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Ballet Glossary

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

A

    A la séconde - Meaning literally, “to the side.” A la séconde refers to the placement of the working leg, in this case positioned directly to the side of the dancer, raised or touching the floor.

    Act - A division of a ballet that contains one or more scenes. Typically an act in any classical or romantic era ballet will average about an hour in length, though it varies between performances. Some ballets, such as Giselle, are only two acts, while Swan Lake is divided into four.

    AD - Stands for “Artistic Director.” The AD is the head of a ballet studio or company, and the person from whom orders are given, cast lists are made, and dreams are granted or crushed. Ballerinas can be heard ranting about their AD frequently, especially during casting season.

    Adagio - Meaning “slowly,” an adagio is a part of ballet comprised of slow, soft, flowing movements. In a Grand Pas de Deux, the adagio is the second portion. It follows the entrée and precedes the variations and coda.

    Allegro - Meaning “joyful,” an allegro is a part of ballet comprised of quick movement and many jumps. Petit (little) allegro involves small, quick jumps and lightning fast footwork, while grande (big) allegro features the enormous leaps and jumps that have become the hallmark of ballet.

    Allongé - Meaning “elongated.” Allongé refers to a position of the arms in which they are fully extended.

    Aplomb - A term to describe the central line or stability of a position. A dancer wants to maintain perfect aplomb, meaning that his/her movements are controlled and steady.

    Arabesque - Meaning “in Arabic fashion,” the arabesque is a staple ballet pose. It is performed when the dancer stands on one leg, with the second leg extended straight behind and the upper body held upright. Arm positions can vary depending on both the method of ballet and the choreography of a particular piece.

    Arrière - Meaning “to the back.” Any movement that moves the dancer upstage or away from the audience is done en arrière.

    Assemblé - Meaning “assembled.” A jump in ballet in which the dancer extends a leg to the side, jumps from the second leg, then brings the legs together in midair before landing; thus “assembling” the legs in midair.

    Attitude - A position in ballet in which the dances stands on one straight leg with the other lifted and knee bent at a 90 degree angle. Both legs are turned out fully. An attitude can be held to the front (devant), side (a la séconde), or back (dérrière).

    Audition season - For pre-professional dancers, audition season refers to January through mid-April when SI auditions are held. These four-plus months are packed with nerves, excessive questions regarding audition policies on hair accessories, and a minimum, once weekly nightmare about a failed penché.

B

    Balancé - A movement in which the dancer extends one leg, transfers the weight to that leg, moves their weight to the other foot and back again. It is a dance step, performed most commonly to waltzes in three-quarter time, with a “down, up, down” rhythm to the step.

    Balanchine bun - A Balanchine bun is a bun placed super high on a ballerina’s head, giving the illusion of more height and therefore longer lines. The use of Balanchine buns began at Mr. B’s School of American Ballet, but has since become a favorite of dancers wanting a little lift in their hair.

    Balançoire - Meaning “swing.” A movement in which the dancer “swings” the working leg back and forth.

    Ballabile - Meaning “danceable,” this term describes any scene or portion of a ballet in which most or all of the cast are actively performing a dance on stage.

    Ballerina - The title used for a principle or professional female dancer.

    Ballet - A term used to describe several things related to the art of ballet:
  • A dance production in which there is a musical (usually orchestral) score, anywhere from one to one-hundred dancers, and the use of classical dance elements such as choreographed movements, gestures, and technical feats. Celebrated for its precision of movement, grace, and poised air.
  • The art of ballet, a form of classical dance that evolved in the late 17th century France. Characterized by elegant gestures, pantomimes, and poised posture combined with technical feats such as leaps and turns.
  • A company of dancers, directors, choreographers and teachers whose primary goal is to put on shows that display works of ballet. A ballet company can be as small as ten dancers in a community or as large as over a hundred dancers, such as the New York City Ballet.

    Balletomane - Coined in Imperial Russia, balletomane refers to all those who are ballet fans or audience members.

    Ballon - The quality of mid-air suspension and floating that a ballet dancer hopes to achieve. A dancer with ballon appears as though he/she is floating for a brief instant in the air, rather than simply jumping up and down.

