Dictionary of Ballet & Dance Terms

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Circular. A 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.


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


art of using the face and body to express emotion and dramatic action




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


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


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


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


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


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.


fish - a position of the body in which the legs are crossed in the fifth position and held tightly together with the back arched


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


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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