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Apprentice – A dance company member who learns choreography but typically does not perform.

Arabesque – A position of the body where the dancer stands on one leg, while the other leg is extended behind the body, with both knees straight. There are four basic arabesque positions. Learn more here.

Artistic Director – The artistic director of a dance company is like the CEO of a business. This is the person who makes the big decisions, and who is often the face of the company. Artistic Directors often choreograph on their companies but may also hire guest choreographers.

Choreography – The word “Choreography” translates directly to mean “dance writing.” More generally, choreography refers to the organization of events in a set relationship to one another. Dances can be choreographed, but so can lights and graduation ceremonies.

Company – This term refers to a group of dancers that work together under an artistic director.

Corps de Ballet – The largest group in a classical ballet, typically performing choreography in unison and creating visually appealing patterns onstage.

Floor work – Dance choreography performed on the floor (kneeling, sitting, lying down, etc.) instead of standing upright. In hip-hop dancing, ground-based break dancing moves would be considered “floor work.”

Gesture – A single movement, often isolating a specific body part.

Grand allegro – A series of large jumps. View a grand allegro here.

Isolations – Also referred to as “Isos” in hip-hop culture, isolations are movements that isolate one particular part of the body at a time.

Parallel position – A position in which the feet, legs and hips are facing directly forward of the body.

Petit allegro – A series of small jumps, most recognizable in classical ballet, but existing also in other dance forms. View a simple petit allegro here.

Phrase – Comparable to a phrase in speech, a movement phrase strings together several movements.

Pirouette – A turn on a single leg, with the leg in possé position. View a pirouette here.

Plié – A bend in the hips, knees and ankles.

Passé – A position in which one leg is bent and held at the knee of the opposite leg. Often seen turned out in classical ballet, the possé position is done in a parallel position in jazz dance technique.

Principal – The Principal dancer in a ballet company performs as a soloist.

Proscenium – A traditional theater/stage environment, where the performers are onstage and the audience is in seats facing the stage.

Repertory – A set of choreographed works that a dance company performs on a rotating basis.

Section – A segment of a dance. Section breaks are often indicated by a change in lighting and/or music.

Turned out – A position in which the feet, knees and hips turn outward, away from the center of the body. View a picture here.

For more ballet term definitions, check out Wikipedia’s Glossary of Ballet 

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