How Well Do You Know Ballet Terminology?

By: John Miller
Estimated Completion Time
3 min
How Well Do You Know Ballet Terminology?
Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

In the 1400s, the Renaissance swept through Europe and fueled the rise of ballet. Since then, ballet has become an extremely technical form of dance that’s popular all over the world. With its graceful and athletic moves, both female and male dancers labor for years of their lives, yearning to perfect their form. In the meantime, they must also master the language of ballet, which is mostly based on French terminology. In this quiz, swoop into the “pas de chat” (step of the cat) and let’s see if you really know your ballet terms!

Are you on the same level as Anna Pavlova, Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn? They were virtuoso performers who took the world by storm with their technical precision and dancing prowess. You can bet they knew exactly what the “pas de cheval” and “petit saut” were before they ever took the stage. Do you know the finer points of the pirouette? Or do you confuse this common move with the poisson?

In ballet, “port de bras” is extremely important, as it refers to the way dancers move their arms to various positions. And to make it even more confusing, port de bras is different from place to place all over the world, so beginning dancers may take alternate approaches to this concept. Do you really think you can parse the details of ballet’s glossary?

Let’s see your best revoltade and royale in this ballet terminology quiz! Maybe you’ll prove to be a protégé worth of the stage … or perhaps you’ll fall flat on your face!

What is "balance"?
when ballet dancers thrash around on stage
inner ear anatomy
a sequence of steps
"Balance" refers to a series of three steps. These rocking steps are a basic move in ballet.

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What’s a term for a suite of dances in ballet?
grand pas
A "grand pas" is a suite of dances performed by lead dancers as a highlight of a show. The grand pas is made up of individual pieces like an entree (introduction) and coda (finish).
grand prix
leap for mankind

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What does it mean if a dancer does something in "adagio"?
in France
with vicious intent
slowly
"Adagio" means that dancers perform a move slowly and smoothly. It means to do something with gentle ease.

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What does a dancer do in a "glissade"?
slaps her rival for the lead part
glides
A glissade is one of the smoothest moves in ballet. In a glissade, one simply glides.
flies

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What is "arabesque"?
a triple jump
a type of pose
Arabesque is one of the fundamental poses in ballet. Dancers pose on one leg and create a very long line from the fingertips to the toes.
a style of dancer

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If a dancer rises to a point from flat feet, she is performing an ____.
siete
eleve
It means "lifted" or "raised." In an eleve, dancers push themselves to the points of their toes from a flat-footed position.
cloven hoof

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What’s a "tutu"?
a dance involving two people
a made-up ballet term
a skirt
Tutus are the classic ballet skirt. These very short skirts allow dancers to perform acrobatic moves without getting tangled in fabric.

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What’s a word for type of ballet jump?
brise
In a brise, dancers jump and move a leg to one side, and the join the legs together in midair before landing.
releve
glissade

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What work describes moves that are done briskly?
mime
avant, en
allegro
If a choreographer wants a move performed briskly, he or she would specify "allegro."

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What’s a word for when a dancer falls into a subsequent move?
tombe
In French, "tombe" means fallen. A tombe is often used to describe a falling motion that leads into a type of traveling step.
tendu
oops

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In "croix, en," a move is performed in _____.
rapidity
birdlike manner
the shape of a cross
A choreographer may specify "croix, en," and in this case, dancers perform their moves in the shape of a cross.

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Which term means that a dancer is turning in the air?
bird en el wingo
Flappy Bird
tours en l’air
Male dancers often incorporate a powerful tours en l’air into their routines. These "turns in the air" find dancers performing a full rotation during a leap.

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What’s a "barre"?
a handrail
A barre, or handrail, essential for ballet practices. Dancers use them for balance as they hone specific form.
a guitar solo played during a ballet show
a vertical dance pole

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What’s a term for a female ballet performer?
diva
ballerina
"Ballerina" is term that’s generally used to describe female ballet dancers. Ballerinas struggle for years or even decades to reach the apex of their craft.
concertina

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In a "cambre," dancers ______.
create paper airplanes
bend at the waist
In French, cambre means "arched." In this move, dancers bend at the waist in any direction.
vomit uncontrollably

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What does it mean if a dancer performs "attitude"?
He refuses to leave the dressing room.
He puts his leg behind and at a 90-degree angle.
"Attitude" has nothing to do with a problematic dancer. It’s a pose in which the dancer holds his or her leg behind and at a 90-degree angle at the knee.
He gets snotty with the director.

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What’s a word used to describe a truly amazing ballet dancer?
virtuoso
Ballet dancers suffer and toil in hopes that one day they’ll approach virtuoso mastery of their craft. Only a tiny handful will accomplish the feat.
maestro
black swan

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What does it mean if a dancer is "a terrer"?
faking her own death
touching the ground
Not all ballet moves are high-flying jumps and leaps. “A terrer" means touching the floor.
eating a cupcake

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A "hortensia" makes it look like a male dancer is doing what?
slapping invisible spirits
swimming in air
In a hortensia, male dancers leap into the air and put one leg in front of the other multiple times. It makes them look as if they are trying to swim in midair.
committing ritual suicide

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What word indicates that about half a move is performed?
demi
If a dancer performs a move in "demi," it means he or she performs a lesser variant of a full move.
quattro
halfsies

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In a "fouette," a dancer ____.
shakes his or her hair
pivots
A fouette finds dancers pivoting rapidly. Then, he or she will often dramatically kick out the working leg.
flails in agony

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What’s a "turnout"?
a somersault
when dancers turn their toes and knees away from each other
Ballet dancers frequently turn their knees and toes away from each other. This is simply called a "turnout."
the number of spectators

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What move involves one big step quickly followed by two smaller steps?
double skip
triple runs
A triple run doesn’t involve a lot of running. It is simply a big step followed immediately by two smaller steps.
quad attack

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If a dancer performs a ____, she does two of the same move.
coda
double
It’s a simple concept. If you double a move, you do it twice. Repetition is an important choreography concept.
demi

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When a dancer does a "face, en," in which direction is she facing?
the audience
"Face, en" is another fundamental term. It refers to when dancers are directly facing something, and that something is generally the audience.
newspaper reviews
a mirror

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If a director says a move needs more "ballon," what does that mean"
more lightness
What, did you swallow concrete in your dreams last night? Add some "ballon," or lightness, to your steps.
lift her higher
more red balloons

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Who participates in a "fish dive"?
four male dancers
male and female dancers
In a fish dive, a male dancer holds a ballerina in downward-facing pose. It’s not the kind of lift you trust to a butter-fingered male dancer.
hungry audience members

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What does it mean if a dancer adds bravura to her moves?
falling motion
very slow motion
lots of flashiness
“Bravura" means adding flashy showiness to moves. It is dramatic, sweeping, and grand.

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“Cou-de-pied" is a move that refers to which part of the body?
the buttocks
the feet
The cou-de-pied finds one dancer’s foot arched and placed on the other foot. There are several variations of the cou-de-pied.
the face

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Which part of a ballet finishes the show?
demi-solo
treble
coda
The coda is the final piece in a grand pas. It is the final flourish of a performance.

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You Got:
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