercises on port de bras can be varied to infinity by combining their basic elements according to the taste of the professor and the needs of the pupil.

Port de bras, grand

grahn pawr duh brah. Large port de bras. This is a circular movement of the arms combined with cambré.


pruh-MYAY/pruh-MYEHR. First.


ruhl-VAY. Raised. A raising of the body on the points or demi-pointes, point or demi-pointe. There are two ways to relevé. In the French School, relevé is done with a smooth, continuous rise while the Cecchetti method and the Russian School use a little spring. Relevé may be done in the first, second, fourth or fifth position, en attitude, en arabesque, devant, derrière, en tournant, passé en avant, passé en arrière and so on.

Relevé en arabesque

ruhl-VAY ah na-ra-BESK. Relevé in arabesque. A raising of the body sur le pointe or demi-pointe in an arabesque position.


ruh-tee-RAY. Withdrawn. A position in which the thigh is raised to the second position en l'air with the knee bent so that the pointed toe rests in front of, behind or to the side of the supporting knee.

Rond de jambe

rawn duh zhahnb. Round of the leg, that is, a circular movement of the leg. Ronds de jambe are used as an exercise at the bar, in the centre and in the adage, and are done à terre or en l'air. When used as a step, ronds de jambe are done en l'air and may be sauté or relevé. All are done clockwise (en dehors) and counterclockwise (en dedans).

Rond de jambe á terre

rawn duh zhahnb a tehr. Rond de jambe on the ground. An exercise at the bar or in the centre in which one leg is made to describe a series of circular movements on the ground. Both legs must be kept perfectly straight and all movement must come from the hip, along with the arching and relaxing of the instep. The toe of the working foot does not rise off the ground and does not pass beyond the fourth position front (fourth position ouvert) or the fourth position back. This is an exercise to turn the legs out from the hips, to loosen the hips and to keep the toe well back and heel forward. There are two kinds of ronds de jambe à terre: those done en dedans (inward) and those done en dehors (outward).

Rond de jambe en l'air

rawn duh zhahnb ahn lehr. Rond de jambe in the air. Ronds de jambe en l'air are done at the bar and in centre practice and may be single, or double, en dehors or en dedans. The toe of the working foot describes an oval, the extreme ends of which are the second position en l'air and the supporting leg. The thigh must be kept motionless and the hips well turned out, the whole movement being made by the leg below the knee. The thigh should also be held horizontal so that the pointed toe of the working foot passes at (approximately) the height of the supporting knee. Ronds de jambe en l'air may also be done with the leg extended to the second position en l'air (demi-position) and closed to the calf of the supporting leg. The accent of the movement comes when the foot is in the second position en l'air. The movement is done en dehors and en dedans.


ruah-YAL. Royal. A changement in which the calves are beaten together before the feet change position. Also termed "changement battu."


soh-TAY. Jumped, jumping. When this term is added to the name of a step, the movement is performed while jumping. As, for example, échappé sauté. Note: In all jumping movements the tips of the toes should be the first to reach the ground after the jump, then the sole of the foot followed by the heel. In rising from the ground the foot moves in the reverse order.


see-SAWN. Sissonne is named for the originator of the step. It is a jump from both feet onto one foot with the exception of sissonne fermée, sissonne tombée and sissonne fondue, which finish on two feet. Sissonne may be performed petite or grande. The petites sissonnes are sissonne simple, sissonne fermée, sissonne ouverte at 45 degrees and sissonne tombée at 45 degrees. The grandes sissonnes are sissonne ouverte at 90 degrees, sissonne renversée and sissonne soubresaut.


soo-SEW. Below; above; a term used to describe a very tight 5th position on demi-pointe.


Movement of the head and focusing of the eyes in pirouettes, etc. In these turns, the dancer chooses a spot in front and as the turn is made away from the spot, the head is the last to leave and the first to arrive as the body completes the turn.


Connecting movement to transfer the weight from one leg to the other.


tahn. Step; in time (time-step); though the action is similar as sauté, the sauté action is usually even in its jumping form where the temps denotes a sharper, springy action.

Temps levé

tahn luh-VAY. Time raised or raising movement. A term of the Cecchetti method. 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.

Temps lié

tahn lee-YAY. Step to connect; to thicken; a movement where the legs transfer the weight of the body from on eleg to the other; it can be done front, side, or back.


Tightly fitting garment covering the dancer's up to the waist


tahm-BAY. To fall; a movement that requires the dancer to fall with all the weight of the body onto the other leg.


This is the ability of the dancer to turn his or her feet and legs out from the hip joints to a 90-degree position. This turn-out, or en-dehors, is one of the essential principles of the classical dance, giving the dancer freedom of movement in every direction.


tew-TEW. This is the short classical ballet skirt made of many layers of tarlatan or net. The romantic tutu is the long skirt reaching below the calf.


va-rya-SYAWN. Variation. A solo dance in a classic ballet.


A performer with great technical ability.


vwah-yah-ZHAY. Traveled, traveling. Indicates that the dancer while holding a specific pose, generally en arabesque, progresses on the supporting foot by a series of small jumps, landing on the ball of the foot (in demi-plié) with the heel slightly raised. The heel is placed down with a slight fondu.


Exercises dancers perform in the wings before going on a stage before a performance or before class or rehearsals. These usually include stretching and limbering. These are done to help prevent injury and to make sure the body is pliable.

Working leg

A term used by dancers and teachers to denote the leg that is executing a given movement while the weight of the body is on the supporting leg.