Ballet Vocabulary Adagio

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Ballet Vocabulary

Adagio: slow, enfolding movements. In a classical ballet class, the Adagio portion of the lesson concentrates on slow movements to improve the dancer's ability to control the leg and increase extension (i.e., to bring the leg into high positions with control and ease).

Allegro: brisk, lively. A term applied to all bright, fast, or brisk movements.

Arabesque: the position of the body supported on one leg, with the other leg extended behind the body with the knee straight.

Assemblé: "assembled". A jump which is launched from one foot and landed on both feet, where the first foot performs a battement, "swishing" out. With the dancer launching into a jump, the second foot then swishes up under the first foot. The feet meet together in mid-air, and the dancer lands with both feet on the floor at the same time, in third or fifth position.


Natalia Dudinskaya in attitude en pointe

A position in which the dancer stands on one leg (known as the supporting leg) while the other leg (working leg) is lifted and well turned out with the knee bent at approximately 90-degree angle. The lifted or working leg can be behind (derrière), in front (devant), or on the side (à la seconde) of the body. The foot should be below the knee In others, such as the Balanchine and Russian styles, the foot must be in line with the knee or above it, creating an angle that is 90-degrees or less.

Balancé: three steps make a "down, up, down" motion

Battement: It is a kicking movement of the working leg performed back, side or front

Chaînés: a series of quick turns on alternating feet with progression, or chain, along a straight line or circle. The turns are done with the feet in a small, tight first position releve. "Spotting" of the head is used to avoid dizziness in this and all turning exercises in ballet.

Chassé: "to chase". A slide forwards, backwards, or sideways with both legs bent, then springing into the air with legs meeting and straightened.

Demi: meaning of half. Applied to plié and pointe


Développé: A movement in which the leg is first lifted to a turned-out position, then fully extended passing through attitude position. It can be done in front (en avant), to the side (à la seconde), or to the back (derrière).

Fouetté: The term indicates either a turn with a quick change in the direction of the working leg as it passes in front of or behind the supporting leg, or a quick whipping around of the body from one direction to another.

Glissade: to glide. This is a traveling step starting in fifth position with demi-plié: the front foot moves out to a point, both legs briefly straighten as weight is shifted onto the pointed foot, and the other foot moves in to meet the first.

Grand plié: A full plié, or bending of the knees. The back should be straight and aligned with the heels, and the legs are turned out with knees over the feet.

Grand jeté:

Ballerina performing a grand jeté during Don Quichotte at the 2010 Prix de Lausanne

A long horizontal jump, starting from one leg and landing on the other. Known as a split in the air. The front leg brushes straight into the air, as opposed to performing a dévelopé or "unfolding" motion. The back leg follows making the splits in the air.

Jeté: a jump from one foot to the other similar to a leap, in which one leg appears to be "thrown" in the direction of the movement (en avant, en arrière or sideways). There are several kinds of jetés, such as petit jeté, grand jeté, etc.

Pas de bourrée: It consists of three quick steps - back, side, front, often ending in a demi plié.

Passé: when a foot is placed near, on, or below the other knee. (hook)

Piqué: " to prick". A movement in which the strongly pointed toe of the lifted and extended leg sharply lowers to hit the floor then immediately rebounds upward.

Pirouette: a controlled turn on one leg, starting with one or both legs in plié and rising onto pointe. The non-supporting leg can be in a turned out position or in attitude. A pirouette is most often en dehors turning outwards toward the back leg, but can also be en dedans turning inwards toward the front leg. Although ballet pirouettes are performed with the hips and legs rotated outward ("turned out"), it is common to see them performed with an inward rotation ("parallel") in other genres of dance, such as jazz and modern. Turning technique includes spotting, in which a dancer executes a periodic, rapid rotation of the head that serves to fix the dancer's gaze on a single spot.

Plié: "to bend". A smooth and continuous bending of the knees.

Port de bras: "carriage of the arms". Movement of the arms to different positions, it is considered a simple movement but a dancer works hard to make it seem graceful, poised and seamless.

Pulling Up: Pulling up is critical to the success of a dancer because without it, the simple act of rising up would be extremely difficult. It involves the use of the entire body. To pull up, a dancer must lift the ribcage and sternum but keeps the shoulders relaxed and centered over the hips which requires use of the abdominal muscles. In addition, the dancer must tuck their pelvis under and keep their back straight as to avoid arching and throwing themselves off balance.

Relevé: "lifted". Rising from any position to balance on one or both feet

Rond de jambe: "circle of the leg". Actually, half-circles made by the pointed foot, returning through first position to repeat

Sous sous: Typically executed from fifth position, a dancer rises up onto point with the feet touching and ankles crossed in a particularly tight fifth position relevé. This can be performed in place or traveling forward, backward or to the side.

Tendu: "stretched" Usually done as an exercise at the barre from first or fifth position, the working leg is extended to either the front, side or back, gradually along the floor until only the tip of the toe remains touching the floor or even further stretched so that the tip of the toe comes up off the floor a few inches (en l'air). A tendu can also be used in preparation for other more complex steps, such as pirouettes, or leaps.

Tombé: The act of falling. Typically a beginning movement.

Turn-out: A rotation of the leg from the hips, causing the knee and foot to also turn outward, away from the center of the body. This rotation allows for greater extension of the leg, especially when raising it to the side and rear. Signs of improper turn-out are the knee pointing forward while the foot point sidewards(turning out from the knee), and rolling in of the ankle. Every single step in classical ballet is performed with hips, knees and feet as turned out as possible, except when otherwise specified by choreography. Turn-out is a defining characteristic of classical ballet which distinguishes it from other forms of dance. Not all dancers have a perfect turn-out; but it is definitely a measure for selection in the competitive world of ballet. In beginner classes, a less-than-perfect turn-out is tolerated to save stress to knee joints until the ability is acquired. But as students progress to pre-professional and professional levels, perfect or near perfect turn-out is almost always a requirement for employment and success.

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