Basic Ballet Terminology

This compilation of ballet vocabulary was collated based on the popularity of useage in a typical ballet class.

 

*Note, there are tradtional methods such as the Vaganova, Cecchetti, Bournonville, RAD, Mr. B, etc. But, this is a a list that I came up with from all the years of studying under masters who themselves were trained under all of the above methods.

POSITIONS OF THE FEET:

There are 5 classical ballet positions, however, there is a 6th position that most dancers are also familiar with.

 

1ST POSITION: heels are touching while the toes are turning out.

 

2ND POSITION: just like in first, however, the heels are usually about a foot apart.

 

3RD POSITION: one foot is placed directely in front of the other foot's arch.

 

4TH POSITION (OUVERTE and CROISE): one foot is directly placed in front of the other foot's heel, but about a foot apart; another version of the 4th position is Croise, which one foot is directly placed in front of the other foot in a crossed position. It's basically 5th position but a foot apart.

 

5TH POSITION: one foot is directly placed in front of the other foot where the toes of the front foot touches the back foot's heel; and the front foot's heel touches the back foot's toes. 

 

6TH POSITION: or parallel position; can be 1). both feet pointing forward and heels are touching. 2). both feet pointing forward and heels are about a fist apart.

 

 

POSITIONS OF THE ARMS:

There are 6 classical ballet positions of the arms, however, there are also 5 more positions of the arm held in an arabeque position.

 

1ST POSITION: rounded arms where the fingertips point towards each other almost touching, held in front of the navel or sternum.

 

2ND POSITION: arms are held to the sides of the body in a fully extended position where the fingertips are pointed to the front, the elbows are slightly higher than the hands.

 

3RD POSITION: where one arm is rounded and held directly over head, and the other arm comes into 1st position directly in front of the sternum.

 

4TH POSITION (en I'air, devant): where one arm is held in 2nd position, and the other arm is held roundedly over head, fingertips are extended slightly toward the sky; where one arm is held in 2nd position, and the other arm is held placed in front of the sternum. *4th position devant is often used as a preparation step for pirouette. 

 

5TH POSITION (LOW/Bras Bas AND HIGH): both arms are held in a rounded position downward in front of the hips, fingertips almost touch; both arms are held in a rounded position upward above the head, fingertips almost touch.

 

 

1ST POSITION IN ARABESQUE: one arm (the same arm as the standing leg) is held directly in front of the nose on a fully extended position, while the other arm (the same arm as the working leg/leg in arabesque) in held in a fully extended 2nd position.

 

2ND POSITION IN ARABESQUE: like the arms in the 1st arabesque position, they are now switched, one arm (the same arm as the standing leg) is held in 2nd position, as the other arm (same arm as the working leg/leg in arabesque) is extended in front of the nose. 

 

3RD POSITION IN ARABESQUE: the arms are now held like in the 1st arabesque positon, however, the arm held in 2nd is abducted directly in front of the sternum as the other arm remains in front of the nose. 

 

4TH POSITION IN ARABESQUE: the arms are held in opposition of each other, one arm is held directly in front of the nose level, and the other arm is held directly to the side of the body in 2nd position. In essence, the placement of the arms are just like in 1st arabesque, however, the legs are the opposite of the placement of the legs in 1st arabesque.

 

5TH POSITION IN ARABESQUE: the arms now switches from when they were in the 4th arabesque position to being the opposite arm in front, and the opposite arm being in 2nd, while the legs stays in the same position. 

 

 

 

8 SPATIAL DIRECTIONS:

1 o'clock: Downstage R corner

 

2 o'clock: Stage R

 

3 o'clock: Upstage R corner

 

4 o'clock: Upstage

 

5 o'clock: Upstage L corner

 

6 o'clock: Stage L

 

7 o'clock: Downstage L corner

 

8 o'clock: Downstage

 

 

8 POSITIONS OF THE BODY:

 

Croisé Devant

 

Quatrième Devant

 

Effacé Devant

 

à la Seconde         

 

Croisé Derriere

 

Ecarté

 

Epaulé

 

Quatrième Derrière

 

 

 

4 ARABESQUE POSITIONS:

 

FIRST ARABESQUE: one arm (the same arm as the standing leg) is held directly in front of the nose on a fully extended position, while the other arm (the same arm as the working leg/leg in arabesque) in held in a fully extended 2nd position. The supporting leg the same as the arm in front of the body, while the working leg is in an extended position to the back.

