Glossary of Terms

A–F      G–M      N–R      S–Z


Adagio [ah-DAHZH-io]: Slow and sustained movements that require balance and control.
Air, en l' [ahn lehr]: In the air. Describes movements in which the working leg is in the air.
Alignment: The relationship of one part of the body to another, or the entire body to the surrounding space.
Allégro [ah-lay-GROH]: Brisk and lively jumping and traveling movements.
Arabesque [ah-ra-BESK]: A pose on one leg with the other leg extended behind and the body at a right angle, forming a graceful curve.
Arrière, en [ah na-RYEHR]: Backward. When a movement is executed towards the back of the stage, away from the audience.
Assemblé [ah-sahn-BLAY]: Assembled. A jump in which both legs are brought together before landing in fifth position (see feet, position of).
Attitude [ah-tee-TEWD]: A pose similar to an arabesque in which the lifted leg is bent to form a curve either behind or in front of the body.
Avant, en [ah na-VAHN]: Forward. When a movement is executed towards the audience.


Balancé [ba-lahn-SAY]: Rocking. A waltz step in which the weight of the body is transferred from one foot to another in a sideways motion.
Ballet [ba-LAY]: Originating in Europe in the 15th century, ballet takes its meaning from the Italian ballo, meaning "dance."
Ballet d'action [ba-LAY dak-SYAWN]: A ballet with a plot or story.
Barre [bahr]: The handrail used by dancers to help them balance during barrework.
Battement [bat-MAHN]: Beating. A beating motion of the working leg when extended or bent. There are many types of battements, small and large.
Bourrée [boo-RAY]: A rapid traveling motion, carried out on the pointes of the toes, with the feet in fifth position (see feet, position of). The swift movement of the feet make the transfer of weight almost imperceptible, creating the illusion of the ballerina skimming across the stage.
Bras [brah]: Arms.


Center of balance: An imaginary line running through the body which aligns the dancer in each pose.
Centre practice [cen-TRUH prack-TEECE]: Exercises and combinations performed in the center of the room, away from the barre.
Chaînés [sheh-NAY]: Chains, links. A sequence of rapid turns done in a straight line or in a circle.
Changement [shahnzh-MAHN]: Changing feet. A large or small jump in which the feet change position in the air.
Character dancing: A style of dancing derived from national, traditional, or folk dances.
Chassé [sha-SAY]: Chased. Resembling a gallop, one foot literally chases the other out of its position; usually done in a series.
Choreographer: The person who composes or invents a ballet or dance and arranges the steps.
Choreography: The actual steps and patterns of a dance.
Classical ballet: The purest form of ballet technique. Also refers to the end of the 19th century when many important ballets were created.
Coda: Final section and climax to a classical pas de deux.
Contemporary dancing: Created in the 20th century, this dance form uses flexed feet, has no pointe work, and places little emphasis on turnout.
Corps de ballet [kawr duh ba-LAY]: A group of dancers who perform in support of soloists and leading dancers.
Cou de pied, sur le [sewr luh koo-duh-PYAY]: Neck of the foot. A position of the working foot on or around the ankle of the standing leg.
Coupé [koo-PAY]: Cut. A position in which the working foot displaces the supporting foot (cuts it half way).
Croisé [krwah-ZAY]: Crossed. A position of the body in which the line of the legs is crossed to the audience.


Dedans, en [ahn duh-DAHN]: Inward. When a movement, step, or turn of the body is directed toward the supporting leg.
Dégagé [deh-gah-ZHAY]: Disengaged. When the foot is pointed in an open position with a fully arched instep.
Dehors, en [ahn duh-AWR]: Outward. When a movement, step, or turn of the body is directed away from the supporting leg.
Demi-plié [duh-MEE-plee-AY]: Half-bend. A position in which the knees are half bent.
Demi-pointes [duh-mee-PWENT]: Half-points. When a dancer stands on the ball of the foot.
Derrière [deh-RYEHR]: Behind. When a movement, step, or placement of an arm or leg is carried out behind the body.
Devant [duh-VAHN]: In front. When a movement, step, or placement of an arm or leg is carried out in front of the body.
Développé [dayv-law-PAY]: Developed. An unfolding movement in which the working leg moves to an open position in the air.
Divertissement [deevr-tee-see-MAHN]: Diversion, enjoyment. Short segments of dance inserted into a classical ballet to display the talents of individuals or groups of dancers.


Ecarté [ay-car-TAY]: Separated or thrown apart. A pose in which the body is placed diagonally to the audience, with the legs in second position (see feet, position of).
Echappée [ay-sha-PAY]: Escaped. A movement in which both legs simultaneously move to an open position; performed either on the floor or in the air.
Effacé [eh-fah-SAY]: A position of the body in which the line of the legs is open to the audience.
Entrechat [ahn-truh-SHAH]: Interweaving or braiding. A movement in which the dancer jumps into the air and rapidly crosses the legs before and behind one another.
Epaulement [ay-pohl-MAHN]: Shouldered. An artistic placement of the shoulders, head, and body as a dancer turns slightly towards or away from the audience.
Extension: The ability to raise and hold the leg high in the air in arabesque or développé.


