The Ballet Basics: Positions

This is a tool for students in addition to classes taken prior to commencement of term. Please contact Teresa Victory [] or leave a reply below if you have any questions regarding the information following. Remember to always consider responsible safety when performing these positions.

General Notes:

  • The dancer should lengthen along the collarbones and keep the eye line and chin slightly lifted. Think “broadness of collarbones right to the tip of the shoulders” or “a smile on the front of the chest just as big as the smile on the back or other side of the chest”.
  • The neck and upper body should align on top of the pelvis, without exposing the chest or flaring the rib cage. Think “sternum or breast bone over pubic bone” and “feel as though the head is dangling from a puppeteers string” for that sense of length and lift without tension.
  • The pelvis and lumbar spine should be held in ‘neutral’. To find your neutral curve you can try rocking your pelvis forwards and backwards (easiest in lying with feet flat on the floor and knees bent, but more applicable in standing) until you can distinguish a middle point in-between the anterior (forward) and posterior (backward) pelvic tilt. Think “sit bones to heels” or “rib to hip connection”.
  • The dancer should utilise their natural turnout by turning out from the hips rather than forcing the position. Think of “old fashioned taps turning and rotating outwards inside the pelvis” or “candy-cane/barbershop stripes wrapping outwards around the legs” or “rotating the hips inside the pelvis like keys in a lock”. Ensure to work both legs evenly! Think of your legs as a team of two parts. This will keep your pelvis still and allow the turnout to come from your hips and not your spine.
  • Make sure to keep 60% of the weight on the balls of the feet and 40% on the heels, balancing the weight between the big toe, pinky toe, and heel on each foot. Think “tripod” foot. Try not scrunch your toes! Think “spreading roots of a tree into the ground”.

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First Position

The dancer stands with heels together and feet turned out from the hips. Legs should be straight unless the dancer is in a plié. The heels lift as needed in a grand plié. Remember straight legs does not mean “locked” or “hyper-extended”. Not sure if you are doing this correctly? Check with your teacher in your next class!

The arms are held in bras bas – in a relaxed oval shape with the fingers in line with the middle of the thigh. Fingers are lightly separated, lengthened downwards and point inwards. The elbows point outwards and there is a feeling of “air” or space under the arms.

The can also be held in 1st position with the oval shape raised slightly above waist level, in line with the lower ribs.

Second Position

The dancer stands with feet shoulder width apart with the legs turned out from the hips. This is the only position that the heels remain in contact with the ground in a grand plié.

The arms are held to the dancer’s sides in 2nd position with the fingertips pointing forward and the elbows pointing backwards. Hands should be at the end of a gradual slope down from the shoulders. If you were to turn your head to the side, you should notice that the elbows are still forward of the body. This keeps the ribs quiet and the spine in neutral.

Third Position

The dancer stands with one foot in front of the other in turnout, with the heel of the front foot touching the arch of the back foot. Ensure that the turnout is even as it is very tempting to turn out the front leg (the one on show) more than the back leg!

The arms are in 3rd position: one arm is lifted to the front in an oval shape (like in 1st position) while the other is held to the side (like in 2nd position). Keep in mind that the 2nd arm remains forward of the body and the 1st arm remains on it’s own side and doesn’t “over-cross”.

Fourth Position

The dancer stands with one foot in front of the other in turnout. The feet should be placed in almost the same position as third position, but now with space between the feet (about the length of the dancer’s foot). The body weight should be placed evenly in-between the feet. Be sure to maintain even turn out – especially of back leg! Remember… “team of two parts”.

One arm is lifted over the head in an oval shape (like in 5th position) while the other is out to the side as in 2nd position.

Fifth Position

The dancer stands with one foot in front of the other in turnout, with the big toe knuckle of the back foot in line with the heel of the front foot.

Arms are held in 5th position above the head in an oval shape and in front of the body. Keep the collarbones reaching wide and outwards to keep the shoulder girdle away from the ears. Remember your shoulders aren’t earrings! Hands should still be visible in the dancer’s peripheral vision. Fingers should be lengthened slightly upwards to create the feeling of space.


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