Ever been in a ballet class and felt like they might as well be speaking a different language? Well that’s because they are! French is the language of ballet, meaning it’s the language of ballet movements, which can make picking up the steps even more tricky. Our Head of Dance and former Royal Ballet dancer, Clara Stone, has put together a ballet glossary to give you a multilingual boost and ensure you will never be lost in class again.

Glossary: A – D

Á terre -  On the ground/floor

Adage -  Slow, soft, sustained, and controlled movement

Arabesque - A position on one leg with the other behind either á terre, or en l’air (up to 90 degrees)

Assemblé - To assemble, to join

Attitude - A position standing on one leg with the other bent at an angle behind, en l’air

Ballonné - To bounce (with a closing action of the working leg)

Battement - To beat (a movement with a closing action)

Chaseé - To slide

Coupé - To cut

Croisé - Crossed to the audience (front)

De coté - To the side

Demi - Half

Demi-detourné - Half turn (towards the back foot)

Derriére - To the back

Devant - To the front

Developpé - To develop or to unfold

Glossary: E – O

Echappé - To escape (a jump or relevé from 1st, 3rd or 5th to 2nd or 4th and returning)

En arriére - Travelling backwards

En avant - Travelling forwards

En croix - In the shape of a cross (front, side, back or back, side, front)

En dedans - Inwards (towards the supporting leg)

En dehors - Outwards (away from the supporting leg)

En face - Facing the audience (opposite)

En l’air - In the air

Enchainment - A combination of steps (a linked phrase of movement)

Épaulement - Use of the shoulders, neck and upper back (looking over the shoulder)

Fondu - To melt (a melting action)

Frappé - To strike (like lighting a match on the floor)

Glissade - To glide (a sliding movement from 5th to 5th)

Grand - Large

Jeté - To throw

Ouvert - Open to the audience


Glossary: P – Z


Pas de basque - A movement from 5th incorporating a rond de jambe a terre and closing to 5th

Pas de bourrée - Small/tight running steps (5th to 2nd/or 4th back to 5th)

Pas de chat - Step of the cat a jump from 5th to 5th with an overlapping action with each leg bending and unfurling, one after the other

Passé - To pass (retire passé: the working leg’s toes supported just under the supporting knee)

Petit - Small

Pirouette - To turn

Plié - To bend

Port de bras - Carriage of the arms (a controlled movement of the arms)

Posé - To step (onto a straight leg)

Relevé - To rise with a small rising action starting with a plie (bent knees)

Retiré - To draw up (the supporting leg)

Rond de jambe - Round of the leg (circle the leg like a protractor on the floor from 0 degrees to either 90 or 180)

Sauté - To spring

Sissonne - A scissor step – a jump from two feet to two feet

Soubresaut - A single jump (without changing the feet)

Soutenu - To sustain (a turning action revolving the feet, either traveling or on the spot)

Sur le cou-de-pied - On the neck of the foot

Temps levé - To hop (a jump taking off and landing on the same foot)

Tendu - To stretch (an extending action of the leg, a terre with a return closing action)