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Dictionary of French Ballet Terms

We teach using French classical ballet terms

Terms Terms are listed alphabetically - select first letter of term below

A-B  C-D   E-H  I-L  M-P  Q-Z 

Manèges term applied to steps or enchaînements executed in a circle.
Mazurka (mazurek) a Polish folk dance in 3/4 time which has been introduced into a number of ballets as a character dance.
Methods academic ballet as we know it today came into being in the year 1661, when King Louis XIV of France founded the Académie Royale de Musique et de Danse
Mime art of using the face and body to express emotion and dramatic action
Neuf nine
Notation there are two systems of notation in general use, Labanotation and Benesh notation.
Ouvert, ouverte Open, opened - refers to positions (the second and fourth positions of the feet are positions ouvertes), limbs, directions, or certain exercises or steps
Pas simple step or a compound movement which involves a transfer of weight
Pas de bourrée Bourrée steps done on the point or demi-pointe
Pas de bourrée couru running steps - a progression on the points or demi-pointes by a series of small, even steps with the feet close together
Pas de chat cat's-step - owes its name to the likeness of the movement to a cat's leap
Pas de deux dance for two
Pas de deux, grand grand dance for two
Pas de quatre dance for four
Pas de trois dance for three
Pas de valse waltz step- with a graceful swaying of the body with various arm movements, step is like a balancé, but the feet do not cross
Pas marché marching step - the dignified, classical walk of the ballerina and the premier danseur
Penché, penchée leaning, inclining, for example, in arabesque penchée
Petit, petite small
Pieds, cinq postions des (Five postions of the feet) five basic positions of the feet in classical ballet, and every step or movement is begun and ended in one or another of these positions
Piqué pricked, pricking - executed by stepping directly on the point or demi-pointe of the working foot in any desired direction or position with the other foot raised in the air
Pirouette whirl or spin - a complete turn of the body on one foot, on point or demi-pointe
Pirouette à la second, grande large pirouette in the second position usually performed by male dancers. It is a series of turns on one foot with the free leg raised to the second position en l'air at 90 degrees
Plié bent, bending - of the knee or knees. This is an exercise to render the joints and muscles soft and pliable and the tendons flexible and elastic, and to develop a sense of balance
Pointes, sur les raising of the body on the tips of the toes. Also used in the singular, "sur la pointe." First introduced in the late 1820s or early 1830s at the time of Taglioni. There are three ways of reaching the points, by piqué, relevé or sauté.
Pointe shoes The satin ballet shoes used by dancers when dancing sur les pointes. shoes reinforced with a box constructed of several layers of strong glue in between layers of material.
Poisson fish - a position of the body in which the legs are crossed in the fifth position and held tightly together with the back arched
Polonaise processional dance in 3/4 time with which the court ballets of the seventeenth century were opened
Port de bras movement or series of smooth movements made by passing the arm or arms through various positions. The passage of the arms from one position to another constitutes a port de bras. Also term for a group of exercises designed to make the arms move gracefully and harmoniously
Porté, portée Refers either to a step which is traveled in the air from one spot to another or to the carrying of a danseuse by a danseur.
Premier, première first
Promenade, tour de in a pas de deux, the ballerina on point holds her pose and is slowly turned by her partner who walks around her holding her hand.


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Last modified: August 03, 2016