Dictionary of French Ballet Terms

Ballet Academy teaches using
French classical ballet terms

Terms are listed alphabetically – select first letter of term below to go to the Dictionary page you wish to see.

Ballet Terms web pages below listed Alphabetically

A-B  C-D   EH  I-L  M-P  Q-Z
Adagio (Adage) a succession of slow and graceful movements which may be simple or of the most complex
Air, en l’ Indicates that a movement is to be made in the air
Allégro bright and brisk movements.
Alonge extension of arms in arabesque
Arabesque, standing on one leg with raised leg extended in straight line to rear and foot pointed (4 positions used)
 Arriére, en backwards; shows a step is executed moving away from the audience



rising off floor, on one leg and landing on two (straightening both legs in air) and returning to fifth position




a position on one leg with the other lifted in back, the knee bent at an angle of 90 degrees and well turned out so that the knee is higher than the foot
Avant, en a given step is executed moving forward, toward the audience
Balancé a rocking step; an alternation of balance, shifting the weight from one foot to the other
Ballerina  usually the principal female dancer in a ballet company



A theatrical work or entertainment in which a choreographer has expressed his ideas in group and solo dancing to a musical accompaniment with appropriate costumes, scenery and lighting.
ballet d’action ballet that tells a story, many times tragic
Ballet master, ballet mistress person in a ballet company whose duty is to give the daily company class and to rehearse the ballets in the company repertoire
Balletomane A ballet fan or enthusiast. The word was invented in Russia in the early nineteenth century.


the light, elastic quality in jumping in which the dancer bounds up from the floor, pauses a moment in the air and descends lightly and softly, only to rebound in the air like the smooth bouncing of a ball
ballonne’ broad leap with battement kick
Ballonné, pas step in which the dancer springs into the air extending one leg to the front, side or back and lands with the extended leg either sur le cou-de-pied or retiré




step consists of coupé dessous and coupé dessus performed in a series with a rocking, swinging movement – ballotté is performed traveling forward on ballotté en avant and backward on ballotté en arrière to the place from which the first jump began
Barre horizontal bar opposite mirrors and along a wall in studio for class exercises – where every class begins exercises
Battement high or low kick: grand battement or petit battement
Battement fondu développé exercise in which the supporting leg is slowly bent in fondu with the working foot pointing on the ankle. As the supporting leg is straightened, the working leg unfolds and is extended to point on the floor or in the air
Battement frappé exercise in which the dancer forcefully extends the working leg from a cou-de-pied position to the front, side or back. This exercise strengthens the toes and insteps and develops the power of elevation
Battement sur le cou-de-pied, petit an exercise at the bar in which the working foot is held sur le cou-de-pied and the lower part of the leg moves out and in, changing the foot from sur le cou-de-pied devant to sur le cou-de-pied derrière and vice versa
Battement tendu the working foot slides from the first or fifth position to the second or fourth position without lifting the toe from the ground. Both knees must be kept straight. When the foot reaches the position pointe tendue, it then returns to the first or fifth position
Battement, grand exercise in which the working leg is raised from the hip into the air and brought down again, the accent being on the downward movement, both knees straight
Batterie beating together of feet or legs, esp. in midair
Battu beaten – any step embellished with a beat is called a pas battu. As, for example, in jeté battu
Bourre’e traveling movement with feet moving in tine steps from tight fifth position
Bras arms
Bras bas



arms low or down – This is the dancer’s “attention.” The arms form a circle with the palms facing each other and the back edge of the hands resting on the thighs. The arms should hang quite loosely but not allowing the elbows to touch the sides
Bras, positions des the four arm positions


jump in which one leg beats against the other in midair;  small beating step in which the movement is broken. Brisés are commenced on one or two feet and end on one or two feet
Brisé volé flying brisé – the dancer finishes on one foot after the beat, the other leg crossed either front or back

*If  you wish to see a video of many of the above ballet terms performed; go to   the American Ballet Theater version ofBallet Terms. Your browser will have to have the Quick Time Movie plug-in installed in order to view the video.

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Last modified: August 03, 2017