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3 Dimensions & Ballet

Updated: Jul 28

A Brief Explanation of

How the Three Dimensional Planes Work

in Balletic Stasis and Stance,

Kinetics and Movement,

in Space

Introduction & Abstract The following explanation references space and how ballet uses that space by animating positions into motion in time. Classical Ballet, in practice is (1) the study of balletic positions, (2) how to move between positions, and then (3) how to move through those positions, utilizing duration, dynamics and phrasing. The explanation of the planes is specific to a classical dancer’s body, and its relation to space. We can contrasts the non-dancer’s body with the somatic differences, that determines how the dancer’s body is positioned in space. The article speaks little of the aesthetic, nor the techniques and methods towards the achievement of balletic ideals. Rather, it is more about how dancers use the three dimensions to achieve the balletic form, how one dimension at any given time may be more dominant ("foregrounded") than another, and how that can change. The article derives much of its terminology from the lexicon of balletic linguistics, language from kinesiology, and taxonomy from Laban Movement Analysis.

The three-dimensional planes are an abstract representation of the three dimensions of space. We visualize the planes as rectangles with the dimension of the golden ratio: 1:161833. The planes are used divide our bodies into sixths, within three-dimensional space. This means Three Spatial Pulls each with Two Diameters for a total of Six: (1) Sagital: Forward & Back, (2) Coronal/Vertical: Right & Left, (3) Horizontal/Transverse: Upper & Lower, Because the planes are rectangles the Spatial Pulls are unequal, and therefore affine mostly with one of the other Planes. The corners of Vertices of each Plane are Four, Twelve total. When these Twelve are assembled in Outer Reach Space, one can connect the outer vertices into a perfect Icosahedron, which is not discussed in this writing. In stasis, meaning positions held in space, each plane is considered what divides the human body into two dual parts. In motion, the planes govern the track on which the human body can move. Each plane is associated, in geometry, with the edges of a rectangle. Each greater edge of the rectangle determines what plane it is, and the lesser edge determines the plane to which it is affined. The cross-section of the two diagonals from the vertices of the rectangle determines its central axis (not discussed in this paper).

The main difference between an effective balletic stance and the stance of a non-balletic human body is the coronal/frontal plane. This is due to one of the main principles of classical European dance: turnout or external rotation of the legs from the hips, which changes the grounding stance of the entire body. This stance directly affects how the dancers maintain balletic positions and movements in ballet. The principle of this stance is primary to displaying the balletic aesthetic across the theater’s proscenium arch, which requires years of technical and aesthetic training.


The Three Planes:

- The Sagittal Plane divides the body along its bilateral line right and left. The plane centers through the body, from front to back and visa-versa, affined with the Coronal/frontal plane. It is secondarily responsible for balance with the Coronal/Frontal Plane. This plane has the same axis in ballet as it does in pedestrian neutral/parallel but is altered by the balletic form (See Coronal/Frontal Plane below). Stance and Position: the Sagittal Plane is responsible for holding position that are counter/cross laterally forward and back, and thus is responsible for cross lateral positions and motions. it provides stability forward and back and assists the Coronal/Frontal Plane by maintaining vertical.

Motion through the Sagittal Plane is primarily responsible for Advancing/Forward and Retreating/Backward movements across space. It is affined with the Coronal "Vertical" Plane, necessary to maintain stability, when moving across space. These are the most common movements for the human body, such as walking and running in both balletic posture as well as pedestrian neutral/parallel. (In ballet, pas couru, walking, dance steps such as Polonaise, grand jete’ etc.).

The Sagittal Plane is primarily responsible for forward and back "wheel-like" rotation, the same as "Pitch" in an aircraft in aeronautics. Such as flips and aerials in gymnastics, and in conjunction with the other planes, all battement forward and back, all ports de bras forward and back, jete’ entrelacé, barrel-turns, and forward roles.

The Sagittal Plane helps dancers sense the observer-audience who are usually facing them.

- The Coronal/Frontal or "Vertical" Plane in stasis, divides the body along its bilateral line front and back. It is affined with the Transverse Horizontal Plane. The plane divides the body right to left and visa-versa, and it’s grounded in the source of gravity, the Earth or "universal horizontal," Transverse Plane, as vertically most be rooted in the ground/earth of floor that is horizontal. This plane is the most important of the three for governing equilibrium and balance, along the radius of gravity or center-line of the body.

Stance and Position: How dancers perform this in a balletic stance is entirely different than in pedestrians' or even in most athletic modalities. It is responsible for homo-lateral positions and motion where dancer is in a stance side to side, with no function of forward and back, as is true with the Sagittal Plane. When standing, the Coronal/Frontal Plane is primarily responsible for balance between one or two feet, and uses the Sagittal Plane to adjust the center of gravity in the balletic stance. This plane has a different vertical axis in the balletic stance than it does in pedestrians' neutral or parallel stance. Because (1) the legs are externally rotated to the lateral. (2) Because the toes are no longer Sagittally anterior/forward from the hips and are now lateral to the line of gravity, the angle of the central line of gravity must be sagittally angled 1 to 5 degrees further posterior/back from the normal pedestrian's neutral from the floor/ground/source of gravity, through the frontal cortex of the cranium.

