A ballet position. The dancer stands on one leg with the other leg raised behind with a straight knee.


A horizontal pole, usually made of wood. The dancers hold onto it to warm up for the first part of class.


The person who makes up the dances. He or she is responsible for creating and arranging the patterns and steps.


Plays a major role in the style of the ballet. It adds to this visual art form through scenery, costumes, lights and technology.


Dancers express themselves, emotions, moods, stories and relationships through their bodies.


Considered the language of ballet. Many of the terms and steps in ballet come from the French language. Pictured is Sophie Martin Principal dancer with Scottish Ballet. Born in the French city of Cherbourg, Sophie trained at the Conservatory National Supérieur of Paris under the tuition of Noëlla Auguste.


Elegance of movement is what every dancer needs.


  • 1500 Ballet, as we know it today, began during the Renaissance around the year 1500 in Italy.
  • 1600 From Italian roots, ballets in France and Russia developed their own stylistic character.
  • 1800 By 1850, Russia had become a leading creative center of the dance world, and as ballet continued to evolve, certain new looks and theatrical illusions caught on and became quite fashionable. Dancing en pointe (on toe) became popular during the early part of the 19th century.
  • 1900 In the early 20th century, the Russian theatre producer Serge Diaghilev brought together some of that country’s most talented dancers, choreographers, composers, singers, and designers to form a group called the Ballet Russes.
  • 1930 In America, ballet grew in popularity during the 1930’s.
  • 1931 the Royal Ballet was founded in 1931 by Dame Ninette de Valois. It became the resident ballet company of the Royal Opera House in 1946.
  • 1948 George Balanchine firmly established ballet in America by founding the New York City Ballet.
  • 1969 Founded by Peter Darrell, Ballet West moves to Glasgow and is known as Scottish Ballet.


Lev Ivanov (1834–1901) was an important Russian choreographer. He often worked as an assistant to Marius Petipa, perhaps the most famous Russian choreographer. Most famously Ivanov is credited with choreographing The Nutcracker (1892) as well as the white swan scenes from Swan Lake (1895).


A jump while splitting the legs. Can be small (petit jeté), and large (grande jeté).

Kenneth MacMillan

Sir Kenneth MacMillan (1929–1992) was born at Dunfermline, Scotland. He was a British ballet dancer and choreographer. He was artistic director of the Royal Ballet in London between 1970 and 1977. He continued as Principal Choreographer to the Royal Ballet until his death in 1992.


A tightly fitted garment like a swim suit, worn by dancers. Invented in the mid-19th century by the French acrobat, Jules Léotard.


Telling stories or describing a story without the use of words. Stylised gestures are used within many classical ballets.

Narrative Ballet

A ballet which tells a story.


Live music plays a vital role in the performances of Ballet. Led by a conductor the orchestra is made up of woodwind, brass, percussion and strings.

Pointe Shoes

Ballet shoes worn for pointe work. The dancers appear to dance on the tips of their toes.


The 4th position of the feet. 
Other positions are 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th

Romantic Ballet

A style of ballet from the early 19th century which favoured fantasy. The plots of many ballets were dominated by spirit women and ghosts.

Scottish Ballet

Scotland’s national dance Company. Founded by Peter Darrell, the Company moved to Glasgow in 1969.


A short ballet skirt made of tarlatan or net often with an attached bodice, worn in classical ballets from the late 19th century. In the early 19th century the ballet skirt was longer, reaching beyond the calf and was used in many Romantic Ballets.


A direction of the stage, travelling away from the audience


Exceptional technical skill. 
A virtuoso dancer is able to perform very difficult steps such as multiple pirouettes and high jumps.

Warm Up

Essential to prepare the body for the exercise that follows. It should be done before any barre work is started. A good warm up stretches a dancer’s muscles to provide a greater range of motion at the joints.


Unfortunately dancers do get injured both in rehearsal and performance. An x-ray is often used to see exactly what the injury is. Gyrotonics is used for injury prevention and rehabilitation.

Yellow Gold

The colour of Scottish Ballet’s roof! Scottish Ballet moved into its new home at Tramway in 2009. Its bright colour means it is easily seen across the city. Look carefully if you are flying over Glasgow you may just see us.