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Most ballet terminology is in French. The most well-known example of this is pas de deux.

A 'pas' in ballet translated literally means a 'step', but has come to mean a dance in English. Thus, a pas de deux is a dance for two, a pas de quatre a dance for four and a pas de six a dance for six. All these terms originated in 16th- and 17th-century France. All ballets involve one or more pas de deux for the principal characters. Pas de trois or quatre are often also performed, but by the soloist roles.

A pas de deux in a classical ballet usually follows a traditional pattern. Firstly, an entré (opening dance) and adagio (slow dance - an Italian word) for the principal ballerina accompanied by the male principal, then a variation for the male dancer on his own, a variation for the female dancer and then a finale which brings the two dancers back together again.

Here are some other balletic terms explained:

Entrechat translates from French as 'caper'. The dancer jumps and quickly crosses their legs in front and behind each other. This jump is further qualified with a number. For example, an entrechat deux involves two crosses of the legs.

Arabesque translates as 'ornament'. The is one of the basic positions of ballet that you will see many times throughout a performance of one of the classics. The dancer stands on one leg, with the other extended behind, knee straight, toes pointed and body held vertically. This can be further qualified if the body is parallel to the floor as an arabesque allongée or if the body is pointed downwards towards the supporting foot as an arabesque penchée.

Jeté translates as 'thrown'. A jeté is a jump in any direction and can range from a small (petit) jump to a great leap (grand jeté) often seen in the principal dancers' solos.

Pas de chat literally translated is a 'cat step'. It is a small spring from one foot to the other, that travels sideways and is supposed to mimic a cat.

Bourrée. This is a very light and quick running step, most often seen performed by a ballerina on pointe; she seems to glide across the stage with little apparent movement or effort. Juliet can be seen doing this several times in Romeo and Juliet when she dances with Paris. She circles her nurse and also bourrées across the stage away from Paris when she refuses to marry him.



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