In the 17th century, Pierre Beauchamp a French ballet teacher and choreographer created the five basic ballet moves.
These positions are the foundation for more advanced ballet moves and are the beginning of a child’s ballet education. Students usually hold onto the barre when learning the foot positions. The barre is a wood railing used for balance.
Proper body alignment and good posture are necessary when learning these moves, which are simply named first position, second position, third position, fourth position and fifth position.
First position for the feet places the heels together and the toes pointed out in opposite directions. It can be difficult to achieve this ideal 180 degree line with your feet and should not be forced.
In the second position the feet remain turned out as in the first position, but they are spaced out about a shoulder width apart. Third position has the heel of one foot touching the arch of the other foot while maintaining a turned out position. There are two ways to do the third position; the right foot can be in front, or the left foot can be in front. Both variations should be practiced.
Fourth position is similar to third, but the feet are spaced about a foot apart with one foot directly in front of the other. The toes are still pointed in opposite directions, and this also has two variations depending on which foot is in front.
Fifth position has the heel of one foot lining up with the toe of the other, and both legs and feet are touching. Again, there is a left foot and a right foot variation. These ballet positions should be practiced until they are mastered.
Learning these ballet moves while grasping the barre allows for minimal arm movement; however, there are five basic arm positions used throughout ballet. The arm positions can be performed with the feet in any of the five positions. The first position of the arms looks as if you are hugging a giant beach ball. The arms are gracefully rounded with the fingers almost touching.
In the second position the slightly rounded arms are raised to the sides with the elbows slightly below the shoulders. The third arm position depends on which foot is in front. If the left foot is in front, the right arm is raised over the head while the left arm is to the side at waist height.
In the fourth position the arms work opposite the legs as in the third position. If the left foot is forward, the right arm is out in front like it was in first position. The left arm remains in third position. Arms in the fifth position are symmetrically rounded above the head.
When you are learning ballet, it is very important to master these basic leg and arm ballet moves. Throughout my ballet career as both a principal dancer and a teacher I have seen many students fail to properly learn these techniques. This can be very damaging for their prospects as they get older.