 

SECOND ARABESQUE: like the arms in the 1st arabesque position, they are now switched, one arm (the same arm as the standing leg) is held in 2nd position, as the other arm (same arm as the working leg/leg in arabesque) is extended in front of the nose. Both arms are in allongé. The legs stays the same as in 1st arabesque.

 

THIRD ARABESQUE: this is in a croisé position; the arms are held in opposition of each other, one arm is held directly in front of the nose level, and the other arm is held directly to the side of the body in 2nd position. In essence, the placement of the arms are just like in 1st arabesque, however, the legs are the opposite of the placement of the legs in 1st arabesque. 

 

FOURTH ARABESQUE: this is in a croisé position; the arms now switches from when they were in the 4th arabesque position to being the opposite arm in front, and the opposite arm being in 2nd, while the legs stays in the same position. 

 

 

 

 

STEPS:

 

Plié (demi, grand): "Bend"; half bend or full bend of the knees during any position of the feet.

 

Cambré: "Arched"; Bending of the body to the front, side and back.

 

Port de Bras: "Carriage of the arms"; movement of the arms.

 

Allongé: "Laid out"; is an arm position where the palms are facing the earth. 

 

Tendu: "Stretch"; articulating the lower leg into a fully stretched and pointed position.

 

Dégagé: "Disengage"; articulating the lower leg into a fully stetched and pointed position off air.

 

En croix: "Cross"; front, side, back, side, pattern.

 

Retiré: "Retire" or "Taken Away; one leg is lifted with a bend knee where the toes of this leg is placed next to the opposite leg's insides of the knee; the other leg serves as the support of the body. 

 

Passé: "Pass"; just like retiré, except this position of ballet passes through the held shape/retiré, instead of retires at the shape. 

 

Piqué: "Prick"; one leg is lifting off from the floor in an extended/straight position and ends on that leg.

 

Coupé (dessous, dessus): "Cut" under or over; the working foot is brought down to the supporting leg's ankle (in the back); the working foot is brought down to the supporting leg's ankle (in the front).

 

Sur le cou-de-pied: "At the neck of the foot"; simular to a coupé, but in this position, the working foot is wrapped around the ankle, with the toes at the back and the heels at the front of the ankle.

 

Relevé: "Rise" or "Lifted"; a springing motion onto demi-pointe/full-pointe from a plié.

 

Elevé: Just like in relevé, however, the springing motion comes from a straigth leg without plié.

 

Rond de jambe (à terre; en l'air): "Circle of the Leg"; On the floor, Off the floor; circling of the working leg where the toes are glued to the earth, it can start from the front then side then back and back into 1st position (en dehors), or it can start from the back then side then front and back through 1st (en dedans); circling of the working leg where the toes are suspended in air. Same motions apply. Also, most rond de jambe en l'air refers to a movement at 90 degrees in à la second.

 

Developpé: "Develop"; the working leg is rasied to retiré and unfolds into a straight leg front side or back at 90 degrees or above. 

 

Frappé: "Strike"; an energetic movement of the working foot that comes into a flexed coupé foot and hits outward going through a pointed foot, then back again.

 

Grand battement: "Large beat"; the working leg is being thrown into an extended toss then comes back down to the floor. 

 

Jêté: "Throw"; a small jump that begins with a dégagé and lands on one foot while the other foot is placed in coupé.

 

Faille: "Almost/Finish"; Bring the landing leg through. A combination of a sissone and a tombé.

 

Sissonne (fermee, ouverte): "Sissor"; a jump that started with both feet pushing off and land on one foot while simultaneously, the other foot is closing onto the one landing foot.

