Dance Terms Demystified

What type of movement did you do prior to starting aerial? Was it gymnastics, dance, yoga, running, martial arts, ice skating, swimming, hiking, biking, or something else?

If dance wasn't part of the equation, it's likely you feel a bit lost if your teacher tells you to ronde de jambe to the back, or lift your leg to arabesque. If that's you know that you're definitely not alone! Taking an aerial class can feel like you're learning an entirely new language.


This tip covers some main dance positions that are commonly done in the air. While there are many more, we'll start with these first few!


*A note to teachers with a dance or gymnastics background (myself included) - it's important to remember that not all students are aware of what these terms are and many of them may be hearing and seeing them for the first time. Avoid making students feel less than because they're unsure of the terms but instead, have different ways of explaining what they are in your teaching toolbox. Something that takes practice and awareness on your part but it'll make for a more positive experience for all!


See below for a video and terminology.



Rond de jambe (rawn-duh-zjom) - Circular movement of the leg. Simplified - Circle leg to front or back

Passe´ (pa-say) - Means passed. The foot of the working leg passes the knee of the supporting leg from one position to another. Simplified - Toe to knee

Arabesque - A standing position with one leg raised behind in a turned-out. Arms are held in various positions creating elongated lines. Simplified - Straight leg raised behind Attitude - A standing position on one leg with the other lifted in back with the knee bent at a 90-degree angle and turned out - ideally the knee is higher than the foot. Simplified - Leg raised behind bent at 90 degrees Penche ́- (pawn-SHAY) Means leaning, tilted. A high arabesque with the body leaning forward. The head being low and the foot of the raised leg the highest point. Simplified - Titled split Single Stag - Typically a leap with the front leg bent underneath you and the other leg lifted to the back in an arabesque. The same leg position can be achieved in the air either upright or inverted. Simplified - One leg bent one straight behind Double Stag - Typically a leap with the front leg bent underneath you and the other leg lifted to the back in an attitude. The same leg position can be achieved in the air either upright or inverted. Simplified - Both legs bent at 90 degrees

Based on our movement backgrounds our interpretation of skills and terminology varies when it comes to aerial. Someone who has primarily a yoga background will teach or partake in aerial differently from someone with a gymnastics background, for example. All of it is valid and ok! Collectively as aerial students and teachers it's important to communicate in a way that is understandable for all. For students, I encourage you to speak up and don't feel silly for asking your teacher to clarify a term. If you're wondering, it's likely others in your class are too! For teachers, please try to avoid assumptions - communication is key!


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