Ballet Dictionary


Slow movements connected together so that all of the movements flow together


A moorish curved ornamentation. The ballet position imitates this curved shape with the back and the leg extended behind the dancer. There are four arabesques in the Vaganova system of ballet and four in the Cechetti system. These arabesques are slightly different.


Assembled; a jump that starts with a plié on two feet in 5th, brushes the foot out and assembles the feet into 5th in the air before landing in 5th. An assemblé can either start with brushing the back foot and landing with it in front; or brushing the front foot and landing with it in back.


A rocking step with the pattern down, up, down (similar to a ball change)

Battement Jeté

A thrown beat of the leg executed by brushing the foot off the floor slightly with an extended leg and closing again; sometimes used interchangeably with dégagé; In the British system also called battement glissé (however there are subtle technical differences)


Chained; a series of linked turns in first position


Crossed; a position of the body in which the body is facing the corner and the downstage leg is in front; opposite of éffacé


Disengaged; Sometimes used interchangeably with Battement Jeté because the foot disengages from the floor; In the British system of ballet it is used interchangeably with tendu because the foot disengages from the other leg.


Developed; an unfolding of the leg through retiré or passé to develop into a pose with a straight leg


Shaded; A position of the body in which the body is facing the corner and the upstage leg is in front; the opposite of croisé

En Croix

In a cross; the pattern often used at the barre when doing an exercise front, side, back and side again.


Melted; a plié on one leg which should have a fluid melting quality


Struck; a sharp strike of the ball of the foot against the floor as it brushes along the floor and extends from sur le cou de pied. May be taken flexed or pointed and off the floor or pointed on the floor.


A gliding step in which the dancer starts in plié, brushes one leg out and jumps onto it, closing the other leg into plié. From the verb glisser– to glide; one of the seven movements of dancing. There are several types of glissade: glissade devant, glissade derriere, glissade changé, glissade en avant, and glissade en arriere

Grands Battements

Large beats of the leg; the leg is brushed off the floor up to 90 degrees or higher


Thrown; Battement jeté is a thrown beat of the leg; petit jeté is a jump springing from cou de pied, straightening both legs in the air and landing on the other foot in cou de pied; jeté ordinaire is a jump of petit allegro in which, starting in plié, one leg does a battement jeté, and the dancer springs into the air with the standing leg coming to cou de pied in the air, then landing on the leg that was brushed. This can also be taken with a beat and is called jeté battu; Grand jeté is a large leap in the air in which both legs are thrown in a grand battement, making a split in the air.

Pas de Bourée

Running step; a combination of three steps taken up, up down; there are several types of pas de bourée

Pas de Chat

Step of the cat; a jump in which the back leg comes to passé and then as the dancer springs into the air, the other leg also comes to passé


Passed; the foot comes to the knee and passes it from back to front or front to back; often mistakenly used for retiré


A turn on one leg usually taken with the foot at the knee. Pirouettes may also be taken in attitude, arabesque, á la seconde etc. Pirouettes may be taken en des hors (outside turn) or en dedans (inside turn)


Bent; a bending of the knees from the verb plier– to bend; one of the seven movements of dancing


A character step traveling across the floor having two steps on demi pointe and the third brushing the foot to the front as the other foot steps into fondu

Port de Bras

Carriage of the arms; There are set patterns of moving the arms through various poses. These patterns vary depending on the system of ballet. The main Port de Bras used are Vaganova and Cecchetti.


Risen; a rise on the toes or half toe; Relevé may be taken from a plié or without. From the verb relever-to rise; one of the seven movements of dancing


Withdrawn; the foot is brought up to the knee without passing it. The front foot may be brought up to the front of the knee or the back foot may be brought up to the back of the knee. Often mistakenly called passé (which is similar but passes from front to back or back to front).


Respect; a sign of respect in which the dancer curtseys to show appreciation; usually done at the end of class or performance. In performance, the audience claps. In class, the dancer curtseys and then claps for the teacher. This is usually followed by dancers individually thanking the teacher.

Ronds de Jambe

Circles of the leg; Ronds de jambe may be taken par terre (on the ground) or en l’air (in the air). In ronds de jambe par terre, the dancer brushes through first and circles the leg around to brush through first again. In ronds de jambe en l’air, the dancer circles the foot by the knee and extends the leg out. All ronds de jambe may be taken en des hors or en dedans.


jumped; from the verb saucer- to jump; one of the seven movements of dancing

Sur le Cou de Pied

On the neck of the foot; a position in which the foot is held pointed at the ankle. It can be in the front of the ankle, at the side, at the back, or wrapped around the ankle.


Stretched; to extend the leg, sliding the foot along the floor until it is fully stretched with the foot pointed with the toe on the floor. From the verb etendre– to stretch; one of the seven movements of dancing.

A Brief History of Ballet