In ballet, there are several terms that are used. It can be easy for a beginner to feel lost with all of the terminology! Below you’ll find a complete guide / dictionary for the terms in ballet you need to know.


Allégro refers to all fast or brisk steps and movements. Every step where a ballet dancer jumps are considered allégro. This includes sautés, jetés, cabrioles, assemblés, etc. These movements are typically done after warmup and closer toward the last part of class to avoid injury, and to maximize a dancers range while warmed up.

Abstract Ballet

Abstract ballet are ballets without a plot unlike the Nutcracker, Swan Lake, etc. Most often, contemporary ballets are considered abstract ballets.


Allongé is a term used to describe a position that is stretched or made longer. Usually, allongé is used in arabesque to extend your arm and leg further before closing into another position.


Arabesque is a position in ballet where the body is supported on a single leg, while the other leg is extended directly behind the body with a straight knee. There are several different versions of arabesque such as first, second, and third arabesque. They can also be done at different heights or with a straight leg or in plie.


An assemblé has several different variations. The basics being that the two legs join together in the air. Since assemblé is a jump, you’ll mostly see them in petit allegro and grandé allegro combinations during a classical ballet class.


An attitude is a position where the dancers stands on one leg with the other lifted, either in the front, or back. The leg that is in the air is usually slightly bent at the knee, creating an approximate 145 degree angle.


En avant refers to moving towards the front. En avant is not an actual step or position in ballet, but is used in conjunction with other terms, such as tendu en avant.


Adagio refers to slow movements in ballet. This means movements in adagio are performed with the greatest amount of fluidity, control, and grace. Movements in adagio during ballet class are used to help dancers increase strength, control, and flexibility.


Balançoire is a term used to describe exercises such as grande battements or dégagés. When a ballet dancer does a combination with balançoire, they’ll repeatedly swing their leg from front to back.

Ballet Blanc

Ballet blanc is a term used to describe ballet where dancers wear white tutus (also known as romantic). Some popular ballet blanc include La Sylphide, Giselle, and Les Sylphides.

Battement Développé

A Battement Développé is a classical ballet term that refers to a dancer moving their working foot up to a retiré position and opening to the front, side or back with a deliberate motion from a fifth position.

Battement Fondu

A Battement Fondu is a term for a movement done in fondu. During this movement, a dancers supporting leg is slowly bent in fondu with the working foot pointing on the ankle. As the ballet dancer’s supporting leg straightens, the working leg also extends to a straight position.

Battement Jeté

Grand Battement Jeté is a classical ballet term that desribes how a grand battement is “thrown.” This ballet term is all about the idea that the working leg quickly gets to the top positions rather than slowly. Keep in mind, a quicker grand battement jeté leads to a better grand allegro.


Battement is a ballet term which literally translates to “beating.” This term in ballet describes the closing and opening of a dancers legs.

Grand Battement

A grand battement is common term which translates to “large battement.” A large battement is when a ballet dancer throws their working leg into the air from the hip and brings it back down to a position, usually fifth position. In grand battement, it’s important that a dancer keep both legs straight while the body remains still.

Petit Battement

A petit battement is a ballet term used to describe a small beating action of the leg or foot.

Battement Arrondi

A battement arrondi is defined as a “rounded battement.” The battement arrondissement is a step when the dancer’s toes of a working foot move in a semi-circle in the air, at about 45 degrees from the front to back, or back to front. This is commonly used in ronde hame exercises at the barre.

Battement Battu

A battement battu is a classical ballet term for a movement where your working foot is placed a sur cou-de-pied position and taping the opposite legs ankle deviant or derriere. These are typically done at barre or during a frappe exercise.

Battement Dégagé

A Battement Dégagé is commonly used in Cecchetti technique. It is very similar to a battement tendu but done at twice the speed with the working foot rising about 4 inches from the floor.


Batterie is used to describe all beaten steps or steps with beats as a group. It is a classical ballet term, and some examples of batterie are a jeté battu and a cabriolé. Both are examples of batterie because there is a beating of the dancer’s legs when performing those steps.


Battu is a term used to describe any ballet step that is made more difficult by adding a beating of the legs in the middle of the jump. For example, a jeté battu would mean that the dancer would beat their legs once before landing in a coupé


Beats are basically the same as the ballet term “battu” where a ballet dancer can make a jump more difficult by adding beats.


Bras is a classical term that translates to “arms.” You’ll typically hear this term used in conjunction with other ballet terms.


A balletomane is a term used to describe avid ballet fans and enthusiast. This term was invented in Russia around 1930.


