Cou-de-pied versus Coupé

Cou-de-pied and Coupé are two terms that I often hear used interchangeably by teachers, but there is a difference.  The long and the short of it is that cou-de-pied is a position and coupé is an action.

Cou-de-pied - [kud(ә)pje] pronounced "cou" as in barracuda, "de" as if you were the sound that the letter D makes, "pied" sounding like p+yay (always trying to avoid that final y sound that is prominent in English).

Literally meaning neck of the foot, cou-de-pied is the part of the body located on the front of the body at the articulation of the leg and foot. The cou-de-pied would be under the spot where you tie your sneaker.

Depending on your preferred school of ballet, you may consider cou-de-pied to be a stretched foot position with the working toes touching near the ankle bone of the supporting foot.  Today this position can be performed devant or derrière, wrapped or not wrapped.  You might also consider cou-de-pied as a position in which the heel of the working foot touches near the ankle of the supporting foot and the working foot in a semi-flexed position so that the toes touch the ground.  Many teachers call this position coupé.  I won't say this is in error because it is incredibly widespread and is more of a linguistic evolution than a mistake, but some teachers find great value in making a distinction between the two. In either case, cou-de-pied designates a position of the foot rather than an action.

Coupé - [kupe] pronounced "cou" as in barracuda, "pé" sounding like the English word pay without the final y.

The verb couper means "to cut," and coupé was originally adjective describing the noun pas meaning "step," but with time and frequent usage, the word coupé became a noun in its own right. 

One leg or one foot cuts under the body to replace the original standing foot.  The foot that is replaced can be picked up in an extended position devant, derrière, or à la seconde or can be picked up in cou-de-pied or a number of other positions. 

The frequent execution of coupé picking the replaced foot up into cou-de-pied may be one of the reasons that cou-de-pied is in many cases overshadowed by coupé.



Ballonné and Ballotté

Ballonné and Ballotté are similar, both in name and structure, but there are marked differences. How do we designate the differences and pass those ideas on to our students?

To make it short and simple:  BalloNNé is a BouNce and BalloTTé is a Throw.  Ballonné bouncing on one foot and ballotté throwing energy from one foot to the other, front to back.  N's and T's are a quick memory device to help you (and your students) keep these terms straight, but let's dig a little deeper and explore the origins and the imagery that can bring the vocabulary to life in your classroom.

First, it's important to know that neither ballonné (sometimes spelled balloné) or ballotté were included in the 1787 Dictionnaire de Danse.  Why?  They were rather late additions in the grand scheme of physical ballet vocabulary, as most of the earlier work was focused on terre à terre (floor to floor) movement and not on the strong jumps and leaps that we idealize today.

Ballonné came to be before ballotté:  ballonné showing up in the 1895 Dictionnaire de la Danse and ballotté coming into more common usage in the 20th century.  If you think about the structure of the movement, this evolution makes sense.  Ballonné connecting to the beginning of pointe work and advancing to a jumping movement.  Ballotté being a more advanced jumping movement, which would have been more highly valued in the the 20th century.

Ballonné - Pronounced [balɔne] "bal" pronounced like beginning of the word "balance," "o" pronounced like the o in "on," "nné" pronounced like "nay" but trying to avoid pronouncing the final Y as we do in English.

Ballonné has the quality of bouncing like a ball.  It comes from the word ballon in French, which is simply an air-filled ball.  The bouncing movement is repeated on a single supporting leg and the working leg progresses from a cou-de-pied in plié to an extended leg at the height of the jump.
Much like a bouncing ball, this movement can stay in place or travel by advancing the supporting foot.  (Note:  You'll find the word ballonné elsewhere in French but with a different meaning.  Outside of dance, ballonné means air-filled or swollen like a balloon.)

Ballotté - Pronounced [balɔte] "bal" pronounced like beginning of the word "balance," "o" pronounced like the o in "on," "tté" pronounced like "tay" but again trying to avoid pronouncing the final Y.

Ballotté has the quality of being tossed from side to side (or more commonly front to back in this case).  "Pas de danse qui combine un sauté dessous avec un développement effacé."*  [Dance step that combines a jump underneath one's self with a lengthening/dévloppé in effacé]. The word ballotté is most often used to describe a boat or piece of debris that is tossed by the harsh waves of the sea.  You can visualize both the tossing action and the shape of the boat in the step itself.  The dancer jumps bring the feet underneath him/herself at the height of the jump landing on one foot and extending the other through a développé to the front (or back) as the dancer comes into plié on the supporting foot.  The step is generally repeated with a second jump where the feet are pulled underneath and the opposite leg is extended through développé to the back.   Imagine a boat being thrown by the waves during a storm.  Or picture the boat itself:  the extension of the leg in front creates the front of the boat with the toes being the tip of the boat and the extension of the leg in the back creating the back of the boat.  As the movement is repeat and the energy is tossed from front to back, you can almost see the body of the boat in the dancers legs in feet.

*Trésor de la langue française -