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What Is Passe In Ballet What Is Passe In Ballet


What Is Passe In Ballet

Written by: Stephine Galbraith

Discover what is passé in ballet and why it is an essential move in the dance form. Explore the history and technique of ballet with a focus on this iconic step.

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Table of Contents


Ballet is a timeless art form that has captivated audiences for centuries. Its graceful movements, elaborate costumes, and emotive storytelling have made it a cornerstone of the performing arts. But what exactly is ballet? In this article, we will explore the world of ballet, its origins, techniques, and its significance in modern times.

Ballet originated during the Renaissance period in the 15th century in the Italian courts. It was initially developed as a form of court entertainment, combining dance, music, and elaborate costumes. Over the years, ballet evolved and spread throughout Europe, particularly in France and Russia, where it gained significant popularity.

The main objective of ballet is to tell a story or convey emotions through a series of intricate and precise movements. Dancers, known as ballerinas or danseurs, undergo years of rigorous training to acquire the strength, flexibility, and technique required to perform ballet at a professional level.

Traditional ballet techniques focus heavily on the five positions of the feet, as well as turnout, which refers to the outward rotation of the hips and legs. These techniques serve as the foundation for many ballet movements, such as jumps, turns, and balances.

In recent years, contemporary ballet has emerged as a popular offshoot of traditional ballet. This modern interpretation incorporates elements from other dance styles, such as modern dance and jazz, while still retaining the grace and technical precision of classical ballet.

However, not all aspects of ballet have stood the test of time. Some movements and techniques that were once considered essential in classical ballet have become outdated. For example, the use of excessive upper body tension and rigid arm positions are no longer favored in contemporary ballet.

Standards in ballet have also evolved over time. The emphasis on extreme flexibility and hyperextension, once prized in ballet, is now being balanced with an increased focus on strength and artistic expression. Ballet companies are also becoming more diverse, embracing dancers of different body types, backgrounds, and ethnicities.

Despite these changes, ballet continues to hold a significant place in the world of performing arts. Its discipline, beauty, and ability to convey emotions make it a captivating form of expression that transcends language barriers. Ballet performances, whether classical or contemporary, continue to inspire and mesmerize audiences around the world.

In the following sections, we will delve deeper into the techniques and movements of ballet, as well as its role in the modern world of performance. So, put on your ballet shoes and get ready to embark on a journey into the enchanting realm of ballet.


The Evolution of Ballet

Ballet, as we know it today, has gone through a remarkable evolution over the centuries. From its humble beginnings in the Italian courts to its grandeur on the stages of the world, ballet has transformed into a complex art form that continues to captivate audiences worldwide.

The origins of ballet can be traced back to the Renaissance period in 15th-century Italy. It was during this time that lavish court spectacles and masquerades featured dance as a form of entertainment. The first recorded ballet, known as “Ballet Comique de la Reine,” was performed in 1581 at the court of Catherine de’ Medici. This groundbreaking ballet combined dance, music, poetry, and visual effects, setting the stage for the future of the art form.

As ballet gained popularity in the courts of Europe, it underwent significant transformations. In the 17th century, King Louis XIV of France played a pivotal role in developing and formalizing ballet as an art form. He established the Academie Royale de Danse in 1661, which later became the Paris Opera Ballet. Under his patronage, ballet technique and terminology were codified, and influential ballet masters emerged.

During the Romantic era in the 19th century, ballet saw a surge of interest in narrative, emotion, and fantasy. Iconic works such as “Giselle” and “Swan Lake” were created, emphasizing ethereal themes and showcasing the technical prowess of the dancers. Pointe work, where dancers perform on the tips of their toes, became a prominent feature and added an air of grace and weightlessness to the performances.

In the 20th century, ballet underwent radical changes with the advent of modern and contemporary dance. Choreographers like George Balanchine sought to break free from the constraints of narrative and embraced abstract and experimental forms. This marked a shift towards more athleticism and innovation, challenging traditional notions of ballet.

Today, ballet continues to evolve and adapt to the ever-changing artistic landscape. Contemporary ballet companies incorporate a diverse range of styles, influences, and cultural traditions. Ballet now embraces a wide range of body types and celebrates individual artistic expression. It is not uncommon to see ballet dancers incorporating elements of other dance forms, such as jazz or contemporary dance, into their performances.

While ballet has transformed over time, certain elements have remained constant. The discipline, dedication, and technical precision required to excel in ballet are still fundamental. Ballet training remains rigorous, with aspiring dancers spending years honing their technique, stamina, and artistic expression.

The evolution of ballet has been a testament to its enduring appeal and adaptability. From its aristocratic origins to its modern-day inclusivity, ballet continues to push boundaries and inspire audiences around the globe. Its ability to convey emotion, tell stories, and display sheer beauty through movement is what makes ballet a truly timeless art form.


