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Ballet step names

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I'm going to put this up in the hopes that some of our teachers (Mel? Oh, Mel? :wink: ) might have a spare moment and want to put up some step names, with a phonetic pronunciation, and an explanation that could be understood by someone Discovering Ballet. (Starting with the basics, of course, the top 10 steps, maybe 20.)

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Great idea, Alexandra :wink: I will start off with a few that I think are relatively important ;):

Barre - pronounced bar ( I put this in because a LOT of people misspell this word)

Plié - plee AY; bending movement, as in demi plié and grande plié

Tendu - tahn dew; from etendre, to stretch. It is a stretch of the foot to a pointed position in front, side or back.

Dégagé - day gah ZHAY; also known as glissé or battement jeté. An elongated tendu, one which disengages from the floor.

Rond de jambe - rond duh zhamb; round of the leg. The working leg moves in a circular motion, either front to back (en dehors) or back to front (en dedans).

En dehors - on duh OR; outward, moving away from center, or front to back

En dedans - on duh DAHN; inward, moving towards the center, or back to front

Port de bras - por duh bra; carriage of the arms

Fondu - just as it looks, fondu; melting acting, as in bending on one leg into a demi plié

Frappé - frap AY; to strike. An exercise at the barre for quick ankle and knee motion. Can be done with an actual strike on the floor with the ball of the foot, or with a pointed foot. Different methods do this exercise rather differently.

Retiré- ruh tee RAY; withdraw. A position of the working leg with the toe on the knee of the supporting leg, used for pirouettes and pointe work and on the way to a developpé.

Developpé - dev low PAY; to unfold or develop. Leg moves from 5th with toe sliding up the leg to the knee and then unfolding outward to the front, the side, or the back.

Petit Battement - puh tee bat mahn; small beats. Working foot moves very quickly back and front around the ankle in a sur le cou de pied position.

Grand Battement - grand bat mahn; big beats :) An overgrown dégagé! Working leg goes through tendu and dégagé and is "thrown", or lifted, to a position as high as possible (within reason of course ;)), and comes down through the tendu and into the 5th position.

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Most often a center barre will then follow usually starting with

Positions of the body done with tendus, at least:

Croisé devant (crwa-ZAY duh-VAHN') [the ' is a glottal stop]The body faces 45º to the audience with the working leg crossed in front, with the same arm as supporting leg raised, the other to the dancer's shoulder level. Dancer looks away from working arm/leg.

Quatrième devant (KOT-ree-aym duh-VAHN') Body faces front, working leg goes straight front, arms are at the sides at shoulder level in second position.

Effacé devant (ef-fahs-AY duh-VAHN') Body faces 45º from straight front, working leg is open to the audience pointing directly in front of the dancer's torso. Same arm as working leg raised, head inclined and turned a bit away from the working leg so Mr. Balanchine can give you a kiss when he walks by.

Écarté devant (ay-car-TAY duh-VAHN') Body is 45º from straight front, one foot is pointed to the downstage side to the side of the dancer's torso. Same arm as working leg is raised. Line of view of dancer's eyes and head looking upward in the general direction of the upraised hand. Other arm is as in second.

A la seconde (a la seh-GKAWN) [the GK is halfway between a G and a K) Body faces straight front, the working leg goes to the side of the dancer and both arms are in second position.

Écarté derrière ( ay-car-TAY deh-RYEHR) Same idea as the devant, except that the working leg points UPstage and the dancer's eyes and and head follow the line of the downstage arm.

Effacé derrière ( oh figure it out) Dancer is facing 45º from straight front, and back leg is pointed behind the dancer, but open to the audience. Working arm and leg are the same, and dancer looks under upraised arm, with eyes and head lifted as if in écarté devant.

Épaulé devant (ay-pole-AY...) and derrière Similar to to effacé derrière, but arms are in oppositon to the legs, the working leg's arm being front and the supporting leg's arm going back to make a second arabesque. Devant faces 45º from front, derrière faces 135º from front, toward an upstage corner. The head looks back at the audience in the latter.

Quatrième derrière (you've got the hang of this now) Just like the one devant, but the working foot points straight back.

Croisé derrière Just like the one devant, but the working foot points upstage, and the dancer looks under the raised arm, which is the same as the supporting leg.


:mondieu: Next - arabesques!!! :speechless:

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Great going, Artistic Staff :wink: Thank you. (I took the liberty of reformatting, putting the terms in bold; if we underline, people might think they were links.)

(I'll delete this post in a day or two, but I didn't want you to think I was ungrateful!!!!)

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arabesques will be a minefield - might i suggest a separate thread for POSES (as distinct from STEPS)?

alexandra - this formatting is very helpful. (likewise delete this post, later)

my post is just mainly to point out that, in english-speaking countries outside of the USA, to my knowledge anyway, there is no such things as 'centre barre' - this is regarded as a tautology (or is it an aphorism, a whatasit or a whojamajig?) in the english-speaking countries i have been to (outside of USA) -

barre is AT the rail-thing.

center is NOT at the rail-thing!


