Ballet Developpe and How To Do It

ballet developpeIn ballet developpe directly translated means developed or unfolded.

When you do a ballet developpe, your working foot travels up the supporting leg, clearly going through the sur le cou-de-pied pointed position and then to a retire position, before unfolding your leg out into a sustained extension. You could take the leg up to the front, side or back.

In the beginning, a dancer will learn to do a developpe at the barre to aid her balance. Once the dancer is strong enough the developpe will be done in the centre, often as part of an adage exercise.

How To Do A Ballet Developpe

If you want to see what a ballet developpe looks like, the video below demonstrates the step very clearly.

The dancer above first does a developpe devant (to the front), then a developpe a la seconde (to the side), and lastly derriere (to the back) showing a beautiful attitude to the back before extending her leg.

The dancer in the video has had years of training, and that is why she can lift her legs so high and sustain the lifted position, while still showing excellent technique. The ballet developpe is extremely hard work, but a dancer must aim to make it look effortless.

Why Do Dancers Do Developpes?

The developpe is a fundamental adagio step, both at the barre and in the center. The big slow movements build strength and control. In ballet developpes only happen once the dancer is warm and then the dancer can put her full turnout to the test and work on her line and extension. Developpe can also be practiced with a quick tempo.

How To Get The Most Out Of Your Developpe Exercise

When dancers first start to work on developpe, they have to get their alignment correct. The leg is kept low and the dancer has to concentrate on using her tummy muscles to lift her leg, as well as learn to control the line of the hips. A dancer should never sacrifice form for height, even though this is very tempting.

Here are some more tips for ballet developpe:

  • Concentrate on keeping the supporting side held and try not to pull towards the bar.
  • Don’t grip the barre. Work on your balance and rest the fingers as lightly as possible on the barre.
  • Let the toes brush on the floor before lifting the foot off the floor.
  • Let your toes make a line up your tights as you draw the leg to the retire position.
  • Tighten your abdominals throughout.
  • Don’t let the upper body shorten, especially when doing a developpe devant.
  • When you developpe derriere, the dancers upper body should adjust forward and not downwards. The hand on the bar needs to slide forward so that the shoulders do not twist.
  • Keep the hips as level as possible, especially a la seconde and derriere.
  • Try to hold the extension and don’t let the leg crash down to the ground. Lower with control.

Feel free to comment below if you have any further developpe tips for dancers.

4 thoughts on “Ballet Developpe and How To Do It”

  1. Hi Michel,
    Reading your article and watching the instructional video took me into the “way back” machine about 30 years ago when I studied ballet. It blows my mind that I used to do developpe and grand battements (sp?). Of course, I never had the extension that your dancer in the video has. Do you teach ballet for beginners for adults?

    • That would be your hamstrings and glutes mainly and to some extent your calves. You can also work on your hip flexors in the pelvis and quadriceps in the front of the thigh. Stretching your shoulders, neck, and lower back is also beneficial.


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