Piqué in French means “to prick, or be stung.” A piqué movement in ballet consists of the dancer lifting the toes of the working foot/leg to “prick” the floor. We have engaged the piqué in two movements so far – at the barre in combination with the dégagé (disengaged) tendu in both classes, as in a turn in the Intermediate class.
The piqué turn is a traveling turn, and are usually performed in multiples (such as three turns in succession). In a piqué turn, the dancer lifts his/her leg into a strong passé and turns either on the demi pointe (if in slippers) or full pointe (if in toe shoes). Piqué turns are found in both the adage and allégro rhythms in ballet, and have also been adopted into other forms of dance, such as jazz.
Arms in the piqué turn typically move from second position to first position as the turn is performed – this helps both with momentum (so that that full revolution of the turn is completed), as well as keep the upper body upright (so that the dancer doesn’t fall forward or to the side).
Because piqué turns travel, it is very important to spot during the turn so that the dancer doesn’t become dizzy or disoriented. This video from BalletHub shows a dancer en pointe doing numerous piqué turns, and gives some great tricks for keeping the upright alignment in the turn. One aspect of the piqué turn that may differ dependent on style or school is the format for the passé – whether or not the toe is held in front of the knee (en dehors) or behind it (retiré/en dedans). Both are correct and have their advantages, but in our classes we are performing piqué turns en dehors (with the toe tucked in front of the knee).
I find that this helps novice dancers to maintain an upright posture during revolution even if they do not have strong turn-out, whereas the turns performed in retire sometimes lead to the passé leg sliding out of position (and thereby wrecking the dancer’s balance) during rotation. This very detailed blog post from Dance Advantage discusses the different forms of piqué and shows some great examples of ways that piqué (both in barre exercises and in a turn) is utilized.
Piqué takes a lot of practice to master – the operation of lifting and controlling the toe as it pricks the floor is something that only repetition and exercise can secure. But it is a critical and useful movement in classical ballet, and one that every dancer should aspire to achieve.