Now I am starting this late on a Thursday of a very busy work week and finals week for my boy, so it is likely this won’t get shared until late.  I thought long and hard about what to share this week.  Since I knew it would be a short post, I waffled between general vocabulary and resources for boy dancewear.  I settled on the vocabulary.  Perhaps next Thursday will be another deep post.

Now, since my very essence is speech-language pathologist, I deem it important that parents communicate frequently and effectively with their children about all happenings in their lives.  This is how relationships form and how little ones and teenage brains mature.  It is part of your parent role.  If you are a dance parent with 100% no dance background, this may prove a bit challenging because you may not know the vocabulary.  I am a big culprit here: “I see you and Sydney did your lift better where she sticks her leg out.”  “Arabesque, Mom, it’s called an arabesque lift.”  (large accompanying eye roll and audible huff).  This little blog will give you some down and dirty basic vocabulary to help you sound super smart and if you already know the words, maybe show the hubby!

I have this little book I bought years ago, first published in 1954 by Joan Lawson.


Now Joan is quite opinionated about lots of things, like what size a true dancer can be, but the book is designed for parents to read who don’t understand ballet.  The goal of my blog is to not be like that book!  I didn’t really make it past the first few pages, she’s a bit judgy.  I do enjoy her patterns for men’s ballet tunics though, which why I bought the book in the first place.  I will cover briefly, some costume terms, dance terms, and movement terms that you may hear from your dancer so that you can have a more productive conversation with them.

Dress – most of you reading this probably already know all of these terms, but I’m going to put them out there anyway with visuals.  That way if you are trying to have a conversation with a family member and not getting your concept across you can just pull up the pictures and voila, there ya go.

  • Leotard – this is your basic garment for your female dancer, though there are men’s leos too
  • Tutu – now I have referenced the types before but as a refresher this picture is a nice one to show the different types of tutus.  Each type of tutu will reflect the style of the ballet dance, the role of the dancer and the choreographer’s vision


  • Tights – female tights are not as thick as the male version. Female tights are available in full-footed, which is what it sounds like, convertible, which has a hole at the bottom that a student can roll up and footless.  Men tights can be full-footed or footless
  • Jazz Pants- these are most often form fitting, as are most dance clothes, so that teachers can see the student’s lines and be sure they are not placing their body incorrectly.  It is essential dancers follow teacher request for tight fitting clothes, since incorrect placements can injure a dancer


  • Booty shorts – some young ladies will wear these over leotard for practice, but most frequently you will work with these under costumes that are dresses


  • Spankies – are similar to booty shorts and are for under costume use


  • Warmies – are what they sound like, dancers need to keep their muscles warm to prevent injuries so they may start class with these then remove as they warm up


  • Ballet skirt – this is a short wrap that goes over the leotard; however, some teachers do not permit a ballet skirt so be sure to check your studio policy.  Ballet is so essential on proper placement and skirts may cover mistakes, which is why some teachers do not allow at all or only allow for certain levels.  You want your dancer safe, so please follow your studio requests


  • Unitard – the dance outfit that looks good on no one- it’s all one piece


  • Biketard – again all one piece but short pants


  • Dance belt – men’s dance wear undergarment; comes in full seated and thong


  • Breeches – male dancers costume pant that are at or slightly above the knee


  • Tunic- male ballet dancer shirt that falls at or slightly below the hips


  • Bolero – worn primarily by female dancers – short open vest


  • Upper arm sleeve – exactly what it sounds like – double stick tape to keep in place


  • Ballet overskirt – a decorative skirt placed over the tutu to add details


  • Epaulette – shoulder decoration on a male tunic or jacket


  • Male ballet shirt –


  • Tiara – oh my goodness, we can’t have a dance vocabulary discussion without including the tiara!


