What Is the Definition of Passe in Ballet?

This ballet term is sometimes confused with retire

Female ballet instructor teaching children in ballet studio
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Passé is a movement in ballet in which one leg passes (hence the name) the standing leg, sliding close to the knee. The leg ends up in a bent position, with the foot positioned right above the standing leg's kneecap, making a triangle shape.

Passé is sometimes confused with the ballet position, retiré de cote. Whereas passé is the actual movement, retiré is the position. They're often interchanged, however.

You can also find the passé in other dance forms, such as jazz, modern and more. 

What's the Perfect Passé?

In classical ballet, the dancer commonly turns out the bent leg and the posture is tall.

In more advanced ballet classes, you may hear the teacher instructing dancers to raise their passés.

But you can raise your passé too high. The knee shouldn’t be raised higher than the hip. Try to get your thigh parallel to the ground.

An ideal passé should be held at 90 degrees, although this is a feat that can elude even pros. In the past, lower passés were more acceptable, with the knees even pointing toward the ground, but as the ballet bars have been raised over the years, dancers now have more rigorous expectations.

One of the trickiest details of a proper passé is to raise the leg without raising the hip too much. Work on this by stretching the hip beforehand and keeping the hip relaxed.

The passé leg movement is a component of a pirouette. 

More About the Word Itself

Roots: Passé (pronounced pah-say) actually comes from the French word “passed.” Beyond dance, you may hear this word used to describe something that is no longer in style or past its prime. 

Also known as Retiré.