Dictionary of French Ballet Terms

Ballet Academy teaches using
French classical ballet terms


 Ballet Terms below listed Alphabetically for C  to D

Terms are listed alphabetically – select first letter of term below to go to the Dictionary page you wish to see.
C-D   E-H  I-L  M-P  Q-Z

Cabriole An allegro step in which the extended legs are beaten in the air
Cabriole, double a cabriole in which one leg strikes the other in the air two or more times before landing.
Cavalier The male partner of the ballerina
Centre practice a group of exercises similar to those à la barre but performed in the centre of the room without the support of the barre. These exercises are usually performed with alternate feet and are invaluable for obtaining good balance and control
Chaînés a series of rapid turns on the points or demi-pointes done in a straight line or in a circle.
Changement springing steps in the fifth position, the dancer changing feet in the air and alighting in the fifth position with the opposite foot in the front
Chassé step in which one foot literally chases the other foot out of its position; done in a series.
Choreographer, choreographer term applied to one who composes or invents ballets or dances
Choreography, choreography term used to describe the actual steps, groupings and patterns of a ballet or dance composition
Cinq five
Cinquiéme fifth
Classical ballet traditional style of ballet, which stresses the academic technique developed through the centuries of the existence of ballet
Coda the finale of a classical ballet in which all the principal dancers appear separately or with their partners.
Corps body
Corps de ballet The dancers in a ballet who do not appear as soloists
Côté, de indicates that a step is to be made to the side, either to the right or to the left.
Cou-de-pied position working foot is placed on the part of the leg between the base of the calf and the beginning of the ankle
Coupé jeté en tournant compound step consisting of a coupé dessous making a three-quarter turn and a grand jeté en avant to complete the turn. The step is usually done in a series either en manège or en diagonale
Couru running
Croise’, croisée pose in which a dancer stands with legs crossed at an angle to the  audience. The disengaged leg may be crossed in the front or in the back
Croix, en the shape of a cross. Indicates that an exercise is to be executed to the fourth position front, to the second position and to the fourth position back, or vice versa
Danse dance
Danse de caractère dance of character, character dance
Dedans, en inward – indicates that the leg, in a position à terre or en l’air , moves in a circular direction, counterclockwise from back to front.  In pirouettes it indicates that a pirouette is made inward toward the supporting leg
Dehors, en outward – indicates that the leg, in a position à terre or en l’air, moves in a circular direction, clockwise.  In pirouettes it indicates that a pirouette is made outward toward the working leg
Demi-plié Half-bend of the knees. All steps of elevation begin and end with a demi-plié
Demi-pointes, sur les On the half-points. Indicates that the dancer is to stand high on the balls of the feet and under part of the toes. Also used in the singular, “sur la demi-pointe.”
Derrière refers to a movement, step or placing of a limb in back of the body. In reference to a particular step, the addition of derrière implies that the working foot is closed at the back
Dessous (duh-Soo) Under. Indicates that the working foot passes behind the supporting foot
Dessus (duh -Sew) Over. Indicates that the working foot passes in front of the supporting foot
Deux two
Deuxième second
Devant in front – refers to a step, movement or the placing of a limb in front of the body. In reference to a particular step the addition of the word “devant” implies that the working foot is closed in the front
Développé is a movement in which the working leg is drawn up to the knee of the supporting leg and slowly extended to an open position en l’air and held there with perfect control. The hips are kept level and square to the direction in which the dancer is facing.
Diagonale, en a step is to be done traveling in a diagonal direction
Divertissement diversion, enjoyment; short dances calculated to display the talents of individuals or groups of dancers.
Double double