    Balloné - Meaning “ball like.” The balloné is a jump in which the dancer extends a leg to the side, leaves it extended as they jump in the direction it is pointed before landing with the leg bent back in towards the body. The jump can be performed a variety of ways—as well as executing the movement without leaving the ground—used frequently en pointe.

    Balloté - Meaning “tossed,” the balloté is a jump that begins on two legs. While in the air, the dancer must maintain position before landing with one leg thrown open. The jump is often performed consecutive times, with the dancer alternating which leg is thrown open on the landing.

    Barre - The cylindrical wooden apparatus that all dancers use to practice their technique. Dancers can place one or both hands on the barre in order to stabilize themselves as they train to perform various steps in the center.

    Battement - Meaning “beaten,” a battement is a kicking movement executed by one leg. The dancer may perform a battement in various tempi and heights, to the front, back or side.

    Battement serré - Meaning “tight beat.” A move in which the dancer begins with the foot in sur le cou-de-pied, then moves it from the front to the back of the ankle very quickly, making it appear as though the foot is quickly and tightly beating the standing leg.

    Batterie - Meaning “battery,” batterie includes several jumps in which the dancer switches legs a number of times in the air, while beating the calves together.

    Battu - Meaning “beaten.” A term used in conjunction with a jump to indicate the additional beating of the legs in midair.

    Bourré - Named after a dance of French origin, a bourré is a movement in which the dancer, en relevé in fifth position, moves first the back foot, then the front foot in tiny steps across the stage. Performed correctly, a bourré creates a rippling effect in the movement of the lower body, while the upper body appears to glide across the floor.

    Bras bas - Meaning “lowered arms.” A position in which the arms are both lowered and rounded, falling to both sides of the hip.

    Brisé - A small jump in which the dancer extends one leg from fifth position to seconde, jumps from the other foot, mid-air beats the first leg against the second, and switches before landing.

    Bunhead - A bunhead is simply a dancer, but one who goes above and beyond just taking class—she lives, eats, breathes, and sleeps (and dates) ballet. Her days are packed with rehearsals, and if she’s in high school, she’s the girl allowed to leave campus three hours early to attend to her future career.

    Bunhead - A bunhead is simply a dancer, but one who goes above and beyond just taking class—she lives, eats, breathes, and sleeps (and dates) ballet. Her days are packed with rehearsals, and if she’s in high school, she’s the girl allowed to leave campus three hours early to attend to her future career.

C

    Cambré - Meaning “arched.” A bend from the waist in any direction.

    Chaînés - Meaning “chains,” chaînés are turns that link continuously into one another and are performed consecutively without pause. They are done on demi-pointe or pointe, with the legs turning either in first or fifth position.

    Changement de pied - Meaning “changing of the feet,” a changement de pied (usually abbreviated to changement) is a jump in which the dancer switches feet in mid-air before landing. It is most commonly executed from fifth position.

    Chassé - Meaning “chased.” A movement in which the dancer slides one foot on the floor, jumps into the air, and brings both feet together before landing (the second foot “chasing” the first).

    Coda - Meaning “tail,” a coda is usually used to end a section of a ballet, whether to a pas de deux or entire piece. It is typically upbeat with impressive technical feats, such as the 32 fouetté turns in the coda of Swan Lake.

    Contre temps - Meaning “against time.” A transitional step in which the dancer extends the back leg to the side, then swipes it to the front in order to change direction.

    Corps de Ballet - Meaning “Body of the Ballet,” the Corps de Ballet is the ensemble of dancers who usually perform in unison, forming the background and filling in the setting behind the soloists and principle dancers.

    Coryphée - Meaning “head” or “leader.” A coryphée is the title given to a dancer at the head of the corps and one step below soloist. A coryphée usually performs in the front of all the dances in the corps de ballet, and is additionally responsible for executing any of the more difficult sections.

    Cou de pied - Meaning “neck of the foot.” Term referring to the thinnest part of the ankle.

    Coupé - Meaning “cut.” A movement in which the dancer stands either on one or both feet, then swipes a foot underneath themselves and into the cou-de-pied position, thus “cutting” in place to a new position without traveling.

    Couru - Meaning “run,” a couru is a series of very tiny steps performed quickly on either demi pointe or pointe, which gives the illusion of the feet flowing across the stage.

    Croisé - Meaning “crossed,” croisé is a position of the body in which the dancer faces diagonally toward the audience.