  • Shoes
    • Ballet
    • ballet-shoes
    • Pointe – let me stop a second here.  Every female dancer dreams of pointe.  It is essential that you as a parent understand that pointe requires particular muscle development and is not to be rushed.  Trust teacher recommendations and do not compare your dancer to the next one.  If your dancer does try pointe but does not develop the skill, it does not mean they are a bad dancer, not everyone is designed the same and not everyone can do pointe.  It is far better to be safe than need surgery from being on pointe with inadequate preparation for vanity puposes
    • pointe-shoes
    • Jazz boot
    • jazz-boot
    • Pedini – more of a performance shoe than a practice shoe
    • pedini
    • FootUndeez
    • footundeez
    • Jazz
    • jazz-shoes
    • Dance sneakers
    • dance-sneakers
    • Character
    • Tap
      • Mary Jane
      • mary-jane-tap-shoes
      • Character
      • character-tao-shoes
      • Slip on
      • slip-on-tap-shoes
      • tap – tip: use elastic for shoe laces and these can be slipped on for quick changes
      • tap-shoes
    • Ballroom – there are several styles, I am only showing one

Now, for the types of dance.  So, my readers so far already know this information, but I am hoping to stretch my reach at some point so I’m going to include this section.  There are many types of dance your student may be learning.  I have included some more common types here with a short description (this list is not all inclusive):

  • Ballet – the basis of all dance. If you can take one style of dance, take ballet.  It is precise and highly formalized with graceful movements.  Ideally, you should take ballet several times a week.  Your studio may teach a specific style of ballet including: Cecchetti method, Vaganova method, Royal Academy of Dance, Bournonville style, or Balanchine Method
  • Modern – a dance born out of rebelling against ballet, it is based on free movement and aesthetic
  • Lyrical – this dance is rather a fusion of ballet, jazz, and contemporary and is often used to express emotion
  • Contemporary – uses techniques from various styles including ballet and modern in fluid movements, more focused on the dance or concept as opposed to the technique
  • Jazz – this can include a variety of styles often shows off a dancer’s core, leaps, turns and skills
  • Tap –involving the wearing of shoes with metal on the toes and the heels where students move their feet in combinations to create rhythms
  • Hip hop – this type of dance came from the street dance out of the hip hop culture
  • Musical theater – includes acting and singing with the dancing
  • World or character – involves learning the traditional style of dance for a particular region

Finally, I am going to include a few common ballet terms that you may hear your dancer mention or you may see and want to comment about with pictures.  Ballet terms are French, so if you took French, you probably figured many of these out on your own.  The list of dance terms I have here is not at all including everything you might hear, just the most common.  Additionally, you likely won’t hear these terms isolated once your dancer passes to a more advanced level.  You will hear the teacher combine a series of these terms in an instruction to the dancer, who, of course understand them completely! (i.e., battements en cloche, releve derriere, attitude a terre)

  • Corp de ballet – the group of dancers who are not soloists


  • Pas de deux – means dance of two, usually male and female
  • En pointe – means a dancer is dancing in pointe shoes


  • The barre – just what is sounds like, but spelled differently


  • 1st through 5th position – positions dancers are to place their feet and arms- now this is where the different styles can become very confusing for us non-dancers.  Each style that I listed above in the ballet description has different positions.  I have just two examples below.  What you need to know as a parent is when you hear something like, “start in 5th position” your dancer will understand which way to place their hands and feet to meet that request



  • Plié


  • Battement Tendu


  • Grand Battements (there are many more types of battements – battement degage, battement frappe, etc- I am not listing all of the possibilities with this move)


  • Rond de jambe


  • Développés


  • Retire Passe (see above first picture)
  • Relevés


  • Sauté


  • Grand Jeté (students perform other leaps called jete as well, which are a different type of jump)


  • Tour en L’aire (tour for short) – primarily a male dancer move


  • Chasse – this is impossible to find a good picture to demonstrate, it is taught very young and is very common.  My ballet teaching sister describes it as plie in 5th, plie in 2nd, tendu in 2nd the leg that was back in the 5th has to be pointed to the side in tendu.  Clear as mud for those of us who have not stepped on a dance floor
  • temps lie


  • Fouette en tournant – there are several types of fouette that are not turns, and variation between what male dancers and what female dancers do for the turns.  Given it’s an action move, it is difficult to show a picture.  The Jon picture shows him in the midst of performing a male version of fouette turn, the illustration demonstrates a fouette en tournant you will see female dancers more typically perform


  • Port de bras – manner of how you position or move the arms
  • Pirouette


  • Arabesque


  • Arabesque penchée


  • Attitude
  • Pas de chat


  • Pas de bourrée


So any dancer, dance teacher or dance aficionado can probably list other things I could have included in this little blog.  I hope I have given you some basic information that will help you have better vocabulary to engage in meaningful discussions with your dancer.