Positions of the feet in ballet
The positions of the feet in ballet is a fundamental part of classical ballet technique
Ballet technique
The core technique of ballet has only minor regional variations globally. Various training methods have been devised, these produce a different physicality of performance and aesthetic results...

 that defines proper placement of feet on the floor. There are five basic positions of the feet in modern-day classical ballet
Ballet is a type of performance dance, that originated in the Italian Renaissance courts of the 15th century, and which was further developed in France and Russia as a concert dance form. The early portions preceded the invention of the proscenium stage and were presented in large chambers with...

, known as the first through fifth positions. These five positions were codified by the dancing master Pierre Beauchamp
Pierre Beauchamp
Pierre Beauchamp was a French choreographer, dancer and composer, and the probable inventor of Beauchamp-Feuillet notation.-Biography:...

 in the late 17th century.

Two additional positions, known as the sixth and seventh positions, were codified by Serge Lifar
Serge Lifar
Serge Lifar ; 15 December 1986) was a French ballet dancer and choreographer of Ukrainian origin, famous as one of the greatest male ballet dancers of the 20th century.-Biography:Lifar was born in Kiev, Ukraine, then part of the Russian Empire...

 in the 1930s while serving as Ballet Master at the Paris Opéra Ballet
Paris Opera Ballet
The Paris Opera Ballet is the oldest national ballet company in the world, and many European and international ballet companies can trace their origins to it...

, though their use is limited to Lifar's choreographies. The sixth and seventh positions were not really Lifar's inventions, but revivals of positions that already existed in the eighteenth century, at the time of Jean-Georges Noverre
Jean-Georges Noverre
Jean-Georges Noverre was a French dancer and balletmaster, and is generally considered the creator of ballet d'action, a precursor of the narrative ballets of the 19th century...

, when there were not five but ten positions for the feet in classical ballet.

Five basic positions

All of the five basic positions require the feet to be flat on the floor and turned out
Turnout (ballet)
In ballet, turnout is a rotation of the leg which comes from the hips, causing the knee and foot to turn outward, away from the center of the body. This rotation allows for greater extension of the leg, especially when raising it to the side and rear...

 (i.e., pointing in opposite directions as a result of rotating the legs, at the hips, in opposite directions).

First position

The feet are aligned and touching heel to heel, making as nearly a straight alignment as possible. The knees are also touching with legs straightened. In beginners' classes, most exercises at the barre start from first position.

Second position

The feet are aligned as in first position, but with heels spaced approximately twelve inches apart. The term seconde generally means to or at the side.

Third position

One foot is placed in front of the other so that the heel of the front foot is near the arch of the back foot. There are two third positions, depending on which foot is in front. In beginners' classes this is a transition position in the progress to fifth position, or when a dancer is physically incapable of a fifth position (especially in adult beginners' classes).

Fourth position

There are two types of fourth position: open and closed. In both cases, one foot is placed approximately twelve inches in front of the other. In open fourth position the heels are aligned, while in closed fourth position the heel of the front foot is aligned with the toe of the back foot. There are two variations of each type of fourth position, as determined by which foot is in front.

Fifth position

One foot is placed in front of, and in contact with the other, with the heel of one foot aligned with the toe of the other foot. There are two fifth positions, depending on which foot is in front.

Lifar's additional positions

Sixth position

There is a sixth position for normally parallel feet. For example, in pas couru sur les pointes en avant or en arrière, the feet are in sixth position.

Seventh position

The dancer's feet are in fourth position, en pointe
En pointe
En pointe means "on the tip" and is a part of classical ballet technique, usually practised using specially reinforced shoes called pointe shoes or toe shoes. The technique developed from the desire for dancers to appear weightless and sylph-like and has evolved to enable dancers to dance on the...

(on tiptoe), with heels in line. There are two seventh positions, depending on which foot is in front.

See also

  • Positions of the arms in ballet
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