D

    Danseur - The most commonly used term to describe a male ballet dancer (in contrast to the term ballerina, used for women).

    Dégagé - Meaning “disengaged.” A movement in which the dancer brushes the foot across the floor and into a raised position, essentially freeing, or disengaging, it from the ground.

    Demi - Meaning “half,” demi can be used in conjunction with many ballet terms, such as demi pointe (standing on the ball of the foot as opposed to the tips of the toes) or demi plie (meaning a plie executed halfway down, with the heels still on the floor).

    Demi seconde - Meaning “half of second.” A position of the arms in which they are halfway between bras bas and second position, falling rounded at the sides. When a ballerina wears a tutu, her arms will frequently be in demi seconde, with the hands just on the outside of the fabric.

    Derrière - Meaning “behind.” A term that indicates the working leg is behind the dancer’s torso in any movement. Derrière can be applied to many terms, such as a tendu derrière, in which the working leg is extended on the floor behind the dancer

    Dessous - Meaning “under.” Applied to any movement in ballet in which the front leg is brought to the back.

    Dessus - Meaning “over.” Applied to any movement in ballet in which the back leg is brought to the front.

    Détourné - Meaning “around.” A turn in which the dancer takes a plié in fifth position, then springs up to sous-sus to do a 360-degree rotation before coming back to plie, having switched which foot is in front.

    Devant - Meaning “to the front,” devant can be applied to many ballet terms. For example, a dégagé devant would be a dégagé performed with the working leg moving in front of the dancer.

    Développé - Meaning “developed.” A movement in which the dancer stands on one leg, then brings the other through the cou-de-pied, retiré, and attitude positions before extending it straight to the front, side, or back.

E

    Ecarté - Meaning “separated.” A position of the body in which the dancer’s working leg is pointed toward one corner of the stage, with the rest of the body pointed towards the opposite corner. The direction of the head determines whether it is écarté devant or écarté derriere.

    Echappé - Meaning “escaped.” A movement that can be either a rise or a jump.
  • As a rise, the feet slide out from a closed position into second on either demi pointe or pointe, before sliding along the floor back to flat. 
  • As a jump, the dancer begins in a closed position, jumps, then slides the feet out to second midair before landing in an open position. The jump is repeated in reverse to return to a closed position. 

    Effacé - Meaning “erased,” a position in which the dancer turns diagonally away from the audience, thus “erasing” or hiding the furthest part of their body from view.

    Elevé - Meaning “rise.” When the dancer moves from standing on straight legs to either demi pointe or full pointe with no plie in between.

    Emboité - Meaning “boxed.” A movement in which the dancer stands en pointe or demi pointe in fifth position, then brushes one leg side to switch it on closing such that the foot in front changes with every step. Also a jump in which the dancer jumps from fifth position, maintains the position in the air, then lands with the back foot coming to the front in a fondu position.

    En croix - Meaning “in a cross.” When a movement is done front, side, back, then side again, thus forming the shape of a cross.

    En dedans - Meaning “medially.” Movement in a circular fashion in which the working leg goes from either back or side to a forward position.

    En dehors - Meaning “outwards.” Movement in a circular fashion in which the working leg goes from either front or side, then travels backward.

    En haute - Meaning “high.” A position in which both arms are raised above the head in a rounded position.

    En pointe - Literally meaning "on the tip of the toes." Dancers use a harder shoe known as "pointe shoes" or "toe shoes" to allow them to dance en pointe. Although men are capable of dancing en pointe, it is generally only done by women.

    En tourant - Meaning “turning.” A suffix added to a ballet term to indicate that a 360-degree rotation is completed during its execution. For example, a pas de bourré en tourant is a pas de bourré that turns 360-degrees as it is performed.

    Enchaînement - Meaning “chained.” A series of movements that are linked smoothly together to form one movement combination, taking the dancer across the stage.

    Entrechat - Meaning “interwoven.” A jump in which the dancer springs upward from two feet and switches legs various times in the air before landing. A dancer may even perform an entrechat huit where the legs move through eight positions before landing.

    Entrée - Meaning “entrance.” An entrée in a ballet can refer to the entrance of a character, scene, or, most commonly, a couple. For example, the first section of a grand pas de deux.

