Ballet Dance Steps

Rachel Hanson
Arabesque

Many ballet dance steps are the basis from which dance steps evolved in other genres of dancing. Whether you want to learn ballet steps in order to use them in ballet class, jazz, or any other dance form, you will need a certain amount of discipline in order to be able to perfect the steps.

Learning Ballet

Because of the precision and technique required to master ballet dancing, practicing often is an essential key to success. Ballet steps are not generally learned by reading a description and then executing the step on your own; it is important to have a good ballet teacher if you want to learn the steps properly. Executing ballet dance steps in the right way is not only essential aesthetically, but it is also the best way to prevent injury, both on the short term as well as the long term. Ballet is known for its negative effects on the body over the course of decades, and proper technique can help alleviate the physical stress that many steps exert.

While learning ballet from written descriptions is not advisable; having resources describing the various steps can be essential to reviewing steps at home. In addition, when choreographing dances, you might find inspiration by scanning through glossaries of steps.

Common Ballet Dance Steps

Some of the most common ballet steps, the ones that you will learn in the first five years of classical ballet training, are the following movements, steps, turns, and jumps:

  • Arabesque
  • Assemblé
  • Attitude
  • Balancé
  • Battement
  • Brisé
  • Cabriolé
  • Changement
  • Chassé
  • Ciseaux
  • Coupé
  • Demi-plié
  • Developpé
  • Echappé
  • Emboité
  • Glissade
  • Grand-battement
  • Grand-plié
  • Jeté
  • Pas de Basque
  • Pas de bourrée
  • Pas de chat
  • Pas de cheval
  • Passé
  • Penché
  • Petit battement
  • Petit jeté
  • Pirouette
  • Plié
  • Port de bras
  • Promenade
  • Relevé
  • Rond de jambe
  • Sissonne
  • Soubresaut
  • Sous-sus
  • Tendu

Ballet Step Glossaries

You can assemble your own book or digital file of ballet steps on a weekly basis. Simply write down the names of the steps and a brief description of them each time you learn a new step. If you make your file on a computer, you can sort the steps periodically into alphabetical order, making them easier to find. Alternatively, you can keep a notebook of steps that is divided into different categories, such as steps, leaps, and turns. Make sure to include the basic ballet positions as well as the steps.

For a complete reference of steps, you can buy a book of ballet dance steps, or access one of the many online sites that have lists of ballet terms and vocabulary.

Online

Glossary of Ballet from Wikipedia is an excellent resource for beginners. While it does not include an exhaustive listing of all steps, it includes all of the basic steps, and is nicely illustrated with several images.

Ballet Dictionary from TheatreDance consists of a long list of ballet terms. While the list is quite comprehensive, the site is created with simple text, no images. For information, this is a good site; for inspiration, you may need to look elsewhere.

American Ballet Theatre Online Dictionary: by far the most comprehensive of the online sources, this website offers complete text instruction and information on all steps, as well as pictures of poses/positions, and videos of steps that involve movement. For the serious learner, this site is an excellent resource.

Books

The Language of Ballet is a book of ballet terms with all of the basics at a reasonable price. For a more comprehensive resource, try the book Classical Ballet Technique, which has all of the steps, as well as recommendations for working on your ballet technique. Steps in Ballet is a great book for the student looking not only for a glossary of ballet terms, but also advice on how (and how not) to perform the various steps.

Pronunciation and Spelling

You may find it difficult to find the terms you are looking for in books and in online glossaries based on how you interpret them when you hear them in class. Ballet terms come from French, which means that their spelling and pronunciation are very difficult for English speakers. Ask your teacher for help finding a certain step if you can't figure out which written step name corresponds with which movement you learned from your teacher.

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Ballet Dance Steps