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The Moves

Get to know the language of ballet with our handy illustrated guide.

Grand Jeté

A grand jeté is a long horizontal jump, starting from one leg and landing on the other; it usually involves a full leg splits in mid-air. The dancer hits the fullest split at the height of the jump, with weight pushed slightly forward, giving a gliding appearance.


Victoria Sibson performing a Soubresaut. Photo Merlin Hendy.

A soubresaut is a sudden, straight-legged jump, with toes pointed and landing with the feet in the same position as starting.

Temps Levé Arabesque

Northern Ballet dancers in temps levé arabesque. Photo Bill Cooper

Temps levé, a hop from one foot with the other raised in any position, in this case arabesque (the leg extended behind the body with the knee straight).

Attitude Derrière

Victoria Sibson performing attitude derrière.

Attitude is a position in which the dancer stands on one leg (the supporting leg) while the other (working leg) is lifted and well turned out with the knee bent. The lifted or working leg can be behind (derrière), in front (devant), or on the side (à la seconde) of the body. The attitude position can be performed with the supporting leg and foot either en pointe, demi pointe or on a flat foot.

Relevé in fifth

Pippa Moore, Relevé in Fifth. Photo Merlin Hendy.

In this image Pippa has risen to full pointe from fifth position. Fifth position is where one foot is placed in front of, and in contact with, the other. The heel of one foot will be aligned with the toe of the other foot. Relevé means rising from any position to balance on one or both feet with heels off the floor or higher to full pointe.

Retiré Devant

Julie Charlet in retiré devant

Retiré devant is a common pose during standard pirouette and an intermediate position for other moves. The working leg is raised just in front of the knee cap (but can be raised higher) and is sharply bent and ‘turned out’ to the side.

Double Cabriole

Double Cabriole animated GIF

Cabriole, meaning caper. An allegro step in which the extended legs are beaten in the air.

Arabesque penchée

Arabesque penchée executed by Martha Leebolt. Photo Bill Cooper.

Arabesque indicates a position of the body where the dancer stands on one leg, while the other leg is extended behind the body, with both knees straight. When the angle is much greater than 90° and the body leans forward to counterbalance the back leg, the pose is called arabesque penchée.

Flying (or grand) pas de chat

Flying pas de chat executed by Pippa Moore and Georgina May. Photo Bill Cooper.

'The step of the cat.' The dancer jumps sideways, and while in mid-air, bends both legs up (two retirés) bringing the feet up as high as possible, with knees apart. In a flying (or grand) pas de chat the first leg is extended.

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