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Positions of the feet in ballet

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Title: Positions of the feet in ballet  
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Subject: Ballroom dance, Position, French ballet, Cesare Negri
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Positions of the feet in ballet

The positions of the feet in ballet is a fundamental part of classical ballet technique that defines proper placement of feet on the floor. There are five basic positions of the feet in modern-day classical ballet, known as the first through fifth positions. These five positions were codified by the dancing master Pierre Beauchamp in the late 17th century.

Two additional positions, known as the sixth and seventh positions, were codified by Serge Lifar in the 1930s while serving as Ballet Master at the Paris Opéra Ballet, though their use is limited to Lifar's choreographies.[1][2] 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, when there were not five but ten positions for the feet in classical ballet.[3]

Five basic positions

All of the five basic positions require the feet to be flat on the floor and turned out (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

Parallel feet, as in pas couru sur les pointes en avant or en arrière.

Seventh position

Similar to fourth position, but performed en pointe with heels in line. There are two seventh positions, determined by whether the left or right foot is placed in front.


See also

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