This blog shares the details of Stowe & Mad River Dance Academy's teachers, students, classes and performances-all from the perspective of our very own students! The blog will change authors each month and we welcome feedback and ideas for new topics!
Students - Summer is a great time to
refresh your ballet terminology. Here are a few common terms - thanks to Wiki
À la seconde
side or in the second position. À la seconde usually means a movement
done by the feet to the side such as a 'tendu', 'glisse' or 'grand battement. A
technically challenging type of turn is a pirouette à la seconde, where
the dancer spins with the working leg in second position in à la hauteur.
This turn is usually performed by male dancers because of the advanced skills
required to perform it correctly. It is seen as the male counterpart of fouettés en tournant.
Adagio (Italian), adage (French),
meaning "at ease". In song, Adagio means "slowly", and in
ballet it means slow, enfolding movements, performed with the greatest amount
of fluidity and grace as possible. In a classical ballet class, the Adagio
portion of the lesson concentrates on slow movements to improve the dancer's
ability to control the leg and increase extension (i.e., to bring the leg into
high positions with control and ease). Adagio combinations typically occur in
the centre following exercises at the barre, and consist of the principal steps,
plié, développé, attitude, arabesque, and grande rond de jambe, to name a few.
pronunciation: [alˈleɡro]) Meaning brisk, lively. A term applied
to all bright, fast, or brisk movements. All steps of elevation in ballet fall
under the term 'allegro' such as sautes, soubresauts, changement, echappe,
assmeble, jete, assemble, sissone, entrechat, and so on. The majority of
dances, both solo and group, are built on allegro. The most important qualities
to aim at in allégro are lightness, smoothness and ballon.
"ellongate" Adjective describing a position as stretched out or made
longer, often used with arabesque.
Arabesque is the position of the body
supported on one leg, with the other leg extended behind the body with the knee
straight. The standing leg may be either bent, in plie, or straight. Arabesque
is used in both allegro and adagio choreography. The working leg is placed in
4th open, a terre (on the ground) or en l'air(raised). Armline defines whether
this is 1st, 2nd or 3rd Arabesque.
French pronunciation: [asɑ̃ble] Sometimes also pas
assemblé. Literally "assembled". A jump from two feet to two feet,
where the working leg performs a battement glissé/degagé,
"swishing" out. With the dancer launching into a jump, the second
foot then swishes up under the first foot.
position in which the dancer stands on one leg (known as the supporting leg)
while the other leg (working leg) is lifted and well turned out with the knee
bent at approximately 90-degree angle. The lifted or working leg can be behind
(derrière), in front (devant), or on the side (à la seconde) of the body. In
some styles of ballet, such as RAD, the foot should be below the knee, creating
an obtuse angle at the knee. In others, such as the Balanchine and Russian
styles, the foot must be in line with the knee or above it, creating an angle
that is 90-degrees or less. The attitude position can be performed
with the supporting leg and foot either en pointe, demi
pointe or on a flat foot. See also: Arabesque.
to the front, as opposed to arrière. For example, a step travelling en
avant moves forwards, towards the audience, e.g. sissonne en avant.
executed in three counts, the dancer typically begins in fifth
position plié. Before the first count, one foot extends in a degagé,
typically to second position. However, balancé devant or derrière are also
possible. Balancé is often confused with pas de valse, a waltz step. However,
when doing a balancé the three steps make a "down, up, down" motion
(fondu, relevé, fondu), whereas in pas de valse, a true waltz, the motion is
"down, up, up" (fondu, relevé, relevé).
seesaw or teeter-totter. A movement usually with grand battements or attitudes,
in which a dancer swings his/her leg front (devant) and back (derrière) through
first position. See, also, en Cloche.
A horizontal bar, approximately waist
height, typically made of wood or metal, that is used for ballet warm-up
exercises. Ballet classes commonly begin at the barre, and consist of half
their total class time at the barre. Dancers are often taught not to rely on
the barre as so much to treat it like a partner, holding on gently and still
maintaining their own weight. Fixed barres are typically mounted along mirror-covered
walls. There are also portable barres that can be relocated as needed.
"beat". A beating movement of
the working leg (i.e. the leg that is active). Battements are usually
executed in front (en avant or à la quatrieme devant), to the side (à
la seconde) or back (en arrière or à la quatrieme derrière).
Any step that adds an extra beat before finishing is considered battu.
"broken"] A jump. One leg is thrust from the fifth position to the
front in the air; the second leg reaches the first in mid-air executing a beat.
