What is a Coupe in Ballet?

This small ballet move often means a bigger move is coming

Ballet dancers on toe
Jose Fernando Ogura/Curitiba/Brazil / Getty Images

A coupé is a French term in classical ballet that means "to cut." As such, it is a changing of the feet, whereby one foot cuts either in front of or behind the other.  A coupé ends with the new working foot pointed by the ankle of the standing leg. 

It is often performed as a smaller step in preparation for a bigger move.

A coupé is often used as a connecting step to another movement. It can be performed sauté (while jumping) or en relevé (raised up onto the ball of your foot or toes).

If not done as part of a prep for another move, you may also see a series of coupés done in a row, although that is not as common. 

Although coupé is most commonly associated with ballet, you can also see it in other styles of dance, such as jazz. 

More About the Word

How to pronounce coupé: koo-pay', not to be mistaken with the U.S. pronunciation "coop," as commonly heard in reference to a two-door vehicle (or carriage). Out of a dance context, coupé can also refer to the end of a railroad car that has only one row of seats.

Coupé comes from the past participle of the French word "couper," which means to cut or strike.