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Ballet Terms

In the following definitions, the acronyms F1 - F5 refer to the five standard foot positions in ballet.

(For detailed descriptions, see Principles of Ballet).

Slow, sustained deliberate movements.
Rapid movements, ie. fast running and jumping.
To stretch out the arms as far as possible.
A classical position where the body is supported on one leg whilst the other is extended out behind and the arms are extended usually in the same plane.
Arrière, en
Used to describe any motion to the back.
A position where the body is supported on one leg whilst the other is raised knee bent, often with the corresponding arm raised also.
Avant, en
Used to describe any motion to the front.
In modern usage ballerina is a term descriptive of any female ballet dancer. It began however, as term of rank applied only to an exceptional soloist in a company. In turn the very best of these might eventually attain the even more exalted rank of 'Prima Ballerina'.
The quality of weightlessness. Describes any part of a performance where the dancer appears to float effortlessy through the air with only fleeting contact with the ground.
Ballone, pas
A bouncing step, particularly a movement where the dancer sprigs upward, opening one leg at hip height and alighting on the other (then closing the first).
A beating movement - an extension and return of the leg.
Part of a jump where the feet are beaten together whilst the dancer is in the air.
A rapid sequence of short steps en pointe.
Brisé, pas
A broken step.
Brisé Volé
A flying Brisé.
A step wherein the dancer extends one leg out from the body (to the front, back or side) and, springing upwards, snaps the other leg to join the first (and in so doing further extends the former before the dancer alights).
To bend the body to the side from the waist.
Changement de Pieds
A jump beginning and ending in F5 but with the positions of the feet reversed.
A sliding movement transferring the weight from one foot to the other or from both feet to one.
A scissor movement as part of a jump, starting from feet together, opening the legs wide apart whilst in the air and bringing them back together before landing.
Corps de Ballet
The chorus of a ballet company.
A dancer who ranks above a member of the corps de ballet but below a soloist and who normally performs in small ensembles.
Danseur Noble
A principal male dancer.
Dedans, en
Used to describe any motion made inward, toward the body.
Dehors, en
Used to describe any motion made outward, away from the body.
A smooth extending of the leg in any direction.
A short dance which is not based upon any plot.
A jump beginning and ending with the feet in F5 and being rapidly crossed and uncrossed whilst in the air.
A turn on one foot, usually executed on pointe, wherein the dancer thrusts out with the free leg using the inertia of the leg to propel the body in the opposite direction.
A sliding step. Beginning in F5 one leg is advanced to transition to F2 whereupon the other leg is drawn after to return to F2.
A leap, thrusting off from one foot and landing on the other.
A step.
Pas de Bourrée
A series of swift miniature steps carried out on pointe or demi-pointe.
Pas de Deux
A dance for two, a duet.
Pas Seul
A solo dance.
A movement, balancing on one leg, where the pointed foot of the free leg is drawn past the knee of the supporting leg.
To spin on foot, usually en pointe. The head is held facing in one direction whilst the body turns, only snapping around almost at the completion of the turn. Pirouette's performed solo are generally rapid, whilst those udertaken whilst supported by a partner can be very slow.
To lower the body by bending both knees in any of the five standard foot positions.
Pointe, en
To balance, or take steps, on the end of the toes (not on the balls of the first toe joints but on the very tips of the toes themselves).
Port de bras
The movement or position of the arms.
To rise onto pointe.
Rond de jambe
A circular movement of the leg.
A jump.
A turn or revolution.
Tour en L'Air
A jump, starting and ending in F5, and involving one or more complete turns in the air. Usually performed by male dancers.
Turn Out
The basis of the five standard foot positions, to turn both feet out 90% from the hip. Training to acheive this position without strain gives the dancer maxim mobility.


Author: Don Gillan,
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A Breif History of Ballet
Principals of Ballet