Edited by grace
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And not everyone in the USA uses center barre either, grace! I do not. I usually do a first center combination, prior to adagio, which uses the positions of the body with tendus or dégagés, temps liés or tombés, maybe a rond de jambe or two, sometimes using more tendus or even frappés, and sometimes adding pirouettes or pirouette preparations. I think this is basically the idea of what they do in "center barre".

I don't see the need for a separate thread for arabesques, as they are "steps" too! In fact, they are steps, and I even prefer to think of them as things that move, as opposed to "poses", because poses become too rigid. :hyper:

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thanks mel - OK, so it's not a 'tautology', but 'paradox' is definitely not the word i was after. THAT one i DO know. i was after the term that means 'inherently contradictory'...?

victoria - of course i agree with you. i was just trying to come up with a way to keep the thread shorter...sorry.

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I can only speak from an RAD point of view but we have barre at the barre and centre paractice (without a barre) which include ports de bras, tendus etc when coming to the cerntre. As far as terminology for young children to remember things, I relate them to their level of understanding for example: en dehors goes out the door, en dedans (emphasise the N) comes in, and if any teachers do character work, pas de ( b)asques = b for ball (of the foot) and cifras (c my foot) showing a flexed foot. Just a couple of examples I use to help students learn the correct terminology and to remember what means what.

Hope this is still within this thread discussion :thumbsup:

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thanks mel - OK, so it's not a 'tautology', but 'paradox' is definitely not the word i was after. THAT one i DO know. i was after the term that means 'inherently contradictory'...?

I know this thread is from July, but I just wanted to say, "Ooh! Ooh! That's an oxymoron!"

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I didn't have the heart to say then, but I will now - a syllogism which holds that "If p, then not p" is a contradiction. An "oxymoron" is a combination of apparently contradictory words, but which holds a truth which becomes apparent on later examination or contemplation. The word itself is an oxymoron. Gr. Oxys = keen, Moros = foolish. "Sophomore" is another, and "parting is such sweet sorrow" an example of usage.

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For those French-speakers: Apropos to the e-accent endings of ballet words, for example Plié: doesn't this accent indicate past tense, the past participle from the passe compose. I've always wondered why ballet terms are not in the present tense, like plier or jeter (all pronounced the same as the past participle) Actually, this summer at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School, my French Canadian teacher actually conjugated the verbs. She'd say, jette or assemble. Curious.


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Hi Rachel ! You are half-right : plié can be the past participle in a sentence like "j'ai plié les genoux" "I've bent my knees" but I think in ballet it's the adjective which is used like "les genoux pliés" bended knees"

It could not be the infinitive "plier" , but as Mel says , it could be "pliez!" an order :wink:

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Here's some more clarification: The reason it's an adjective is because the full name of the step is "battement tendu" or "pas jeté," (the last one translates to "thrown step"). So the name of the step itself is not an adjective, but the adjective makes clearer exactly which step the teacher wants you to do :).

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Guest EnPointeForLife

Hey, this is some great stuff! Especially since I've been taking ballet for three years and I still don't know half of the terms...I'm going to study all of these!!! :blink:

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It is also HIGHLY recommended that all serious ballet students obtain a copy of Gail Grant's Technical Manual and Dictionary of Classical Ballet, and/or Gretchen Ward Warren's magnificent book Classical Ballet Technique.

The Gail Grant is very inexpensive, the Warren book relatively expensive but well worth it! They are both available through Amazon, and if you click on the link to Amazon, above, and order by going there from this site, the site receives a little tidbit of help! :blink:

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I call Gretchen Ward Warren's book the "Classical Ballet Technique" my ballet bible and highly recommend it. It has provided tremendous insight for me.

Gail Grant's Technical Manual and Dictionary of Classical Ballet is so inexpensive and yet so important I have just decided to buy them in bulk and give them to my graduates of Ballet IIIC as a "job well done" when they enter Ballet IVA. Spend the $5.00 and you will never regret it. It's funny how students will spend that much on a cup of coffee, but not a book. :rolleyes:

Here are two additions to the list that I find commonly misspelled:

Fouetté [fweh-TAY] - Whipped

Pirouette [peer-WET] - Whirl or spin

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Guest gingembre
I have just decided to buy them in bulk and give them to my graduates of Ballet IIIC as a "job well done" when they enter Ballet IVA.

That is such a wonderful thing to do! I'm sure your students love you. :blink:

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My total knowledge of ballet terms has been gained from a CD entitled BALLET CD-ROM by Victoria Morgan which not only explains over 700 terms but also speaks the term in perfect French and also demonstates in video form each term. :)

It was produced in the USA some years ago but may still be avaiable.

Sorry to be late in the discusion but better late than never :sleeping:

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What's the name of this step that the men do:

1. start in arabesque, bottom knee bent

2. jump off one leg and beat it against the leg in arabesque

3. land in starting position

4. repeat several times and hope that you don't look like a sack of potatoes!

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