This is extremely important to understand because turnout is one of the main factors in the contrast between pedestrian and balletic movement. The balletic stance must involve coronal or lateral stability to maintain balance. This change in somatics also determines the necessary aesthetic of lift, or "aplomb," as well as the functional and cognitive balance at all vertical levels. This one functional and aesthetic change creates an alteration in the function of the entire standing and moving body in ballet. It helps to create the uplifted ("pulled-up") aesthetic by using the ballet "kin-aesthetic" to communicate with the observer audience.

The Motion through the Coronal/Frontal Plane is responsible for Lateral Movement tracks left and right, right and left, but also vertical motion up and down affined with the Transverse/" Horizontal" Plane. These movements are the most common for assisting with the rotation of the human body around its axis, in ipsilateral or hole body rotation. This is similar to the "Roll" of an aircraft in aeronautics. Turnout, external or lateral rotation is part of this. Rotation of the leg. (See "the Classifications of of Rotation in Classical Ballet" in edits for this blog now). Engaging and expanding the three core muscle groups, whole body rotation: pirouettes, tours, etc.. Other rotational factors are partial body rotation in conjunction with the Transverse Plane, (such as ronds de jambe par terre, pas fouette’) Lateral movements and bends, such as lateral ports de bras, all battement to the side (de cöté) and whole body lateral rotation, such as cartwheels. Note that for all of these rotations the intuition of creating energy ("Potential Energy") and releasing it ("Kinetic Energy") is used by contrasting contra/ cross lateral movement with homo/ipsilateral movements. (See "the Classifications of of Rotation in Classical Ballet" in edits for this blog now).

The Coronal plane helps the dancers sense balance, the horizon line, and where in space they are facing. Note. In much of balletic movement, these planes warp particularly when moving across space, as the relationship to gravity creates an angularity necessary to maintain balance. Verticality becomes bends on angles and necessitates its own center. The same is true in grand ports de bras, when bending at the waist. In fact, the use of epauelment as an expressive aesthetic tool bends and warps the abstracted planes. So, as describe, my descriptions here are basic. But when objects moving through space in time interacts with gravity, three dimensionality bends.

- The Transverse/Horizontal Plane in stasis, divides the body along its bilateral line, from upper body to lower body, and visa-versa. The plane centers through the body from front to back and visa-versa, affined with the Sagittal plane. It is secondarily responsible for balance in sensing space, and is primarily responsible for providing the space to move one's Kinespere into the Dynamosphere or or "beyond Reach Space." Stance and Position: The Transverse/Horizontal Plane is responsible for the horizontal levels of stance and motion in space, progressing vertically from lying prone or supine, to kneeling, to standing, to en relevé, and the varieties of allegros and jumps.

This assists dancers to self-reference themself with negotiating their inner core-center, as well as the surface and horizontal space in which they are dancing. This is over course, using the Verticality to increase height as it is secondarily affined.

The Motion through the Horizontal/Transverse Plane is responsible for the Space of Advancing/ Retreating (Sagittal) and Lateral (Coronal/Vertical) movement, as well, the Transverse Plane is primarily responsible for as directional change across the Transverse/Horizontal plane, in outer Direct and Indirect movement and is therefore responsible for all movement across space. These are the most common movements for the human body, such as walking and running in both balletic posture as well as pedestrian neutral/parallel. (In ballet, pas couru, walking, dance steps such as Polonaise, grand jete’ etc.). In rotation, the Transverse plane is primarily responsible for directional change beyond Reach Space, and partial body rotation affined with the Coronal Plane. It is the space in which Direct (linear movement) and Indirect (curvilinear movement) Pathways in Dynamosphere occur. This is the same as the "Yaw" of an aircraft in aeronautics. (ronds de jambe par terre, pas fouette’ etc.), and all directional change rotation beyond Reach Space.

The Transverse Horizontal plane helps the dancer sense level, as the horizon is parallel with the ground. Its "up-and-down-ness" helps us to sense the Verticality established by the intersection of the Sagittal and Horizontal Planes, but also the intersection of all three planes at the geographic center of the human body, more or less, a couple of inches below the navel and above the pelvis in the center of the body.

The Transverse Plane assists the dancer in sensing the space and periphery around her or him, allowing the dancer to know where other people and objects are on stage, where they are presently in space, as well as where they are moving towards.


Conclusion: Though to a dancer, it may feel as if one of the planes is more important than the other, this notion will be shattered by the progression of one movement superseding the dominance of another. For example, Though, I may have executed a grande jeté en avant from point 6 to point 2 (Vaganova), where the dominant action is Sagittal, there is little doubt, this action took place across space (Dynamosphere), in the realm of the horizontal, but required the verticality of the Coronal to move from one upright position to another. Then, in the next moment, I land and fâili to fourth position, into pirouettes en dehors, which require the Coronal Plane to be dominant but not without the conjunction of the Sagittal and Transverse.

As in everyday life in this relative space, we have only three dimensions to stand, and three dimensions to move. In ballet, there are a variety of balletic positions in space. There are a variety of movements between those positions in space, as phrases in time. And, there are movements connecting these phrases between those positions in space, making full statements in time utilizing pulse as pulse, sonority dynamics in rhythm. When music is speaking, the dancers interpret. They narrate the story that music has asked them to tell. So, their language must succinct, specifically using the spatial dimensions in space to relay the tale they tell beyond the proscenium arch.

Philip S. Rosemond © 2023. Note: Future drafts of this article with include the spatial pulls of the planes in relation to classical ballet. And, it will in include a glossary, citations and bibliography.

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