Ballet terminology

Ballet Land Tutus.


Adage/Adagio: Adagio means “slow” and refers to slow movements which focus on the improvement of the dancer’s control and balance.

Ailes de Pigeon: “Pigeon’s wings”. The dancer does a cabriole devant, then the legs change and beat again and they change one more time before the dancer lands on the leg that he/she jumped from, with the other leg left extended in the air.

Alignment: The correct posture.

Allegro: It means “quick”, “lively”. It refers to quick and lively movements as well as any step containing jumps and elevation. An allegro may be petit (small) or grand (big).

Allongé: It means “to extend”. It refers to the extension of the movement.

Aplomb: It means “poise”. It refers to the stability of the position, where the dancer has full control of his/her body and correct weight placement.

Arabesque: It means “Arabic”. The dancer stands on one leg while the other is extended backward. The body is straight and vertical to the floor. The back leg may be in the air or touching the floor.

Arqué: It means “arched”. It refers to dancers who have some space between their knees when standing in the first position. The opposite of arqué is jarreté.

Arrière: It means “back”. It refers to steps that move backward, away from the audience.

Arrondi: It means “rounded”.

Assemblé: It means “assembled”. It is a jumping movement where the working leg slides through the floor before going into the air. The supporting led pushes the dancer in the air where both feet are extended before they land simultaneously in 5th position. Assemblé may be demonstrated devant, derrière, dessus and dessous. There is also the assemblé battu which means assemblé with a “beat”, during which the working leg beats the other leg back and then it comes to the front again before landing in 5th position.

Attitude: The position in which the dancer stands on one leg while the other is raised in the air, bent with the knee turned out (en dehors). Attitude can be demonstrated devant, derrière, or a la seconde.

Avant: It means “forward”. It refers to forwarding movements toward the audience.

A la seconde: It means “in second position” or “to the side”. It refers to movements which are done to the side. (for example, battement tendu à la seconde).

A Terre: It means “at the floor”. (for example, rond de jambe à terre)


Back Βend: A movement while which the upper back moves up and then backward.

Balancé: It means “change of weight”. This step is executed on three counts using a waltz rhythm.  Starting in 5th position, on the first count, the dancer performs a step to the side transferring his/her weight to one leg en plié while the other leg is in coupé. On the second count, the dancer transfers his/her weight on the demi point of the second foot and on the third count, the weight is transferred back to the first leg en plié, while the second leg is placed in coupé.

Ballon: It means “to bounce”. It refers to the quality of a jump.

Ballonné: It means “like a ball”. It is a bounce. The dancer lands en plié, while the other foot is sur le cou de pied.

Ballotté: A series of  coupé dessous and coupé dessus which evolve in développes, while the body slightly inclines forward or backward with each transfer of weight.

Battement: It means “beat”. It includes different movements during which the working leg extends and returns to the starting position.

Batterie: Jumps where the feet “cross” with a quick movement front and back through the first position, creating a beating effect.

Battu: Any step that contains a beat.

Bras: The arms.

Bras Bas: It means “arms low”. In this position, the arms are placed low, “curved”, against the thighs, without touching the body.

Brisé: It is a jump similar to an assemblé. One leg goes from 5th position to 2nd position in the air, the second leg beats the first in the air, changes, and land in 5th position en plié. Brisé is a traveling step.

Brisé Volé: It is a brisé where the dancer lands on one leg, while the other remains in the air forward or back.


Cabriole: It means “caper”. It is a jump where one leg goes in the air and then the other follows and beats the first one sending it even higher. The dancer lands on the supporting leg.

Cambré: The bending of the waste towards any direction.

Chaînés: A series of turns executed along a straight line or in a circle, while the feet are in the first position.

Changement: It is a jump where the feet change in the air. For example, the dancer starts in 5th position en plié with the right foot devant jumps into the air and lands in 5th position plié with the left foot devant.

Changement Battu: It is a changement where the legs beat before changing.

Chassé: It means “chased”. A step where one foot slides, the weight is transferred to the working leg and the other follows. This step can be executed in any direction.

Ciseaux: It means “scissors”. A scissor-like movement where the feet open in a wide 2nd position sur les points. It can also be executed with a jump, opening both legs in the air in 2nd position.

Classical walks: A series of steps traveling forward or back, executed smoothly giving a sense of poise.