    Envelopé - Meaning “to envelop.” An envelopé is the opposite of the developpe movement. It is performed when the dancer extends one leg, and brings it into the retire position before sliding it down to cou-de-pied to a closed position. Envelopés can be performed to the front, side, or back.

    Epaulement - Meaning “shouldering.” The rotation of the shoulders used to create a more complex and aesthetically pleasing line.

    Extension - The ability of a dancer to raise their leg high above the ground. Though ninety degrees in every direction was once considered good extension, modern standards demand a 180-degree extension from most professional ballet dancers. Extension is more important for women than men, as men do not traditionally perform as the skill as often in ballet.

F

    Failli - Meaning “gave way.” A step where the dancer begins on one leg, with the other raised behind. The dancer then steps through with the back foot, moving it forward.

    Floor barre - Likely the two most dreaded words in a ballet student’s vocabulary, “floor barre” refers to a practice where dancers are taken through an entire barre while lying on the floor. It typically lasts at least one hour.

    Fondu - Meaning “melted.” A movement in which the dancer bends the standing leg, giving the appearance of lowering and melting downward.

    Fouetté - Meaning “whipped.” A movement in which the body quickly changes, or “whips,” directions. Fouette is applied to many ballet terms, including the famous fouetté en tourant, where the dancer turns quickly around as the working leg moves from a la séconde to retiré derrière, then back to retiré devant.

    Frappé - Meaning “struck.” A sharp movement in which the dancer uses the working foot to “strike” first the standing leg, then the floor, ending at a 45-degree extension in any direction, thus pushing through the muscles in the foot. A frappé can be performed from either flexed or pointed feet, depending on the desired method.

G

    Gargouillade - Meaning “water spout.” An advanced jump, similar to the pas de chat. The dancer begins by lifting one leg to the passé position, jumps, performs a ronde de jambe en l’air with the first leg, then the second before landing on one foot, then the other. The ronde de jambe may be performed either en dedans or en dehors, depending on the choreography.

    Glissade - Meaning “glided.” A step in which the dancer brushes one leg to the side, jumps with both legs extended in midair, then lands back on the first foot before sliding the other back into place.

    Grand allegro - A combination of large jumps that has the dancer travel across the entire studio or stage.

    Grand battement - Meaning “big beat.” A movement in which the dancer brushes a leg out and extends it to full height in any direction.

    Grand battement en cloche - Meaning “big beat like a bell,” a grand battement en cloche is the same movement as a balançoire. It is a grand battement that, instead of returning to the starting position, alternates swinging between front and back, like a bell.

    Grand pas de chat - A jump very similar to the grand jeté, only instead of brushing the first leg, the dancer developpés in order to reach the extended position seen in the air.

    Grand pas de deux - Meaning “big dance for two,” the grand pas de deux is a staple of classical ballets. It usually features five sections: 
1.  The entrée, which introduces the couple. 
2.  The adagio, in which they dance softly and romantically together. 
3.  The male solo variation. 
4.  The female solo variation. 
5.  The coda, in which they both perform highly technical feats and finish the section together.

    Grand plié - Meaning “big crease.” A full and fluid bending of the knees, in which the dancer lowers the hips so that they are eventually in line with the knees (which are fully bent). The heels are raised in every grand plié, except when performed in second position.

    Grande jeté - Meaning “big throw.” A well known jump, performed when the dancer brushes one leg forward to throw the body into the air such that both legs are briefly extended mid-air, before landing on the first leg.

    Grande ronde de jambe en l’air - Meaning “big circle of the leg in the air.” A move in which the dancer extends a leg to the front, carries it to the side and then the back (ideally without losing any height in the extension of the leg). It is performed frequently by ballerinas in the adagios of grand pas de deux.

H

    Hamburger hands - A term that makes every ballerina weep inside when used by a teacher, hamburger hands refers to a dancer whose hands are tense and splayed out, as though she were holding a gigantic sandwich or hamburger in her hand.

J

    Jeté - Meaning “thrown.” A jump occurring in place, in which the dancer extends one leg to the side, jumps such that both legs are extended approximately 45-degrees in the air, then lands on the opposite foot with the starting foot in the cou-de-pied position.

L

    Lame duck turn - A slang term used to describe a piqué turn en dehors. The movement originated in Swan Lake, where Odette—one of the lead roles—frequently performs the turn.

