Definition Adage Or Adagio In Ballet

adage definition
adage definition
Don Quixote Pas De Deux Adage

Definition Adage

If you type in ‘definition adage‘ or ‘definition adagio‘ you will be surprised that it means ‘a proverb or short statement expressing a general truth:“the old adage “out of sight out of mind.”” If you are looking for the meaning within ballet you will need to specify further.

The definition adage in the ballet world describes slow and lyrical dancing. Most schools of ballet use the definition adage, while the Italian musical term ‘adagio’ is also used in some schools, which means ‘at ease, or ‘at leisure.’

A dancers line, extension, balance, turnout and control are all put to the test during adage as she moves with slow, fluid serenity from one position to the next, all while trying to look and feel at ease. Adage is one of the most difficult things to get right in ballet, and it takes years of practice.

Why is Adage Used In Ballet?

Adage work is used in a lot of the ballet productions, and it is emphasized more so in the big romantic ballets like Swan Lake and Romeo and Juliet.

Adage is used to tell stories, as well as show off the dancers technical precision. Adage is a slow series of exquisite lines which require great balance, strength, and control from the dancers. What would Swan Lake or Sleeping Beauty be without the famous romantic adages. In fact, one of the best-known adages is done in The Sleeping Beauty in the Rose Adagio. Here Princess Aurora has to perform a series of balances with four ardent suitors. This is a beautiful example of the Rose Adagio.

In the ballet Gizelle, Gizelle rises from her grave with a slow and sustained developpe a la seconde and using a series of adage movements communicates the heartbreak and the horror of her fate.

Adage is used to stir emotion out of the audience in most ballets, as ballet is normally at its most expressive during the adagio sections.

Adage Technique

In order to make adage look great, it is important for dancers to pay attention to the beauty of their lines and the fluidity of their movements. A lot of the adage is practiced at the barre from a young age – plie, developpe, fondu, attitude, arabesques and penchee to mention a few.

When the dancer moves to the center floor work the steps are connected and they are practiced using different directions. Balance needs to be worked on continuously here.

Here are some things a dancer can do to improve her adage work:

  • Make sure you warm up thoroughly before attempting any high lifts with the legs.
  • If your arabesques are wobbly practice these on your own at home by stepping into an arabesque line at a comfortable height and holding it for five seconds. Repeat several times on the same leg and if you do these a lot, by the time you reach the end of your room, the back muscles will be much more engaged and your arabesques will be more secure.
  • Use your music and express yourself musically while you are dancing, even if you are in ‘pain.’
  • Focus on your supporting side, as your adage depends on your supporting leg and hip being as solid as a tree trunk rooted into the ground. Don’t think only of the working leg.
  • Work those abdominal muscles and those back muscles, and stretch often. Extension in adage happens better if you have a strong and supple body.

Hope you now understand definition adage, and also that adagio in ballet means exactly the same thing.

Center In Ballet – What And Why

center in ballet

center in balletWhat Is Center In Ballet?

Center in ballet is the reward for all your hard and disciplined work at the barre. It is not that center work in ballet requires less effort, but it is far more exhilarating for the dancer, as this is when she feels she is really and truly dancing.

Center work is normally the part of the ballet class that the dancer leaves the barre and moves into the center of the room to dance independently of the barre.

Barre work is sometimes tedious as it concentrates on one type of exercise at a time. Center in ballet is a combination of different steps that are linked together. Center work in ballet allows the dancer to travel more, express herself more, use her epaulement and her head more and of course dance.

Every ballet class normally has at least one combination in the center, and it could be in the form of an adage, petit allegro, pirouette exercise or a grand allegro. In an hour class, the center is usually done for anything from a half hour to forty-five minutes. The purpose of center in ballet is to increase a dancer’s strength, flexibility, and balance.


The center section of the ballet class normally runs in the following order:

Port de Bras

This is so the dancer can learn to use her arms through the basic arm positions with grace and poise.

Tendus and Plies

Like at the bar, just without the support. The other difference here is the direction changes and transfer of weight sections are trickier.


Slow movements which usually require balancing on one leg. This section designed to increase strength and flexibility at the same time, as well as perfect technique.


These are turning exercises, normally done by turning on one leg.

Petit Allegro

These are small quick jumps, working on warming up the feet and the jumps are normally just off the floor.


In this section, the jumps start to get bigger and also travel a bit more. Focus is still on speed rather than the height of the jump.