Cloche: It means “bell”. It consists of grand battements that are executed continuously forward and back (devant & derrière), passing through 1st position.

Collé: It means “glued”. A jump where the legs are kept together.

Composé: A compound step.

Contretemps: It means “opposite to the rhythm”. It is a compound step consisting of a  coupé dessous, Chassé effacé en avant, Temp Levé and Chassé passé croisé en avant.

Coupé: It means “cut”. It is a step that usually follows a jump or a turn, where the working foot goes in front or at the back of the ankle. It is a linking step.

Coupé jeté en tournant: A step that consists of a coupé dessous (doing a 3/4 turn) and completes the turn with a grand jeté en avant.

Couru: It means “running”. A series of small “running” steps.

Croisé: It means “crossed”. Croisé is used in 3rd, 4rth and 5th position of the feet. In this position, the dancer stands slightly turned towards one of the stage’s front corner (i.e. the left), with the opposite foot front (i.e. right).


Danseur: The male dancer.

De coté: To the side.

Degagé: A movement where one foot moves from a “closed” position to an “open” position, devant, derrière or a la seconde.

Demi:  It means “small” or “half”. It refers to movements or positions which need to be executed in a smaller version. (for example, demi plié, demi pointe)

Demi-contretemps: It is the second part of a full contretemps which consists of a temps levé and a chassé passé croisé en avant.

Demi-detourné: Half turn executed on both legs.

Demi-plié: Half-bend. It is a plié where the knees only bend half way.

Derrière: A backward movement. (for example, battement tendu derrière)

Dessous: It means “under”. It refers to movements where the front leg goes to the back in exercises like assemblé and glissade.

Dessus: It means “over”. It refers to movements where the back leg goes to the front in exercises like assemblé and glissade.

Devant: A forward movement. (for example, battement tendu devant)

Developpé: A movement where the working leg is raised to retiré and unfolds passing through attitude. It can be executed to the front (devant), to the back (derrière) or to the side (à la seconde).


Ecarté: It means “separated”. When the dancer stands with one leg extended to the 2nd position but his/her body is placed diagonally towards the audience.

Effacé (or Ouvert): In this position, the dancer stands slightly turned towards one of the stage’s front corner (for example the left), with the same foot front (left). It is the opposite of croisé.

Elevé (or rise): When the dancer rises on demi-pointe or pointe, without a plie.

En croix: It means “like a cross”. It refers to a movement that is executed first to the front, then to the side and then to the back. (π.χ. battement tendu en croix).

En dedans: It is a circular movent where the leg moves from the back or the side to the front. For example, a ronds de jambe en dedans, starts at the 1st position, the leg is extended to degagé to the back and the with a circular movement goes to degagé to the side and continues the movement to the front to end back to 1st position. It is also an “inward” movement. (for example, a pirouette en dedans is a pirouette which turns inwards towards the supporting leg). It is the opposite of En dehors.

En dehors: It is a circular movent where the leg moves from the front or the side to the back. For example, a ronds de jambe en dehors, starts at the 1st position, the leg is extended to degagé to the front and the with a circular movement goes to degagé to the side and continues the movement to the back to end back to 1st position. It is also an “outward” movement. (for example, a pirouette en dehors is a pirouette which turns outwards away from the supporting leg). It is the opposite of En dedans.

En face: It refers to the position where the dancer faces straight to the audience.

En l’air: When the working leg is in the air.

Enchaînement: A combination of steps.

Entrechat: It is a beating step. The dancer jumps and crosses his/her legs back and front, starting and ending in 5th position en plié.

Échappé: A movement that is executed from a closed position, 1st or 5th, to an open position, 2nd or 4th. Échappé sauté starts en plié, followed by a jump where the legs separate and land en plié in 2nd or 4th position. Échappé sur le pointes or sur le demi-pointes starts in 1st or 5th position en plié and the legs “open” in 2nd or 4th position sur le pointe or sur le demi pointe with stretched knees. If a échappé includes a beat it is called échappé battu.

Épaulement: It is the placement of the head and the shoulders while the dancer moves towards or away from the audience. It is a movement of the upper body where one shoulder is brought forward and the other back with the head turned over the forward shoulder.


Failli: It is a jump where the dancer lands on the front leg en plié while the back leg remains in the air.Then the back foot touches the floor and with a sliding movement passes forward. During the jump, the body slightly turns toward the front leg.

