Ballet Tricks

by Robin Strathdee
Ballet dancers perform complicated footwork and acrobatics with grace.

Ballet dancers perform complicated footwork and acrobatics with grace.

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Dancers in a ballet performance appear to glide across the stage, performing complicated footwork and daring acrobatics with grace. To the untrained eye, the dance steps they perform may appear as complicated as the tricks of a contortionist or trapeze artist. Professional ballet dancers spend many years learning these moves, practicing and perfecting their art. With proper understanding anyone can pick out these ballet "tricks."


The arabesque takes its name from a form of Moorish decoration characterized by flowing lines. When performing an arabesque, a ballet dancer balances on one leg, either straight or bent, while extending the other leg out behind. The move can be performed in any of the five ballet foot positions. The dancer's arms can be in any number of positions during the arabesque.


A pirouette is a complete turn completed by a dancer on the ball or toes of one foot. Arms are held still during the turn, helping to provide momentum. Dancers use a method called spotting, in which they focus their eyes on a single point and turn their heads back to that point faster than their bodies turns to prevent dizziness from spinning. Beginning dancers may only be able to complete one or two revolutions, but some experienced dancers can complete more than 15. The current world record holder, Alicia Clifton, completed 36 revolutions without breaking her pirouette.


A leap, in which a dancer transfers her weight from one foot to another, is called a jete. When a dancer leaps, she throws one leg to the front, side or back. The feet may be in any ballet position upon landing. There are a few common types of jete. In a grand jete, a dancer throws one leg forward and the other back to create a "split" effect. During a jete battu, a dancer quickly crosses her legs while in the air. A jete en tournant incorporates a half turn while the dancer is in the air.

Pas de Deux

Literally meaning "a dance for two," a pas de deux allows a female dancer to partner with a male dancer to complete lifts, leaps and turns she would not be able to complete on her own. The male dancer often lifts or balances the ballerina to create a more dramatic effect. Sometimes, the male dancer will even catch the ballerina during a particularly high leap.

About the Author

Robin Strathdee is a journalist and freelance writer who began writing professionally in 2009. She has written news for the "Springfield Business Journal," created copy for a national ministry website and copy edited for "On Course" magazine. Strathdee has a bachelor's degree in print journalism from Missouri State University.

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