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Technical Manual and Dictionary of Classical Ballet
By Gail Grant
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 1982 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
Technical Manual and Dictionary of Classical Ballet
Abstract ballet. A ballet without a plot. A composition of pure dance movement expressed for its own sake.
Adage, Adagio [French: a-DAHZH]. Adage is a French word derived from the Italian ad agio, meaning at ease or leisure. English ballet teachers use "adage," the French adaptation, while Americans prefer the original Italian. In dancing it has two meanings: (1) A series of exercises following the centre practice, consisting of a succession of slow and graceful movements which may be simple or of the most complex character, performed with fluidity and apparent ease. These exercises develop a sustaining power, sense of line, balance and the beautiful poise which enables the dancer to perform with majesty and grace. The principal steps of adagio are pliés, développés, grand fouetté en tournant, dégagés, grand rond de jambe, rond de jambe en l'air, coupés, battements tendus, attitudes, arabesques, preparations for pirouettes and all types of pirouettes. (2) The opening section of the classical pas de deux, in which the ballerina, assisted by her male partner, performs the slow movements and enlèvements in which the danseur lifts, supports or carries the danseuse. The danseuse thus supported exhibits her grace, line and perfect balance while executing développés, pirouettes, arabesques and so on, and achieves combinations of steps and poses which would be impossible without the aid of her partner.
Ailes de pigeon [el duh pee-ZHAWN]. Pigeon's wings. The dancer performs a cabriole devant, then the legs change and beat again, then change once more before the dancer lands on the leg he or she jumped from, leaving the other leg extended in the air. Also known as "pistolet."
Air, en l' [ahn lehr]. In the air. Indicates: (1) that a movement is to be made in the air; for example, rond de jambe en l'air; (2) that the working leg, after being opened to the second or fourth position à terre, is to be raised to a horizontal position with the toe on the level of the hip.
Alignment.SeeDirections or body alignment.
Allégro [a-lay-GROH; Italian: al-LAY-groh]. Brisk, lively. A term applied to all bright and brisk movements. All steps of elevation such as the entrechat, cabriole, assemblé, jeté and so on, come under this classification. The majority of dances, both solo and group, are built on allégro. The most important qualities to aim at in allégro are lightness, smoothness and ballon.
Allongé, allongée [a-lawn-ZHAY]. Extended, outstretched. As, for example, in arabesque allongée.
Angle of the leg in the air. In the Russian School the angle formed by the legs in relation to the vertical axis of the body is measured in general terms. For example, 45 degrees for half height (demi-hauteur), 90 degrees for a horizontal position with the toe at hip height (à la hauteur) and 135 degrees for any position considerably above hip height. SeePositions soulevées.
Aplomb [a-PLAWN]. Assurance, poise. This term applied to the dancer means that he or she has full control of body and limbs with the weight correctly centered during a movement.
Arabesque [a-ra-BESK]. One of the basic poses in ballet, arabesque takes its name from a form of Moorish ornament. In ballet it is a position of the body, in profile, supported on one leg, which can be straight or demi-plié, with the other leg extended behind and at right angles to it, and the arms held in various harmonious positions creating the longest possible line from the fingertips to the toes. The shoulders must be held square to the line of direction. The forms of arabesque are varied to infinity. The Cecchetti method uses five principal arabesques; the Russian School (Vaganova), four; and the French School, two. Arabesques are generally used to conclude a phrase of steps, both in the slow movements of adagio and the brisk, gay movements of allégro.
The Cecchetti arabesques (See illustrations, p. 126)
First arabesque: The body is held upright from the waist and is supported on a straight leg with the other leg extended and at right angles to the supporting leg. The shoulders are held square to the line of direction with the arms extended, palms down, so that the extended fingertips of the forward arm (which is the one on the same side as the supporting leg) are in a line with the centre of the space between the eyes, and the extended back arm slightly lowered so that the arms are in one straight line. The forward hand should be slightly turned outward.
Second arabesque: The arms are reversed so that the forward arm is the opposite to the supporting leg. The head is slightly inclined and turned toward the audience.
