Words to Know

Basic Positions

There are five basic positions in dance, but only four of them are commonly used. Every movement in dance is begun and ended in one of these positions. For each of these positions there is a position for the arms and a position for the feet. It is helpful to practice each of these positions in front of a full length mirror until you get the hang of them. After a while, you will be able to begin depending more on feeling the movement rather than watching in the mirror.

First Position

First Position

First position is the first movement beginning dancers learn. Stand with your feet turned out and the heels together. It is important that a beginning dancer be taught the proper technique of performing even such a simple position. If dancers force their turnout too much, the strain can severely injure their knees. In order to prevent injury, a dancer's turnout should originate in the hips, not in the knees.

To ensure that you are executing first position properly, and to avoid injury, begin by standing with your feet together. Then, rock back on your heels and turn your feet out as far as you can using only the flexibility in your hips. Place your feet down comfortably. There should be no feelings of strain or discomfort in your knees. This is your proper first position.

For the arms, first position is a low, simple position. Arms should be held as if the dancer is holding a large, invisible ball, and the hands should be relaxed. The position can range from almost straight down in front of the dancer, to directly out from the body at a 90 degree angle. However, arms are most commonly held out in front of the body with the hands at the level of the dancer's belly-button.

Second Position

Second Position

Second position is very similar to first and is simply a more open version of it. To transition from first to second, slide one of your feet out to the side until your feet are about shoulder width apart. Don't forget to maintain the comfortable turnout that you established in first position.

In order to properly hold the arms in second position, open them from first out to your sides. However, your arms should still remain slightly curved and a little in front of the body. As a reference point, you should still be able to see both of your hands out of the corner of your eyes. Your arms should also not be held directly perpendicular to your body. Instead, they should slope very slightly downward. For example, if a ball were to be placed on your shoulder, it should be able to roll down along the arm, and off the fingertips.

Fourth Position

Fourth Position

Fourth position is slightly more complex and difficult to perform correctly than either first or second, so it is especially good to practice this position in front of a mirror. Begin back in first position. While continuing to keep the same turnout, slide one foot forward. The distance between one foot and the other should be about the length of one of your feet. Then, slide the foot that is in front of you so that it is directly in front of the other. Be sure to stand up straight and not lose your posture when you do this. Your feet are now in fourth position.

For the arms, begin back in first and raise one arm up over your head. Extend the other out to the side as if it were in second position. Don't forget to keep your arms curved and your hands relaxed.



Fifth Position

Fifth Position

Just as first position was a closed version of second, fifth position is a closed version of fourth. To take the feet from fourth position to fifth, just slide the foot out in front of you in so that your front heel makes contact with the toes of your back foot. More advanced dancers will be able to stand in fifth with the toes of their front foot making contact with the heel of their back foot. Don't try to force your turnout, however. You will do damage to your knees and ankles, and your posture will suffer as well. As your turnout improves, so will your fifth position.

The arms are fairly simple in fifth position, but also easy to do incorrectly. From fourth position, pull the arm that is extended out to your side up to meet the arm over your head. Don't hold your arms directly up over your head because doing this will cause your shoulders to tense and lift. They should instead be ever so slightly forward and your shoulders should be kept down and relaxed.