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Ballet Move Names

# Beginner Guides

Ballet, a dance form born during Italy's Renaissance in the 15th century, has evolved significantly. Initially a court performance, it flourished into a concert dance style in France and Russia. Today, ballet stands as a highly technical dance form, renowned for its distinct vocabulary. It's profoundly influenced the dance world, providing foundational techniques pivotal for various dance styles globally. Ballet's growth has led to the incorporation of diverse cultural elements, resulting in its unique evolution across the globe.


Basic Ballet Positions

Arms Positions

  1. First Position (Première Position) - Both arms are rounded, with the fingertips at approximately the height of the sternum and slightly in front of the body.
  2. Second Position (Deuxième Position) - Arms are extended out to the sides, forming a gentle curve. Fingertips remain at or slightly below shoulder level.
  3. Third Position (Troisième Position) - One arm is rounded in front of the body, while the other arm is extended to the side.
  4. Fourth Position (Quatrième Position) - One arm is rounded in front of the body, while the other arm is extended to the side, slightly raised above shoulder level.
  5. Fifth Position (Cinquième Position) - Both arms are rounded and raised above the head. The fingertips meet or are very close, creating an oval shape.

Feet Positions

  • First Position (Première Position) - Heels together, toes turned outward forming a straight line.
  • Second Position (Deuxième Position) - Heels apart, toes turned outward creating a straight line.
  • Third Position (Troisième Position) - One foot is placed in front of the other, with the heel of the front foot touching the arch of the back foot.
  • Fourth Position (Quatrième Position) -Similar to the third position but with a greater distance between the feet.
  • Fifth Position (Cinquième Position) - One foot is placed directly in front of the other, with the heel of the front foot touching the toes of the back foot.


Common Ballet Terminologies

Ballet has a unique set of terms that are used to describe movements, positions, and techniques. Here are some of the common ballet terms:

  • À terre - Movements or exercises that are executed "on the ground"
  • Adagio - Slow, soft, sustained, and controlled movement
  • Allégro - Fast and lively movement
  • Arabesque - A position on one leg with the other leg behind either á terre, or en l'air 
  • Attitude - A position standing on one leg with the other bent at an angle behind,  en l’air
  • Balancé - A rocking step, shifting weight from one foot to the other
  • Barre - A horizontal handrail used for support during warm-up exercises
  • Battement - To beat (a movement with a closing action)
  • Chassé - To slide
  • Coupé - To cut
  • Degagé - To disengage
  • Developpé - Slow and controlled unfolding or developing of the leg
  • En l’air - Movements or steps performed "in the air"
  • En Pointe - Dancing on the tips of the toes using pointe shoes
  • Fouetté - A turn on one leg with the working leg whipping around
  • Grand Jeté - A large leap where one leg is thrown forward and the other backward
  • Jeté - To throw
  • Pas - Literally means "step"
  • Pas de bourrée - Small/tight running steps (5th to 2nd/or 4th back to 5th)
  • Pas de Deux - “a dance for two people,” and is sometimes shortened to “pas”
  • Passé - To pass (retire passé: the working leg’s toes supported just under the supporting knee)
  • Pirouette - To turn
  • Plié - To bend
  • Piqué - Pricked or pricking
  • Port de bras - Carriage of the arms (a controlled movement of the arms)
  • 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
  • Tendu - To stretch (an extending action of the leg, a terre with a return closing action)


Illustration of Key Movements

1 a spin on one foot, typically with the raised foot touching the knee of the supporting leg
Grand Jeté
2 a jump, preceded by a grand battement or high kick, in which a dancer leaps from one leg and lands on the other
3 balance on one leg, while the other leg is turned out and stretched straight behind
4 standing on one leg (supporting leg) while the other leg (working leg) is raised and turned out, forming an angle of about 90° between the thigh and the lower leg
5 a quick whipping movement of the raised leg in ballet usually accompanying a pirouette
6 a smooth, gradual unfolding of the leg
7 a step in which one foot literally chases the other out of its position
8 means “to jump.” Any jump in ballet can be called a sauté.
Pas de Deux
9 a dance duet in which two dancers, typically a male and a female, perform ballet steps together
10 means slow, controlled movements that emphasize fluidity, extension, and balance


Tips for memorization

Use Visualization
Visualize the movement as you articulate its name. This connection between the image and its name will improve your ability to recall it.

Practice Regularly
Transform the physical motions into muscle memory through regular practice. Consistent practice makes it easier for your body to retain and recall the movements.

Use Analogies
Relate ballet movements to everyday experiences. Drawing parallels can make it simpler to remember the names.

Learn the Meaning
Grasp the meaning of the French terms.  Ballet move names carry meanings associated with the action or position involved. Being familiar with these meanings can help to aid in retention.

Stay Consistent
Maintain consistency in applying all the suggested tips for making the memorization of ballet move names.


Ballet in Dancesport

Ballet influences in dancesport are prominently seen in the Smooth and Ballroom categories, including dances like Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango, Viennese Waltz, and Quickstep. Dancers in these categories integrate balletic elements, emphasizing graceful movements and intricate footwork. 

Watch how ballet influences this incredible cabaret performance.

Ballet in dancesport


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