10 Most Important Ballet Terms



A dancer performs a battement in second position.
A dancer performs a battement in second position.
RK Studio/Monashee Frantz/Getty Images

Battement (bat-MAHN) is a widely used term for a variety of beating movements done with the leg either extended or bent. Battement is such a common term in ballet that it's often omitted because it's understood. A battement frappé (struck beat, in full), the exercise that forms the basis of the jeté, for example, may be called simply frappé [source: Dancehelp.com].

There are two main types of battements:

  • Grand battement: Also known as the "big beat." The dancer lifts one leg from the hip as high as possible and then brings it back down. The emphasis is on the return. The rest of the body stays still and properly aligned. The idea is to loosen the hip joints.
  • Petit battement: This is also called the "little beat." One leg starts out sur le cou-de-pied (with the foot placed on the calf of the other leg, just above the ankle). It beats in time to the music -- front and back, over and over. Then it ends on the opposite side of the leg. During all of this, the knee and thigh of the working leg don't move. This develops the speed and precision required to move the feet and lower legs effectively. There are various types of petits battements: tendus (stretched); degagés (disengaged); frappés (struck) and tendus relevés (stretched and lifted) [source: Dancehelp.com].