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Ballet Dictionary

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adage [Italian adagio: "at ease"]. The second part of a ballet class: slow work with emphasis on sustained positions and on balance.

allegro [Italian: "happy"]. The third part of a ballet class: fast work, jumps, turns. Usually divided into petit ["little"] allegro and grand ["big"] allegro.

allongй ["elongated"]. With the arms stretched out as far as possible.

arabesque ["Arabic"]. A pose with one leg stretched straight out to the back and one arm usually stretched out to the front. The back leg may be on the floor or at 45, 90, or 135 degrees. (These angles are measured from the vertical; 90 degrees means parallel to the floor.)

arms, positions of. These are numbered, as are the positions of the feet, but the numbering varies from one school to the next. The four basic positions are: (a) arms down and a little in front of the legs (called bras bas ["low arms"],) (b) arms to the side, (c) arms forward (at about the height of the bottom of the breastbone), (d) arms overhead. In all positions, the arms are gently curved.

When the arms are forward, they are held as if embracing a large barrel (one large enough that the hands can't meet). The forward position is sometimes known as the "gateway," because in many port de bras, the arms pass through the gateway on the way to a higher position. The position with the arms to the side is universally known as second position. In this position, they are curved forward of the body, as if embracing a large cylinder perhaps 8 feet (2.5 m) in diameter. Arms overhead are sometimes called en couronne ("like a crown"). In this position, they should be far enough forward that you can just make out the little fingers (by peripheral vision) when looking straight ahead.

Numbering: (a) (arms down) is bras au repos according to the French school, "preparatory position" according to the Russian school, and first position according to Cecchetti. (b) (arms to the side) is universally known as second position. (c) (arms in front) is first position according to the French and Russians and fifth position en avant ["in front"] according to Cecchetti. (d) (arms overhead) is fifth position for the French, third position for the Russians, and fifth position en haut ["up high"] for Cecchetti.

assemblй ["assembled"]. A jump: pliй, brushing working leg out. Jump. Bring both legs together ("assemble" them) while in midair; land on both feet. The brush can be to the front, the side, or the back.

attitude ["attitude"]. A pose. As with the arabesque, the leg is raised. But unlike the arabesque, it is bent, not straight, and, also unlike the arabesque, it can be done to the front, the side, or the back. In attitude to the front or the back, if the angle is 90 degrees, the calf should be as nearly horizontal as possible.


balancй ["rocking"]. A waltz step. For a balancй to the right, start in fifth position. On count of 1-2-3, right foot goes out to the side and the weight is transferred to it (1). Immediately bring left foot behind right and and transfer the weight to the ball of the left foot while rising up on it (2). Put your weight back on the right foot flat on the floor (not raised up) (3). A balancй to one side is almost always followed by a balancй to the other side. Balancйs can also be done to the front and back.

balanÐ*oire. Short for battements en balanÐ*oire, ["battements like a seesaw"]. The dancer swings the working leg vigorously back and forth between fourth position front and fourth back, through first position. Unlike grand battements en cloche, balanÐ*oires do not require that the body be held straight.

ballon ["balloon"]. The appearance of weightlessness and of being airborne. A dancer is said to have ballon if (s)he seems to be in the air constantly with only momentary contact with the floor.

ballonnй ["ball-like"]. A jump. From 5th position, right foot front, demi-pliй while the right foot glides to 2nd position at 45 degrees. Jump with left while travelling in the air towards the right foot. Land on left foot with the right having come in to the position sur le cou-de-pied front. Repeat by throwing the right foot out to the side again from the position sur le cou-de-pied. Can be done in many different directions.

ballottй ["tossed"]. A jump. Begin in 5th, right leg front. Spring straight upward with both legs held tightly together, as the body begins to tilt slightly backward at the apex of the jump. The body lands on the left foot while the right is thrown open to the front. Repeat backwards, with a slight tilt to the front at the apex of the jump.

Can also be done with bent knees, as the working leg goes through rйtirй position front (to go forward). In this case the repeat may start by the left leg jumping up while the right comes back in to join it; the left leg then bending to bring the foot through rйtirй back before thrusting backwards as the body lands on the right leg.

barre ["bar"]. 1. The railing, about waist high, along the wall of a studio. Used by dancers as for steadying themselves in the first part of a class. 2. The first part of ballet class, consisting of exercises done with the aid of the barre.

battement ["beating"]. A generic term for various movements in which the leg is extended and then returned. See grand battement and petit battement. This is also one of those words (like pas and temps) that are frequently omitted and understood; thus, for example, frappй is short for battement frappй, etc. In this list, look under the second word (e.g.,, under frappй, not under battement frappй. The only exception to this is battement tendu.

battement tendu ["stretched beat"]. ("Tendu" for short.) Slide the working foot out until only the toes are touching the floor; then slide it back. An important exercise for learning to move the foot quickly and gracefully while maintaining placement. Balanchine considered it the most important exercise in all of ballet.


cambrй ["bent"].


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