top of page

Basic Ballet Terminology


Plié – to bend, either demi (half) or grand (big), heels come off the floor in grand plié in all positions except second

Tendu – stretched or held – brush foot along the floor until pointed, from a closed position to an open position

Jèté – (thrown) brush a tendu a little harder to leg/foot comes up off floor to about 45 degrees (aka dégagé)

Rond de jambe (à terre or on the ground) – round of the leg – tendu front, make a circle toward side with toe, then toward back (en dehors or outward) or back,side, front (en dedans or inward)

Fondu – to melt – one leg pliés and straightens (standing leg) the other leg may be moving or stationary

Frappé- to strike 

Développé – developed – unfolding working leg in the air – through a passé position

Arabesque – body position standing on one leg with the other extended to the back

Grand battement – like tendu and jèté, brush foot on floor, but with more energy so that it becomes a big, straight leg kick.

Relèvé – to rise – on tiptoe

Sauté – to jump

Temps lié – transfer of weight from one foot to another through 2nd or 4th position

Pas de waltz (aka triplet)– down-up-up stepping in a direction

Balancé – down up down, stepping back on oneself

Assemblé – to assemble – a jump off one foot landing on two

Adagio – slow dance movement

Allegro – fast movement – usually jumping, petit (little ) or grand (big)

Polka  - step together, step hop or chassé skip

Chassé – to chase – slide out, jump together

Chainné turns – chain turns – first position, half turn, half turn, etc.

Port de bras  - carriage of the arms – arm movements

Changement – to change – jump in fifth or third position, changing which foot is in front

Échappé – to escape – Échappé sauté – jump to second (from first or fifth) and jump back

Coup de pied – neck of the foot – position of the foot with little toe at ankle (in front) or heel at back of ankle (back)

Sous-sus – in fifth position – spring releve to crossed fifth

Pas de chat  - step of the cat

Grand jèté – big throw – big leap with straight legs

Emboîté – spring pointes – jump from one foot to the other, one foot pointed on the floor in front, change legs with each jump

Retiré – position of leg/foot with little toe under knee (front) or foot behind knee (back)


Body Positions:

Croisé – crossed – facing corner, legs crossed

En face – facing front

éfface – open – facing corner, legs not crossed

écarté – thrown wide apart, separated – leg in second position, body to corners, shoulders tilted


devant – leg or foot in front

dérrière – leg or foot in back

à la seconde –leg or foot to the side toward second position (to the side) 

en arrière - moving backward

en avant - moving forward

de côté - moving to the side


Arms -  prep, first, third, second

Legs/feet – first second third fourth fifth sixth (aka parallel)

Head – erect, inclined, turned, raised, lowered

bottom of page