Fermé: It means “closed”. When the dancer stands in a closed position, 1st, 3rd or 5th.

Fondu: It means “melted” or “melting”. This term is used when the supporting leg is in plié.

Fouetté: It means “whipping”. It refers to the movement where the body changing direction while maintaining the placement of the legs. This movement is usually sharp. A fouetté can be demonstrated a terre, en demi-point, fouetté sauté, relevé or en tournant.

Fouetté rond de jambe en tournant: A turn which includes a fouetté. The dancer commences with a  plié, the working leg extends to the front in the air (4th position en l’air), with a sharp movement it moves to the side (2nd position en l’air) and then moves to retiré while the supporting foot goes on releve in order to spin.

Frappé: It means “strike”. The working foot is placed in front or behind the ankle of the supporting leg in a flexed position. It then quickly hits the floor before it stretches to the front, side or back, slightly above the floor.


Glissade: It means  “slide”. Commencing from 5th position en plié the dancer stretches one foot to the side and as he/she transfers his/her weight from one foot to the other for just a moment both feet are simultaneously just of the floor. After that, the foot that follows the movement closes again in 5th position en plié. Glissade may be demonstrated  en avant, en arrière, dessous and dessus

Glissé: This is a sharp movement during which the working leg stretches to the front, to the side or to the back and slightly lifts of the floor.

Grand: It means “big”.

Grand Battement: The working left is lifted as high as possible without affecting the dancer’s posture.

Grand jeté:  This is a long horizontal jump starting from one foot and landing to the other. At it’s highest point the dancer performs a split on the air.Grand jeté may be demonstrated en avant, en arrière, à la seconde, and en tournant.

Grand plié: This is a full bending of the legs, to the lowest point possible, maintaining the correct posture.


Incliné: It means “inclined”.


Jambe: It means “leg”. This term is used to determine the leg that performs the movement while the weight of the body is placed over the supporting leg.

Jarreté: The term refers to the shape of the legs which while in the first position, the knees and calves are joined but the heels are apart. It is the opposite of arqué.

Jeté: When performing this step the working foot slides to the side and gets just off the floor while the supporting leg is en plié. Then the dancer performs a small jump and lands on the other leg and the supporting leg is now in sur le cou-de-pied position.


Lift: The lifting of the ballerina by the male dancer.


Mime: The facial expressions or the body movements that the dancers use to communicate a feeling or a meaning.


Opposition: The placement of the arms in opposition to the placement of the legs or the direction the dancer moves towards to.

Ouvert (ή Effacé): When the dancer is standing in this position his/her body is slightly turned towards one of the stage’s front corner (i.e. the left) with the same leg in the front (i.e. left). It is the opposite of croisé.


Pas: It means “step”.

Pas de Basque: It means a “Basque step”. From the 5th position, the dancer prforms a plié and a degagé to the front. From this position, he/she performs a demi rond de jambe to the opposite direction turning his/her body as well. The dancer quickly transfers his/her weight to the working leg, while the other one passes from the 1st position, does a chassé forward and closes again in the 5th position croisé . The step may be performed on the floor (Pas de Basque glissé) or with a jump (Pas de Basque sauté).

Pas de Bourrée: It consists of three small steps and usually when it is performed to the side (à la seconde), the legs change position (i.e. back-side-front).

Pas de Chat: It means “the step of the cat”. It is a jump in which the dancer starts from plié and raises the rear leg in retiré. While the dancer is in the air, the other leg comes in retiré so that the legs form a diamond shape. Then the foot that started the movement lands, while the other remains in retiré to descend in turn and close in plié.

Pas de Cheval: It means “the step of the horse”. The dancer does a coupé, then a small developpé and with a tondu returns to his/her original position. It is a small and gentle movement.

Pas de Deux: It means “step for two”. It refers to duets, usually a female and a male dancer dancing together.

Pas de Poisson: It means “the step of the fish”. A jump from the 5th position without changing the legs (as a soubresaut), during which the dancer stretches his back and legs back so that his entire body is in the shape of an arc like the fish when it jumps out the water.

Pas de Valse: It means “step of the waltz”. It is a step that moves in a straight or turning (en tournant) and is accompanied by music in 3/4 time.

