The 5 Basic Foot Positions of Ballet


When you begin to study ballet, one of the first things that you will encounter is the five basic ballet positions, normally referred to as positions one through five. They are important because every basic move in ballet begins and ends in one of those positions. Can you stand in all five positions correctly? It is extraordinarily difficult to execute these positions correctly, and something that few beginning dancers can do. 

In all five basic positions, the leg is rotated (or “turned out”) from the hip. As a result, the feet are displaced from their usual toe-forward orientation and are positioned instead with the feet rotated 90 degrees. A full 90-degree rotation may take years of practice, so when you are beginning, your teacher will probably ask you to rotate only as much as is comfortable.

First Position

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In first position, the balls of the feet are turned out completely. The heels touch each other and the feet face outward. You may not be able to achieve a full rotation, but it is important that even in the beginning the soles of both feet are firmly and entirely in contact with the floor. When you see professional ballerinas in first position, you will also notice that their legs are in contact with each other from the top of the leg down as far as the calf and thereafter as close as possible, with the heels in full contact. 

Third Position

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When you are beginning ballet, your instructor may introduce you to the third position for the sake of completeness and because it is a popular position in barre exercises. In practice, however, the third position is rarely used by contemporary choreographers, who favor the similar but more extreme fifth position. The two look somewhat similar—you could say that the third position looks like a slightly sloppy execution of the fifth.

One good way to get into third position is to begin in second position and then slide one foot toward the other so that the heel of your front foot touches the arch of your back foot.  

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