Ballon is term in ballet used to define a dancer showing lightness and ease in jumps. This is used to describe the quality of the jump and not the height. A dancer with great ballon appears to pause at the height of the jump before making their descent into a landing.


Balloné is a common term in ballet used to describe a technique where the leg is extended to the second or fourth position at 45 degrees. Then, the knee is bent and the foot brought to a sur le-cou-de-pied position. There are two different versions of the balloné, at 45 degrees, it is called a petit balloné and at 90 degrees it is a grande balloné.


Ballotté is a term in ballet for a set that consists of a coupé dessous performed in sequence with a rocking, swinging movement. The Ballotté can be performed either with straight knees at 45 degrees or with développés at 90 degrees.


Barre is one of the most common terms in ballet. A barre is a horizontal bar that is either fastened to walls or free standing that dancers use for additional support to perform exercises. Barre has become a popular term as barre classes have become a common class that is conducted for fitness class and to warmup for ballet class.

En Bas

En Bas is a term in ballet that means “low.” Typically, teachers will use en bas to describe a low position of the arms.


Brisé is a classical ballet term defined as “breaking.” A Brisé is when a ballet dancer jumps from one or both feet, beat their legs, and ends up on one or two feet. A brisé is done from either fourth or fifth position.

Brisé Volé

A Brisé Volé is a term in ballet that means “flying Brisé.” A Brisé Volé is easily described as when a ballet dancer alternates between a Brisé front and back in succession.


A balancé is common ballet term used to describe a step where a dancer moves while alternating the balance between their feet.


Cabriole is a term in ballet that means “caper.” In a cabriole, a ballet dancer jumps into the air from one leg as the other is thrown upwards.

A cabriole can also be done as a double cabriole where the beating happens twice in the air before landing. A double cabriole is usually done by men in classical ballet.


Cambré is a classical ballet term that is defined as “arched.” When ballet dancers are doing Cambré, they are bending their bodies from the waist and stretching backward or sideways. While bending, the dancers head follows the movement of the upper body and arms.


A cavalier is the male partner of a ballerina.


Cechetti is a term in ballet used to describe the teachings of the classical ballet method of Enrico Cecchetti.


Chaînés is a classical ballet term that refers to the chains or links of turns performed by a dancer. These series of turns are performed on both feet with the ballet dancer picking up each foot back and forth in order to keep the movements going.


Changé is a classical ballet term that describes a dancer’s feet changing places.


Changement is a classical ballet term similar to a Changé. However, with a changement, a dancer performs a jump from fifth position with the feet, jumping and changing the foot position in the air so they land with the opposite foot in front.


Chassé is a common term used in ballet to describe the basic step where the back foot “chases” to meet up with an extended front foot.

Chassé en tournant

Chassé en tournant is a ballet term similar to a chassé but when the dancer performs a single turn in the air as the feet and legs come together, and then lands on the back leg with the front leg extended front.


Cinq is common term in ballet meaning “five.” Cinq is simply a direct translation meaning “five.” It is used in conjunction with other terms such as pas de cinq, meaning a dance for five ballet dancers.


En Cloche is a common ballet term that describes when a dancers goes back and forth between battement, passing through first position. En Cloch has a literal translation of “like a bell,” which is why this movement is referred to as en cloch.


A Coda is a ballet term that refers to the finale. A coda is most commonly the finale of a pas de deux, and usually follows the female’s variation as the finale.

Compound Step

In ballet, a compound step is a term that describes a step made up of two or more steps.


A contretemps is usually a predatory step that occurs before the beat of the music, and when performed by a dancer it looks like they are in brisé, but opening their body to the other side at the last moment.


Corps is a common classical term in ballet most commonly used with “corps de ballet.”

Corps de Ballet

Corps de ballet is a classical ballet term that refers to a group of dancers that perform together. Corps de Ballet is also a term used to describe a dancer’s rank within the ballet company.


Coryphée is a ballet term that means “leader.” Coryphée is only used to describe the leader of the corps de ballet, and does not include soloists or principal dancers. Coryphée can also be used to define a rank within a very large ballet company, such as Paris Opera Ballet. This is not a commonly used term.

de côté

de côté is a term used in ballet to describe a step performed to the side, either the left or right.


Sur le cou-de-pied is a ballet term that refers to the position of the foot. This is not a step. The position of sur le cou-de-pied is when the working foot is placed on the other leg between the base of the calf and the top of the ankle.

