Dictionary of Ballet & Dance Terms

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Adagio / Adage

[Italian adagio: "at ease"]
A succession of slow and graceful movements which may be simple or of the most complex

Air, en l'

Indicates that a movement is to be made in the air


[Italian: "happy"]
Bright and brisk movements. Usually divided into petit ["little"] allegro and grand ["big"] allegro


Extension of arms in arabesque


Standing on one leg with raised leg extended in straight line to rear and foot pointed (4 positions used)

Arri re, en

Backwards; shows a step is executed moving away from the audience


A jump: pli , brushing working leg out. Jump. Bring both legs together ("assemble" them) while in midair; land on both feet. The brush can be to the front, the side, or the back


A pose. As with the arabesque, the leg is raised. But unlike the arabesque, it is bent, not straight, and, also unlike the arabesque, it can be done to the front, the side, or the back. In attitude to the front or the back, if the angle is 90 degrees, the calf should be as nearly horizontal as possible

Avant, en

a given step is executed moving forward, toward the audience


a rocking step; an alternation of balance, shifting the weight from one foot to the other.

For a balanc to the right, start in fifth position. On count of 1-2-3, right foot goes out to the side and the weight is transferred to it (1). Immediately bring left foot behind right and and transfer the weight to the ball of the left foot while rising up on it (2). Put your weight back on the right foot flat on the floor (not raised up) (3). A balanc to one side is almost always followed by a balanc to the other side. Balancs can also be done to the front and back.


Short for battements en balançoire, ["battements like a seesaw"]. The dancer swings the working leg vigorously back and forth between fourth position front and fourth back, through first position. Unlike grand battements en cloche, balançoires do not require that the body be held straight.


usually the principal female dancer in a ballet company


A theatrical work or entertainment in which a choreographer has expressed his ideas in group and solo dancing to a musical accompaniment with appropriate costumes, scenery and lighting.

ballet d'action

ballet that tells a story, many times tragic

Ballet master, ballet mistress

person in a ballet company whose duty is to give the daily company class and to rehearse the ballets in the company repertoire


A ballet fan or enthusiast. The word was invented in Russia in the early nineteenth century.


the light, elastic quality in jumping in which the dancer bounds up from the floor, pauses a moment in the air and descends lightly and softly, only to rebound in the air like the smooth bouncing of a ball.


Broad leap with battement kick.

From 5th position, right foot front, demi-pli while the right foot glides to 2nd position at 45 degrees. Jump with left while travelling in the air towards the right foot. Land on left foot with the right having come in to the position sur le cou-de-pied front. Repeat by throwing the right foot out to the side again from the position sur le cou-de-pied. Can be done in many different directions.

Ballonn, pas

step in which the dancer springs into the air extending one leg to the front, side or back and lands with the extended leg either sur le cou-de-pied or retir


step consists of coup dessous and coup dessus performed in a series with a rocking, swinging movement - ballott is performed traveling forward on ballott en avant and backward on ballott en arrire to the place from which the first jump began.

Begin in 5th, right leg front. Spring straight upward with both legs held tightly together, as the body begins to tilt slightly backward at the apex of the jump. The body lands on the left foot while the right is thrown open to the front. Repeat backwards, with a slight tilt to the front at the apex of the jump.


horizontal bar opposite mirrors and along a wall in studio for class exercises - where every class begins exercises


high or low kick: grand battement or petit battement

Battement fondu développé

exercise in which the supporting leg is slowly bent in fondu with the working foot pointing on the ankle. As the supporting leg is straightened, the working leg unfolds and is extended to point on the floor or in the air

Battement frapp

exercise in which the dancer forcefully extends the working leg from a cou-de-pied position to the front, side or back. This exercise strengthens the toes and insteps and develops the power of elevation

Battement sur le cou-de-pied, petit

an exercise at the bar in which the working foot is held sur le cou-de-pied and the lower part of the leg moves out and in, changing the foot from sur le cou-de-pied devant to sur le cou-de-pied derrire and vice versa

Battement tendu

the working foot slides from the first or fifth position to the second or fourth position without lifting the toe from the ground. Both knees must be kept straight. When the foot reaches the position pointe tendue, it then returns to the first or fifth position

Battement, grand

exercise in which the working leg is raised from the hip into the air and brought down again, the accent being on the downward movement, both knees straight


beating together of feet or legs, esp. in midair


beaten - any step embellished with a beat is called a pas battu. As, for example, in jet battu


traveling movement with feet moving in tine steps from tight fifth position



Bras bas

arms low or down - This is the dancer's "attention." The arms form a circle with the palms facing each other and the back edge of the hands resting on the thighs. The arms should hang quite loosely but not allowing the elbows to touch the sides

Bras, positions des

the four arm positions


jump in which one leg beats against the other in midair; small beating step in which the movement is broken. Briss are commenced on one or two feet and end on one or two feet

Bris vol

flying bris - the dancer finishes on one foot after the beat, the other leg crossed either front or back

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