An alternate execution of brisé devant starts croisé in fifth position; brisé
derrière is executed similarly with the front foot initiating the movement and
brushing to effacé derriére. The back foot brushes through first to degagé
effacé devant, the bottom leg thrusts up to meet the top leg and beats to the
front and lands in the starting fifth position. It is a traveling movement; the
dancer executes an assemblé, then, doing a beat, changes fifth positions
in the air. The dancer may practice petits battements in preparation
for this step.
originates from an old French dance resembling the gavotte. In ballet, this
denotes quick, even movements often done on pointe, the movement gives the look
caper. An allegro step in which the extended legs are beaten in the air.
Cabrioles are divided into two categories: petite, which are executed at 45
degrees, and grande, which are executed at 90 degrees. The working leg is
thrust into the air, the underneath leg follows and beats against the first
leg, sending it higher. The landing is then made on the underneath leg.
Cabriole may be done devant, derrière and à la seconde in any given position of
the body such as croisé, effacé, écarté, and so on.
This is a
common abbreviation for tours chaînés déboulés, which is a series of quick
360 degree complete rotation turns on alternating feet with
progression, or chain, along a straight line or circle. The majority of
the revolution is completed on the leading foot with the remainder on the
trailing foot when it closes in first position. The turns are done with the
feet in a small, tight first position releve. "Spotting" of the head
is used to stabilize the torso in this and all turning exercises in ballet.
They are also known as "chaînés tournes". In classical ballet each
rotation is done on pointes or demi-pointes (balls of the feet).
"changing". A jump in which the feet change positions in the air. For
example, beginning in fifth position with the right foot
front, plié and jump, switching the right to the back, landing with
the left foot front in fifth position. In the Vaganova vocabulary, petit
changement de piedsindicates a changement where the feet barely leave
Chassé, literally "to chase". A
slide forwards, backwards, or sideways with both legs bent, then springing into
the air with legs meeting and straightened. It can be done either in a gallop
(like children pretending to ride a horse) or by pushing the first foot along
the floor in a plié to make the springing jump up. This step is
generally found in a series, either with several of the same or a combination
of movements. Like a glide.
"as a bell". Refers to grand battements executed continuously devant
and derrière through the first position. See, also, Balançoire. Note: the
Vaganova system currently refers to this movement as "Passe' la
Jambe" and "Battement Passe' la Jambe".
"tail". As in music, a Coda is a passage which brings a movement or a
separate piece to a conclusion.
'to cut'. Coupé is both a step and action: Coupé means to close, cut or tombe'
(fall) exchanging the from one leg to another and its by the ballet shoe,
exchanging weight from one leg to another through a closed position, usually
fifth, (rarely first or third). It is commonly executed from a sur le cou de
pied front to sur le cou de pied back or vice versa. (Cou de pied positions
vary greatly from method to method, school to school.) But it also may be done
from an extended leg position into fondu or directly through fifth position. It
can only be performed through a closed leg position. (Note: If the dancer
closes, cuts or tombe'e (fall) exchanging the from one leg to another through
an open position such as second or fourth it is referenced as "tombe' or
tombée. The Vaganova School rarely uses this term for this
action, except as the preparation for specific allegros. Rather, "Tombé
through fifth postion" is more common. In the United States, "Coupe" is confused
with "Cou de pied" and Sur le cou de pied.
crossed. One of the directions of épaulement. The dancer stands facing one
of the corners of the stage; his/her body is placed at an oblique angle to the
audience. The leg may be crossed to the front or to the back.
disengage. In-between a tendu and a grande battement, the foot slightly leaves
"half." Applied to plié and pointe and other
movements or positions to indicate a smaller or lesser version.
At or to
the back side. For example, a battement tendu derrière is abattement
tendu taken to the rear. point/face behind you.
"under". Used where the front leg is brought behind to the back of
the other leg, in techniques such as the assemblé, pas de bourrée,
"over". Used where the back leg is brought ahead to the front of the
other leg in techniques such as the assemblé, pas de bourrée,
"front". For example, tendu devant would mean stretching
the foot to the front, or attitude devant would mean executing
an attitude to the front. point/face to front
abbreviation for battement développé. A movement in which the leg is first
lifted to retiré position, then fully extended passing throughattitude position.
It can be done in front (en avant), to the side (à la seconde), or to the back
"discard", but also flat, like a card. One of the basic positions of
the body in which the dancer assumes a position with the body facing downstage
on a diagonal and points the downstage leg in second position, along the other
diagonal, either touching the floor or en l'air. The arms are held in
an attitude position with the arm that is on the same side as the
working leg raised in the air and the other arm trailing in second. The gaze is
directed nearly to the raised arm along the same diagonal.
