A Guide to Ballet – Glossary

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Ever been in a ballet class and felt like they might as well be speaking a different language? Well that’s because they are! All ballet movements are spoken in french which can make picking up the steps even more tricky. Our Head of Dance and ex Royal Ballet dancer, Clara Stone has put together a ballet glossary so 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

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Position: Attitude

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

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Position: Plié

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)

 

At City Academy we run Ballet classes for adults, whether you're new to Ballet or have previous dance experience. Here's our Ballet Dance Company performing at our yearly Spring Showcase at Sadler's Wells

 


Hope you found our glossary useful, you are now ready for the world of ballet! To find out more, read our Ballet Terminology blog.

Try out our Ballet for Beginners course here.

For more advanced ballet classes, we have Improvers 1, Improvers 2, and Intermediate as well as Pointe and Dance the Classics.