Adult Ballet and Body Conditioning: Terminology

Ballet classes are divided into a number of sections. Therefore I have categorised terminology used in the class into these section and added sections for anatomical and general terminology.

This online dictionary has some more definitions than are listed here.


  • Posture

    This is the term we use to describe the way we are supposed to stand in a dance class.

  • 5 positions of the feet (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th)

    These 5 positions were codified by King Louis XIV (also known as the Sun King). He developed the foundations for classical ballet.

  • Turn out

    This refers to the way in which ballet dancers rotate their legs outwards from the hip sockets in order to increase the range of motion.

  • Devant

    In front.

  • Derriere


  • A la seconde

    To the side.

Barre Work

  • Plies

    Plies as an exercise are performed early in in a ballet class to warm up the hips and knees. Dancers can perform demi plies (half plies) or grande plies (full plies) with their feet in each of the five positions. In a grande plie the heels lift off the floor as the dancer gets closer to the floor, except for when executing the movement in 2nd position. Plies as a movement recur throughout the class and in many different steps.

  • Battement Tendu

    This is a movement where the foot slides along the floor so the leg is fully stretched whilst the dancer is supports their body weight on one leg. The working foot remains in contact with the floor. Battement tendus can be executed from 1st, 3rd and 5th positions of the feet and devant (to the front), a la seconde (to the side) or derriere (to the back). The movement can also be called a degage.

  • Battement Glisses

    This movement is the same as a battement tendu but the movement is stronger which causes the working foot to come away from the floor by about 3 cms.

  • Rond de jambe a terre

    This is a movement where the dancer stands on one leg whilst drawing a semi circle with the working leg with the foot touching the floor. They leg can be moved en dehor (front to back) or en dedan (back to front). The exercise is designed to increase and strengthen turn out and the range of motion in the hip joint.

Port de bras

  • 5 positions or the arms (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th)

    These 5 positions were codified by King Louis XIV (also known as the Sun King). He developed the foundations for classical ballet.


  • Adage

    In ballet, Adage refers to slow movement, typically performed with the greatest amount of grace and fluidity than other movements of dance. Adage combinations are typically done both at barre and in center. They usually consist of many basic steps of classical ballet technique, such as arabesque, attitude, développé, grande rond de jambe, and plié, among more advanced steps.


  • Spotting

    Spotting refers to the way in which a dancer uses their head and eye focus when executing turns. When done correctly it can help to avoid dizziness and controls the turn.

Petit Allegro

  • allegro

    In ballet, allegro is a term applied to bright, fast or brisk steps and movement, most of which are jumps.

  • Sautes

    A jump from two feet to two feet. Sautes can be executed with the feet in 1t and 2nd position.

Middle Allegro

  • Balancé

    A balancé in ballet is a step where a dancer moves while alternating balance between their feet. The rhythm is usually in three counts like a waltz and has the motion of going “down, up, down” with their legs.

Grande Allegro


  • Proprioception

    Proprioception is the medical term that describes the ability to sense the orientation of your body in your environment. It allows you to move quickly and freely without having to consciously think about where you are in space or in your environment.

  • Core stability

    Core stability is the term used to describe the muscular control required to maintain functional stability around the lumbar spine and to prevent lower back pain.

  • Latissimus dorsi

    Latissimus dorsi muscle are large, triangularly shaped back muscles which sit over the shoulder blades and help you do things like pull-ups, swimming and even breathing. They should be used when a dancer executes any movements involving use of their arms and are one of the key muscles for establishing and maintaining good posture.