Classical Ballet Terms with a Twinkle Toes Twist
Ever wondered what all those fancy words in ballet mean? At Twinkle Toes you’re more likely to hear these in our adult ballet class. For the younger dancers, we prefer using less technical terms such as mermaid claps and marshmallow knee bends! From arabesque to Rond de jambe, here are some terms you might hear in ballet circles:
Arabesque – a position where the body is supported on one leg and the other leg is extended directly behind the body with a straight knee. A popular ballet move that we love watching our young ballerinas refine as they show off their balancing skills during class.
Attitude – there is always room for a bit of cheeky sparkle in our Twinkle Toes classes but, in ballet, attitude is actually when one leg is lifted in the air either in front or behind. The lifted leg is bent and turned out so that Miss Felecity can balance her cup of tea on the dancer’s foot. Oops, we mean so that the knee is higher than the foot. The supporting leg is straight.
Barre – pronounced “bar”, this is a wooden or metal handrail to provide support during warm-ups and exercises to refine technique. Miss Felecity never needs to remind the adult dancers that the barre is “our friend” and merely for support….nope…never.
Fondu – not to be confused with sharing some melted Swiss cheese over a pot. In ballet, fondu is basically a plié on one leg.
Frappé – we think someone was rather hungry when they came up with some of these ballet terms! Sadly, there is no breaking for iced-coffee during class. Frappé in ballet means “to strike”. While at the barre, the dancer starts with their foot in a flexed position and then strikes out toward the floor in a quick and precise movement.
Grande battements – A dancer performs a grand battement by throwing their leg into the air from the hip and brings it back down to the ground with both legs straight. We have one stipulation for grande battements in our adult ballet class: legs higher than the teacher! No one ever listens to the rules.
Pas de chat – while we love a quick natter between exercises, pas de chat (sh-aa) really means “step of the cat”. This step is a sideways jump where both legs bend mid-air, feet as high as possible with knees apart. Professional ballerinas make it look so simple and graceful. It’s harder than it looks!
Plié – when a dancer bends the knees and straightens them again. There are two types: a grand plié (full knee bend ) and a demi plié (half knee bend). At Twinkle Toes, we like to refer to these as “marshmallow knee bends”.
Sauté – Again, we’re not inclined to shallow fry onions in class. Instead, sauté in ballet means “jump”.
Sissonne – starting from two feet the dancer jumps into the air and splits feet like scissors. That’s if your legs are able to do that. Otherwise, just jump and smile and maybe Miss Felecity won’t notice your legs.
Piqué – a classical ballet term which means “pricking”. Used with other ballet terms such as in “piqué turns, where the dancer will step directly on to a full point or a high demi-pointe as they begin the turn onto that same leg. Well, that is the theory anyway. Our adult ballet dancers are quite happy to just make it across the room without bumping into anything!
All our classes have a strong foundation rooted in classical ballet but we also love to have fun. If everyone who attends Twinkle Toes ballet classes leaves with a deeper love of dancing, we’re delighted!