"escaped". A movement done
from a closed (first or fifth) position to an open (second or fourth) position.
There are two kinds oféchappés: échappé sauté and échappé sur
les pointes or demi-pointes. In an échappé sauté, the dancer
takes a deep plié followed by a jump in which the legs
"escape" into either second (usually when starting from first
position) or fourth position (usually when starting from fifth position),
landing in demi-plié. In échappé sur le pointes/demi-pointes the
dancer, after taking a deep plié, springs
onto pointes or demi-pointes, ending in either second position
(when starting from first position) or fourth (when starting from fifth) with
knees straight. In all cases, the dancer may or may not return to the initial
position, depending on the choreography.
"erased" or "obscured". One of the directions
of épaulement in which the dancer stands at an oblique angle to the
audience so that a part of the body is taken back and almost hidden from view.
This direction is termed ouvert in the French ballet
vocabulary. Effacé is also used to qualify a pose in which the legs
are open (not crossed). This pose may be
taken devant or derrière, either à terre or en
l'air. If the front leg is the right, and the dancer is facing the front-right
corner of the stage (or dance studio), he is in effacé; or, if the front
leg is the left and she is facing her front-left corner, she is in effacé.
This position is the opposite of croisé.
"rise.” A relevé without
the plié, so that the dancer simply rises directly
to demi or pointe from flat feet and straight legs all the
way to the balls of the feet.
"in the shape of a cross" or "the cross." This term is
usually used when doing barre exercises such as battement
tendu and battement frappé. The required movement is done to the
front, then the side, then back and then again to the side (a cross shape)
closing in either first or fifth position.
within a circle so that the leg starts at the back or the side and moves
towards the front. For the right leg, this is a counter-clockwise circle. For
the left leg, this is a clockwise circle. For instance, in a ronds de
jambe en dedans, starting from first position, the foot (either left or right)
would first reach tendu back, then move to tendu to the
side and then front, to end again in first position.
"outwards". Movement within a circle so that the leg starts at the
front or the side and moves towards the back. For the working leg, this is a
clockwise circle. For instance, in a ronds de jambe en dehors, starting
from first position, the foot (either left or right) would first
reach tendufront, then move to tendu to the side and then back,
to end again in first position.
also considered an outside movement: in a pirouette en dehors the
dancer spins towards the side of the working leg (the leg raised
inpassé). En dedans is the opposite. Many people have trouble and
confuse en dedans and en dehors. En dehors can be
remembered with the phrase "En dehors, out the door."
step of beating in which the dancer jumps into the air and rapidly crosses the
legs before and behind." For example: in an entrechat-quatre starting
from fifth position, right foot front, the dancer will jump crossing her/his
legs and beating first the right thigh on the back of the left thigh, then at
the front of the left thigh, landing in the same position she/he started.
"shouldering.” Rotation of the shoulders and head relative to the hips in
a pose or a step. This term refers only to the movement of the body from the
waist up. Head generally looks over shoulder that is forward.
"to melt". Abbreviation for a battement fondu, a lowering of the body that is made by bending the knee of
the supporting leg. Saint-Leon wrote, "Fondu is on one leg what a plie is
"whipped". The term indicates either a turn with a quick change in
the direction of the working leg as it passes in front of or behind the
supporting leg, or a quick whipping around of the body from one direction to
another. There are many kinds of fouetté: petit fouetté (à terre, en
demi-pointe or sauté) and grand fouetté (sauté, relevé or en tournant). Similar
to a frappe. An introductory form for beginner dancers, executed at the barre
is as follows: facing the barre, the dancer executes a grand battement to the
side, then turns the body so that the lifted leg ends up in arabesque.
"whipped throw.” A leap which starts as a fouetté and then the
second leg also kicks in front.
full plié, or bending of the knees. The back should be straight and
aligned with the heels, and the legs are turned out with knees over the feet.
As a movement, it should be fluid. It may also be in preparation for another
movement such as a leap. Often done in first, second, third, fourth, or fifth
horizontal jump, starting from one leg and landing on the other. Known as a
split in the air. It is most often done forward and usually involves doing full
leg splits in mid-air. It consists basically of a grand écart with a
moving jump. The front leg brushes straight into the air, as opposed to
performing dévelopéor "unfolding" motion. The back leg follows
making the splits in the air. It can be performed en
avant (forward), à la seconde (to the side), en
arrière (backward), and en tournant (turning en dedans).The
dancer must remember to hit the fullest split at the height of the jump, with
weight pushed slightly forward, giving the dancer a gliding appearance. Very
likely or commonly used in modern ballet, as well.