 

Temps de cuisse: "Thigh"; a transitional step linking into a sissonne/jump where one foot pushes off the floor on a bent leg and place it back down to a 5th position.

 

Glissade: "Glide"; one leg opens to the side in plié, and the other leg transfers onto the first leg by shifting the weight over onto it. 

 

Temps lêvé: A hop on one foot.

 

Sauté: A hope on one foot or both feet.

 

Tombé: "Fall"; a transfer of weight from one leg to another just in time.

 

Pas de bourrée (with or w/o Tombé): is an open (down) close (up) close (up) stepping motion where the first leg opens and the second leg joins the first, then the first leg is placed tightly next to the second leg again. 

 

Contretemps: "Beating against time"; a transitional step linking from a pas de bourrée where one leg disenages to the side but closes in on a bent supporting leg.

 

Pirouette: a turn (that commonly starts in 4th position) that takes off onto a relevé in retiré position. The direction of the turn is the same as the leg that is in retiré.

 

Chaînés: "Chain", a series of turns in 1st position. Spotting is crucial in this sequenece of turns. 

 

Soubresaut: A sudden jump from 5th position that goes straigth up and straight down without any changes. The idea is to create a tight sus-sous en l'air.

 

Assemblé: "Assemble"; a jump that takes off from one foot and lands on two. The take off leg switches positions (from the back lands in front, vice versa).

 

Changement: "Change"; this jumping step starts from 5th position and springs up while changing en l'air right away.

 

Royale: Just like a changement, however, the jumping motion is formed by tighter legs in the air. 

 

Entrechat-(Trois, Quatre, Cinq, Six): a crossing of the leg motion while jumping, landing on one leg and the back leg in coupé; landing on two feet in 5th after a back front beating motion; landing on one leg after a back front to back beating motion; landing on two feet in 5th after a back front and back beating motion.

 

Pas de chat: "Step of the cat"; from 5th, the back leg is lifted to a passé position as the second foot pushes off into another passé to meet the first passé leg en 'air and lands in 5th.

 

Pas de chevalle: "Step of the horse"; the working leg executes a petit développé position.

 

Cabriole: "Caper, step of the goat"; The working leg is lifts followed by a beat of the second leg. 

 

Gargouillade: or shakings of the lower legs while doing a pas de chat.

 

Brisé Volé: "Broken"; like an assemblé, but travels, landing the jump with a jeté battu/switch of the front foot to the back in 5th position.

 

Pas de basque: "Basque step"; from 5th position in plie, it goes through a tendu fondu devant à terre, to a demi rond de jambe to à la second, and glissades into a 5th position to the other side.

 

Saut de basque: a turning outward jump step, also a traveling step, in which the jump is suspended en l'air in passé.

 

Emboîté en tournant: a turning outward traveling step, in which the legs are alternating from small jumps from coupé to coupé.

 

Balancé: "See-saw"; a traveling step in which the motion is down up up, down up up, rocking from side to side. 

 

Ballonné: "Bounce"; Working leg opens to the side and closes in a coupé in plié. It can be a jump in the center, or on the floor at the barre.

 

Ballotté: "Rocked from the side, like a boat"; This step starts in effacé where the front leg lifts to a passé into a fast développé effacé devant, and reverses into a derrière extension on the same plane. 

 

Grand Jêté: A large jump, brushing the front leg straight into en l'air followed by the second leg, creating a split in the air.

 

Saut de chat: A large jump, brushing the front leg through passé into en l'air followed by the second leg, creating a split in the air.

 

 

 

*BALLET JARGON:

 

Secabesques: An awkward position that is neither an arabeque or an à la second, but it is somewhere in between.

 

Broken Wrists: When the wrists holds so much tension that it looks too angular, and it breaks the line of the arms.

 

Winged Foot: The opposite of a sickled foot or inversion. A winged foot is when the toes are tilting towards the fibula sideways.

 

Lame Duck: a slang for piqué turn en dehors.

 

Whatchamacallit: where the leg swings in and out at the barre while the standing leg is in plié. This movement is usually done in a grand battement combination. 

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