Glossary of Ballet Terms

Adagio Slow and sustained movements; also, the section of a pas de deux in which the ballerina, partnered by the danseur, displays her mastery of lyrical movement.
Allegro Fast movements
Arabesque A position in which the dancer stands on one leg with the other leg extended in a straight line to the rear. Defined as the longest line from the tip of the finger to the tip of the toe. The positions of the arms and the height of the raised leg may vary.
Attitude A position in which the dancer stands on one leg, the other leg raised behind the body with the knee bent. A similar position, but with the leg placed in front or to the side of the body, may also be called an attitude.
Ballerina The principal female dancer in a company. The term is misapplied when used to designate any female dancer. A large company may have two or more ballerinas, the chief one ranked as Prima ballerina.
Ballon The resilience, lightness, or spring of a dancer in leaping or jumping movements.
Battement A kick, either high (grand battement) or low (petit battement), which may be executed in any direction.
Cabriole A batterie movement, usually for the male. One leg kicks high to the front or the back and is held in this extension until the supporting leg swiftly leaves the floor and meets the raised leg in a beat or in multiple beats.
Changement de Pieds A movement in which the dancer, starting in fifth position, jumps upward and returns to the floor in fifth position but with the position of the feet reversed. The dancer might, for example, start with the right leg in front and conclude with the right leg in back.
Choreographer One who selects or invents the steps, movements, and patterns of a ballet. He must relate these motions to the music, the theme, and the design of the production in order to make a ballet with form, sequence, and purpose.
Coda The last section of a pas de deux or of a full ballet.
Corps de Ballet The chorus of a ballet company; also called the ensemble.
Danseur Noble The male classical dancer, counterpart of the classical ballerina.
Demi-Pointe With the full weight of the body on the toes and the ball of the foot.
Développé The unfolding of the leg, accomplished by slowly bending and then straightening the knee as the leg is raised in an extension (to the front, side, or back) from the floor.
Divertissement A dance without plot, or that part of a dramatic ballet composed of a series of short dances without plot often choreographed to show the strength and talent of dancers.
En Arrière To the back.
En Avant To the front.
En Dedans Inward, toward the body.
Entrechat A jump directly upward, with the body maintaining a straight line and with multiple changes of positions of feet in air. An entrechat is an elaboration of the changement de pieds.
Five Positions of the Feet The five classical positions of the feet. Every ballet step or movement must begin with one of these positions and return to one of them.
Fouetté A turn or spin on one leg, the body being propelled by a whipping motion of the free leg. It is usually performed by a female dancer.
Glissade A gliding step starting from fifth position, opening into second position, and closing in fifth. It may be held to the floor or used as a low leap.
Jeté A leap in which the dancer propels himself with a push off from one leg, covers space in air, and lands on the other leg.
Pas A step; also used to designate types of dances, as pas seul (solo) and pas de deux (dance for two).
Pas de Bourrée A traveling step in which the dancer may move in any direction on demi-pointe or on pointe. The calves are held as close together as possible while the dancer executes a series of swift miniature steps.
Pas de Chat A leap, starting from a plié in fifth position. The leading leg is drawn up with bent knee, followed almost immediately by the other leg. At the peak of the leap, both knees are bent outward to the side, and the toes are nearly touching. A gargouillade is the same movement, except that the leading leg does a rond de jamb en dehors and the following leg a rond de jamb en dedans while in air.
Pas de Deux A duet. A classical grand pas de deux consists of an entrée, adagio, two solos one executed by the ballerina; the other done by the danseur and a coda.
Pirouette A turn of the body done while standing on one leg, the other leg being held in any one of a number of traditional positions. A pirouette is done on demi-pointe by the male, on pointe by the female, dancer.
Plié A bending of the knees with hips, legs, and feet turned outward.
Pointe The tip of the toe.
Port de Bras The positions and movements of the arms.
Relevé To rise onto pointe or demi-pointe.
Rond de Jambe A rotary movement of the leg. It can be done in a number of ways, such as on the floor or in the air with knee straight, or in air with a circular rotation of the knee from bent to straight.
Sauté A jump.
Terre-à-Terre Steps done on the ground.
Tour en l’Air A turn done in air. The dancer springs upward from fifth position, makes one or more complete turns, and returns to the floor in fifth position.
Turnout The body positions of classical ballet in which the limbs are turned out from the hips at a 180 angle. Ballet beginners start with a less extreme turnout.
Tutu The fluffy skirt worn by the female dancer. In ballets of the romantic style, the tutu falls to below the calf. In the later, classical style ballet, it is short enough to reveal the legs completely.
Variation Usually a solo dance, or pas seul.

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