What Is a Passé in Ballet?

by Ann LaPan
In the passé, the dancer raises the toes above the knee of the supporting leg.

In the passé, the dancer raises the toes above the knee of the supporting leg.

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Elementary dance positions are the basis for more advanced steps. In ballet, if arms and feet are in the first through fifth positions a dancer can begin a more complicated exercise. A passé is one such movement. Since the names of ballet moves are in French, passé translates to the English as something that has passed. In ballet, it means that the pointed toes of one foot have passed up the other leg to above the knee.

Preparing for the Passé -- Foot Position

The ballerina or dancer should first attempt the exercise by standing in first position, which means that the heels are together and the toes of each foot placed as far away from each other as possible. This gives the legs a good foundation for the turnout that is necessary for a beautiful passé.

Preparing for the Passé -- Arm Position

Arms can be in any of the five positions, but to maintain one-legged balance, the easier arm position would be first or second positions. First position places the arms in front of you at shoulder level, as though you were trying to make a large circle with them. Second position spreads the arms out from first, keeping them curved at shoulder level and at the sides of your body.

The Passé

Standing straight with the leg knee turned out, the toe of the leg you will raise points at the floor, and the heel rests on the side of the calf. Keeping the leg in the turned out position, raise it up the inner side of the standing leg. To raise it only to the knee is another move called retiré, so, to be a true passé, the toes must rise above the knee.

Moves that Develop from the Passé

Holding the passé position may be a challenge for a beginner, but a more advanced dancer can continue to another pose, called developé. This means that you lift the leg away from the supporting leg, and then straighten it to the front. It can also extend to the side or to the back. From the passé, the leg may go into an arabesque. This keeps the leg perfectly straight while lifting it to the back at angles of 45, 90 or 135 degrees. A position of "attitude" is one where the leg leaves passé to go to the front, side or back, remaining bent. The choice of the dancer may also be simply to place the foot back down in the position on the floor.

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