Third arabesque: Both arms are extended forward to the side of the supporting leg. The fingertips of the arm farther from the audience are in a line with the centre of the space between the eyes while the arm nearer the audience is in a line with the shoulder.
Fourth arabesque: The supporting leg is nearer the audience and is in demi-plié. The arms and head are held as in the first arabesque with the arm on the side of the raised leg being forward.
Fifth arabesque: The arms and head are held as in the third arabesque with the arm farther from the audience being the higher. The supporting leg is the leg nearer the audience and is in demi-plié.
The fourth and fifth arabesques are usually taken facing the right front corner of the room or stage if the supporting leg is the left, or facing the left front corner if the supporting leg is the right. In the illustrations the position is shown sideways for the sake of clearness.
The French arabesques (See illustrations, p. 127)
Arabesque ouverte: The body is supported on a straight leg with the other extended and at right angles to the supporting leg, the extended leg being nearer the audience. The body leans forward with the arm on the side of the supporting leg held in front and the other taken well back and held parallel to the extended leg.
Arabesque croisée: The position is the same as the above but the supporting leg is the leg nearer to the audience, the arm on the side of the supporting leg held forward.
THE RUSSIAN ARABESQUES (VAGANOVA) (See illustrations, p. 128)
First arabesque: The body is supported on one leg with the other lifted at a right or greater angle to the supporting leg. The body is inclined forward from the waist with a strongly arched back. The arm on the side of the supporting leg is extended forward and the other taken out to the side a little behind the second position.
Second arabesque: The body and legs are the same as in the first arabesque but the arms are reversed. That is, the arm on the side of the supporting leg is taken back far enough to be seen behind the body while the other arm is extended forward. The head is turned toward the audience.
Third arabesque: This arabesque faces diagonally toward the audience. The supporting leg is nearer the audience with the other raised in croisé derrière at right angles to the supporting leg. The body is inclined forward with the arm opposite the supporting leg extended forward on a level with the shoulder and the other arm extended to the side. The head is turned toward the forward arm.
Fourth arabesque: The legs are in the same position as in the third arabesque but the arms are reversed and held at shoulder level. The arm on the side of the supporting leg is brought forward and the other arm taken back far enough to be seen behind the back. The body is half turned away from the audience by the strong arching of the back, with the head turned toward the audience.
Arabesque, en [ah na-ra-BESK]. In arabesque, that is, in an arabesque position. As, for example, in pirouette en arabesque.
Arabesque à deux bras [a-ra-BESK a duh brah]. Arabesque with two arms. This arabesque is taken in profile with the extended leg nearest the audience. Both arms are extended forward with the arm on the side of the supporting leg held slightly higher. The head may be held in profile or turned to the audience.
Arabesque à la demi-hauteur [a-ra-BESK a lah duh-MEE-oh-TUHR]. Arabesque at half-height. A term of the French School. In this arabesque the foot is raised to a position halfway between the position à terre and a horizontal position in the air.
Arabesque à la hauteur [a-ra-BESK a lah oh-TUHR]. Arabesque at the height. A term of the French School. An arabesque in which the working leg is raised at right angles to the hip. Also termed arabesque allongée.
Arabesque à la lyre [a-ra-BESK a lah leer]. Arabesque with the lyre. This position resembles the arabesque à deux bras (third arabesque Cecchetti) but both palms are held up and the elbows are slightly curved as if the dancer were holding a lyre.
Arabesque allongée [a-ra-BESK a-lawn-ZHAY]. Extended or outstretched arabesque. The line required for this arabesque is a horizontal one. SeeArabesque à la hauteur.
Arabesque allongée à terre [a-ra-BESK a-lawn-ZHAY a tehr]. Arabesque extended on the ground. In this arabesque the body is supported on one leg which is completely bent in plié while the other leg is extended in the back with the foot well turned out and on the ground. The arms may be held en attitude, en couronne and so on. This lunge position may be taken en face, croisé or ouvert.
Arabesque à terre [a-ra-BESK a tehr]. Arabesque on the ground. The arms and body are in arabesque but the leg, usually raised, is extended in the fourth position back, pointe tendue.
