10 Essential Ballet Terminology for Beginners: A Comprehensive Guide

Commencing Your Ballet Adventure

Setting off on your ballet voyage can be both thrilling and intimidating, particularly when you encounter an array of unfamiliar terms. Through this guide, we aim to unravel the complex language of ballet, making it understandable for beginners.

Chapter 1: Core Ballet Vocabulary

Rooted in tradition, ballet is a dance form that borrows heavily from the French language. This chapter will focus on crucial ballet terminology that every novice needs to familiarize themselves with.

1.1 Plie (Plee-ay)

The French term Plie, meaning ‘bent’, is a basic ballet exercise that involves bending the knees while maintaining an upright torso. It is crucial for enhancing muscle memory, flexibility, and strength.

1.2 Tendu (Tahn-doo)

Tendu, translating to ‘stretched’, is a ballet exercise where one leg extends from a standing position to touch the floor, aiding dancers in developing sturdy, articulate feet and smooth leg movements.

1.3 Jete (Je-tay)

Jete, meaning ‘thrown’, refers to a leap where one leg is ‘thrown’ in the direction of the movement, followed by the other leg, resulting in a spectacular, split-like figure in the air.

Ballet Terminology for Beginners

Chapter 2: Ballet Stances

Grasping the fundamental positions in ballet is imperative for any beginner. These stances serve as the groundwork for more intricate steps.

2.1 First Position

In First Position, heels are connected with toes turned outwards, and arms are rounded and held low before the body.

2.2 Second Position

In Second Position, feet are aligned with hips width apart with toes turned outwards. Arms are rounded and extended to the sides.

2.3 Third Position

In Third Position, one foot is positioned in front of the other, from heel to arch. One arm is rounded and held before the body, while the other is extended to the side.

Chapter 3: Fundamental Ballet Steps

After understanding the terminology and positions, it’s time to acquaint yourself with some basic ballet steps.

3.1 Pas de Bourree (Pah de Boo-ray)

A Pas de Bourree is a swift, three-step pattern generally used as a connecting step amidst more significant movements.

3.2 Glissade (Glee-sahd)

A Glissade is a gliding step where the dancer moves sideways by sliding one foot out and then bringing the other foot to meet it.

3.3 Arabesque (Ah-ra-besk)

An Arabesque is a stance where the dancer stands on one foot, with the other leg stretched straight behind the body.

Chapter 4: Strategies for Mastering Ballet Vocabulary

While learning ballet vocabulary might seem daunting initially, these strategies will assist you in mastering it.

4.1 Regular Practice

Consistent practice is the key to mastering ballet vocabulary. Reiteration of terms and steps helps to cement your memory.

4.2 Flashcard Utilization

Flashcards can prove to be a valuable tool for memorizing ballet terms. Jot down the term on one side and its explanation and demonstration on the other.

4.3 Attend Ballet Performances

Observing ballet performances can aid you in understanding these terms in real-life scenarios. Pay detailed attention to how seasoned dancers perform each movement.

Learn more about ballet on Wikipedia.


Gaining proficiency in ballet terminology is a critical step in your ballet journey. With consistent practice and appropriate resources, you’ll soon be proficient in the language of ballet. Bear in mind that every ballet dancer, including professionals, started at the very beginning. Be patient with yourself and revel in the journey.

Key ballet terms and meanings comprehensive guide.

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