Grand Allegro

These are the large and traveling jumps, like the grand jete or split leap. The dancer needs to jump a lot higher in this section.

Some direction changes can be introduced here, as well as speed and precision of the foot work. Now the dancer needs to really concentrate on coordinating her arms and legs.

What A Dancer Needs To Contend With Doing Centre In Ballet

When a dancer moves into the center, these are some of the things that will challenge her:

  • The downward pull of gravity when she jumps.
  • Upward movements from the floor and how long she can remain there.
  • Use of the floor, and friction as she moves sideways.
  • The way in which she maintains contact with the floor.
  • Finding her center of gravity, which enables her to balance better.
  • Finding her center in pirouettes, and thus being able to turn without falling over.
  • Training her body to ‘float’ through the air.
  • Learning to balance on one leg and eventually on her big toe.

She has to think of all of the above and still manage to look graceful.

The center in ballet is normally concluded with a reverence (curtsey or bow) at the end of the class. This is a traditional gracious acknowledgment of your teacher, accompanist, and fellow dancers.

Video Example Of The RAD Syllabus Grade 4 Center Practice

This is one of the RAD center in ballet exercises. As you can see it is a mix of tendus, direction changes and preparation for turns.

Ballet Barre Stretches

ballet barre stretches

ballet barre stretchesMost teachers dedicate a few minutes of class time to ballet barre stretches or stretching in general. Some leave you free to stretch yourself, and others give a combination of ballet barre stretches.

It is very important for dancers to be both flexible and strong. If you want to read more about stretching exercises, you can click here.

Ballet barre stretches usually involve lifting your leg gracefully onto the barre, perhaps with a developpe to the front or side, and sometimes to the back.

Often you cambre towards and away from the working leg, sometimes sliding the foot along the barre for an even deeper stretch. Plies, rises and releves are sometimes added to the mix.

Why Do We Do Ballet Barre Stretches?

The reason that dancers do ballet barre stretches is to work on and develop their extension and placement. These ballet stretches are usually done when the dancer is warm enough to coax the muscles and connective tissue into greater length and flexibility. A good time to do a ballet barre stretch is either after barre work, or at the end of the class. Never do this at the beginning of the class, as you could overstretch the muscles.

Some Examples of Ballet Barre Stretches

I normally have my dancers face the barre and developpe their legs devant onto the barre. They aim to keep their hips level and both hips square to the barre, while maintaining turnout in both the supporting and the lifted leg.

In this position the dancers can fondu and stretch on the supporting leg, ensuring the knee is over the toes at all times. They can rise and lower and even practise balancing. They can go forward lengthening their bodies over the leg to stretch out the hamstrings. It is a good idea to work on strength as well while the dancers are stretching, and they can use their strength to try and lift the legs off of the barre.

From there the dancers do the same in seconde position, doing a side bend over the lifted leg. In seconde position the dancers normally like to slide their leg along the barre and try to get as close to a side split as the can. They can do the same for forward splits when their legs are devant.

They can then try with the leg extended behind them, but this is tricky for the non-flexible dancer. From this position, I let them put their hands on the floor and try and lift the leg off of the barre as high as they can.

Even though dancers are focusing on their stretching, they need to stay in the proper alignment and work on keeping their hips level and controlled.

On a final note, stretching should be relaxed and restful. Breathe and enjoy it.

Here is an excellent video that better explains what I have written about above. Enjoy….

Rond de Jambe en L’Air

rond de jambe en l'air

What is Rond de Jambe en L’Air?

In the short video above, the dancer is demonstrating a single rond de jambe en l’air followed by a double rond de jambe en l’air.

The dancer aims to touch her toe to the side of her leg at knee height each time her leg circles in.

Rond de jambe en l’air is a cousin to the rond de jambe a terre, but it is not at all the same as grand rond de jambe.

When the dancer performs a rond de jambe en l’air, the working leg remains a la seconde as the foot moves in towards the supporting knee and back out to a la seconde. The foot makes an oval shape, according to the Russian School or a ‘D’ shape for most other schools while it performs this action.

The oval action could either go en dehors (outwards) or en dedans (inwards). If the working leg is coming from the back it would go around en dedans and vice versa if the leg is coming from the front.

Both male and female dancers perform rond de jambe en l’air, and the step is quite commonly seen on the stage, especially during pas de deux.

Why Do Dancers do Rond de Jambe en L’air?

The main reason that dancers do this step at the barre is to build up their strength, coordination and speed. It also helps to fortify the knees, as the knee’s natural rotary capability can make it vulnerable, and strengthening the surrounding area will help to protect the knees.

