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Know These Ballet Terms

Divya Bichu
Ballet is the most beautiful form of dance. It is mesmerizing to watch ballet performers dance to soothing ballet music. To master this art form, it's important to know the ballet terms. Keep reading to know some important ones.
Ballet is a dance form that originated in the 15th century, and since then was developed by the French, Russian and English. Ballet is not only limited to dancing, but is also about a story that it narrates through every performance.
The story has no spoken words, only actions and mimes make the dance form, truly exciting for the audiences as well as the performers. This enchanting and magical world of ballet has its own world of language.
The blend of graceful moves and soothing music, creates magic in every ballet performance. Ballet performers are focused and absolutely passionate about the dance form. It's not easy to create that feel-good feeling amongst the audience, unless the artists put their heart and soul into it.
Ballet definitely is a poised style of dance, and lays the foundational techniques for many other dance forms.
Ballet is the most technical form of performing arts, which comes with its own vocabulary. It requires tremendous practice and efficiency to master this form of art. Its postures, style and moves, have to be incorporated to perfection, to connect to the audiences and bring about that magic in every performance.
Since it is nurtured by the French, most of the ballet terms are in French. To master this graceful dance form, one has to acquaint oneself with the French words and their meanings. So, if you or your kid is going to take ballet lessons, this will surely help you.
Given here are a few basic ballet terms, to master the vocabulary of this beautiful dance form - "ballet".

Glossary of Important Ballet Terms


Adagio » Slow, elegant exercises during practice.
Aplomb » An attribute of being firm in your position.
Allegero » Brisk movements.
Arabesque » A position where your one leg is extended behind the body, with knees being straight and the other leg supports the body.
Arriere » An act of moving backwards; a step taken away from the audience.
Assemble » A movement where the legs and the hands meet together in air and the dancer lands on both feet at the same time.
Avant » An act of moving forward; a step towards the audience.


Ballerina » A female ballet dancer.
Ballerino » A male ballet dancer.
Balletomane » An enthusiastic devotee of the dance form "ballet".
Ballon » An act to show the lightness of the movement. Simply to glide or bounce.
Barre » A metal or wooden horizontal bar, used to perform common ballet warmup exercises.
Battement » Basically means stretching of legs, it could be in the front, back or at the side. It normally forms a part of the basic training exercise but is seen in performances as well.
Brise »A jump, the point of the foot is few inches above the ground and then returns simultaneously to the ground.
Bouree » A movement of gliding across the ground with quick tiny steps.


Cote de » A step taken to the side, either to the right or to the left.
Couru » Running or taking small quick steps across the dance floor.
Corps de ballet » A group of ballet dancers.
Chasse » An act where one foot chases the position or movement of the other.
Croise, croisee » An act of crossing legs.


Demi detourne » Demi literally means half and demi detourne means a half turn accomplished on both feet.
Danseur noble » A highly established ballet dancer who has received international acclaim.
Demi » Meaning half.
Derriere » To the backside or behind the dancer.
Dessous » Literally means under.
Dessus » Meaning over, the working leg passes in front of the supporting leg.
Devant » In front, an act of placing your limb in front of your body.


Ecarte » A position where the arm is held in the altitude position and the working leg is raised straight up in the air.
Eleve » To rise; the dancer simply rises from a flat feet to the balls of the feet.
En croix » Cross, this movement is done to the front then the side, then back and then side again to make the whole act look like the shape of cross.
Entrechat » A step wherein the dancer jumps into the air and speedily crosses the legs before and behind each other.
Epaulement » Shouldering. It's the movement of shoulders front and backwards with the head turned or inclined towards the front shoulder relative to the movement of torso from the waist upwards.


Faille » The most graceful step, where the dancer springs into the air, and lands with the back foot raised on the toes.
Fish Dive » Basically used in partnering lift act, where the male dancer holds the female dancer in such a position, that she gets caught in a fish dive.
Fouette » A movement that indicates a rapid change in the direction of working legs, in front or behind the supporting leg. The many variants of these movements are called fouette jete, fouette en tournant and frappé.
Fondu » An act of lowering of the body by bending the knees of the supporting leg.


Grand ecart » A leg split in 180°, either in the front or sideways.
Glissade » To glide.
Grand jete » A horizontal leg split in the air, where the jump starts with one leg and the landing is done on the other leg.


Hortensia » A step where the dancer jumps into air and pulls both the legs up, a position similar to that of a sitting butterfly.


Jete » A jump in the air.


Maneges » Steps executed in circular movements.
Mime » A skill of using face and body to emote expressions.


Ouvert » Direction or position of the body to efface oneself.


Pas » A simple step or movement.
Pointe work » Performing while on the tip of the foot is called pointe work. This skill requires tremendous practice.
Petit jete » A small jump in the air. Jumping from one foot to the other like a leap.
Petit Saut » A small jump in the mid-air, the legs do not change their position in this movement.
Pirouette » This is a wow! step and leaves every viewer amazed. It's a whirl, a controlled turn on one leg and the other leg is stretched outwards. Pirouette are normally performed in singles or multiple rotations.
Pile » A smooth and uninterrupted bending of knees.
Pulling up » The act of pulling up the ribcage, but keeping the shoulders relaxed at the same time. The dancer also has to tuck the pelvic muscle under and keep the back straight. It is critical to the success of a dancer.


Releve » A movement where the body is raised on the points, using a slight spring or is also done smoothly.
Retire » A step where the working leg is raised to the supporting knee with a sharp bent.
Rond de jambe » An act of circling of the leg made by pointed foot.


Saute » Jump.
Sissone » A jump done from two feet and landing on one feet. Sissonne may be performed petite or grande. The petites sissonnes are simple and are performed at 45 degrees whereas grande sissonnes are performed at 90 degrees.


Tendu » Stretching.
Tours en air » A full turn in the air of 360° and landing down on both the feet.
Tombe » This movement is used to travel across the stage, while dancing, where the working leg is lifted slightly off the ground.
Turn out » A movement where the legs of a dancer are pointed out from the hip joints to a 90° angle. It require a lot of precision to do something like a turn out.
Tutu » A short ballet skirt made of many layers of net.


Virtuoso » A performer with great technical abilities.


Working leg » A term used to denote the leg executing a given movement or act, while the leg that holds the weight of the body is the supporting leg.
Known for its grace and elegance, ballet moves seem effortless and bewitching. The ballerinas seem to glide across the stage on their pointed toes. So, get going, familiarize yourself with these ballet terms, put on a tutu skirt, wear pointe shoes, and find that handsome prince to dance the Swan lake ballet!!!