Ballet is a French word which had its origin in Italian balletto, a diminutive of ballo (dance) which comes from Latin ballo, ballare, meaning to dance.

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Ballet is a type of performance dance that originated during the Italian Renaissance in the 15th century and later developed into a concert dance form in France and Russia. It has since become a widespread, highly technical form of dance with its own vocabulary based on French terminology.

It has been globally influential and has defined the foundational techniques used in many other dance genres and cultures. Ballet has been taught in various schools around the world, which have historically incorporated their own cultures and as a result, the art has evolved in a number of distinct ways.

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Ballett

A

À la seconde
A position of the leg to the side with the body facing directly forward (“en face”).

À la quatrième
One of the directions of body, facing the audience (en face), arms in second position, with one leg extended either to fourth position in front (quatrième devant) or fourth position behind (quatrième derrière).

À terre
Touching the floor.

Adagio
Italian, or French adage, meaning ‘slowly, at ease.’

  1. Slow movements performed with fluidity and grace.
  2. One of the typical exercises of a traditional ballet class, done both at barre and in center, featuring slow, controlled movements.
  3. The section of a grand pas (e.g., grand pas de deux), often referred to as grand adage, that features dance partnering.

Allegro

  1. Brisk, lively motion. An attribute of many movements, including those in which a dancer is airborne (e.g., assemblé, changement, entrechat, sauté, sissonne, soubresaut).
  2. Used in ballet to refer to all jumps, regardless of tempo.
  3. A category of exercises found in a traditional ballet class, e.g. petit allegro (small, generally fast jumps) and grand allegro (large, generally slower jumps).

Allongé
Refers to a hand and arm position when the fingers and elbows are extended and elongated, rather than forming the usual soft curve.

Aplomb
The apparent elegance and precision exhibited by a confident, accomplished dancer.

Arabesque
In dance (particularly ballet), arabesque (French: [aʁabɛsk]; literally, “in Arabic fashion”) is a body position in which a dancer stands on one leg (the supporting leg) with the other leg (the working leg) extended, straight, behind the body. The arm positions can vary and are generally allongé. The foot of the supporting leg may be flat on the floor, on the ball of the foot (demi-pointe/relevé), or on the tips of the toes (en pointe).

Arrondi
A position of the hand. Rounded, in contrast with allongé (‘stretched out’, as in arabesque).

Assemblé
Sometimes also pas assemblé. A jump that lands on two feet. When initiated from two feet, the working leg performs a battement glissé/dégagé, brushing out. The dancer launches into a jump, with the second foot then meeting the first foot before landing. A petit assemblé is when a dancer is standing on one foot with the other extended. The dancer then does a small jump to meet the first foot.

Attitude derrière
A position in which a dancer stands on one leg (the supporting leg) while the other leg (working leg) is raised and turned out with knee bent to form an angle of approximately 90° between the thigh and the lower leg. The height of the knee versus the foot and the angle of the knee flexion will vary depending on the techniques. The working leg can be held behind (derrière), in front (devant), or to the side (à la seconde) of the body. The alignment of the thigh compared to the midline in Attitude derrière will vary depending on the techniques. The foot of the supporting leg may be flat on the floor, en demi-pointe (ball of the foot), or en pointe (tips of the toes). The standing leg can be straight or bend (“fondu”).

Avant, en
A movement towards the front, as opposed to en arrière, which is conversely a movement towards the back. For example, a step travelling en avant moves forwards towards the audience, as in sissonne en avant.

Arrière, en
A movement towards the back, as opposed to en avant.

B

Balancé
A rocking sequence of three steps—fondu, relevé, fondu (down, up, down)—executed in three counts. Before the first count, one foot extends in a dégagé to second position (balancé de côté) or to the front (balancé en avant) or rear (balancé en arrière). The second foot in the sequence (in any direction) assembles behind the first to relevé in fifth or fourth position.

Balançoire
Swinging the working leg between front (devant) and back (derrière) through first position, usually in conjunction with grands battements or attitudes and involving seesaw like shifting of the upper body in opposition to the legs. Similar to en cloche.

Ballerina
A principal female ballet dancer.

Ballet technique
The foundational principles of body movement and form used in ballet.

Balletomane
A ballet fan or enthusiast. The word is of Russian origin c. 1930, with the suffix -mane coming from maniya (mania).

Ballon
Showing lightness of movement in leaps and jumps. A dancer exhibiting ballon will appear to spring effortlessly, float in mid-air, and land softly like a balloon.

Ballonné
In classical ballet, the term ballonné is a step where the leg is extended (can be front, side, or back) at 45 degrees. The knee is then bent and the foot brought to a sur le cou-de-pied position. This can also be done as a relevé or jump.

Ballotté
A ballotté is a jumping step in classical ballet that consists of coupé dessous and small developpés performed with a rocking and swinging movement. The step can be performed with the leg extensions at 45 or 90 degrees.

Barre
Exercising at a portable barre. A fixed barre can be seen in the background.
A sturdy horizontal bar, approximately waist height, used during ballet warm-up exercises and training. Fixed barres are typically mounted on mirror-covered walls; portable barres can be relocated as needed.

Battement
An alternating side-to-side movement of the working (non-supporting) leg. Typically performed in multiples, quickly and in rapid succession so that the working foot appears to be fluttering or vibrating.

Batterie
A general term for jumps in which the legs open slightly sideways and close (crossed in fifth position) multiple times, alternating feet. (See “Battu.)

Battu
A movement with an extra beating of the feet included, as in jeté battu.

Brisé
A jump consisting of an assemblé traveling either forward (en avant) or backward (en arrière), with an extra beat that “breaks” the jump in its travel. To execute a brisé en avant, the dancer demi-pliés in fifth position and brushes the back leg (through first position) to the front, then springs into the air and brings the second foot to meet it in the back before switching to the front to land, creating a beating action with the legs. In a brisé en arrière, the process is reversed, with the front leg brushing to the back and beating to land in front.

Bras croisé
Arm placement in which one arm is extended in second position away from the audience while the other is curved in first position (Cecchetti fourth position en avant or RAD/French third position).

Bravura
A flashy, showy and elaborate style of dance that involves a lot of elaborate steps and style to similar music. Usually during a key solo.

Bourrée
Abbreviation for pas de bourrée couru. Quick, even steps, often en pointe, giving the appearance of gliding. The word originates from an old French dance resembling the gavotte.[citation needed].

Dancing

Dance is a performing art form consisting of purposefully selected sequences of human movement. This movement has aesthetic and symbolic value, and is acknowledged as dance by performers and observers within a particular culture.