    Leo - Used by most as a first name for boys, a “leo” in ballet is simply the shortening of the word “leotard.” Dancers must put so much effort into their work that the extra breath required for the standard pronunciation of this piece of apparel is just too much to endure.

M

    Manège - Meaning “carousel” or “roundabout.” A term used to describe any movement or combination of movements by a dancer that carry them around the stage in a grand circle. Piqué turns are done frequently en manège.

    Merde - A phrase said between dancers before a show, meaning “good luck.” Traditionally, it is an alternative to phrases such as “break a leg” and “good luck,” which are considered bad luck among dancers.

    Mime - Traditional set hand gestures used frequently in ballet, particularly those of classical and romantic origin. Famous mime scenes included Act II of Swan Lake and both acts Giselle.

N

    Nut season - This refers to “Nutcracker Season,” the months of August through December in which a ballet dancer lives and breathes Tchaikovsky’s Christmas classic. Dancers have a love/hate affair with the Nutcracker, as they adore its magical production and fantastic score, but also resent the fact that it is performed every year at every school/company and takes an enormous amount of time and effort to be a success.

O

    Ouvert - Meaning “opened”. Indicates whether or not the position of the body and legs is “open” or if the legs are crossed and/or the body diagonal from the audience’s point of view.

P

    Pancaking - Ballerinas are seldom (if ever) seen eating pancakes and, as such, the use of the word in the ballet world refers to something entirely different from the delicious breakfast treat. Pancaking refers to the act of applying a mattifier, such as calamine lotion or foundation to a pointe shoe, in order to remove its shine.

    Partnering - The act of (traditionally) a male and female dancer working together through a series of movements. The male usually supports the female in lifts, turns, and other various feats.

    Pas - Meaning “step.” A word added to many ballet terms to more accurately describe them, such as “pas de chat” meaning “step of the cat”.

    Pas de Basque - Meaning “Basque step.” To perform a pas de Basque, the dancer extends a leg forward, carries it to the side then brings it down to the ground. The second leg is then brought to the front before the weight is transferred back to the first leg. The step is used frequently in Highland dancing as well as many other ethnic dances.

    Pas de Bourrée - Meaning “Bourrée step,” (Bourrée is a native French dance). The pas de Bourrée consists of three steps that bring the dancer’s front foot back or back foot forward, depending on how it is performed.

    Pas de chat - Meaning “step of the cat.” A small jump in which the dancer lifts one leg in a bent and turned out position, jumps into the air, then does the same with the second leg so that they pass in mid- air before landing back on the first leg.

    Pas de cheval - Meaning “step of the horse.” The dancer brings one foot into cou-de-pied, then developpés it out at a low angle. When performed correctly, it mimics the brushing motion of a horse’s hoof.

    Pas de deux - Meaning “dance for two.” Any dance that centers on two dancers.

    Pas de poisson - Meaning “step of the fish.” A jump usually performed by male dancers, where the dancer leaps from both feet in fifth position, and keeps the position in the air while arching his back such that they resemble a fish jumping out of the water.

    Pas de trois/quatre/cinq/etc. - Meaning “dance for…three, four, five, etc.” Often performed by soloists, these smaller groups of dancers perform divertissements between dances done by the whole corps and the principle dancers. Though they usually consist of four or less dancers, some classical ballets contain up to a pas d’huit or “dance for eight,” as in the ballet Markitenka or La Vivandière.

    Pas de valse - Meaning “waltz step.” A step in which the dancer transfers the weight forward in a “down, up, up” rhythm, akin to the three-quarter time signature of a waltz.

    Passé - Meaning “passed.” A position in which the working foot is placed just under the knee, with the leg fully turned out. Passé can also be used in conjunction with other ballet terms to indicate the passing through of a position.

    Penché - Meaning “leaned.” A movement beginning in arabesque. The dancer then pushes the working leg higher—usually at a peak angle of 180 degrees between legs - thereby forcing the upper body to lower to accommodate the higher leg.

    Petit battement - Meaning “little beat.” A term frequently used interchangeably with battement serré.

    Pied a la main - Meaning “foot in the hand.” A stretch performed frequently by dancers in which the heel of the foot is taken in one hand, the leg is extended forward, and then to the side in order to increase flexibility in the legs and achieve a higher degree of extension.

