The Five Basic Ballet Positions

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One of the first things you need to master is the Five Basic Ballet Positions.

The basic Ballet positions for arms and feet are simply known as First, Second, Third, Forth and Fifth.

All basic moves start from and end in one of these five positions or a slight variation thereof.

You should at least be taken through some or all of the five positions of the feet during your first lesson.

To put the arms in at the beginner stage can sometimes be a little confusing and some teachers will teach a few lessons without the arm positions.

You will just be asked to keep your arms in first or second position to help balance you.

This gives you the opportunity to concentrate on getting the positions of the feet correct.

However other teachers will just go right ahead and have you doing both the feet and arm positions from day one.

Neither approach is right or wrong, simply a variance in teaching style.

Also, just so you know (and this is a bit confusing) there are actually TWO Forth positions.

However, in the spirit of keeping things simple, and being mindful that our instruction here is for absolute beginners, we've just included the most common of the two positions here, rather than both of them.

In your first lessons, it's the more common one that you'll learn first.

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As your dancing progresses, you'll learn the other position and also variations of feet and arm positions that are a little more demanding (and you also might come across the elusive Sixth position - yes, it exists).

But the five basic Ballet positions as we demonstrate here are all you have to think about for now...

Adult Beginners Ballet Class at the Barre

Basic Ballet positions for the complete beginner

A full photo guide to all five Ballet positions is below.

Suzanne says
"These are very deliberately not 'text-book' versions of Ballet positions. 
If the photos showed a professional ballerina who had perfect turnout and tiny, skinny legs doing each of the positions with immaculate accuracy, you might find it a bit off-putting.
There's no way you should expect to be doing these positions perfectly in your first lessons.  So just copy the more accessible versions here to start with"

As your dancing progresses, the flexibility and suppleness that you will gain will help you turn out more, and do more 'perfect' versions of what's here.

Right now, it is far more important you find Ballet positions you are comfortable in and that give you good balance.

Our guide to the five basic Ballet positions

Ballet 1st Position Feet

1st Position Feet

This is the main Ballet position that most of the steps you practise as a beginner will start from. So it's important to get it right. Your feet should be turned out only as far as is comfortable. It is vital that you feel completely balanced in this position and that all of the sole of your foot and toes are in contact with the floor. Check that your feet aren't rolling forwards or turned out so far that you feel you are going to fall over. And certainly don't try to get them in a completely straight line á la Charlie Chaplin! Also, notice how your heels probably won't touch – don't worry about this at all. Just as close as is comfortable is fine.

Ballet 2nd Position Feet

2nd Position Feet

From first position (above), slide one foot away from the other. The space in between your feet should be about one and a half lengths of your foot. Keep your feet comfortably turned out.

Ballet 3rd Position Feet

3rd Position Feet

Now slide your foot back to touch the other, but instead of touching heels together as in first position, this time bring one foot further across the other. The heel of your front foot should be touching the area of the arch of your back foot. It's from third position that you'll probably start most of your barre exercises from as a beginner, so take a little time to find and get used to this position.

Ballet 4th Position Feet

4th Position Feet

From the third position (above) slide your front foot directly out in front of you. Stop when the distance between your feet is equal to about one foot's length.

Ballet 5th Position Feet

5th Position Feet

Slide your front foot directly back towards you. Bring your front foot slightly further across your back foot than in third position. So when your feet are touching, your front toe should be roughly in front of your back heel. The 'ideal' of this position is to get your front foot so far across your back foot, that you can't see the one at the back. You are so turned out that you are standing front toe to back heel, and back toe to front heel. But to execute this perfectly takes years of training. What is demonstrated here is perfectly acceptable for a beginner. And far more comfortable!

Five basic Ballet positions - arms and feet

Ballet 1st Position

1st Position

This is the main Ballet position of the arms for beginners. Keep your arms nice and relaxed, and roughly the width of your face apart. Your hands shouldn't be touching your thighs. Keep them just an inch or so in front of you.

Ballet Gateway Position

Get from 1st to 2nd

For a smooth transition from first position arms to second, simply raise your arms until they are almost shoulder height in front of you. Keep them roughly the width of your face apart. Then, to get to second, all you have to do is open them.


Ballet 2nd Position

2nd Position

Your arms out to the side should form a smooth line. Don't do the 'Dead Bird' thing here. Your elbows should be facing the back of the room. Extend your hand comfortably and keep it relaxed – no pointing!

Ballet 3rd Position

3rd Position

This is bringing one arm only in front of you, leaving the other in second position.

Ballet 4th Position

4th Position

This is one arm raised and one arm in second. The arm that is raised should be opposite to the foot you have in front. So if your right foot is in front, you raise your left arm.

Ballet 5th Position

5th Position

Finally, raise both arms. As with all these positions, make sure that it is your arms that are raised, and NOT your shoulders. Arms should be look smooth with your elbows and hands softly rounded (and definitely no pointing). You are executing Ballet positions, not directing traffic!

Well done if you've mastered the barre and have had a go at the basic positions.  But you do need to think a little about your posture for Ballet, so our next photo guide for you is on the subject of how to stand.

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