Ballet Foundations: Positions of the Feet

Classical Ballet is known for its rigorous technique, flowing and precise movements, lithe aesthetics, and ethereal qualities. It is characterized by tradition and employs techniques and tools, such as pointe shoes and tutus, that have been handed down over the centuries. There are several stylistic variations of classical ballet that relate to the origin of their development: the French School, the Vaganova (Russian) method, the Cecchetti (Italian) method, the Bournonville method, the Balanchine (American) method, and the Royal Academy of Dance (English) method. Each of these styles places a different emphasis on certain elements of classical ballet technique and produces dancers with diverse talents and qualities but they all stem out of 5 basic positions for the feet and arms.



These 5 positions of the feet, legs, and arms, which all classical ballet technique is based upon, were developed in the 1600s and codified by King Louis XIV, dance director Jean-Baptiste Lully, and ballet-master Pierre Beauchamp. The vocabulary is taught in French (out of respect for ballet’s origins in France) and utilizes the principles of turnout (external rotation of the thighs from the hips) and aplomb (balance and stability).


Feet Positions


  • First Position: heels together, toes pointed outwards to the side


  • Second Position: legs are moved apart, hip-width apart, toes pointed outwards to the side


  • Third Position: feet pointed outwards, one foot placed in front of the other with the front heel touching the back foot’s instep


  • Fourth Position:
    • Open: feet pointed outwards, with legs in third position but spread apart
    • Crossed: feet pointed outwards, legs spread apart with one foot placed in front of the other, and the front foot is placed opposite the toes of the back foot


  • Fifth Position: feet pointed outwards, legs crossed and feet touching, with the heel of one foot placed beside the toes of the other