Ballet is an art that helps you express yourself through movement. It’s also a technical form of dance that builds on the basics. If you’re interested in ballet, start by learning the 5 basic foot and arm positions. After those, you can progress onto moves like plié and relevé. Take a beginner’s class to make sure you’re learning good form and technique, and practice at home so that you can master the basics.
EditMastering the Basic Positions
Start with first position. First position is arguably the easiest basic ballet position. Stand with your feet together, ensuring your heels touch. Then, turn each leg outward so your feet are perpendicular to your torso. Keep your heels together, but allow your feet, calves, and thighs pivot until your feet form a straight line parallel with your shoulders. The end stance is first position.
Your whole leg from your thigh to your feet be turned outward. The end result will turn your feet in a straight line on the floor, with your heels in the middle.
First position for the arms looks like you’re holding a beach ball in the middle of your stomach. Keep your fingers about apart, and tilt your hands just slightly toward your face.
Move into second position. Second position is similar to first. Instead of your heels touching, though, move your feet about hip distance apart. Make sure your feet still face opposite directions, and that your legs turn out along with your feet.
Second position for the arms is like the first position arms, but open. Take your first position arms and open them at the elbows to about the width of your feet. Tilt your palms slightly toward you.
Transition to third position. For third position, start in first position. With your feet still facing opposite directions, slide one foot directly in front of the other. Touch the heel of your front foot to the instep of your back foot, and bring your front calf directly in front of your back calf.
Third position arms can best be thought of as a combination of first and second position. Start with your arms in first position. Open just one arm up to second position, leaving the other arm in first position.
Open to fourth position. Begin in first position, then bring one foot in front of the other, making sure the toes on each foot still point in opposite directions. Position your forward foot about in front of your back foot, and line the heel of the forward foot up with the toes of the back foot.
Unlike in other positions, your feet do not touch in fourth position. Getting your spacing right can be tricky. Look up pictures of fourth position online and watch video tutorials to give you an idea of how your feet should be positioned.
For fourth position arms, start with your arms in first position. Bring one arm up above your head, maintaining the bend at the elbow. Face the palm of your raised arm downward and hold it just in front of your head.
Finish in fifth position. Fifth position uses the same foot directions as fourth, but your feet are positioned much closer together. Start in fourth position and bring your feet in close together, stopping when they are about 1-2 finger widths apart.
As with fourth position, turn your legs out along with your feet. Avoid bending them at the knee. Hold them as tall and straight as possible.
Fifth position arms are an extension of fourth position, as well. Bring your arms into fourth position. Then, bring your lower arm up above your head to meet your raised arm. Make sure to leave just enough space between your fingers so that they don’t touch.
EditLearning Additional Moves
Add movement to first position with a plié. A plié is one of the most basic moves in ballet. Start in first position. Then, slowly bend your knees until they are about as wide apart as your big toes. Hold this position for a second before using your legs to quickly and gracefully push your torso back up. Finish back in first position.
As you plié, pay close attention to your form. Keep your back straight and tall, and your heels planted on the floor. This movement will engage your quadriceps on the way down, and your knees and glutes on the way up.
A plié is the starting and finishing motion for many jumps. That’s why you don’t just straighten your legs when coming out of one. The force that you use to drive up your upper body will eventually drive your jumps and pirouettes.
There are two types of pliés. Beginners should start with a demi plié as described. As you master your craft, though, you’ll move onto the grand plié, where you bend until your thighs are parallel with the floor.
Use a tendu to transition between positions. A tendu, or battement tendu, is a stretch that helps you move from one position to another. Start in fifth position with your legs straight and your muscles pulled up. Take your front foot and push it into the floor, then immediately slide out to the front before bringing it back to fifth position.
Once your foot is back in fifth position, push it back into the floor, then slide it out to the side. Make sure your knee does not bend through this process. As you bring your foot back in, place it in fifth position behind your stationary foot.
Complete the tendu by pushing your foot into the ground then sliding it back behind you. Bring your feet back to fifth position. Your stationary foot will now be in front, allowing you to switch feet and practice the tendu flow on your other foot.
Come up on the balls of your feet for a relevé. A relevé is a basic move taught to most beginning ballet dancers. For a basic relevé, start with your feet in first position and one arm holding onto your barre. Use your calves to pull your heels upward until you’re standing on the balls of your feet. Then, slowly release your calves to bring your heels back to the floor.