How To Get The Most Out Of Rond de Jambe en L’air

  • Keep the upper body controlled and still throughout.
  • Move the thigh and the knee as little as possible.
  • Keep the working thigh lifted and well turned out as far as it will go.
  • The path of the foot is not a circle and should not extend behind the knee at any time.
  • Concentrate on lifting and controlling the supporting side of the body.

Petit Battement Sur le Cou-de-Pied – What Is It?

Petit Battement Sur le Cou-de-Pied

In the video above you can see the dancer demonstrating Petit Battement Sur le Cou-de-Pied very slowly. This step in ballet is usually done very fast, but a good way to learn it is slowly as the girl in the video is doing.

Petit Battement Sur le Cou-de-Pied literally means ‘little beating on the cou-de-pied or neck of the foot.’

Petits battements are an entire family of small quick beating movements in which the working foot moves repeatedly sur le cou-de-pied.

In the Cecchetti method, it is done standing flat with the ball of the working foot staying on the floor while the working heel moves back and forth in front of and behind the ankle.

In other schools, it is done both standing flat and in a releve. The working foot maintains a pointed or wrapped shape as it moves front, back, front, back.

There is another step called petit battements serres where the working foot beats the ankle of the supporting foot in releve without alternating the foot to the front and back. Some schools beat the arch of the supporting foot. It creates a fluttering effect, and you can see these used by Odette in Swan Lake during the Pas de Deux.

What Is The Purpose Of Petit Battement Sur le Cou-de-Pied?Petit Battement Sur le Cou-de-Pied

This exercise works on the speed that a dancer requires for petit allegro and beats.

How To Get The Most Out Of Your Petit Battement Sur le Cou-de-Pied

Here are some tips to help you with Petit Battement Sur le Cou-de-Pied:

  • Keep lifting off of your supporting leg.
  • Keep the movements of the working foot small and brisk.
  • Turn out the working thigh as much as possible, so that it can stay still and controlled during the exercise.
  • Avoid sickeling the foot.
  • The upper leg stays still and the lower leg does all the work.
  • Work for speed and precision.
  • Keep the upper body still.

How To Improve Your Ballet Technique

how to improve your ballet technique

What is in ballet technique you may ask?

 Classical Ballet Technique

The Classical Ballet Technique book on the left has some great tips on how to improve your ballet technique and is written by an ex-dancer and teacher.

“An excellent, comprehensive guide to ballet pedagogy valuable to teachers and students alike. For many years, Gretchen’s has been a major voice in the dance community, and this extensive work details the study of classical ballet from her unique and expert point of view. I applaud her, and I heartily recommend Classical Ballet Technique.”–David Howard, International Ballet Master, and Master Teacher

Dance has never been as varied  as it is today. Dance is a multicultural mix of tap, Latin, jazz, folk, Chinese, Indian and hip hop. Even ballet is being mixed with all these styles to create exciting and exhilarating entertainment.  But nevertheless, each dance form has its own particular technique that differentiates it from another dance form, and some dance forms like ballet have a lot more technique than others.

All dance forms have their own specific exercises that have been developed to train the technique in that particular dance to improve ballet technique

If you are wondering how to improve your ballet technique, you need to enhance your awareness on how your body moves on its own or with others in a group. You also need to learn how to control and direct body energy and increase your sensitivity to rhythm and space.

No matter how good or bad your ballet dancing is, there are always ways to improve your ballet dancing technique.  To improve your overall ballet technique, you need to work on separate components of your ballet dancing like flexibility, balance, strength, musicality and technique, depending on what your weak points are.

The more ballet dancing classes you attend every week the better.  Daily is a excellent way of taking your ballet dancing to the next level.  Here are some tips to help you to improve on your ballet dancing technique on a consistent and ongoing basis.

How To Improve Your Ballet Technique

In order to improve your ballet technique, you need an ongoing mastery of the mechanics and an awareness of form.  You need to develop the ability to show proper alignment and placement of different parts of the body.  Good technique will be easier if you have strong and flexible muscles, and the correct training to execute a given movement.

If a dancer has a good technical grounding and achieves all of the above, her ballet technique will appear to look effortless. Once you have good technique, then you can work more on your artistry.

Most good ballet dancing schools will have a good foundation for building up a dancer’s technique.  A good example of this is the bar work in the ballet class, or the floor work in the modern jazz class.

