The following are commonly used ballet terms used in ballet class. All ballet terminology is in French reflecting ballet’s origins. At first it can be overwhelming to remember, so here is a little guide. All terms are taken from Gail Grant’s Technical Manual and Dictionary of Classical Ballet. The list will be updated as we learn new movements.
Allégro- Brisk, lively. A term applied to all bright and brisk movements. The important qualities to aim at in allégro are lightness, smoothness, and ballon.
Allongé- Extended, outstretched.
Arabesque- One of the basic poses in ballet, arabesque takes its name from a form of Moorish ornament. In ballet it is a position of the body, in profile, supported on one leg, which can be straight or demi-plié, with the other leg extended behind and at right angles to it, and the arms held in various harmonious positions creating the longest possible line from the fingertips to the toes. The forms of arabesque are varied to infinity.
Assemblé– Assembled or joined together. A step in which the working foot slides along the ground before being swept into the air. As the foot goes into the air the dancer pushes off the floor with the supporting leg, extending the toes. Both legs come to the ground simultaneously in fifth position.
Battement Dégagé (same as Battement Glissé,Battement Tendu Jeté)- Disengaged battement. A term of the Cechetti method. The battement dégagé is similar to the battement tendu but is done at twice the speed and the working foot rises about 4 inches from the floor with a well pointed toe, then slides back into the first or fifth position. Battement dégagés strengthen the toes, develop the instep and improve the flexibility of the ankle joint. Same as battement tendu jeté (Russian school), battement glissé (French school)
Battement développé- Battement developed. From the fifth position the working food glides up to the retiré position and and forcefully opens in the required direction. On reaching the extreme point, the leg is lowered to the fifth position.
Battement en cloche– Like a bell.
Battement Fondu– Battement, sinking down.
Battement Tendu- Battement stretched. A battement tendu is the commencing portion and ending portion of a grand battement and is an exercise to force the insteps well outward. 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 straight. When the foot reaches the position pointe tendue, it then returns to the first or fifth position. Battement tendus may also be done with a demi-plié in the first or fifth position. They should be practiced en croix.
Coupé– Cut, cutting. A small intermediary step done as a preparation or impetus for some other step. It takes its name from the fact that one foot cuts the other way and takes its place.
Demi-plié– Half bend of the knees. All steps of elevation begin and end with a demi-plié.
En Croix- In the shape of a cross. Indicates that an exercise is to be executed to the fourth position front, the second position, and to the fourth position back, or vice versa. As, for example, in battements tendus en croix.
Glissade– Glide. A traveling step executed by gliding the working foot from the fifth position in the required direction, other foot closing to it.
Jeté, pas– Throwing step. A jump from one foot to the other in which the working leg is brushed into the air and appears to have been thrown.
Pas de bourrée– Bourrée step.
Pad de deux– Step for two.
Pas de cheval– Horse’s step. This step is so called because it resembles the movement of a horse pawing the ground.
Passé– Passed. This is an auxillary movemen tin which the foot of the working leg passes the knee of the supporting leg from one position to another (as, for example, in développé passé en avant) or one leg passes the other in the air (as in jeté passé en avant) or one foot is picked up and passes in back or in front of the supporting leg (as in chassé passé).
Plié- Bent, bending. A bending of the knee or knees. This is an exercise to render the joints and muscles soft and pliable and the tendons flexible and elastic, and to develop a sense of balance.
Port de bras– Carriage of the arms. The term port de bras has two meanings: (1) A movement or series of movements made by passing the arm or arms through various positions. (2) A term for a group of exercises designed to make the arms move gracefully and harmoniously.
Relevé- Raised. A raising of the body on the points or demi-pointes, point or demi-pointe. Relevé may be done in the first, second, fourth, or fifth position, en attitude, en arabesque, devant, derrière en tournant, passé en avant, passé arrière and so on.
Sous-sus- Under-over. A term of the Cechetti method. Sous-susis a relevé in the fifth position performed sur place or traveled forward, backward, or to the side. The dancer springs onto the points or demi-pointes, drawing the feet and legs tightly together.
Rond de Jambe- Round of the leg, that is, a circular movement of the leg. Ronds de jambe are used as an exercise at the barre, in the center, and in the adage, and are done à terre or en l’air. When used as a step, ronds de jambes are done en l’air and may be sauté or relevé. All are done clockwise (en dehors) and counterclockwise (en dedans).
Sauté- Jumped, jumping.