While relevé is used in pointe, beginners should not try going all the way onto their toes. Instead, support your weight with the balls of your feet. This is called a demi-pointe.
As you practice more, you can combine your plié and relevé. Start by going into your plié, then use the driving force as you come back up to bring you into relevé.
Try a basic sauté when you’re ready to learn jumps. A sauté is generally used as an exercise for beginners to help them master small, simple jumps. To sauté, start in first position. Bend into a plié, then push your legs into the ground as you come up, giving you lift enough to jump a little way off the ground. Straighten your legs as you jump, then bend softly back into a plié as you land.
Often, as you practice, you will do several sautés in a row. Practice sautés in groups of at least 5 to help you master the flow of launching and landing in plié. Landing in plié is an important part of this jump, as it cushions and protects your knees.
Moving from plié to sauté will be similar to moving from plié to relevé, but with a bit more force as you come up. That added force is what will get you off the ground.
Sauté, literally translating to jump, is often combined with other positions to create specific jumps, such as sauté arabesque.
EditPracticing Your Ballet Skills
Buy or make a barre to practice at home. A barre is a simple rail to help you keep your balance when doing warming up and practicing new moves. Position the barre at a comfortable height, just at or above your waist. You can buy a barre online or from some sporting goods stores. You can also use PVC pipes to make a freestanding barre for your home.
A sturdy barre will be necessary for most beginners to help them keep balance as they improve their technique and muscle memory.
A typical ballet barre has a lower and an upper barre attached to the same wall or frame. The lower barre is usually from the floor, and the upper barre is from the floor.
If you don’t want to invest in a home barre, talk to local dance studios to see if they have open hours. Often, you pay a small practice fee for open hours in exchange for free time to use the shared studio space and equipment, including their barre.
Go over the port de bras basics each day. Mastering the position and movement of your arms, known in ballet as port de bras, is often the first exercise for beginners. Take some time each day to flow through the basic arm positions. These include not only the arms complimenting each foot position, but also:
En avant (forward). For this, hold your arms out directly in front of your torso, bending them at the elbows to round them slightly. Face your palms in toward your body, and keep your fingers close but not so close that they touch.
En haut (high up). Bring your arms up from en avant and hold them above your head, keeping your shoulders flat. Keep your elbows round and your fingers just slightly apart.
En bas (below). Carefully and intentionally bring your arms down directly in front of your hips from en haut. Face your palms inward toward your legs, keep your elbows round, and maintain spacing between your fingers. Then, bring your arms back up to en avant and repeat the flow for at least 5 or so minutes.
Practice your basic foot positions every day after doing port de bras. Whether you’re taking classes or just exploring your interest in ballet, practicing the basic positions is essential. Set aside at least 15 minutes every day to practice your positions in front of a mirror. 
Hold each position for a few seconds at a time to evaluate your form and correct your stance, if necessary.
Don’t get discouraged if your positions aren’t perfect at first. These take a lot of time to learn and even longer to perfect. Keep practicing, though, since these positions serve as the starting point for many basic moves.
Attend a beginners ballet class to ensure you have the correct form. Whether you hope to become a prima ballerina/ballerino or you’re just dancing for fun, an instructor is a necessity for a ballet beginner. Home practice is important, but only a teacher can build your correct your technique and help you move past basic skills.
Attend open houses at local dance studios to get a feel for different teachers and their different styles.
Keep looking until you find a teacher with whom you click. Ballet is a difficult art to master, so you may be with your instructor for a long time. Look for someone who will both nurture and challenge you.
Even if you have experience in other forms of dance, you should start with a beginner ballet class. Ballet is highly technical, and other forms of dance may not fully prepare you. Your instructor will let you know if they think you’re prepared for a more advanced class.
In addition to practicing moves, learn about ballet through reading and watching videos. The more you understand about the technique and theory behind each movement, the better you will be able to perform it.
Don’t give up. Becoming a ballerina/ballerino is a very long process, so don’t expect to be perfect from the start.
Do not try pointe or use pointe shoes as a beginner. Pointe can be dangerous for the inexperienced dancer. Your ballet instructor will let you know when you are ready for pointe.
Do not force your body into a position it cannot hold. It takes time to build the strength and flexibility for certain moves and positions. Allow yourself to build up the muscle memory gradually or you could risk hurting yourself.
Do a Pirouette
Do The Box (Front) Splits
Do Well in a Ballet Audition
Learn Body Positions for Advanced Ballet
EditSources and Citations
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