A New Perspective
for a Classic Technique

Welcome to Neo Classique Ballet – a unique online video and photo dictionary for ballet technique with in-depth descriptions and visual demonstrations. Each step will be broken down into its simplest form to help you better understand each movement alongside helpful tips and insights gathered through years of training, performing, and teaching experience.
Whether you are new to ballet, a professional dancer, a teacher, or just interested in learning more about ballet as an art form, this site is an excellent resource for expanding your technical knowledge.
Online Ballet Dictionary - Neo Classique Ballet
Scroll down to see the various positions, and be sure to check out our A-Z Ballet Dictionary!
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Panel 1

Positions of the Feet

There are five main positions in ballet technique (some count parallel as the sixth position). 

First Postion Neo Classique Ballet

 

 

 

 

First position requires that the feet be turned out with the heels touching each other. If the dancer has been studying ballet for a significant amount of time and has acquired the needed muscle strength and flexibility, they may be able to obtain 180 degree turnout (thetoes and heels all lie on the same invisible straight line). However, all dancers have a different degree of turnout ability, so many dancers may have a first position that is more or less a “V” position rather than a completely straight line from one toe to the other. This is perfectly acceptable, and every dancer should only turn out their legs to the degree in which no strain is placed on the joints and everything is kept in proper alignment (it is important that the dancer does not force turnout by compromising correct muscle usage/placement or alignment).

 

Second Postion Neo Classique Ballet

 

 

 

 

Second position is similar to first, except that the heels are not touching. Rather, the heels are placed directly under the hip bones, which creates a more open position. The same turnout rules apply.

 

 

 

Third Position Neo Classique Ballet

 

 

 

 

Third position is rarely done at an intermediate or advanced level, though it is often taught to beginners. For this position, the right foot is turned out as it would be in first position and the heel of the left foot is placed at the center of the arch of the right foot, which is also turned out as if in first. The reverse (left/right) is the same.

 

 

Fourth Postion Ouverte Neo Classique BalletFourth Postion Croise Neo Classique Ballet

 

 

 

 

Fourth position can be done two different ways, but both involve turned out legs with one leg placed slightly in front of the other (the weight is centered between the two legs). The difference between the two versions is that one version places the heels across from each other (ouverte – “open”), while the other places the right heel across from the left toes (or vice versa; croisé – “crossed”). Another way of saying this is that the dancer can have an open fourth (across from first) or a closed fourth (across from fifth – see “fifth position” below).

 

Fifth Postion Neo Classique Ballet

 

 

 

 

 

Fifth position is exactly the same as third, except that the heel of the right (or left) foot is placed at the toes of the left (or right) foot, rather than at the middle of the arch. Of the two, fifth position is almost always preferred over third at a more advanced level (professionals generally never use third position unless directed to do so specifically). For the Russian and French techniques, fifth positions are completely crossed, meaning that the heel of the front foot touches the toes of the back foot. For the Italian method, fifth position is not typically crossed all the way over, but rather the back toes are seen as the front foot is positioned in between the arch (which is third position) and the tip of the toes of the back foot.

 

 

 

 


Tips for achieving correct ballet positions:

  • As stated above, turnout should never be forced, but rather the dancer should use the proper leg muscles to achieve the maximum turnout that their body is capable of (this degree of turnout will change and become greater as the dancer continues to strengthen the “turnout muscles”.
  • Some instructors may teach an “over-crossed” fifth position (the heel of the right/left foot go passed the toes of the left/right foot), and there is debate on whether this is a correct way to teach fifth position. The general rule, however, is that the feet should not be over-crossed and that to over-cross them is more of a stylization choice than a technique.

 

 

Be sure to visit out Ballet Dictionary page for more videos and tips.

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Panel 2

Ballet Facts and Tips

NeoClassiqueBallet.comBallet History and Facts

Ballet history, methods, techniques, and styles are discussed. Some of these facts and terms are still debated today. I have done my best to put together what is generally agreed upon – at least to some degree.

 

 

 

 

Emerson Mertens - Dancer, Choreographer, InstructorPointe Shoe Facts and Tips

Information on the first pointe shoes, parts of a pointe shoe, when a dancer should start pointe, and more helpful facts and tips.

Panel 3

Pointe Shoe Facts and Tips

Pointe Shoe Facts

  • The first “pointe” shoes were thought to be developed in the early 1800s and worn by Marie Taglioni. These shoes did not have hard toe boxes, but were only padded with cotton and wool (Grant, 89). Some also believe that Taglioni’s shoes were also darned on the ends as well.
  • Sometime around the mid 1800s, the shoes were darned (a type of sewing technique) on the ends of the toes and glue was added for a stiffer toe and more support. By the early 1900s shanks had been added to the shoes and the boxes became harder.
  • Most pointe shoes today are made with layers of glue and material in the boxes and leather and satin in other parts of the shoe. No wood blocks are used for the toe ends (box).
  • In the last several decades, new technology has been, and continues to be, developed for pointe shoe construction, such as Gaynor Minden’s flexible polymers and Bloch’s TMT technology. Now, special types of paste and certain types of plastics are becoming more common in both shank and box construction, and new stretch satin and ribbon are being incorporated into many shoe designs.
  • Some reputable pointe shoe brands: Capezio, Bloch, Grishko, Sansha, Russian Pointe, Freed, Gaynor Minden
  • Parts of a Pointe Shoe: Box, Shank, Vamp, Wing, Platform, Sole, Profile

 

