Ballet Terminology in French
You watched Romeo and Juliet last night but you did not even notice that it was a “pas de deux” performance. Romeo made an “avant” towards Juliet so she immediately jumped “arriere”. All in all, both ballerinas were “virtuoso”. Sounds alien to your delicate ears? In this dance that originated on the 17th century in Europe, most of the words are French. However, even if you will be in a studio in Canada or Russia, they will still use the same because it is universally understood.
Here are some of the ballet terminologies to get us familiar even if you would not be studying this dance. It is great to have wide knowledge on things beyond our interest.
* Arrière, en [ah na-RYEHR]
Backward. This ballet terminology is used to indicate that a step is executed moving away from the audience.
* Avant, en [ah na-VAHN]
Forward. This ballet terminology is a direction for the execution of a step. Used to indicate that a given step is executed moving forward, toward the audience.
* Battement dégagé [bat-MAHN day-ga-ZHAY]
Disengaged battement. This ballet terminology is of the Cecchetti method. The battement dégagé is similar to the battement tendu but is done at twice the speed and the working foot rises about four inches from the floor with a well-pointed toe, then slides back into the the first or fifth position. Battements dégagés strengthen the toes, develop the instep and improve the flexibility of the ankle joint.
* Bras bas [brah bah]
Arms low or down. This ballet terminology the dancer’s “attention.” The arms form a circle with the palms facing each other and the back edge of the hands resting on the thighs. The arms should hang quite loosely but not allowing the elbows to touch the sides.
* Changement de pieds [shahnzh-MAHN duh pyay]
Change of feet. This ballet terminology is usually abbreviated to alter. Changements are springing steps in the fifth position, the dancer changing feet in the air and alighting in the fifth position with the opposite foot in the front. They are done petit and grand.
* Cou-de-pied, sur le [sewr luh koo-duh-PYAY]
On the “Neck” of the foot. This ballet terminology means that the working foot is placed on the part of the leg between the base of the calf and the beginning of the ankle.
* Demi-pointes, sur les [sewr lay duh-mee-PWENT]
On the half-points. This ballet terminology indicates that the dancer is to stand high on the balls of the feet and under part of the toes.
* Développé, temps [tahn dayv-law-PAY]
Time developed, developing movement. This ballet terminology through common usage has become abridged to développé. A développé is a movement in which the working leg is drawn up to the knee of the supporting leg and slowly extended to an open position en l’air and held there with perfect control. The hips are kept level and square to the direction in which the dancer is facing.
* Écarté [ay-har-TAY]
Separated, thrown wide apart. This ballet terminology is one of the eight directions of the body, Cecchetti method. In this position the dancer faces either one of the two front corners of the room. The leg nearer the audience is pointed in the second position à terre or raised to the second position en l’air. The torso is held perpendicular. The arms are held en attitude with the raised arm being on the same side as the extended leg.
* Effacé, effacée [eh-fa-SAY]
Shaded. This ballet terminology is one of the directions of épaulement in which the dancer stands at an oblique angle to the audience so that a part of the body is taken back and almost hidden from view. This direction is termed “ouvert” in the French method. Effacé is also used to qualify a pose in which the legs are open (not crossed). This pose may be taken devant or derrière, either à terre or en l’air.
Take note that there are dozens more of ballet terminologies. The above is just a glimpse of what will be highly used upon training and practice. So, are you ready to talk ballet?