Bringing in other influences will also help to build up a dancer’s strength and good technique.  Horton Technique, Graham Technique and Pilates are great ways for dancers to strengthen their bodies and improve their technique.

Here are some more tips on how to improve your ballet technique.

Step 1:
Set goals for yourself and work on one small detail at a time.  Focus on one of your weaknesses for several classes at a time.  Remember it is no good having  high legs if your technique and execution is faulty.  If you find you are sickeling your foot in a grand battements for instance, rather lower your leg for a while and concentrate on getting your heels forward.  Correct small things first, and your overall technique will be better in the long run, it just takes patience.

Step 2:
If you are learning a combination for the first time, don’t just watch your teacher, mark  it with her.  If another group is busy dancing, take some time to mark the steps out in time with the music, and this will help you to learn faster and cement the routine in your head so that you can better concentrate on your technique when performing the combination.

Step 3:
If you receive a correction, listen and take action.  Listen to the others corrections as well.  If a teacher doesn’t single you out, it doesn’t mean that the correction doesn’t apply to you as well.  Keep a notebook with you, and jot down your corrections after class.  Refer to them often to reinforce them in your mind.

Step 4:
Look at the finer details.  The most gifted of ballet dancers are those that pick up the smaller bits of  detail that nobody else notices.  Take notes for yourself on the accents in a step, any special rhythms that are out of the ordinary and any small details that will help the combination look better on you, and always look for ways to play up your good points and hide your weaker ones.  Watching out for those little extras is a great way to improve your overall ballet technique.

Step 5:
Use your energy efficiently and don’t exhaust all your energy at the start of your class.  Not all your dance movements need the same kind of attack.  Work consistently and hard, but conserve most of your energy for the end of the class, so that you are not too tired to put everything into the grande allegro at the end of the class.

Step 6:
Try to push yourself a bit further each lesson.  Your teacher can’t make you work, you have to do it for yourself in order to improve your technique.  At the end of each lesson, you should feel a sense of accomplishment.  You must feel within yourself that your ballet dancing technique is better than when the lesson started.  Push yourself beyond your comfort zone.

Step 7:
Last but not least it is important to change your mindset.  If you watch a dancer who is way better than you are, rather than think “I will never be able to do that,” use her to inspire you to dance just as beautifully.

Learning how to improve your ballet technique is a ballet dancer’s building block to perfecting his or her dancing skills.

Nowadays there are loads of different classes that you can do to improve your dance technique and strengthen your body, so there really are no excuses for not having the best ballet technique that you can possibly have.

Grand Rond de Jambe

grand rond de jambe

grand rond de jambeAs in rond de jambe a terre, in grand rond de jambe the foot describes an arc from the front to the back or the back to the front, but now your foot is lifted off of the floor. The working leg could be anywhere from 45 to 90 degrees or higher, as long as the dancer can maintain her alignment.

Grand rond de jambe normally starts with a developpe and then instead of taking the leg down to the floor again, the dancer carries the leg around in whichever direction is called for.

Here is a video of a dancer doing a demi grand rond de jambe, which is only taking the leg half way around before putting the foot on the floor. The video isn’t in english, but the dancer gives a good demonstration.

In the video below this male dancer shows off his strength when he does a grand rond de jambe from the front to the back, and then the back to the front without putting his foot onto the floor in between.

What is the Purpose of a Grand Rond de Jambe?

The grand rond de jambe is often performed on stage, mainly by female dancers when they do pas de deux (dancing with a partner). The grand rond de jambe is not only a spectacular looking step but also a great exercise. It builds and requires great strength and control of the hip joints. You are trained to realign yourself correctly and challenges your balance during the big movements of the fully extended working leg.

Tips for doing a Great Grand Rond de Jambe

  • Start the leg low and work for height only when you have full control of the movement.
  • Focus on maintaining a strong, pulled-up supporting side.
  • Maintain proper placement of the hips.
  • Move your upper body slightly forward when your leg moves behind you.
  • Let the hand slide along the bar when the leg goes behind you.
  • Feel the length of the leg, and feel as if it is growing longer out of your hip socket. You should feel this the whole time as the leg goes around.
  • The working leg needs to stay at a consistent height, especially from the side to the back and vice versa.
  • Engage your core muscles throughout.
  • Don’t let your pelvis move too much, only to accommodate the leg.
  • Make sure to stretch often so that you can work towards a greater height of the leg eventually.
  • Work the turnout of the working leg. This is especially difficult when bringing the foot from the back to the side. Keep the heel of the working foot pushed towards the front at all times.