Jeté is a jump from one
foot to the other similar to a leap, in which one leg appears to be
"thrown" in the direction of the movement (en avant, en arrière or
sideways). There are several kinds of jetés, such as petit jeté,grand
jeté, en tournant, jeté entrelacé, etc.
opened. This may refer to positions (the second and fourth positions of the
feet are positions ouvertes), limbs, directions, or certain exercises or steps.
In the French School the term is used to indicate a position or direction of
the body similar to effacé.
Pas de basque
of the Basques". Halfway between a step and a
leap, taken on the floor (glissé) or with a jump (sauté); it can be done moving
toward the front or toward the back. This step can also be found in Scottish highland
Pas de chat
step of the cat". The dancer jumps sideways, and while in mid-air, bends
both legs up (two retirés) bringing the feet up as high as possible, with knees
apart. The Dance of the Cygnetsfrom Swan Lake involves sixteen pas de chat, performed by four
dancers holding hands with their arms interlaced.
Pas de cheval
of the horse". The dancer does a cou de pied then a small developpé and tendu back
into starting position.
Pas de deux
"step of two". Pas de deux is a duet usually performed by a
female and a male dancer. A famous pas de deux is the Black
Swan pas de deux.
Pas de valse
step". A traveling step done to music in 3/4 time, either straight or
while turning (en tournant).
position passé means when a foot is placed near, on, below, or above
the other knee.
movement passé refers to the working foot passing close to the knee
of the standing leg. When the foot arrives by the knee, it passes from the
front to the back or back to front, and continues either to return to the floor
by sliding down the supporting leg or into an arabesque or attitude etc.
"pricked". A movement in which the strongly pointed toe of the lifted
and extended leg sharply lowers to hit the floor then immediately rebounds
upward. Same for some as the term pointé.
movement in which the dancer transfers a stance from one leg in plié to
the other leg by stepping out directly
onto pointe or demi-pointe with a straight leg; for example,
a piqué arabesque.
Means to "turn" or
controlled turn on one leg, starting with one or both legs
in plié and rising onto Relevé (usually for men)
or pointe (usually for women). The non-supporting leg is be held
in Passé. The pirouette may return to the starting position or finish
in arabesque or attitude positions, or proceed otherwise.
"to bend" A smooth and continuous bending of the knees.
be grand-plié, a bend to the deepest position. For demi-plié the
dancer bends knees until just below the classical hips while maintaining
turn-out at the joints, allowing the thighs and knees to be directly above the
line of the toes without releasing the heels from te floor. The intention here
is keep the heels on the ground as long as possible. In either instance, the
motion is fluid and does not stop in downward bend. As soon as the bottom of
the bend is reached the bend is reversed and the straightening of the legs is
begun, equally as smoothly.
Port de bras
"carriage of the arms". Sometimes misspelled "porte-bras".
An exercise for the movement of the arms to different positions, it is considered
a simple movement but a dancer works hard to make it seem graceful, poised and
seamless. The basic port de bras exercise moves from fifth en
bas to first arm position, to second arm position, then back down
to fifth en bas. A full port-de-bras moves from fifth en
bas to fifth overhead and back down but a variation of sequence is common.
up is critical to the success of a dancer because without it, the simple act of
rising up would be extremely difficult. It involves the use of the entire body.
The feeling of being simultaneously grounded and 'pulled up' is necessary for
many of the traditional steps in ballet. To pull up, a dancer must lift the
ribcage and sternum but keeps the shoulders relaxed and centered over the hips
which requires use of the abdominal muscles. In addition, the dancer must tuck
their pelvis under and keep their back straight as to avoid arching and
throwing themselves off balance. Use of the inner thigh muscles as well as the
'bottom' is very helpful in pulling up. Pulling up is also essential to dancer
en pointe in order for them to balance on their toes.
four, it is often used to indicate the number of something in ballet, such as
entrechat-quatre and pas de quatre.
Literally "lifted". Rising from
any position to balance on one or both feet on at least demi-pointe which
is heels off the floor or higher to full pointe (commonly for girls) where the
dancer is actually balancing on the top of the toes, supported in pointe shoes.
Smoothly done in some versions, a quick little leap up in other schools.
Rond de jambe
Means "round of the leg"
Actually, half-circles made by the pointed foot, returning through first
position to repeat; creating the letter 'D' on the floor. From front to
back rond de jambe en dehors, or from back to front rond de jambe en dedans.