Coupé is a term used in classical ballet with a translation of “cut” or “cutting.” It’s used to describe a step where one foot cuts the other foot away, while taking its place. Its typically used as an intermediary step between larger steps such as coupé jeté or a coupé-chassé en tournant.

Want to learn more? Read : What is a coupé?

Coupé-jeté en tournant

Coupé-jeté en tournant is also commonly called “coupé jeté.” A Coupé-jeté en tournant is a split jeté with a turn done in between. This step can be done as a series en menège, in a circle, or simply as a single step.

coupé-chassé en tournant

A coupé-chassé en tournant is a classical ballet term for a step performed in ballet. It is done when a dancer turns in the air in a coupe position. It’s most commonly used as a predatory step, usually by men for a grand allegro.


Croisé is term in ballet used to describe when a dancer’s legs appear to be crossed from the audience.

en Croix

En Croix is a term commonly used in ballet to let dancers know a step should be done to the front, side, and then back.


Cuisse is a term in ballet that means “thighs.”

en Dedans

en Dedans is a term in ballet that is always attached to another term. en Dedans means “inward” and describes the direction of movement. For example, a pirouette en dedans would mean the dancer is pushing their back leg to the front and turning “inward” to their supporting leg.


Dégagé is a common ballet term meaning to “disengage.” A Dégagé is a movement and not a step, and is when a dancer moves their leg off the floor from a pointed food and straight leg to the front, side, or back.

Read more: What is a Dégagé?

en Dehors

En Dehors is a common term meaning “outward.” En Dehors is added to other steps to signify which way a step should be moving. For example, a Rond de Jambe en Dehors would mean that the dancer would turn “outward” away from the supporting leg.


Demi is a term used in ballet to describe a “half” movement. For example, demi-plie or demi arabesque.


Derrière is a common ballet term used to describe the direction or position towards the back.


Dessous is a ballet term that describes when a leg or arm passed behind or under another.


Dessus is the opposite of Dessous. It’s a common term used in ballet meaning “over.” Dessous is used to define movements or steps where the working leg r foot passes over or infant of the supporting leg.


Détourné is a term that describes when a dancer turns once completely on both feet, on pointe or demi-pointe.

Demi Détourné

Demi Détourné is similar to the Détourné but is for a half turn rather than a full turn.


Devant is a classic ballet term that is used to define steps or movements that are in the from of the body.


Développé is a movement where the ballet dancer’s working leg is brought up to the knee of the supporting leg and extended to an open position.


Emboîté is a ballet term for a type of jeté where the dancer alternates their legs in a bent position and springing into front attitudes.


Écarté is when ballet dancer is facing their entire body into one of the two front corners and their face in the other. This is most commonly used to define how a dancer stands when on stage.


Échappé is a term used for a movement done in ballet with the legs and feet. Beginning in the closed position (usually fifth position with the feet), a ballet dancer will slide both feet out into second or fourth position.


Effacé is the opposite of croisé. Effacé is a step or pose in ballet where the legs look open when seen from the front.


Extension is a common term in ballet that describes a ballet dancer’s ability to raise and hold their leg extended in the air. A good extension is critical for women in ballet, and is the result of lots of hard work and training.


Entrechat is a term in ballet that describes when a dancer jumps into the air and beats their legs by changing the position of their legs and feet.


Entrelacé is when a ballet dancer battements one leg to the from while piling with the other, then jumping and landing on the first leg while completing a half turn in the air.


Enveloppé is a step or movement in ballet where the dancer begins with the working leg stretched to the front, side or back. The dancer’s leg is then brought into either you-de-pied or passé and closed in fifth position.


Épaulment is a term in ballet that describes where a ballet dancer’s shoulders are in relation to the lower half of the body.


Étoile is a term commonly used in the Paris Opera ballet to describe the “star” of the show, or leading dancer. In other ballet companies, Étoile is considered the same as a principal dancer.


A Frappé is a movement that is typically done at the bar to improve speed and precision of a dancer’s legs and feet. To do a Frappé, you will start with your outside leg flexed in a turned out position, lifted from the floor. Your heel will be placed slightly above the ankle bone of the standing leg. Then, you’ll extend your leg and point your foot towards the floor, causing a “strike” on the floor.


Fouetté is a term in ballet used to describe a quick whipping action of a ballet dancer’s leg or body.

Fouetté Turns

Fouetté turns are when a ballet dancer does a full turn in passe. Then, a pile on a single standing leg while the retire leg extends to cruise and rond de jambes.


Fondu is a ballet term that describes the movement of a dancer doing a plie on a single leg, and slowly sinking down (or melting down like fondu cheese!).

