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Just the Basics Si'l Vous Plait: Beginner Ballet Terms

by Rachel Minnie


It’s not just about picking out leotards, mes amis. It’s also about the lingo. Who knew there were so many new terms to learn if your child is taking ballet? And they’re often in (gasp) French. 


If you took ballet yourself, then you’re ahead of the game, but the rest of us might need some help. What are the absolute must-know terms - with simple pronunciations - that you’ll need to converse with your little ballerina or danseur - a male ballet dancer (See? You’re learning already). Here is our list of the most basic you’re likely to encounter:


The Five Positions

You probably don’t need to be able to do them, but it’s a good idea to be able to remember them to help your tiny dancer. Here’s a handy illustration for reference:



Adagio - (á-dáj-ē-ō) slow, fluid movements; it can also refer to a type of two-person dance.


Allégro - (á-leg-rō) fast, energetic movements.


Barre - (bǎr) the bar attached to the wall that dancers use, often in front of mirrors.


En Pointe - (ĕn point) when dancers perform on pointe shoes.


Grande - (g-ránd) big; often used with action words, like grande jeté.


Jeté - (jet-ā) a jump with one leg extended while jumping off with the other.


Pas - (sounds a little like paw) a step.


Petit - (pĕ-tēt) small; often used with action words, like petit jeté.


Pirouette - (peer-ooh-et) a full turn done on one foot.


Plié - (plea-ā) bending one or both knees.


August 17, 2020

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