"jump". As adjectives, sauté (masc.)
or sautée (fem.) French pronunciation: [sote] are used to modify the quality
of a step: for instance, "'sauté arabesque indicates
an arabesque performed while jumping.
Second position, seconde
position of the leg - The dancer stands with feet turned out along a straight
line as in first position, but with the heels about one foot apart. The term
seconded generally means to or at the side, Second position of the arm - raises
your arms to the side. Keep your arms slightly rounded. Lower your elbows
slightly below your shoulders. Make sure your wrists are lower than your
elbows. Keep your shoulders down, your neck long and your chin up.
that refers to the reverse of a winging of the foot. If a dancer sickles the
foot on pointe or demi-pointe, the ankle could collapse to the outside
resulting in a sprained ankle. If it is the working foot sickled, it will make
the dancer look amateurish and untrained. Working foot to the side should be
straight and mildly winged when foot is to the front or back.
done from two feet to one foot. Named after the originator of the step. In a
sissonne over the back foot closes in front and in a sissonne under the front
foot closes behind. Exceptions to the traditional sissonne include sissonne
fermee, sissonne tombe, and sissonne fondue, which all finish on two feet.
under under. Also, perhaps more
commonly, sous sus [under
over]. Typically executed from fifth position, a dancer rises up onto the pointes or demi-pointes with
the feet touching and ankles crossed in a particularly tight fifth
position relevé, so that the two legs look like one, and resemble a
sword or an exclamation point. It is a striking pose achieved without much
difficulty, since both feet are directly beneath the spine, and is much used in
action can be performed in place or traveling forward, backward or to the side.
At the barre after the plié exercises, is part of the warm up for
center pointe work. Sous sous is a term of the Cecchetti school.
Sur le cou-de-pied
French pronunciation: [syʀləkudɘpje] Literally, "on the neck of
the foot". The working foot is placed on the part of the leg between the
base of the calf and the beginning of the ankle. On the accent devant (front),
the heel of the working is placed in front of the leg, while the toes point to
the back, allowing the instep (cou-de-pied in French) of the working foot
to "hug" the lower leg, thus giving the position its name. On the
accent derrière (back), the heel of the working leg is placed behind the leg
with the toes point to the back. The action of alternating between devant and
derrière is seen in the petit battement.
"stretched"; a common abbreviation for battement tendu. Usually done as an exercise at the barre from first or
fifth position, the working leg is extended to either the front, side or back,
gradually along the floor until only the tip of the toe remains touching the
floor (tendu a terre) or even further stretched so that the tip of the toe
comes up off the floor a few inches (en l'air). A tendu can also be used in
preparation for other more complex steps, such as pirouettes, or leaps.
for the transfer of weight from one leg to another.
of falling. Typically a beginning movement. In the Vaganova school, its
complete name is sissone ouverte tombé. For a tombé en avant, the
dancer begins with a coupé front and then, after extending the leg
from the coupé in fourth position front (or second or fifth back, if
the tombé is to be done on the side or backward), switches the weight
distribution and leans on the extended leg, which is placed on the floor in a
deep plié. This leaves the working leg straightened but lifted slightly
off the floor. Often this movement is used before executing traveling steps
such as a pas de bourrée.
also possible not to perform the coupé at the beginning of the
movement, but rather reach the fourth position front directly from fifth
position with a little 'sliding' hop.
rotation of the leg from the hips, causing the knee and foot to also turn
outward, away from the center of the body. This rotation allows for greater
extension of the leg, especially when raising it to the side and rear. Properly
done, the ankles remain erect and the foot arch remains curved and supporting.
Signs of improper turn-out are the knee pointing forward while the foot point
sideward (turning out from the knee), and rolling in of the ankle. Every single
step in classical ballet is performed with hips, knees and feet as turned out as
possible, except when otherwise specified by choreography.
Every now and again I spend the first 25 minutes of class as a 'Stretched:Focus' class. The stretches that we focus on change based on what my students need. Hip openers are probably the most dreaded, but most loved (a few days later). We work on hips, hamstrings, quads, spinal twists and rotation.
Assisted wall-split - the mirror/wall supports the dancers legs so that over-stretching is limited. Using the wall also helps keep the hips aligned, lower back on the floor...and hopefully helps release our over-strained hip flexors.
There is the occasional student with very open hips. Let them relax into the stretch.
Partner stretching is pretty common in my older classes (older because they are past the giggle phase...sometimes). At teacher conferences and regular dance conventions, teachers pick up & learn a few new stretches, turning exercises, stretch & strengthening, improvisation and creating choreography.