In the column “Henrik teaches French”, I let you in on some technical sides of the ballet life. I’ll try to explain some steps, certain parts of the performance and hopefully even teach you some french terminology while we’re at it! Today: the directions.

We use a lot of words in dance terminology for the direction of the movements. These are terms the dancers and their masters use as a part of the everyday training and rehearsals, and so a part of our casual vocabulary. Here’s a sample:

If a step is traveling forward, or executed towards the audience, it is called en Avant, meaning “forward”. The stance where the body is straight facing the audience, on the other hand, is called en Face (facing). Just to complicate a little, we call it devant when a step is performed in front of the body of the dancer, regardless of the body’s direction.

Accordingly we have the same for traveling backward; en Arriére (backward). There is no term I know of for the stance where the dancer is facing away from the audience (with his back towards the audience), but when a step is performed to the back of the dancer, we call it derriére, also here regardless of the body’s direction. Translated, the terms devant and derriére means just simply “forewards” and “backwards”.

If a step is performed to the side in relation to the dancers body, we call it á la seconde (in second). This refers to the second of the five basic positions in ballet, where the feet are separated to each side.

In the case where the dancers is traveling in a diagonal across the stage, we call it simply en diagonale, which means – yep, you guessed it: in diagonal.

We also have numbers for each direction. According “my” school – I am trained by the Vaganova syllabus – we start by counting the audience as direction number one, and then count the corners and walls upwards clockwise, as shown on the picture.


There are variations on this though, the most common looking like this (as you can see, they start with the walls, then the corners)

Enough technique? Don’t worry, I’ll post something more juicy soon. Check back to Tights and Tiaras to see what I’ve come up with!

Until then, Ta-ta