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Translating Ballet Moves into English

Ballet relies heavily on the French language for its terminology, so many English-speaking dancers know what the word means in the context of ballet, but not the direct translations. In today’s post, we’ll shed some light on what all of these French terms actually mean.

Battement - Beat: A move where the dancer extends their leg and kicks it into the air.

En dedans - Within or Inside: A turn where the dancer is turning toward their supporting leg.

En dehors - Outside: A turn where the dancer is turning toward the leg in retiré.

Fouetté - Whipped: A type of pirouette where the dancer pumps their leg during each spin to maintain force and spin for longer than a standard pirouette.

Jeté - Thrown: A jump, typically in which both legs are outstretched.

Pas de chat - Cat Step (lit. step of cat): This move involves the dancer beginning in fifth position, then bringing one leg after the other into retiré and jumping to land in fifth position.

Pas de deux - Step of Two: Used to refer to a choreography where two dancers are dancing together.

Pirouette - Spin: This move typically involves the dancer lifting one leg into retiré to spin around themselves.

Plié - Folded: Often done at the barre, this move is performed by bending (or folding,) the legs to bring the body closer to the floor and then back up.

Relevé - Raised or Lifted: The act of a dancer rising up onto the toes.

Retiré - Withdrawn: A move where one leg is raised and bent so that the foot touches the kneecap of the supporting leg.

Tendu - Stretched: Often done at the barre, this move is performed by extending (or stretching,) the leg to the front, side, and back in succession.

There are many, many more terms than just this list, but hopefully you learned something cool about ballet. If you have any questions regarding dancewear, feel free to reach out and let us know.

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