    Piqué - Meaning “pricked.” A movement in which the dancer has a leg fully extended with the foot pointed, then lightly “pricks” the toe on the floor and returns to the original position. The term can also be used to describe the way a dancer transfers weight—pique referencing when a dancer steps from demi plie with one leg extended, before transferring the weight on to that leg.

    Pirouette - Meaning “twirl.” A non-traveling turn that is performed on one leg, while the other leg is held in a variety of different positions, but most commonly retiré. It can be performed en dedans or en dehors, from many different starting positions and with a variety of arm positions.

    Plié - Meaning “crease” or “bending of the knees.” A movement in which the dancer smoothly bends the knees to lower the hips. In a demi plié, the heels stay flat on the floor and the hips remain above the level of the knees. In a grand plié, the knees bend and the hips continue to lower until they are level with the knees, with the heels rising to accommodate the bending in every position but second.

    Pointe shoe - The shoe a dancer uses to stand en pointe, with the weight on the top of the toes. The Pointe shoe was originally a slipper with darned tips, but is now made with many layers of burlap and paste or even advanced elastomeric materials to assist the dancer.

    Port de bras - Meaning “carriage of the arms.” Refers to the movement of the dancer’s arms through various positions in an attempt to create a graceful flow and clear, precise dynamic movement.

    Précipité - Meaning “to precipitate.” A move used frequently to prepare for another move. The dancer extends one leg forward, does a small jump to switch and extend the second leg.

    Principal dancer - The title given to the highest ranking dancer in a company. A principal dancer performs the starring roles of ballets, such as Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, the title role in Giselle, or Swanilda in Coppélia.

    Promenade - Meaning “a walk.” A movement where the dancer pivots on one heel in any position. Supported promenades feature one partner slightly propping up the other, then walking around him/her as he/she rotates 360-degrees in place, giving the audience a full view of the position.

R

    Relevé - Meaning “lifted.” A movement where the dancer plies then goes through straight legs before rising to either demi pointe or pointe.

    Renversé - Meaning “to upset.” A movement in which the dancer brings an extended leg from the front to the side, then “upsets” or disrupts his/her balance by bringing the leg into attitude derrière while tilting the upper body in the opposite direction.

    Retiré - Also known as passé. The dancer stands on one leg, with the other leg turned out and bent so that the foot is touching the knee of the standing leg.

    Reverence - Meaning “bow.” Reverence occurs at the end of a ballet class, when the students bow as a gesture of respect and thanks to the instructor.

    Ronde de jambe - Meaning “circle of the leg.” A movement in which the dancer circles their leg, either from back-to-front or front-to-back. It can be performed a variety of ways, including on the floor, in the air, or with the leg fully extended.

    Rubato - Meaning “robbed.” A term used when a dancer extends or shortens one movement, then has to compensate by lengthening or shortening the following movements to keep on tempo. For example, a ballerina that lengthens a balance in attitude derrière will have to quicken the following steps to stay in sync with the music and other dancers.

S

    Saut de basque - Meaning “Basque jump.” A jump, in which the dancer brushes one extended leg forward, leaps into the air, and brings the second leg into a retiré position to rotate 360 degrees before landing back on the first leg.

    Sauté - Meaning “jump.” Added to a variety of ballet terms to indicate that they are performed as a jump. For example, a sauté arabesque is a jump in the arabesque position.

    Scene - A length of time in a ballet, usually with one setting and one set of characters/dancers.

    SI - An acronym for “Summer Intensive,” a typically two to six week period of highly rigorous training and performances that take place during summer; sometimes dancers stay at their home studio, but most often times will travel to more prestigious and enriching summer programs.

    Sickle - A term referring to an improper pointing of the foot, in which the foot bends inward at the ankle joint. This creates both an unflattering line and a higher risk for serious injury.

    Sissonne - Named for its creator, the Sissone is a jump starting on two feet. The dancer jumps from fifth position, extends both legs to form either an arabesque, a la seconde, or devant position in midair before landing on alternately one or both feet.

    Soloist - The second highest rank for a dancer in a company. A soloist performs small solo roles in ballets, often as co-star or “friend” to the principal dancer. Soloists frequently perform together in small groups, such as the pas de trios and pas de quatre in Act II of Swan Lake.

