Ballet Steps

The following are ballet steps, and terms used in ballet steps.  Terms are  used in combination with French adjectives and adverbs to fully describe the step and the way it should be performed.  For example, rond de jambe en l’air en dedans vs. rond de jambe à terre en dehors.

Assemblé – “Assembled” or “joined”.  The dancer brushes the working foot out on the ground, then points out into the air, as the dancer jumps, pushing off the supporting leg.  The supporting leg meets the working leg in the air, with both legs straight and toes pointed into a tight fifth, and then lands on both feet simultaneously in fifth position.

Balancé – A rocking step, which can be performed in various directions, created by making three small steps or little jumps with alternating weight. An example, on count 1 degage the right leg, step weight onto it, on cont two place the left leg behind the right ankle, put weight onto it and lift the right foot off the ground slightly, and on count 3 replace the right foot back down. Repeat the sequence towards the left foot.

Ballonné – This step is so called for it’s bouncing quality.  The dancer jumps into the air and extends one leg to the front, side or back, landing with that working leg sur le cou-de-pied or retiré.

Balloté – “Tossed”.  The dancer performs this step effacé, executing coupé dessous and coupé dessus in a consecutive series, with a rocking motion of the torso accompanying each change of weight.

Battement – “Beaten” or “Beating”.  There are two types – grands battements and petits battements.

Bourrée – This step is characterized by tiny, quick steps on pointe, or demi-pointe, with the legs constantly crossed and the toes never leaving the floor.  The legs appear to ripple, and the dancer glides across the stage.

Brisé – Starting from fifth, the dancer brushes the back leg forward through first plie, through battement off the ground to 45 degrees, then pushes off the ground with the supporting leg, meeting the two legs in fifth, but slightly over-crossed so the toes appear to meet in the air.  Next, the legs are released from fifth, switched in the air, and the leg that took off first, lands first, followed almost immediately by the second leg into fifth plie. The step is performed in croisé, with a slight inclination of the body towards the legs in the air.

Cabriole – A jumping step in which the working leg brushes through first, with a degage battement a la seconde, and the underneath leg joins behind the top leg in an overcrossed fifth en l’air.   Then, the bottom leg is released to land back on the ground, as the top leg re-opens to second.  Can be performed petite (working leg to 45 degrees) or grande (working leg to 90 degrees). In a cabriole fermée, the working leg is immediately closed in fifth. In a cabriole ouverte, the open position is held.

Chainés – “Chains” or “links”.  A turning step executed on pointe or demi pointe, performed in series in a straight line or circle.  Two equal steps per rotation of the body.

Changement, or Changement de pieds – “Change” or “change of feet.”  Beginning in fifth position, the dancer springs into the air with both feet extended towards the floor in fifth position en l’air, and then switches their orientation to the opposite, and lands in fifth position with the back foot now in front.

Chassé – “To chase” or “chased.”  Refers to the appearance that one foot slides behind the other, and chases the front foot out of position repeatedly.  It is executed traveling in all directions.

Coupé – “Cut” or “to cut.”  In this step, the working leg is changed by bringing it either in front or back, in a cutting motion towards the floor in fondu, while the new working leg finishes sur le cou-de-pied.

Coupé jete en tournant – A turning and leaping step, consisting of a coupé dessous and three quarter turn toward the back, and completed by a grand jeté en avant.

Dégagé, or battement dégagé – The working leg brushes outward through the pointe tendue position, raises off the floor (25-45 degrees, depending on tempo), and passes back through the pointe tendue position before returning to its original position.

Demi-plié – “Little bend.”  A very basic step, in which the knees are bent over the toes, while the heels are kept on the floor.

Detourné – This is a turn on two legs that exchanges the position of the feet. It can be performed en dedans, or en dehors, and with a half, or full turn, though most commonly a half turn is used in barre exercises to change sides. From fifth position, the dancer releves, and  depending on the direction of the turn (en dedans or en dehors), turns towards the back or front foot, and places lands in fifth position with the new working leg in front.

Developpé – “To develop”. The working leg is drawn up the supporting leg into retiré position, and extends (develops) into an open position in the air.

Echappé – “To escape”.   In this step, the feet escape to an open position from a closed position, and return to a closed position.  An echappé can be jumped (as in echappé sauté) or performed on pointe or demi pointe (echappé sur les pointes).

Echappé sauté – Beginning in a closed position, such as fifth plié, the dancer jumps to the second or fourth position, then closes in fifth plié.

Echappé sur les pointes – Beginning in a closed position, such as fifth plié, the dancer slides both toes to the second or fourth position and simultaneously rises to relevé position and straightens the knees, then closes in fifth plié.

Entrechat – A beating step, counted by the number of crossings of the legs (i.e., entrechat quatre has four beats).  Even numbered entrechats land on two feet, while the odd numbered entrechats land on one foot.

Failli – Give away. Preparing in pointe tendue derriere, the dancer releves or jumps to a low 45 degree arabesque opening with a quarter turn en dedans, then brings the open leg through first position relevé and finishes in fourth position demi plié, or fourth arabesque plié a terre.

Fondu, fondue – “Melted” or “to melt”.  The action of bending the suppporting leg, like a plié, and often used synonomously with plié.

Fouetté turn, or Fouetté en tournant – Turning step, usually done in series, that can be performed en dedans or en dehors. For a fouetté en dehors, begin with a pirouette en dehors, then coupe into plié devant or croisé devant, followed by a demi rond de jambe a la seconde.   Next, relevé and raise the working leg to retiré, turning en dedans, coupe into plié, and repeat.