Traditional Ballet Techniques

Ballet is renowned for its precise and technical movements, which require years of training and dedication to master. Traditional ballet techniques form the foundation of this art form, providing dancers with the essential skills needed to execute the graceful and controlled movements that characterize ballet.

One of the central aspects of traditional ballet techniques is the concept of turnout. Turnout refers to the outward rotation of the hips and legs from the hip socket. This technique creates the desired line and shape of ballet movements, allowing dancers to achieve the characteristic “en dehors” look. Turnout is a fundamental element and is often considered a defining feature of ballet dancers.

Another crucial aspect of traditional ballet techniques is the use of the five positions of the feet. These positions, known as first through fifth position, provide a framework for dancers to maintain alignment and control in their movements. Each position varies in the placement of the feet and the rotation of the leg, enabling dancers to achieve balance and precision.

Ballet also emphasizes the importance of a strong and straight posture. Dancers must maintain a lifted upper body and an elongated spine, avoiding any unnecessary tension or curvature. This proper alignment not only assists in executing movements with grace but also prevents injuries, as it ensures correct weight distribution and support.

Musicality is another key element in traditional ballet techniques. Dancers must have a strong sense of rhythm and the ability to synchronize their movements with the music. The perfect fusion of movement and music brings a sense of harmony and elevates the overall performance.

Furthermore, ballet incorporates various movements and steps that require strength, control, and flexibility. These include pas de bourrée, pirouettes, arabesques, pliés, and grand jetés, among many others. Each of these movements demands both physical and technical prowess, showcasing the athleticism and artistry of ballet.

The training process for traditional ballet techniques is rigorous and begins at a young age for many aspiring dancers. Ballet classes typically consist of a structured curriculum that includes barre exercises, center work, and across-the-floor combinations. These classes focus on developing strength, flexibility, technique, and artistry, all while instilling discipline, perseverance, and dedication.

As ballet has evolved, contemporary ballet styles have emerged, incorporating elements from other dance forms such as modern dance and jazz. While these styles may deviate from the strict adherence to traditional ballet techniques, they still embrace the core principles of ballet and strive to express the same grace and beauty through movement.

Traditional ballet techniques continue to provide the groundwork for ballet dancers worldwide. Mastering these techniques is not only essential for technical proficiency but also serves as a stepping stone for exploring and pushing the boundaries of artistic expression within this timeless art form.


Contemporary Ballet Influences

In the world of ballet, innovation and evolution have always been at the forefront. As the art form continues to evolve, contemporary ballet has emerged as a dynamic and expressive style that reflects the changing times. Contemporary ballet is heavily influenced by various dance forms and artistic movements, infusing traditional ballet techniques with a fresh and modern approach.

One of the main influences on contemporary ballet is modern dance. Modern dance emerged in the early 20th century as a rebellion against the structure and conventions of classical ballet. Choreographers like Isadora Duncan and Martha Graham introduced a more organic and expressive style of movement, emphasizing freedom and individuality. These concepts of fluidity, improvisation, and releasing the strict confines of classical ballet influence the way contemporary ballet dancers approach movement and express themselves.

Jazz is another significant influence on contemporary ballet. This energetic and rhythmic dance style incorporates elements from African, Caribbean, and American jazz music. Jazz dance adds a sense of athleticism, syncopation, and musicality to contemporary ballet choreography. Dancers often fuse the technical precision of ballet with the dynamic and rhythmic qualities of jazz, creating a unique and captivating blend of movement.

The integration of contemporary dance techniques and concepts also shapes the development of contemporary ballet. Contemporary dance borrows from various movement vocabularies, including release technique, contact improvisation, and floor work. These techniques emphasize fluidity, gravity, and experimentation, allowing dancers to explore a wider range of movement possibilities and expand their artistic expression.

Ballet companies and choreographers also draw inspiration from other cultural dance forms, often incorporating elements of ethnic and folk dances into contemporary ballet. This fusion not only adds diversity and inclusivity but also creates a hybrid movement language that reflects the multicultural society in which we live.

The use of technology and multimedia is another influential aspect of contemporary ballet. Dancers and choreographers now integrate digital projections, interactive lighting, and video installations to enhance their performances. These technological innovations create immersive and interactive experiences for both dancers and audiences, pushing the boundaries of traditional ballet staging.

Contemporary ballet is also shaped by the evolving mindset towards gender and gender roles. Traditional gender distinctions in ballet, such as male dancers performing powerful leaps and female dancers performing delicate pointe work, are being challenged. Contemporary ballet embraces gender fluidity and allows dancers of all genders to explore a wide range of movement and expression.