Fish Dive

A fish dive is a term in ballet used to describe where the ballerina is in a retiré position and held low to the ground by a male dancer.

Finger Turns

A finger turn is a step in ballet where a ballerina turns while partnered with a male dancer, while being connected during their turn by their hands or fingers.


Fermé is a ballet term used to describe how the legs and feet end in a step. For example, when a dancer jumps into the air and closes both feet in the fifth position, it is referred to as sissone fermé.


A Failli is a preparatory step used by ballet dancers before a jump. In a failli, a dancer will seem to dégagé each leg to the front immediately after the other with a small jump.

en Face

en Face is a term in ballet used to describe the direction a dancer is facing. En Face means the ballet dancer is facing the audience.


Grande is a term in ballet that means large and is usually used to describe a step, and not used alone. For example, grande allegro or grande jete.


A glissade is a small jump in ballet that is used to link other steps together. A glissade is performed by plieing in fifth position, and then sliding one foot out into a dégagé.


A Gargouillade is performed by ballet dancers by degagering on a single leg to the side, then performing a rond de jambe with that same leg, while pushing from the floor with the other leg, and doing a rond de jambe with that leg.

en Haut

En Haut is a term in ballet that refers to a position being done in a high position. You’ll typically here En Haut used with fifth position. For example, “Fifth en Haut.”


A Jeté is ballet term for a jump where the dancer extends one leg and then jumps off the floor with the other. There are many forms of Jeté’s including petit, grande, battu, and more.

Petit jeté

A petit jeté is similar to the term jeté, but refers to a smaller jump and is typically used in petit allegro combinations.

Grand jeté

A grand jeté is a big jump typically done by intermediate to advanced ballet students.

Jeté Battu

Jeté battu is a petit jeté that is also beaten with straight legs before landing in court-de-pied.

Jeté entrelacé

Jeté entrelacé is an interlaced jump, where a dancer will throw a single leg in the air, jump and bring the other leg to meet the leg that is in the air, and switching their body position half way around, before landing in arabesque.


Line is a common term used in ballet to describe the outline of a dancer’s complete body as they perform steps.


Manèges is a term in ballet that describes when dancer’s do movements or steps in circular patterns.


Ouvert is a term used in classical ballet that is synonymous to effacé.


A plié is a basic movement in ballet that is defined as a ballet dancer bending at the knees. A plié can be done in 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 5th positions.


Pas is a term used in ballet to describe a step. You’ll commonly hear pas being used for almost any step that involves the transfer of weight.

Pas de Couru

A pas de couru is a moving step used to prepare for a grandé allegro or grandé jeté. When a dancer is performing a pas d couru,they will look like they’re kicking their legs in front in rhythm.

Pas de Action

Pas de action is a term used to describe a story that is being told though movements. This describes almost every ballet.

Pas de Basque

A pas de basque originated from the national dances of the basque. It involves a dancer starting from a plie on the left leg, and then extending their right leg into a tendu front croise, and then sliding their right foot in a half ron de jambe to carte back while staying in plie. Finally, the ballet dancer will transfer weight from their left leg to the right so the left is in tendu carte before finishing in the fifth position.

Pas de bourrée

Pas de bourrée is a beginner step in ballet and used in preparation for pirouettes and jumps.

Pas de Chat

A pas de chat is a step in ballet that starts in fifth position. The dancer’s right foot will be in back, then the dancer will plie, jump with the right leg to go into retiré, and quickly move the left leg into passé. Following this, the ballet dancer will then place their right foot on the floor first, followed by the left in front to fifth position.

Pas de Cheval

A Pas de Cheval is a step in ballet where a dancer starts in fifth position. From fifth, the ballet dancer will lift the front leg into you-de-pied, and then extend into a tendu. A pas de cheval can also be performed ending in a dégagé in all three positions.

Pas de Deux

Pas de deux refers to a dance when two dancers are paired together. Usually, every classical ballet will feature at least one pas de deux.

Pas de Quatre

Similar to a pas de deux, a pas de quatre is comprised of four ballet dancers.

Pas de Trois

Pas de trois is a partnering in ballet of at least one male and either two female ballet dancers, or another male and female.

Pas de Valse

A pas de valse is done individually by female dancers, or sometimes with a partner. During a pas de valse, a dancer will extend and step one leg as the other brushes front while decorating the step with a classical port de bras.


Passé is classical term in ballet that refers to when a dancer goes through the retiré position.


