Ballet Terms and Positions

Have you ever wondered what all those French words are that you hear floating around at the ballet? If you're new to the ballet or would like to learn more about ballet, stick around and take a quick lesson on some of the words the dancers use on a daily basis.

Glossary of Ballet Terms

Classical Ballet - a traditional style of ballet which stresses the academic technique developed through the centuries of the existence of ballet.

Modern Ballet - a type of ballet from the twentieth century. To this day, modern ballet looks to re-invent itself and reach out in an ever-increasing facet of creation and movement.

Ballerina - a female dancer in a ballet company.

Danseur - a male dancer in a ballet company.

Choreographer - a person who composes or invents ballets or dances.

Ballet master or Ballet mistress - a person in a ballet company whose job is to give the daily company class and to rehearse the ballets in the company repertoire.

Choreography - describes the steps, combinations and patterns of a ballet or dance.

Balletomane (bal lay toe mane) - A ballet fan or enthusiast.

Pointe shoes - The satin ballet shoes used by dancers when dancing on their pointes (toes). Pointe shoes are reinforced with a box constructed of numerous layers of strong glue in between layers of material. Pointe shoes are not made of cement or wood.

Tutu - the short classical ballet skirt made of many layers of net. A romantic tutu is a long net skirt reaching below the calf.

Pas de deux - a dance for two.

Adagio (u da zhe-o) - is a succession of slow, soft, lyrical and continuous movements. Adagio creates the illusion that the positions flow from one into another.

Allegro (a leg grow) - allegro in ballet involves fast and dynamic movements, usually jumping steps and sequences.

Barre - a horizontal bar (usually made of wood) along a studio wall for class exercises. Every ballet class begins with barre exercises.

Centre practice - a group of exercises similar to those at the barre but performed in the center of the room. These exercises are done without the support of the barre and are normally performed with alternate feet.

Ballet Positions

Arabesque (Ah rah besk) - a position on one leg with the other leg raised behind the body and extended in a straight line.

Attitude (ah tea tude) - A variation on the arabesque. The extended leg is raised behind the body but bent at the knee at an angle of 90 degrees.

Assemblé (assam blay) - Lifting off the floor on one leg, and landing on two. Legs assemble at the same time and return to fifth position.

Croisé (quo say) - A dancer stands with legs crossed at an angle to the audience. The disengaged leg may be crossed in the front or in the back.

Grande Jeté (grand jeh tay) - a big jump from one foot to the other in which the working leg is brushed into the air and appears to have been thrown.

Plié (plee ay) - means bent, bending - of the knee or knees.

Turn-out - The dancer turns his or her feet and legs out from the hip joints to a 90-degree position.

Pirouette (peer o wet) - a rotation or spin - a complete turn of the body on one foot, on point or demi-pointe (half- pointe).

Tour en l'air (tour on lair) - a turn in the air - usually a male dancer's step, although ballerinas may do them to depending on the choreography.