Contemporary ballet offers a platform for artistic experimentation and pushes the boundaries of what is traditionally expected in ballet. By embracing influences from modern dance, jazz, contemporary dance, cultural dance forms, technology, and a more inclusive approach to gender, contemporary ballet continually evolves and adapts to the ever-changing artistic landscape.

Through blending traditional ballet techniques with these diverse influences, contemporary ballet challenges our preconceived notions of what ballet can be, offering a fresh and innovative perspective on this timeless art form.


Outdated Ballet Movements

Ballet, like any art form, has evolved over time, leaving behind certain movements and techniques that are now considered outdated. As ballet has progressed and embraced new styles and ideas, there are certain movements that no longer align with contemporary principles and aesthetic preferences.

One example of an outdated ballet movement is the use of excessive upper body tension. In the past, rigidly held arms and shoulders were seen as a sign of discipline and control. However, as ballet has evolved, there is now a preference for more natural and relaxed upper body positions. Dancers are encouraged to find a balance between tension and fluidity, allowing for greater expression and grace in their movements.

Another outdated movement is the excessively arched back, known as “swayback.” In classical ballet, some poses and positions required dancers to exaggerate the arch in their lower backs. However, this can lead to strain and injury over time. Modern ballet training emphasizes the importance of a neutral spine to maintain optimal alignment and prevent unnecessary tension or strain on the body.

The expectation for extreme flexibility and hyperextension is another outdated aspect of ballet. In the past, dancers with exceptional flexibility and extreme hyperextension were often favored. However, this emphasis on extreme range of motion has been reassessed in recent years. While flexibility is still important in ballet, there is now a greater focus on strength, stability, and overall technique rather than solely prioritizing extreme flexibility.

Overly stylized arm movements and positions are also becoming outdated in contemporary ballet. The rigidly held positions, such as the “sometimes referred to as, stick arms,” where the arms are held in very straight lines, are now less commonly seen. Ballet is moving towards more fluid and expressive arm movements, allowing for a wider range of motion and artistic interpretation.

An outdated ballet movement that often raised eyebrows is the use of blackface in certain ballet productions. Historically, some ballets incorporated racially insensitive portrayals of characters through the use of offensive makeup. However, in today’s increasingly diverse and inclusive society, the use of blackface is rightfully condemned and actively discouraged in ballet performances.

It is important to note that while these movements may be considered outdated, they were once an integral part of ballet history and tradition. Ballet has evolved, and with it, so have the standards and expectations. As the art form continues to progress, there is a constant reassessment and reevaluation of movements and techniques to ensure that ballet reflects the more inclusive and diverse world we live in.

The recognition and departure from outdated ballet movements are essential in promoting a more modern and inclusive approach to ballet. By reimagining and redefining what is considered beautiful and artistically expressive in ballet, the art form continues to flourish and resonate with audiences worldwide.


Changing Standards in Ballet

Ballet, like any art form, is not immune to the influence of societal changes and shifting cultural perspectives. Over time, the standards and expectations in ballet have undergone significant transformations, as the art form strives to evolve and reflect the values of contemporary society.

One significant change in the standards of ballet is the increasing emphasis on diversity and inclusivity. Historically, ballet has been criticized for its lack of representation and limited opportunities for dancers of diverse ethnic backgrounds and body types. In recent years, there has been a push for increased diversity in ballet companies, as well as a greater recognition of the beauty and talent that exists in a range of body shapes and sizes. These changes aim to create a more inclusive and representative ballet community.

Another changing standard is the perception of body image in ballet. In the past, there was often an idealized notion of the “perfect ballet body,” which typically equated to a slim and elongated physique. Today, there is a growing recognition that beauty and talent come in diverse forms. Ballet companies are now embracing dancers of different body types and celebrating their unique strengths and abilities, challenging the narrow standards set in the past.

Additionally, the shift towards a healthier approach to training and well-being has become an important standard in ballet. There is a greater emphasis on proper nutrition, injury prevention, and mental wellness in the training of ballet dancers. The outdated belief that sacrificing one’s health and well-being for the sake of perfection is being replaced with a focus on sustainable and holistic training practices.

As ballet enters the digital age, there is also a changing standard in terms of accessibility and outreach. Ballet companies and artists are leveraging technology and social media platforms to reach wider audiences and break down barriers. Online streaming of performances, behind-the-scenes glimpses, and dance education programs have become more commonplace, allowing a broader audience to experience and engage with ballet.

Furthermore, there is a growing recognition and appreciation for the contributions of female choreographers in ballet. In the past, the majority of ballet choreography was created by male choreographers, leaving female voices underrepresented. Today, there is a conscious effort to promote and support female choreographers, providing them with the opportunities and platforms to showcase their artistic vision and creativity.

It is important to note that while these changing standards are making significant strides, there is still work to be done. Ballet, like any art form, is a reflection of the society in which it exists, and as societal views continue to evolve, so too will the standards and expectations in ballet. Continued efforts towards inclusivity, diversity, and well-being will help shape a more modern and progressive ballet culture.