A Penché in ballet is when a dancer bends forward over a single leg while the other is in arabesque well above 90 degrees.


Pied is a classical ballet term that means “foot.”

Piqué is a term used in ballet to describe the transfer of weight from ballet dancer on full pointe or demi-pointe.

Piqué Tour

a Piqué tour or Piqué turn, is a common step done by female ballet dancers. A ballerina doing a Piqué turn will step directly on to full point or a high demi-pointe right as they begin to turn onto that same leg.

Piqué Manege

Piqué manege is a term in ballet that describes Piqués done in circles.


A pirouette is popular term in ballet that describes the turning around of a ballerina on a single leg with the other leg off the ground and in a position.

Pirouette a la seconde

Pirouette a la seconde defines a a spin with a leg in second position.


A promenade is a term in ballet that is when a dancer turns on a single leg while the standing leg’s heel is on the floor. The other leg will be in a position such as arabesque, etc.


Préparation is a classical ballet term that defines a preparation step/movement/position.

Pirouette en Dedans

A pirouette en dedans is a pirouette that turns inwards on the standing leg.

Pirouette en Dehors

A pirouette en dehors is a pirouette that turns towards the direction of the lifted leg.


A polonaise is defined as a dance in classical ballet that is done in 3/4 time.

Port de Bras

Port de Bras is defined in ballet as the movement of the arms from one position to another.


Quatrième is a term in ballet that refers to the fourth (4th) position.


Raccourci is commonly used in the French school of ballet and has the same meaning as the term retiré.


Régisseur is a term used in ballet for the title of someone who restates or rehearses a ballet company.


Relevé is a term used in ballet to describe when a dancer rises on their toes en pointe.

Relevé lent

Relevé lent is a term common in Russian ballet schools for a position where the dancer starts with straight legs, then lifts a single leg off the floor while raising up to Relevé on the supporting leg. Then, the ballet dancer will move in a slow adagio tempo without a plié.


Renverse is when a ballet dancer bends their body from the waist, both sideways as well as backwards, with their head following the movement of the body.


Retire is also known as passe, and is the position where a ballet dancer raised their thigh with the knee bent, while the pointed foot is placed either in the front, back or to the side of the supporting knee.


Retombe means when a ballet dancer falls back to the original position from where they started.

Grande Reverence

A grande reverence is curtsy from a female dancer after a performance.


Rivoltade is performed by male dancers. It is when they do a battement on a single in the air and jump over it with the other leg.


Rond is a rounding movement associated with other terms such as rond de jambes.

Rond de Bras

Ronde de bras is used to define a ballet dancers roundness of their arms in first, or fifth positions. This is not a commonly used term.

Rond de Jambe

Rond de Jambe is a common step in ballet and is a circular movement of the leg. There are several variations of rond de jambe including:

    • Rond de jambe a terre
    • Double rond de jambe
    • Rond de jambe en l’air
    • Rond de jambe en l’air releve
    • Rond de jambe en l’air saute
    • Fouette rond de jambe en tournan
    • Rond de jambe ferme
    • Grand rond de jambe jete


A Royale is a classical term in ballet for a dancers jump when they beat their legs once before changing position of their feet and landing.


Sauté is a step performed while jumping in ballet. It is commonly used while closing in fifth position.

À la seconde

À la seconde is a term used in ballet that indicates a movement should be done with the feet in second position.

Sur Les Pointes

Sur le Pointes means on the tips of your toes while wearing pointe shoes.


Spotting in ballet refers to when a ballet dancer turns their head while doing turns to keep from getting dizzy and to maintain balance while doing several turns.


Soutenu is a term in ballet that refers to a dancer turning in a sub-sous or fifth position en pointe, and ultimately ending up with the opposite foot in front.


Sus-sous is a term in ballet that refers to when a dancer springs one releve en pointe, and quickly placing the back foot closest behind the front in fifth position with fully stretched legs.


Soubresaut is a term in ballet that describes a quick jump from two feet and with the dancer landing on two feet in fifth position.


Sissonne is a ballet term that describes a dancer jumping from two feet and splitting there legs like scissors in mid-air prior to landing.


Sickling is a term used in ballet to describe a ballerina’s foot being incorrectly pointed, giving it a curved look. This is commonly caused by either poor form, or pointe shoes that are not the right fit.

Saut de basque

Saut de basque refers to a traveling jump by a ballet dancer where they turn in the air with a single leg in a retire position.

Saut de chat

Saut de chat refers to a particular jump in ballet which varies based on the school of ballet such as French or Italian, etc.

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