Ballet Terms J-R

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Ballet Terms

A-B, C-D, E-GS-W


Jambe [zhahnb] Leg.

Jeté [zhuh-TAY] Throw. A jump from one foot to the other in which the working leg appears to have been thrown. There are many different types of jetés.


L’air, en [ahn lahr] in the air.


Ouvert, ouverte [oo-VEHR, oo-VEHRT] Open, opened.

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Pas [pah] Step. Refers to a simple step from one foot to the other or a dance as in “pas de deux”.

Pas de bourrée [pah duh boo-RAY] Bourrée step. A connecting step that can be performed in any direction.

Pas de chat [pah duh shah] Step of the cat. The dancer looks like a cat as he jumps from plié, raises one leg into retiré. He then springs off the other leg and raises it to retiré. Then he lands on the first leg and the other leg soon follows landing in plié.

Passé [pah-SAY]. Passed. The working leg passes the knee of the supporting leg to another place.


Penché , penchée [pahn-SHAY] Leaning, inclining. The dancer leans forward while the working leg is raised back in arabesque.

Petit, petite [puh-TEE, puh-TEET] Small.

Piqué [pee-KAY] Pricked. The dancer step on to one leg by stepping directly on the point or demi-pointe of that foot.

Pirouette [peer-WET] Turn. A turn of the body standing on the supporting leg while the working leg is usually in retiré.

Plié [plee-AY] Bent. To bend the knee or knees.

Pointes, sur les [sewr lay pwent] On the pointes. The 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.

Port de bras [pawr duh brah] Carriage of the arms. A dancer uses this term when arms move from one position to the other. Is also used to describe specific arm positions in the Cecchetti Method.

Prima Ballerina [pree-muh bal-uh-REE-nuh] The principal ballerina in a ballet company.

Promenade, tour de [toor duh prawm-NAD] Turn in a walk. A dancer turns in place on the supporting leg by pivoting on the ball of the foot while the heel moves around. The working leg is usually in arabesque or attitude. In a pas de deux, the ballerina is supported by her partners as he walks around while turning her.

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Relevé [ruhl-VAY] Raised. A raising of the heels on to the pointes or demi-pointes.

Retiré [ruh-tee-RAY] Withdrawn. The dancer is raises his or her thigh to the second position with the knee bent so that the toe is placed in front of, behind or to the side of the supporting knee.

Reverence [REHvr-uhns] Honor or Respect. At the end of a dance class to show respect for the instructor, the accompanist and the other dancers in class. It usually consists of a port de bras exercise that finishes with a bow or curtsy. 

Rond de jambe [rawn duh zhahnb] Round of the leg / a circular movement of the leg. An exercise where the working leg draws a half circle either from the front to the back or back to the front passing through the second position.

Royale [ruah-YAL] Royal. A beating jump where the calves beat together before the feet change position. Also called “changement battu.”