Face, en [ahn fahss]: Facing. When a dancer is positioned straight out towards the audience.
Feet, positions of : There are five basic positions of the feet in ballet: (1) Feet form a 180 degree line with heels together; (2) feet form 180 degree line with heels apart; (3) feet together, with one foot in front of the other and overlapping; (4) feet apart, separated by about the length of one foot, with one foot in front of the other; (5) feet touching, with one foot in front, heel to toe and toe to heel.
Folk dancing: Passed down from generation to generation, this form of dance develops through the traditions of a culture.
Fondu [fawn-DEW]: Melting. A smooth melting movement in which the body is lowered by the bending of the standing leg. Similar to a plié, only it is completed on one leg, rather than two.
Fouetté [fweh-TAY]: Whipped. A short, whipped movement of the raised foot as it passes rapidly in front of or behind the supporting foot. Also, the sharp whipping around of the body from one direction to another.
Frappé [fra-PAY]: Struck. A fast striking movement of the working leg away from the body.


Glissade [glee-SAHD]: Glide. A traveling step carried out by gliding the working foot from fifth position (see feet, position of) in the required direction, with the other foot closing to it; can be either jumped or taken smoothly up onto pointe.
Grand [grahn]: Large. As, for example, in grand allegro.
Grand allegro [grahn ah-lay-GROH]: The larger jumps and traveling steps of an allegro.
Grand jeté [grahn zhuh-TAY]: A big, traveling jump in which both legs are outstretched in the air.
Grand plié [grahn plee-AY]: A position in which the legs are fully bent.


Jambe [zhahnb]: Leg
Jeté [zhuh-TAY]: Thrown. A jump from one foot to another in which the working leg is brushed into the air and appears to be thrown.


Line: The alignment, curves, and shapes made by the dancer's body.


Modern Ballet: A type of ballet that originated in the 20th century.


Notation: Various systems of recording the choreography of ballets in writing, including Benesh notation and Labanotation.


Pas [pah]: Step. As, for example, in pas de chat.
Pas de bourrée [pah duh boo-RAY]: Step of the bourrée. An old French dance refined and developed in classical ballet; involves shifting the weight of the body from one foot to the other several times.
Pas de chat [pah duh SHAH]: Step of the cat. A jump in various forms that resembles the steps of a cat.
Pas de deux [pah duh duh]: A dance for two people.
Pas de quatre [pah duh KA-truh]: A dance for four.
Pas de trois [pah duh trwah]: A dance for three.
Passé [pah-SAY]: A movement in which the pointed foot of the working leg passes the knee of the supporting leg.
Penché [pen-SHAY]: Leaning or titled. As, for example, in arabesque penchée, when the raised leg goes very high as the body leans forward.
Petit [puh-TEE]: Small. As, for example, in petit battement.
Petit allegro [puh-TEE ah-lay-GROH]: The smaller jumps and traveling steps of an allegro.
Pied [pyay]: Foot.
Pirouette [peer-WET]: Spinning top. A particular way of turning in place on one leg.
Plié [plee-AY]: Bent. A bending of the knee(s).
Port de bras [pawr duh brah]: Carriage of the arms. A movement of the arms to and through various positions.
Pointes, sur les [sewr lay pwent]: On the points. The raising of the body onto the tip of the toes.
Préparation [preh-pa-ra-SYAWN]: Preparation. The movement with which a dancer prepares to dance.
Principal: A leading dancer in the ballet company.
Promenade [prawm-NAD]: A pivot turn completed by shifting the heel of the supporting leg. The rest of the body may be in an arabesque or attitude.


Relevé [ruhl-VAY]: Raised. A movement in which the body is raised up onto pointes or demi-pointes.
Repertoire: The ballets performed by a company. Students learn these works in repertoire classes.
Révérence [ruh-veh-RAHNTZ]: Curtsey. A bow or curtsey performed at the end of a class or a performance.
Romantic ballet: A style of ballet that originated during the 19th century, in what is referred to as the Romantic period.
Rond de jambe [rawn duh zhambn]: Circle of the leg. A circular motion made by the working leg.
Rosin: A powder made from the sap of fir trees; dancers put it on the soles of their shoes to prevent slipping.


Sauté [soh-TAY]: Jumped. When a movement is performed with a jump as, for example, in échappée sautée.
Seconde, a la [ah la suh-GAWND]: To the second position. When the leg is in second position on the floor or in the air.
Sickling: Describes the faulty alignment of a dancer's foot; occurs when the dancer turns his or her foot in from the ankle, thereby breaking the straight line of the leg.
Sissonne [see-SAWN]: A jump from both feet that can be danced in a number of ways.
Soloist: One of the ranks in a ballet company. A dancer who performs alone.
Spotting: The movement of the head during pirouettes and other forms of turning.
Sus-sous [su-SOO]: Under-over. A relevé in a tight fifth position with one foot almost on top of the other.


Tendu [tawn-DOO]: Stretched. As, for example, in battement tendu.
Tournant, en [ahn toor-NAHN]: Turning. When a step is done while turning.
Turnout: The ability of a dancer to turn the feet and legs out at a 90 degree angle from the hip joint; an essential principle of classical ballet that gives dancers freedom of movement in every direction.


Variation: A solo dance in a classical ballet.
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