Glissade – A gliding step.  It should be executed in a smooth, flowing motion, and the feet should barely leave the ground. The accent is on the closure of the feet into fifth or fourth.  From fifth in plie, extend one leg to the side and low to the ground, press the floor and extend the other leg in the air, so now both are stretched in matching positions and extended towards the floor, but barely off the floor.  Next, the dancer lands on the first leg in plie, leaving the second outstretched, and quickly closes to fifth plie.

Grand battement – A quick, large brush of the leg to over 90 degrees height, that can be performed front, back, or side.  The movement should always be strong, sharp and controlled, and the upper body should appear effortless.

Grand jeté – Big leap.

Jeté – Leap.

Jeté battu – A leap, beaten. The dancer performs a basic jeté, but adds a beat of the thighs before landing the leap.

Pas – “Step”. Any single step.

Pas de bourrée – This is a linking step, used as a transition between steps in combinations. It can be performed dessous, dessus, avant, en arriere, on pointe, on demi-pointe, turning, with pique, etc. It contains three steps/weight changes – coupe (over or under), step to the side, and coupe on the other foot.

Pas de chat – “Step of the cat”.  Beginning in fifth position, the dancer lifts the back leg to the side, bending at the knee 90 degrees or more, and immediately brings up the other leg to match it in the air.  The dancer then extends the back leg to land first, followed by the front leg, which passes through the retiré position before closing in fifth.   The step travels slightly to the side.

Pas de cheval – “Step of the horse”. In this step, the dancer immitates a horse hoofing at the ground, by sliding the working foot up the front of the shin to about knee height, and extends it to its most oustretched position with toes pointed on the foor (pointe tendue devant).

Pas de valse – “Waltz step.”

Pas marché – “Marching step.”  The classical walk of the prima ballerina, characterized by an exaggerated developé and fondue.

Passé – A step that moves the working leg past the supporting leg from position to position. For example, from closed fifth position, the toe of the working leg draws up the calf of the supporting leg, stops at the knee, and passes through to an arabesque in the back.  Often confused with the position retiré.

Petit jeté – “Little leap”

Pirouette – A turn on one leg.  It can be performed en dedans, or en dehors, and on pointe or demi-pointe, and in a vairety of poses. Most commonly, the pirouette is en dehors with passé.

Plié – “To bend,” referring to the legs at the knees.  A basic step, essential to mastery of ballet.  The knees should be turned out in line with the toes, and when they bend, they should track over the toes.

Port de bras – “To carry the arms”.  Refers to positions of the arms, or movements of the arms.

Promenade, or Tour de promenade – A slow rotation of the body, on one leg, characterized by holding a pose, and making tiny movements of the heel, moving the body around in a circle.  In pas de deux, the male partner supports the female  in her pose on pointe.

Relevé – “To rise,” either onto the balls of the feet, or onto pointe.

Rond de jambe – Performed either on the floor, or in the air, and either en dehors or en dedans, this step features a D shape motion created by the toes at the end of the extended, working leg.

Royale, or Changement battu – A jump, in which the dancer takes off from fifth position, extends the toes towards the ground, beats the front leg into a tight fifth in the air, switches the feet front to back, and lands in fifth.

Saut de basque – This is a jumping, turning step.  From croise, the dancer tombes diagonally onto the front foot in efface position. The back leg brushes through first position demi-plie, and extends forward as the body continues turning upstage.  The dancer presses off the ground into a jump, turning his or her back to the audience, and brings the second leg into retire position, as the body continues turning around towards the front. The turn is landed on the back leg in fondu, sur le cou de pied devant.

Sauté – Jump.

Sissonne – A jumping step froma closed two footed position onto one foot or two feet, with many variations, such as moving forward, back, to the side, landing on one foot, landing on two feet, different body positions in the air, etc.

Sissonne fermée en avant- Beginning in fifth, the dancer battements both legs to an open arabesque (either first or third) and lands on the front leg, but immediately closes the back leg into fifth, such that the leg closing appears almost simultaneous with the landing leg.

Sissonne ouverte en arriere – Beginning in fifth, the dancer pushes both legs into the ground and jumps backwards, opening the front leg into a grand battement.  The landing is executed on the back leg in fondue, and the front leg may be held in an open position at 45 degrees, 90 degrees, etc.

Soubresaut – A jump beginning in fifth position, the legs squeeze into a tight fifth in the air, and land in fifth with the same foot front as the jump originated.  The jump should travel in the air, in any direction.

Sous-sus – The dancer brings both legs in simultaneously, into a tight fifth position on pointe or on demi pointe.

Soutenu, or Soutenu en tournant – A half turn, in any direction, from sous-sus position, to change sides.

Tendu – “To stretch”.  A movement in which the working foot brushes from a closed position to an open position, elongating the toes.  The toes never leave the ground, but there is no weight on them. Both legs should be straight with tight knees, and strong turnout.

Tombé – “To fall”.  In this step, the dancer changes weight onto the working leg in a demi plié.

Tour(s) – A turn.

Tour jeté – A turning leap. This typically refers to a grand jeté dessus en tournant.

Temps lié – An old, classical step, in which the dancer transfers weight in a stylized, courtly manner.  Step forward, close the back leg in fifth, step sideways toward the front foot, and close the back leg in front in fifth.