Basic Ballet Positions

Positions of the Feet

In ballet, there are five basic positions of the feet, numbered one through five.  Each of the positions utilizes turn-out, or a 90-degree rotation of the leg from the hip joint. Refer to the pictures below and match your feet to each of them to the best of your ability. Remember: Dancers work many years to achieve a full 90-degree turn-out!

Basic Ballet Positions - Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

Basic Ballet Positions - Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

Wait…where’s Third Position? Third position is rarely used anymore because with the high degree of turnout of today’s dancers, it looks too similar to Fifth Position.

Positions of the Arms

There are also various positions of the arms.  Match your arms to the pictures shown below.

Basic Ballet Positions - Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

Basic Ballet Positions - Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

Movements in Dance

There are multiple steps referred to as the “movements in dance.”  There are three movements that ballet/dance beginners learn.  First learn to pronounce the terminology given below, learn the definition, and then attempt to do the movement described.

  1. plie (plee-ay):  to bend.  Keeping both feet flat on the floor at all times, bend your knees.  Remember to send your knees directly out over your toes!
  2. releve (ruh-leh-vay’):  to rise.  This can be done on one foot or both feet together. Start with the feet together, keep the knees straight and lift the heels high enough so all of your body weight is on the balls of the feet – NOT the tips of your toes.  Repeat this on one foot.
  3. saute  (soh-tay):  to jump. This sort of jump is performed “two feet to two feet.” This means that you leave the ground by jumping off of both feet at the same time and you land on both feet at the same time. Begin in a plie (as described above). Using your feet the same way you did to perform releve,  propel yourself into the air.  Be sure to straighten and extend your legs in the air, but land in plie to cushion your knees.Basic Ballet Positions - Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

Next Steps

Now, combine what you have learned.  Choose one position of the feet to stand in and one position of the arms to hold at the same time.  Next, perform each of the movements of dance listed above while continuing to hold the positions of the feet and arms you chose. Now you’re dancing!

Keep learning with our ballet vocabulary or discover the history of ballet.

Experience ballet for yourself with classes for all ages, including adult beginning ballet classes. Or, introduce your little ones to ballet with Dance the Story at Home!

Artists: PBT Corps de Ballet dancers JoAnna Schmidt and Corey Bourbonniere. Photos by Kelly Perkovich.