Henrik teaches French #4 – directions

by Henrik on May 11, 2010

In the column “Henrik teaches French”, I let you in on some technical sides of the ballet life. I’ll try to explain some steps, certain parts of the performance and hopefully even teach you some french terminology while we’re at it! Today: the directions.

We use a lot of words in dance terminology for the direction of the movements. These are terms the dancers and their masters use as a part of the everyday training and rehearsals, and so a part of our casual vocabulary. Here’s a sample:

If a step is traveling forward, or executed towards the audience, it is called en Avant, meaning “forward”. The stance where the body is straight facing the audience, on the other hand, is called en Face (facing). Just to complicate a little, we call it devant when a step is performed in front of the body of the dancer, regardless of the body’s direction.

Accordingly we have the same for traveling backward; en Arriére (backward). There is no term I know of for the stance where the dancer is facing away from the audience (with his back towards the audience), but when a step is performed to the back of the dancer, we call it derriére, also here regardless of the body’s direction. Translated, the terms devant and derriére means just simply “forewards” and “backwards”.

If a step is performed to the side in relation to the dancers body, we call it á la seconde (in second). This refers to the second of the five basic positions in ballet, where the feet are separated to each side.

In the case where the dancers is traveling in a diagonal across the stage, we call it simply en diagonale, which means – yep, you guessed it: in diagonal.

We also have numbers for each direction. According “my” school – I am trained by the Vaganova syllabus – we start by counting the audience as direction number one, and then count the corners and walls upwards clockwise, as shown on the picture.

The directions in a ballet studio or stage, as told by the Vaganova system


There are variations on this though, the most common looking like this (as you can see, they start with the walls, then the corners)

A variation of the upper Vaganova systems directions

Enough technique? Don’t worry, I’ll post something more juicy soon. Check back to Tights and Tiaras to see what I’ve come up with!

Until then,

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Ter-o-fla May 11, 2010 at 4:14 pm

Very important to know!

Also all the others.. croise, etc. etc. :p

But: uh-oh! I see no pictures or diagrams.
perhaps they lost their way?


Henrik May 11, 2010 at 7:24 pm

Yes, I didn’t want to get into the croisé/efface and so on in this post, though it would be alittle “over the edge” :)

No pic’s, you say.. Hmm.. That’s wierd – I’ll check it out! Thanks for telling – and nice to see you here on our “new” page – haven’t heard from you in a while :) Thank you for following us!


Henrik May 11, 2010 at 7:41 pm

see the pics now? tried to fix things up :)


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