Ballet Fundamentals

I was asked recently if I could post the learning list from Ballet Basics for fall semester. These are the techniques and forms that we covered from September through December 2015, many of which will be described in more detail in a technique spotlight later on:

Plié: to bend; a dip at the knees

  • Demi-plié: bending half-way at the knees – careful not to allow heels to come off the floor in P2!
  • Grand-plié: full bend at the knees – careful not to sit on your heels!

Relevé: “to rise” – lift oneself on one’s toes (the demi-pointe)

Battement: “to beat/strike” – to extend the leg out from the body, either with feet on the floor or in the air

  • Battement tendu: extension of the leg with the pointed foot kept on the floor
  • Battement tendu avec piqué: extension of the leg with quick tapping of the pointed foot on the floor (“pricking” the floor); often just shortened to piqué
  • Battement tendu dégagé: extension of the working leg with pointed foot leaving the floor up to 45°. Sometimes also called a battement jété (“jump-out-leg”)
  • Grand Battement: “big strike” – extension of the leg with pointed foot starting on the floor, moving through a tendu dégagé to a rise of at least 90° (parallel with the floor), and sometimes as high as 130°
  • Battement en Cloche: to swing the leg forward and back through tendu to grand battement, as though your leg were the striker on the inside of a bell (en cloche)
  • Battement fondu (à la développé): “melted strike out in the air” – a combination exercise, wherein the leg is extended out from a pointed foot starting at the ankle (cou-de-pied), with the supporting leg beginning in plié and then straightening up

Ronde de jambe: “to circle the leg”

  • Ronde de jambe à terre: to circle the leg on the floor (sometimes written as “par terre” – “on the ground”)
  • Ronde de jambe en l’air: to circle the leg in the air

Cou-de-pieds: “cut the foot” – a position in which the toe is pointed at the ankle of the supporting leg. Used as a starting position for different movements en l’air (in the air)

Coupé: “to cut” – an active transition step in which the foot is pointed at the supporting leg just above the ankle. The coupe step can be performed in front of the supporting leg (devant/en dehor) or behind the supporting leg (derriere/en dedans).

Passé: “passed through” – a position in which the pointed toe is passing the knee of the supporting leg. Passé retiré is the most common form, wherein the toe is pointed and tucked just under the inside of the supporting leg’s knee.

Pas de Bourrée: A quick traveling step in the allégro rhythm. Pas de bourrée begins with extension of the first leg while demi-plié, closing the first leg to the second as both transition to relevé, extending the second leg to an open position while relevé, and closing the first leg to the second in demi-plié. There are many different forms of this step, which is a core movement for crossing the stage.

Développé: “to open out/unfold” – to extend the leg outwards from the body, most often from a passé pose

Arabesque: a held position in which the body is supported on one leg with the working leg extended backwards and the knee is straight. Combined with different arm movements to form graceful extended poses.

Ecarté: held pose in which the body is opened outwards to the audience, leg extended to one side, with arms in a corresponding open position (such as PdB #2 or #3)

Attitude: similar to the arabesque, the attitude is a held position in which the body is supported on one leg, but the extended leg is bent at the knee. Often used as a transition pose between movements.

Cambré: “to fall” – bending at the waist to form a waterfall effect (either forward towards the floor, or in a back-bend); with arm in high 5th position (overhead)

Sauté: “to jump up” – a jump performed upwards in the air, landing on both feet

  • Sauté ordinaire: jumping up and landing in a single foot position
  • Sauté changement: jumping up in a crossed-foot position (P3 or P5), and changing the feet each time you land. Sometimes called an “entrechat”

Glissade: “to glide” – a traveling step in P5 where the foot slides out into tendu, and then reconnected with the supporting foot to close the position.

Pas de chat: “cat’s jump” – a small leap from one foot to the other; the feet are drawn up in plié so that the legs form a diamond in the air.



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