Descriptive Terms

The following are descriptive terms or phrases that are used in conjunction with other steps or positions, to describe the way the event should be performed, such as its size (grande or petite), direction (en dehors or en dedans), or location (en l’air or à terre).

À la seconde – “To the second”, meaning the exercise should be done tothe second position (such as grand battement), or the movement should carry through the second position (such as “rond de jambe en l’air”).

À terre – “On the earth”.  The exercise should be performed on the ground, and the toes of the working foot should not leave the ground, such as “rond de jambe”.  Also could indicate that the foot of the non-working leg should remain flat on the ground (rather than on demi-pointe or pointe).

Allongé, or allongée – “To elongate / stretch” or “elongated / stretched”, usually in reference to an arm or leg.

Battu – “Beaten”. A step with an added beat before landing is referred to as battu, such as “changement battu”.

Contretemps – “Against time”.

De côté – “Sideways”. A step is to be performed towards the side.

Dessous – “Under”. Refers to the working foot, and it’s movement under or behind the non-working/supporting foot.

Dessus – “Over”. Refers to the working foot, and its movement over, or in front of the non-working/supporting foot.

Devant – “In front”.  A movement in front, or placement of an arm/leg/foot in front of the body. Also, the working foot should be closed to the front, such as in fifth position, in front of the supporting foot.

Effacé, efacée – “Shaded.”  Refers to the position of the body and working leg during an exercise. One part of the body is directly facing the audience, and part is turned away about 1/8 turn.

En arrière – “Backward” or “In the back”.  Indicates that a step is performed moving away from the audience. 

En avant – “In the front” or “Forward”.  Indicates that a step is performed towards the audience.

En cloche – “Like a bell”. Refers to the swinging motion of the straight leg resembling a bell when performing grand battements devant and derriere, traveling through the first position.

En croix – “In a cross”. Indicates that an exercise is performed making the shape of a cross – to the front, side, and back. For example, tendus at the barre en croix are performed to the font, then side, then back during the exercise.

En dedans – Indicates that the exercise moves in a circular direction, guided by the working foot away from the body/non-working leg.  For example, rond de jambe en dedans en l’air indicates working from the back to the front in a counterclockwise direction.

En dehors – Indicates that the exercise moves in a circular direction, guided by the working foot in towards the body/non-working leg.  For example, in pirouette en dehors on the right foot, the right foot comes up, and the turn is towards the back right.

En diagonale – “On the diagonal”, referring to the position of the body while performing a step.

En face – “Facing”, referring to the position of the body while performing a step.

En l’air – “In the air”, such as rond de jambe en l’air.

En tournant – “While turning” or “turned”.  For example, fouette en tournant.

Fermé – “Closed”, usually referring to a position of the feet (i.e., fifth position) or body.

Grand, grande  – “Big”, such as grand plie.

Ouverte – “Open, or opened”, often referring to a body position.

Petit, petite – “Small” or “tiny”, such as petit battement.

Porté, or portée – “Carried”, usually referring to the arms or legs.

Sautée – “Jumped” or “while jumping”.