The Moves

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


In ballet, arabesque is a position where the body is supported on one leg, with the other leg extended directly behind the body with a straight knee.


An assemblé is when one foot slides along the floor before brushing into the air.  As the foot goes into the air, the dancer then jumps by pushing into and off the floor with the supporting leg and foot.  The supporting leg now meets with the other leg in the air and “assembles” into a fifth position.  The dancer then lands on the floor with a plié in fifth position.


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.


Bourrée: radid even steps, usually en pointe. Done well it looks like the dancer is gliding effortlessly.


A développé is a movement where the dancer’s working leg is drawn up to the knee of the supporting leg and extended to an open position, in this case à la seconde.


Échappé is a classical ballet term meaning ‘slipping movement’ or ‘escaping’. A dancer does an échappé with their legs and feet.  Starting in a closed position, usually fifth position with the feet, the dancer slides both feet out equally into either second or fourth position.

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


Penché is a ballet position that takes a lot of strength, flexibility, and many years of practice to become good at.  It is usually done by ballerinas in classical ballets, but will also find its way into contemporary ballets too. 

Temps levé

A temps levé is a hop from one foot with the other raised in any position.

Pas de Chat

A pas de chat is a sideways leap while travelling where, mid-air, the legs are bent one after the other, brought up to retiré with the feet as high as possible, and the knees kept apart.

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