A Beginner’s Guide To Ballet Positions

As with any new activity, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the basics and foundations. Ballet is no different, and it is the foundational dance style for many other more advanced dance forms like jazz, contemporary, and lyrical. Beginners will need to identify and master a few positions in order to create a strong foundation for dance education.

There are five basic positions to master when it comes to ballet. Children who enroll in dance classes will need to pick these positions up fairly quickly. The good news is their diminutive size gives them an advantage when it comes to balance and poise. All it takes is a great ballet instructor, and a little bit of practice!



Beginner ballet students may experience some difficulty with the positioning of the feet when it comes to mastering first position. That’s understandable and normal, because the balance and technique learned here will pay off in future lessons. Students are required to stand straight, lifting tall out of their torsos and touching their heels together. Rotating from the hips, students will externally rotate so their toes point outwards to make a “pie position.” The key is to utilize both hips and legs for this position, and gradually build up balance and strength with some practice to feel sturdy, while externally rotated

Meanwhile, the arms should be lifted so that the hands are placed in front of the navel, then extended outwards with a slight bend at the elbow, while pressing shoulders down. Picture carrying a small box or a beach ball against your lower tummy, and maintain poise.



Students who progress to the second position can utilize the practice of the first in order to achieve proper leg and foot placement. First, they’ll need to stand up straight once more, only this time the feet will be placed apart to the width of the hips. Feet should be turned outwards once more to the sides starting the rotation outward from the hips, similar to the first position.

Arm position is a bit more straightforward in the second position. Students will open up their palms and extend their arms out to the sides, in front of the shoulder line, with a slight bend in the elbows. Hands should be kept level in this position with no sagging.



Students who become familiar with the first position should have little-to-no trouble with the third, as it’s quite similar. Instead of standing heels-together, students will instead place one foot in front of the other, then touch the heel of the extended foot against the inside middle of the other foot. This also helps create a bit of leverage in the position, making it easier to maintain.

One arm should be extended out to the side like in second position, while the other remains tucked in at the elbow with the hand just in front of the chest like in first position. It’s a combination of the two. 



Very similar to the third position, the fourth makes some slight variations in terms of foot placement. In fact, students usually start out in the third position, before adjusting themselves into the fourth. By sliding the extended foot forward to create a roughly 8” inch gap between the feet, the legs are properly placed. Generally, this position isn’t practiced until a few years of ballet are completed. Students should be mindful that this position puts some extra strain on the ankles and knees, and if they experience discomfort, they should ease their toes towards the front a bit more, or stop and try again later.

Meanwhile, one arm should be lifted over the head with a slightly rounded bend in fifth position, while the other arm stays level to the body, and reaches off to the side and back a bit close to second position. Ballet dancers in the fourth position appear as if they are looking slightly upwards into the sky in front of them.



Many ballet instructors and enthusiasts regard the fifth position as a more ideal replacement for the third, though this differs among dance circles. It’s certainly a more demanding and advanced position than the third, even though they look alike. The legs are crossed even more than the third position, and the heel now connects closer to the big toe.

Both arms are lifted upwards high above the head with just a slight bend in the elbows to create curvature. Fingers shouldn’t touch, and palms should be turned a bit inwards. Students will need to practice the art of keeping the shoulders down, which can be tricky given the position of the arms. The goal is to eliminate tension, while elongating the neck, and creating a more elegant appearance.



By mastering the five basic positions of ballet, students will develop the rudiments needed to excel at this beautiful style of dance. Ballet encourages grace, elegance and posture, while also helping with body coordination and balance. It also demands a strong core, which is great when it comes to health-related benefits. And of course, ballet is timeless, and never loses its charm, beauty or sophistication. 

Is your child interested in becoming a ballet dancer? Are they willing to learn the above basic positions in order to practice and perfect their dance technique? If so, we encourage you to sign them up for a dance class here at CDM Dance & Music. We specialize and deliver top ballet education and examination preparation under the Royal Academy of Dance curriculum. Contact us today for more information on how to sign up.