Reversing Ballet Combinations

We all dread the same words from our ballet teachers' mouths: "Now reverse!"

But reversing ballet combinations helps our minds and bodies train in a more advanced manner, preparing us for more advanced dancing. Reversing combinations is very similar to putting together a puzzle. It challenges our minds to take each individual piece of the combination, reverse it, while quickly putting them back together. Reversing combinations takes practice, and it can be frustrating for those who are just stepping into this seemingly frantic world. But we are here to help you!

Here is out "How-To" guide to understanding reversing ballet combinations.

Photo: From the series "Espirit de Corps" by photographer Jesús Chapa-Malacara

What You Need to Understand First:

1. You must reverse each individual component of the combination. For example: Tendu croisé devant --> Tendu croisé dérriere.

2. Commit the original pattern to memory. Understand the order clearly in your mind. 

3. Remember what your feet are doing. Front or back?

4. Remember your movement direction. Forward or backward? Over or under?

5. Remember your body direction - that will remain the same (only the front of back will reverse).

6. Know your options.

  • There is either: Front or Back (Devant or Dérriere)
  • There is either: Shaded, Separated or Crossed (Effacé, Écarté or Croisé)
  • If the original is "shaded to the front" (effacé devant) the reverse would be "shaded to the back" (effacé dérriere) - remember: the body direction stays the same, only the front or back reverses!
  • There is either: Forward or Backward (en avant or en arrière)
  • There is either: Over or Under (dessus or dessous)

Ballet Reverse Basics:

For feet - Ask yourself WHAT is moving? If you originally worked with the foot in front the reverse would be working with the back.
          Ex: [Original] Tendu close first, Tendu close fifth front / [Reverse] Tendu close first, Tendu close fifth BACK

For directions - Ask yourself WHAT WAY did you move? If you originally moved toward the front foot the reverse would move to the back.
          Ex: [Original] From fifth, right foot in back, glissade sans changé (you glided toward the back foot)
                [Reverse] From fifth, right foot in back, glissade sans changé (you glide toward the front foot)

For ways - Ask yourself HOW did you do a move? (Over or under - dessus or dessous)
          Ex: [Original] Pas de bourrée under, assemblé over
                [Reverse] Pas de bourrée over, assemblé under

Photo: The Ballet Blog


  • Do not think "Left or Right." This will confuse your brain.
  • Train yourself to think "Forward or Back / Over or Under."
  • Isolate each component in your mind.
  • Reverse each component using either the "forward or back / over or under" rules.

Reversing Combo Quiz!

Tendu croisé devant --> ___________________

Tendu écarté devant --> ___________________

Tendu effacé dérriere --> __________________

Dégage écarté devant --> __________________

Glissade en avant --> _____________________

Glissade en arrière --> ____________________

Passé dessous close fifth back --> ____________

Photo: The Ballet Blog

Answers to the Quiz:

1. Tendu croisé dérriere

2. Tendu écarté dérriere

3. Tendu effacé dérriere

4. Glissade en arrière

5. Glissade en avant

6. Passé dessus close fifth front



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