The changing standards in ballet reflect a broader shift towards a more inclusive, diverse, and holistic approach to the art form. By challenging outdated norms and embracing new perspectives, ballet continues to thrive and connect with audiences in a meaningful and resonant way.


The Role of Ballet in Modern Performance

Ballet has a timeless allure that transcends generations and cultural boundaries. In modern performance, ballet continues to play a significant role, not only as a standalone art form but also as a source of inspiration and influence for other dance styles and theatrical productions.

One of the primary roles of ballet in modern performance is its ability to captivate and enchant audiences with its graceful and emotive storytelling. Ballet performances often feature intricate choreography, elaborate costumes, and elaborate set designs, creating a visually stunning experience. Ballet’s ability to convey emotions and narratives through sublime movement heightens the impact of performances and evokes strong emotional responses from viewers.

Ballet also serves as a foundation for many other dance styles and theatrical forms. The strength, flexibility, and technical precision developed through ballet training provide a solid base for dancers to explore and excel in various genres, including contemporary dance, jazz, and even musical theater. Many choreographers and dancers draw inspiration from ballet techniques and incorporate them into their work, adding depth and sophistication to their performances.

In the realm of musical theater, ballet brings an extra layer of elegance and artistry to the stage. Ballet sequences are often integrated into musical productions, enhancing the storytelling and adding a touch of classical beauty. The blending of song, dance, and acting in musical theater is enriched by the inclusion of ballet, bringing a sense of grandeur and refinement to the overall production.

Moreover, ballet finds its place in film and television, where it is often showcased in movies, documentaries, and television shows. Whether in fictional stories or real-life documentaries, the portrayal of ballet on screen allows a broader audience to experience and appreciate the beauty and intensity of this art form. Ballet’s inclusion in visual media helps to popularize and promote its accessibility to a wider public.

Ballet also plays a crucial role in dance education and the development of young artists. Many aspiring dancers begin their journey by studying ballet techniques, which lay the foundation for their dance training. The discipline, focus, and technical proficiency instilled through ballet classes provide young dancers with the necessary skills to pursue careers in various dance genres or excel in other performance arts.

Additionally, ballet continues to inspire and influence the fashion and entertainment industries. Ballet-inspired fashion trends, such as the iconic ballet flats and tulle skirts, have become popular staples in mainstream fashion. Ballet imagery and motifs are also frequently incorporated into advertising campaigns, music videos, and art installations, adding a touch of elegance and sophistication to these creative endeavors.

As the world evolves and embraces new artistic expressions, ballet remains an enduring and influential force in modern performance. Its grace, beauty, and ability to convey profound emotions continue to resonate with audiences worldwide. Whether in classical ballet productions, adaptations for modern performance, or as a source of inspiration for other art forms, ballet continues to enrapture and inspire, solidifying its essential place in the ever-evolving world of performance.



Ballet, with its rich history and timeless appeal, continues to hold a significant place in the world of performing arts. From its origins in the Italian courts to its evolution and adaptation over the years, ballet has captivated audiences with its graceful movements, emotive storytelling, and technical prowess.

As we have explored in this article, ballet has undergone significant transformations. Traditional ballet techniques, characterized by turnout, precise foot positions, and musicality, provide the foundation for dancers to master the art form. Contemporary ballet, influenced by modern dance, jazz, and cultural forms, has expanded the boundaries of movement and artistic expression.

While ballet embraces innovation and evolution, it also recognizes the need for change. Outdated movements, such as excessive upper body tension and rigid arm positions, are being replaced with more natural and expressive techniques. There is a growing emphasis on diversity, inclusivity, and positive body image within the ballet community.

Ballet’s role in modern performance extends beyond the confines of the dance stage. It inspires other dance genres, enriches musical theater productions, and captivates audiences in film and television. Ballet continues to shape the fashion and entertainment industries, influencing trends and adding a touch of elegance and refinement to various creative endeavors.

Ultimately, ballet remains a powerful form of artistic expression that evokes emotions, tells stories, and connects people across cultures. Its presence in the modern world of performance is a testament to its enduring legacy and ability to adapt to the evolving artistic landscape.

As ballet continues to push boundaries, challenge norms, and reflect a changing society, it remains a source of inspiration, beauty, and cultural heritage. Whether on the grand stages of renowned ballet companies or through the innovative expressions of emerging choreographers, ballet continues to mesmerize and transport audiences into a world of enchantment and wonder.

So, take a moment to appreciate the grace, strength, and artistry of ballet, and let it inspire you to explore your own passions and express yourself through movement. As ballet continues to evolve and captivate hearts around the world, it reminds us of the eternal power of the human spirit and the profound impact that dance can have on our lives.

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