    Soubresaut - Meaning “jolt.” A jump in which the dancer leaps from a variety of starting positions, and maintains the position in the air before landing the same way.

    Sous-sus - Meaning “over under.” A position in which the dancer is on either demi pointe or pointe, with the feet and legs crossed in a tight fifth position.

    Soutenu en tourant - Meaning “propped as a turn.” A turn in which the dancer steps onto one foot, slides the other into fifth position (on variously pointe or demi pointe), and then turns so that the foot that was in front is moved to the back position.

    Splits - A position demonstrating flexibility in the legs (particularly the hamstring) that is utilized in many different movements and poses in ballet. The term includes both front splits (one leg forward and one leg back) and middle splits (both legs out at the side). The ideal angle for either splits position is 180 degrees, though many dancers can stretch to further angles in what is known as oversplits.

    Spotting - A technique used by dancers to prevent dizziness during turns. The dancer focuses on a spot, and holds the location for as long as possible before turning. They then whip their head around quickly to refocus on the same spot.

    Sur le cou-de-pied - Meaning “on the neck of the foot.” A position in which the dancer stands on one leg, with the other leg wrapped around the ankle.

T

    Temps de fleche - Meaning “step of the arrow.” A jump in which the dancer extends one leg to the front, jumps, then brings the second leg from a bent to a similarly extended position before landing back on the first leg. Ideally, the jump creates an effect resembling that of a bow shooting an arrow.

    Temps levé - Meaning “raising movement.” A jump where the dancer starts on one leg with the other raised, then jumps and lands in the same position.

    Temps lié - Meaning “joined movement.” A step in which the dancer transfers weight from one leg to another.

    Tendu - Meaning “stretched.” A movement in which the dancer brushes the foot along the floor and into a pointed, extended position. It can be performed to the front, side, or back.

    Tombé - Meaning “fell.” A transitional step in which a dancer either steps or jumps from one leg to transfer their weight to the other.

    Tour jeté - Meaning “thrown turn.” Also known as jeté entrelacé. A movement in which the dancer brushes one extended leg to the front, jumps into the air, rotates 180 degrees, and throws the second leg behind as they land.

    Tour piqué - Meaning “pricked turn.
  • En dedans: The dancer extends one leg forward and steps down en pointe or demi pointe. The second leg is then brought in retiré derrière as the dancer rotates 360 degrees and lands either in fifth or back to the first position to complete another turn. 
  • En dehors: The dancer extends one leg forward and then transfers weight to that leg. The second leg is extended to the side, then brought underneath the dancer, stepping onto pointe or demi pointe. The first leg is then brought into retire devant while the dancer makes a 360 degree rotation before landing.

    Tours en l’air - Meaning “turn in the air.” A move performed mostly by male dancers. Starting in fifth position, the dancer jumps with feet together and makes one or two complete rotations in the air before landing. Tours can land in a variety of positions, from fifth to arabesque to the knee.

    Turnout - The outward rotation of the legs from the hip sockets. Turnout is a hallmark of ballet and allow for a more pleasing aesthetic and ease of movement between positions. The ideal degree of turnout between both legs is 180 degrees—but many cannot quite achieve this degree of skill and a select few can actually turnout more.

    Tutu - A skirt worn frequently in ballets. The “romantic tutu,” seen in all Romantic Era ballets (such as Giselle) is made from soft tulle and extends to between the knee and ankle. The “classical” or “platter” tutu is seen in Classical Era ballets (such as Swan Lake) and made from a combination of tulle and stiff netting. They are often hooped with metal to help retain a circular shape.

V

    Variation - The term used to describe a solo in a ballet. One of the most famous examples is the Black Swan variation, a solo that takes place in Act III of Swan Lake.

W

    Waltz - Both a tempo of music (three-quarter time) and a specific style of dance. In ballet, a waltz is characterized by the use of waltz steps—chiefly the pas de valse.

    Warm-ups - For most athletes, a warm-up refers to exercise done to increase blood flow before practice. But for dancers, the term generally alludes to the wide array of adorable knitwear used to keep muscles warm. Warm-ups range from the standard solid color legwarmers to crossover sweaters, striped shrugs, back warmers, and ankle warmers.

Check out this Ballet glossary to find the sport-specific definitions for which you have been looking. From A to Z, we've got all the words covered.
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