Passé: When it refers to a position it means the placement of the foot near or on the knee of the other leg. Referring to a movement it is understood as the movement in which the working foot comes to the knee of the support leg, passes from front to back or from back to front and continues either to return to the ground or to perform an arabesque or attitude.

Penché: It means “tilted”. The Arabesque Penché is an arabesque in which the body is slightly inclined to the front, while the leg is raised as high as possible.

Petite: It means “small”.

Piqué: The foot that is moving is stretched out in the air, abruptly lower to touch the floor and immediately returning to its original position.

Pirouette: It is a controlled turn on one leg while the other may be in retiré, in attitude, in arabesque or in 2nd position. It commences with a plié on one or both legs and may finish in the original position, in arabesque, attitude or as choreographed. A pirouette can be performed either en dehors (outward) or en dedans (inward).

Plié: It means “the bending of the knees”. It is a soft and continuous bending of the knees. It can be a half bend (demi-plié), or a full bend (grand-plié).

Port de Bras: It means “the move of the arms”. It refers to the graceful movement of the arms from one position to another. The arm movements must be continuous and soft.

Posé: The dancer starts with a fondu, then rises to demi-pointe or pointe on with a stretched knee and then descending into fondu with the working leg in coupé. If he/she wants to go on with another posé he/she starts the movement with a petit developpé.

Préparation: The movement the dancer uses to prepare for a step or a turn.

Principal: It refers to the top dancer of a ballet company.

Promenade: It is a slow turn in which the dancer turns by slightly raising the heel of the support leg. The body is in arabesque or attitude position.


Quatre: It means “four”.


Relevé: It means “lifted”. It is the position in which the dancer rises on demi-pointe or pointe, in any position, abruptly, after commencing a plié.

Retiré: The working leg is raised bent with the knee turned out so that the toes can touch the front, side or back of the knee of the supporting leg.

Révérence: Curtsey.

Rise(ή elevé): When the dancer rises on demi-pointe or pointe, without a plie.

Rond de Jambe: It means “circular movement of the leg”. The working leg is stretched out and performs half a circle, from the front to the back (en dehors) or from the back to the front (en dedans). In the Rond de Jambe à terre the toes touch the floor throughout the exercise. In the Rond de Jambe en l’air the leg is stretched to the side in the air and the movement is made from below the knee. The toes form a small circle next to the knee of the support leg. At Grand Rond de Jambe, the leg is stretched out in the air and circles en dehors or en dedans maintaining its height.


Sauté: It means “jump”.

Sept: It means “seven”.

Sissonne: It is a jump from two legs to one and can be done in all directions. However, a sissonne may finish on both legs (i.e. sissonne fermée).

Six: It means “six”.

Soubresaut: A jump which commences and ends on both legs en plié, without changing position.

Soutenu: It means “prolonged”. The term is used to describe a slow, soft movement.

Soutenu en tournant: A series of quick turns. The dancer starts in plié, takes one leg to degagé and goes on demi-pointe or pointe on a stretched knee. At the same time, the other leg goes demi-pointe or pointe and completes a 360º turn.

Spotting: A technique used in turns to avoid disorientation and dizziness. During the turn, the dancer looks at a particular point for as long as he/she can and then immediately turns his/her head to find it again.

Sur: It means “on”. (for example, sur le pointes)

Sur le Cou-de pied: It is the position where the working foot is placed on the ankle of the support leg.


Temp Levé: It is a small jump, from one foot, while the other is in any position in the air, finishing on the same leg in plié.

Temps Lié: It refers to a series of uniform movements that are performed continuously.

Tendu:  From 1st, 3rd, or 5th position the foot slides to the front, side or back without the toes leaving the floor. Then it slides back to its original position.

Tombé: The dancer does a degagé forward, sideways or backward and transfers his/her weight by doing a deep plié while stretching the other leg.

Tournant: It means “turn”.

Tours en l’air: It means a “turn in the air”. It is a jump with a full turn and it is performed by male dancers. A tour en l’air may finish the one or two legs or on one knee.

Triple Runs: A step with a plié, followed by two steps on demi-pointe or pointe.

Trois: It means “three”.

Turn Out: The rotation of the foot by the hip, which turns the knee and the foot outwards. Turn out is a fundamental feature of classical ballet.


Volé: It means “to fly”.


Waltz: It is used to describe a rhythm in 3/4 time, as well as, a ballet movement that consists of three steps and can be demonstrated in various ways and in different directions.