As discussed in an earlier spotlight, there are five standard positions for the feet. In addition, there are several different techniques used to position the foot along the support leg during steps, turns, and exercises at the barre:
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), including the traditional battement fondu.
Coupé: “to cut” – an active transition step in which the foot is pointed at the supporting leg just above the ankle. The coupé step can be performed in front of the supporting leg (devant/en dehor) or behind the supporting leg (derriere/en dedans).
Something to be aware of – the different schools of classical ballet often have different names and conceptions for the same kinds of movements. Coupé is a good example of this: in some schools of ballet, the coupé is actually performed closer to the knee than the ankle, and in others, the coupé is synonymous with a cou-de-pieds. In our classes, coupé will refer to a position of the toe about 4 inches above the supporting leg’s ankle.
Passé: “passed through” – a position in which the pointed toe is passing the knee of the supporting leg. It is also sometimes just referred to as a retiré. As with the cou-de-pieds and coupé, the passé can be performed in front of the supporting leg (devant/en dehor) or behind the supporting leg (derriere/en dedans). A strong passé is extremely important for turns – especially the classic pirouette (turn on one foot). This very good article from BalletHub looks as the different elements of a proper passé and gives some great tips for dancer improvement.
Each of these forms can be practiced either with the whole foot flat on the floor, or on the demi-pointe (en relevé). Passé especially is most often performed up on one’s toes, either on the demi-pointe in soft slippers, our on full pointe in toe shoes (as Laura DeLorenzo from the Ellison Ballet in New York is, below).
We will practice all of these different positions during our exercises at the barre, and will then utilize these fundamentals whilst performing steps and turns en centre.