Names of Ballet Dance Steps

Written by karen jordan
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Names of Ballet Dance Steps
Ballet dancers train for many years. (ballerina image by chinatiger from

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.

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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.


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.

First arabesque en pointe
First arabesque en pointe (ballet silhouettes image by Slobodan Djajic from


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.

A young dancer in third arabesque tendu
A young dancer in third arabesque tendu (ballet image by huaxiadragon from

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