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Adore Dance - Ballet Terms for Beginner Dancers: Mastering the Dance Lingo

Updated: May 26, 2022

When you enter your first ballet class, it might be normal to feel a little overwhelmed. The variety of poses and positions can have your head spinning, especially if you have to remember all the different names for them in French. But with practice, you'll soon feel like a native speaker of Ballet anyway... (After all, ballet terms are pretty easy once you learn them.) First-time ballerinas often find it difficult to push forward into this unfamiliar territory, but they can quickly learn what they need with these tips.

Ballet Terms for Beginner Dancers: Master Dance Lingo

Any seasoned dancer has claimed to be able to speak "technical" French because they know dance terminology. To reach that level, you have to begin somewhere. Here are the best tips to help you get the hang of ballet terms sooner!

1 - Adagio

Adagio is another word for "slow." This word is most often used in reference to the tempo of a movement or the speed at which a piece of music plays.

2 - Allegro

This is another word for "fast." When ballet dancers say that a piece of music is allegro, they mean that it's fast.

3 - Battement

This means "beat" or "bounce" and is used to describe quick, small movements.

4 - Changements

When you hear instructors call out changements during class, it's a signal for you to switch legs.

5 - En Pointe

This refers to ballet dancers who are standing on their tips in ballet class or on the stage.

6 - Extend

This term refers to extending a leg or arm out from the body.

7 - Grand Battement

A grand battement is a large, extended kick. This is one of the basic steps you will learn in your first ballet class.

8 - Pirouette

This is a quick turn on the tips of your toes.

9 - Tendu

This means to "stretch" or to “point” and is used to describe a leg extended in front of the body.

10 - Attitude

The attitude is when your body is in a lunge-like position.

11 - Port de Bras

This is the "carriage of arms" and refers to extended arms..

12 - Plié

This is another word for "bent" and describes a bent knee.

13 - Présentation

This is when a dancer stands still when a piece of music starts playing.

14 - Relevé

This is the opposite of plié and refers to a straightened knee.

15 - Battement Tendu

This can be a little confusing to remember at first because it's called a tendu for the dancer, and it's then a battement for the audience (who sees the ballerina extend her leg up).

16 - Tour

This is another word for "turn." It's often used when ballet dancers describe the time interval between one pose and the next. For example, a dancer might say, "My tour is one second."

17 - Pas de deux

This refers to a dance between two dancers.

18 - Crescendo

This is another word for "louder" and is used to describe a piece of music increasing in volume.

19 - Ritard

This is another word for "slower" and is used to describe a piece of music decreasing in volume.

20 - Decrescendo

This is another word for "softer" and is used to describe a piece of music decreasing in volume.


With all of these ballet terms, it's easy to understand why you might feel confused when walking into your first ballet class. But as you continue to practice and attend classes, you'll quickly get the hang of it.

Our teachers won't throw all these terms at you at once, it's a learning process just like dancing itself!

Get into learning dance and all the ballet terms at Adore Dance! We offer Adult Ballet Lessons Classes and Children's Kids Ballet Lessons Classes.

Ballet lessons, Tap Contemporary, Commercial and Dance Fitness Classes from a purpose-built dance studio in Hackney Wick. Our classes are easily accessible from Stratford, Hackney, Homerton, Bow and the surrounding areas.

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