Ballet is an art form that has been developed for hundreds of years. Classical ballet places emphasis on grace and beauty in movement.

One of the first things that is learnt in ballet is the position of the arms and feet. There are five "basic" positions for the feet:

  • First position: Stand with the heels together and the toes turned out. Turnout is very important in ballet, as it allows execution of some of the movements in a much easier manner.
  • Second position: From first position, the feet are moved apart. The distance between them is debatable. When learning, shoulder width apart is usually most comfortable.
  • Third position: One foot is brought slightly in front of the other, so that the heel of the front foot is touching the arch of the back foot. This is used mainly as a "training" position for fifth position.
  • Fourth position: From third position, the front foot is slid forward and placed so it lines up with the back foot.
  • Fifth position: From fourth position, the front foot is slid back until the heel is touching the big toe of the front foot.
There are six "basic" positions for the arms.
  • Bras bas: The arms are held in front of the body and are slightly curved.
  • First position: The arms are held as in bras bas, except in front of the body, at about chest level.
  • Second position: From first position, the arms are opened and held outwards.
  • Third position: One arm is held as if it first position, and the other arm is held as if in second position.
  • Fourth position: This position is with one arm held in fifth (see below) and the other held either as in first or second.
  • Fifth position: From first position, the arms are raised above the head, making a nice rounded shape.

Basic exercises are often done at the barre, a wooden rod for dancers to hold to help keep their balance when they are learning.

One of the basic movements is pliés, in which dancers stand in any of the five positions and bend their knees. A demi plié has dancers bending their knees about half way, and a grande plié has dancers bending their knees almost all the way.

Another basic movement is battement tendus. Dancers move one foot forward by sliding it along the floor, and end up pointing it. This can also be done to the sides and the back.

Battement glissés are done in a similar fashion to battement tendus, but are quicker and the foot rises off the floor several inches. It is usually a sharp movement.

These are only a few of the barre exercises. Many more are practised, but in the sake of space, I will move on.

Floor exercises are done in a large space. They include slower or "adage" exercises, port de bras or arm movements, pirouettes, and faster, or "allegro" movements.

Ballet is performed by both men and women, but professional ballerinas (female ballet dancers) generally wear pointe shoes. Pointe shoes are specially designed shoes which have toes made of paper maché or cloth and glue layers. The pointe shoes are covered in satin and are tied on the dancer's feet with ribbon. Pointe shoes allow ballerinas to stand on the tips of their toes.

Ballets are usually performed by a large company, with an orchestra, sets, lights, and beautiful costumes. Ballerinas will usually wear tutus, short, stiff skirt made to show of their legs movements. Professional classical ballets, which incorporate elements of mime, can be quite beautiful and moving.

As I am not an expert on modern ballet, I will leave that for someone else.