Important Notes

  • There is no exact age for when to begin pointe dancing. Dancers should only go on pointe once they have developed the muscle strength and the proper technique needed for pointe work. Allowing a student to go on pointe before proper muscles and technique are developed can cause permanent damage to growing bones and muscles in young dancers and lead to injury in dancers of any age.
  • Proper fitting is the most important factor in selecting pointe shoes. It is extremely important that one never buys pointe shoes that are too big with the idea that a dancer can grow into them. This can cause permanent damage. Students should also not order pointe shoes online but be fitted by a knowledgeable, professional fitter.
  • All feet are different, so there is no one perfect brand or style that works across the board for everyone. It can take a lot of trial and error to find the best shoe brand and style for your body type and muscle strength. Do not share pointe shoes or buy already used pointe for these same reasons.
  • Pointe shoes are an expensive investment– unfortunately you will most likely buy pointe shoes that do not work for you after the first few classes. It is important that you do not keep wearing these shoes if they can cause harm to your feet. If you are unsure if your shoes are bad for your feet, talk with your teacher. If your teacher advises you to stop wearing a certain type of shoe because of injury risk, it is best to try another brand or style as soon as possible.
  • Proper foot care is important. Wearing toe pads and toe spacers can help prevent bunions (displacement of the bones on the side of the foot) and other foot problems that can cause permanent damage and possibly even require surgery later in life.
  • A dancer is not stronger, better, or more professional because they do not wear toe pads or other foot protection. This is a myth. Using newer technology in order to protect and preserve health does not make someone weaker or less of a dancer.

 


 

Main Reference: Gail Grant, Technical Manual Dictionary of Classical Ballet, 3rded. (New York, Dover Publications, Inc.), 1982.

Panel 4

Plié

Plié (French – “bending” or “bent”; pronounced “plee-ay”) is one of the foundational movements in ballet technique.

A great majority of ballet steps begin and/or end with a plié, which means that a dancer bends at the knees. Ballet classes most often begin with a plié combination to warm up the legs and stretch out the leg muscles, and jumps end in plié rather than straight legs to prevent strain on the legs, protect the knees, and maintain balance when landing.

Plié can be done in multiple different positions and on one or both legs.

 

Demi Plié

In a demi plié, the dancer bends the knees to the lowest point they can without lifting the heels or shifting the hips. Once the dancer hits this point, they then straighten the knees again.

Demi Plié in First Position:

Demi Plié in Second Position:

Demi Plié in Third Position:

Demi Plié in Fourth Position Ouverte and Croisé:

Demi Plié in Fifth Position:



Grand Plié

A grand plié is similar to a demi plié, except that the knees bend even further and the hips come closer to the ground than in a demi. In the first, third, fourth croisé, and fifth positions, the heels come off of the ground once the dancer reaches the maximum bend in their demi plié and then continues the movement downward into a full grand plié. Once the dancer has reached the bottom of the grand plié and begins to rise back up to a standing position, the heels are placed back on the ground as soon as possible so that the dancer passes through a demi plié once more before straightening the legs completely. In second position and fourth ouverte, the heels remain on the ground for the entire grand plié.

Grand Plié in First and Second Position:


Explanation and Example:

Begin in first position with straight legs. Bend the legs slowly, with the knees going out over the toes and leaving the heels on the ground. Slowly straighten the legs again. This is an example of a demi (half) plié. A grand (full) plié is done exactly the same, except the dancer bends the knees even further and comes closer to the ground, allowing the heels to come up off of the ground at the lowest point (except for second position and fourth position croisé, in which the heels always remain on the ground for both demi and grand plié).

 


Tips for performing a technically correct and safe plié:

– Be cautious not to roll in towards the inside of the foot/arch or to roll out towards the back of the foot/arch. Rolling to one side of the foot or the other can put a strain on the foot muscles, as well as cause knee pain and/or injury. The foot should always be as flat as on the floor as possible when standing and while in plié.

– Make sure to always keep the knees over the toes to protect the knees and prevent injury. When done correctly, there should be an invisible line from the middle of the foot (second/third toe) straight up to the center of the kneecap.

– When performing plié (especially grand plié), be careful not to “sit” in your plié. This means that you have allowed yourself to relax too much into the movement rather than continuing to engage the leg muscles.

– Keep the back up and make sure that the head, hips, and heels remain in the same invisible straight line up and down. An effective way to visualize the correct positioning for a plié is to imagine two walls, both in front and back of you, which do not allow you to lean either forward or backward. The dancer should move up and down this line seamlessly as if on an elevator.

 

 

 

Be sure to visit out Ballet Dictionary page for more videos and tips.

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Panel 5

Tendu

Tendu (French – “stretched”; pronounced “tahn-dew”) is a common ballet step that can be done at the barre and in the center. It can begin from straight legs or from plié.

While professional-level choreography and variations do not usually included tendu preformed as its own separate step as one would in class, tendu is an integral part of other ballet steps and as a transition between steps.

Tendu can be done from multiple different positions and in various directions (e.g. devant or derrière).


Explanation and Example:

Begin in fifth position with straight legs and the right leg in front. Push/brush the right foot along the floor to a pointed position while keeping both legs straight. While transitioning from the flexed/standing position to the pointed position, the foot must roll (or pass) through demi pointe (the ball of the foot on the floor with the heel lifted) before reaching full pointe (on the way out) or flexed/standing position (on the way in).  


Tips for achieving a correct tendu position:

  • Be careful not to sickle when pointing the foot. For more information about sickling, please read this page.
  • Keep the working leg (the one that is performing the tendu) straight the entire time without allowing it the knee to bend.

 

Be sure to visit out Ballet Dictionary page for more videos and tips.

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