Names of Ballet Dance Steps

By Karen Jordan
Ballet dancers train for many years.

Ballet is a form of dance that originated in 15th- and 16th-century Italy and France. Most of the movements are fluid and graceful, and the choreography is often performed to classical music. Ballet dancers wear pointe shoes, and spend years in training, with many starting in classes at very young ages. The word "ballet" is French, pronounced "ball-ay." In fact, the majority of standard ballet steps have French names.

Plie

Plie (pronounced "plee-ay") is a ballet dance step in which the dancers bend their knees. Plies can be done in many positions, including first position, where dancers' heels touch each other and the toes point outward, and second position, in which dancers stand with their heels apart and their toes pointed out. Plies may seem simple, but they function as preparation for more difficult jumps and turns.

Arabesque

First arabesque en pointe

An arabesque is a ballet dance movement in which the dancer stands on one leg, stretching the other leg out behind her. She holds her back upright, reaching one or both arms out to the front. The height of the leg will depend on the dancer's back flexibility. When training, maintaining good posture is more important than kicking the leg up high.

Tendu

A young dancer in third arabesque tendu

To perform a tendu (pronounced "ton-doo"), a dancer slowly extends one foot directly in front of her as if drawing a line on the floor, while pointing her toes. Tendu can also be performed to the side or back.

About the Author

Karen Jordan is a writer who has worked as a newspaper staff writer, a television reporter and a producer. She has a Master's degree from Stanford University as well as a Bachelor's degree, cum laude, from Wellesley College. Her work has been published in: The Tennessean, Interpreter Magazine, and the Organization of American Historians Magazine.