And let me leave you with this quote from August Bournonville

“It is not so much upon the number of exercises, as the care with which they are done, that progress and skill depend. ”

Ballet Developpe and How To Do It

ballet developpe

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.

Battement Frappe in Ballet

The word frappe means to strike or knock and in battement frappe in ballet, this is exactly what the dancer is doing with the working foot on the ground.

What is a Battement Frappe in Ballet?

Some people think of a coffee break when hearing battement frappe, but in ballet, it is a step that is usually done at the barre. It is anything but restful.

The working leg starts sur le cou-de-pied and moves out directly to a slightly lifted position as in a battement glisse, but the foot strikes or brushes the floor on the way there. This could be done to the front, side or back. In most schools of ballet the working leg starts in a flexed position before brushing the floor to an extended position. When the foot returns to sur le cou-de-pied it does not brush the floor.

In the Soviet syllabus, however, in an adoption from the French, the working foot starts from a fully stretched position and barely grazes the floor before extending to an angle of 22.5 degrees. For most schools the accent is on the out, but in the Soviet-style the accent is on the in and the working foot strikes the supporting ankle to rebound out for the next one.

Here is a video so that you can see what a battement frappe in ballet looks like the way that the Soviets do it. Pretty impressive!

Why Do We Do Battement Frappe?

Battement frappe is an essential exercise for developing a bright and speedy petit allegro. The strong and brisk outward motion trains the dancers legs and feet to initiate jumps with speed and force.  The stop and hold at the end of the movement train a dancer to maintain correct positions in the air.

How To Make The Most Of Battement Frappe In Ballet Class

Here are a few ways in which you can get the most benefit from doing this exercise in class.

  • Do the battements frappes with speed, precision, and attack. Make them forceful.
  • Keep the hips controlled.
  • Hold your supporting side as you extend the working foot.
  • Engage your inner thighs and try not to let them jiggle.
  • Keep your torso still and well lifted throughout.

Some Variations of the Battement Frappe

battement frappe in ballet
Placing of Battement Frappe Fouette Retire Position

Battements Frappe a Terre is where your working leg extends without brushing the floor, but finishes with the toes touching the floor. The supporting leg can be in a fondu or straight.

Battement Frappe Fouette is where the supporting leg starts at 45 degrees in a la seconde and moves forcefully to a modified retire (as illustrated) in which the working foot is below and crossed in front of or behind the knee of the supporting leg.

Battement Frappe Double is where the working foot beats sur le cou-de-pied back and then front before extending. This is excellent for developing fast and strong legs for allegro in the centre.

So come on dancers, let’s get practising with those battement frappe exercises.

Please comment below if you feel I have left out something, as it is always great to hear from other dancers and teachers.

Fondu In Ballet and How To Do It

fondu in ballet

fondu in balletThe term ‘Fondu’ in ballet means melted. Think of a fondue meal with melted cheese. Fondu in ballet is the melting or bending of the supporting leg with coordination.

At the barre, dancers do an exercise called battement fondu. This is the bending and stretching of the supporting leg while coordinating with the bending and straightening of the working leg.

The working leg peels off the floor through the foot to Sur le cou-de-pied, and then it extends either to the front, side or back. The working leg could finish on the floor (a terre) or in the air (en lair) either at 45 or 90 degrees. No matter how high the working leg goes, both legs must straighten smoothly and at the same moment.

Demonstration of a Battement Fondu in Ballet

Why Do We Do Battement Fondu in Ballet?

Fondu builds strength in your supporting side, and this is crucial to enable the dancer to control his or her turnout in jumps that land on one leg. It also works to improve the dancers coordination.

Tips On How To Get The Most Out Of Fondu

  • Use resistance in the legs. Never collapse on the downward movement.
  • Work both legs with equal turnout.
  • Make sure that the supporting knee goes over the supporting toes on all the bends.
  • Make sure the weight is distributed  is even over your supporting foot. Be aware of the alignment of the foot so that you don’t roll in at the ankle.
  • Use the meta tarsals on the floor before lifting the foot to cou-de-pied. The toes feel like a paint brush on the floor.
  • Do the battement fondu slowly feeling the use of all those muscles.
  • Hold the hips square through out and the core strong.

Battement fondu can also finish with the supporting leg in a fondu or a releve. Rond de Jambes, Fouettes and tombes can also appear in fondu combinations.