Terminology Trivia!

I’m sure that students reading this blog have used or heard the term battement before. If grand battement immediately comes to mind, I’m not surprised, as the word battement is commonly dropped from the name of other familiar terms.

Cameron performing a "grand battement" with a tilt
A mother, father, brothers, grandparents, uncles, all share a family name. In a similar way battement is a family of movements.

Grace, Zoe and Yasmine in class
From the Technical Manual and Dictionary of Classical Ballet: Battement [bat-MAHN] — Beating. A beating action of the extended or bent leg. There are two types of battements, grands battements and petits battements. The petis battements are: Battements tendusdégagésfrappés and tendus relevés: stretched, disengaged, struck and stretched-and-lifted. In this must-have reference Gail Grant devotes no less than 7 pages to the battement family which also includes members such as fondu developpé, balançoire, retiré or raccourci, soutenu, battu/serré, and more.

Why We Practice Them

Battements, as they are practiced at the barre and in centre, are the foundation of many other movements in ballet (jumps and traveling steps such as assemblé, tour jeté, grand jeté, and so many more) and in other dance forms. It is necessary to have a solid grasp on the simplest forms in order to perform the others correctly. Often battement are separated into two categories: petite and grand. However, one might also divide battements according to whether or not they interact with the floor.


Grace and Zoe performing on stage
Tendus, dégagés, frappés, grand battements (balançoire, en cloche, fouetté, etc), soutenu, and retiré, are all battement that brush or press away from the floor. In each of these movements, it is important to remember the role of the feet. I have encountered many beginning dancers that neglect “working through” the foot as the working/gesture leg is disengaged from it’s standing position. Think of the foot as a paintbrush creating a brush stroke on the floor, using the intrinsic muscles of the arch and finally, the toes. This small action will strengthen the foot for jumping and relevé, and helps to “ground” the movement, providing stability, particularly in centre. Stability can also be increased by imagining the standing leg rooted deep into the earth as the working leg moves outward and/or skyward from the midline. The foot also articulates in battements that lift the knee upward, as in retiré/raccourci. Think of this as a one-legged jump, requiring the same roll-thru of the feet. This is great strengthening practice for jumps to come. Similarly in grand battements, I like to remind my students that power and height of the working leg is achieved through sending force into the floor. Much like a rocket ship which propels itself into space by sending heat and energy downward, a dancer must send energy into the floor through the leg and foot to create “lift-off” in grand battements.


Ask your student to guess the correct answer and they will receive a prize this upcoming week in class! Answer the question in the comment section. We will randomly pick a student that gives the correct answer and it will be announced on the blog and our Facebook page.

When completing a grand battement, what are the steps that you will "go through" to correctly execute your grand battement?

Don’t forget to pick up a good ballet dictionary. It will prove helpful in your study of ballet (and other dance forms) to understand and utilize proper ballet terminology. Once again, I highly recommend the Technical Manual and Dictionary of Classical Ballet.


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