Arabesque croisée [a-ra-BESK krwah-ZAY]. Arabesque crossed. This arabesque presents a three-quarter view of the body and faces a front corner of the stage. The supporting leg is the leg nearer the audience. The arms may be held in a variety of positions. See illustration, p. 127.
Arabesque de face [a-ra-BESK duh fahss]. Arabesque facing. An arabesque facing the audience. The arms may be held in a variety of positions. (De face = en face.)
Arabesque effacée [a-ra-BESK eh-fa-SAY]. Arabesque shaded. This is the first arabesque (all schools) taken in an effacé direction.
Arabesque en promenade [a-ra-BESK ahn prawm-NAD]. Arabesque, walking. An arabesque is said to be en promenade when a slow turn is made either en dedans or en dehors in an arabesque position. This is a temps d'adage. SeePromenade, tour de; Tour lent.
Arabesque en tournant [a-ra-BESK ahn toor-NAHN]. Arabesque, turning. An arabesque is said to be en tournant when a pivot is made on the supporting foot.
Arabesque épaulée [a-ra-BESK ay-poh-LAY]. Arabesque shouldered. This is an arabesque in which the dancer stands at an oblique angle to the audience. The raised leg and forward arm are nearest the audience and the shoulders are turned so that the dancer's back is visible. SeeÉpaulé.
Arabesque étirée [a-ra-BESK ay-tee-RAY]. Arabesque stretched or drawn out. A term of the French School. This is a neoclassical arabesque in which the ballerina, on point and supported by her partner, shifts her axis backward so that her supporting leg is oblique and her free leg held very high (as in a split).
Arabesque fondue [a-ra-BES'K fawn-DEW]. Arabesque, sinking down. An arabesque in which the knee of the supporting leg is bent. Also called "arabesque pliée."
Arabesque inclinée [a-ra-BESK en-klee-NAY]. Arabesque inclined. A term of the French School. A neoclassical arabesque in which the ballerina, on point and supported by her partner, shifts her axis forward so that her supporting leg is oblique. Because of the slant of the supporting leg the free leg will be held at an angle of less than 90 degrees. Also called "arabesque poussée."
Arabesque ouverte [a-ra-BESK oo-VEHRT]. Open arabesque. A term of the French School. This arabesque is taken in profile to the audience. The leg nearer the audience is raised and the arm on the side of the supporting leg extended forward. The head is in profile. See section on "The French arabesques" underArabesque.
Arabesque penchée [a-ra-BESK pahn-SHAY]. Arabesque, leaning. An arabesque in which the body leans well forward in an oblique line, the forward arm and the head being low and the foot of the raised leg the highest point.
Arabesque pliée [a-ra-BESK plee-AY]. Arabesque with a bent knee. Same as arabesque fondue.
Arabesque poussée [a-ra-BESK poo-SAY]. Arabesque pushed. A term of the French School. Same as arabesque inclinée.
Arabesque voyagée [a-ra-BESK vwah-yah-ZHAY]. Arabesque, traveling. This is a series of small hops in an arabesque position. The supporting knee is bent and the instep of the supporting foot does not stretch. The arabesque may be traveled forward or backward. SeeVoyagé.
Arqué [ar-KAY]. Arched (bowlegged). Very few people have perfectly straight legs and nearly every dancer conforms to one of the two types arqué and jarreté (q.v.). When the arqué, or bowlegged, dancer stands in the first position there is a space between the knee joints. This type of dancer is usually strongly built but stiff. Their extensions are never high but they have great power and ballon and sharp brilliant beats.
Arrière, en [ah na-RYEHR]. Backward. Used to indicate that a step is executed moving away from the audience. As, for example, in glissade en arrière. See floor plan illustration, p. 125.
Arrondi, arrondie [a-rawn-DEE]. Rounded, curved. As, for example, in battement arrondi.
Assemblé [a-sahn-BLAY]. Assembled or joined together. A step in which the working foot slides well along the ground before being swept into the air. As the foot goes into the air the dancer pushes off the floor with the supporting leg, extending the toes. Both legs come to the ground simultaneously in the fifth position. If an assemblé is porté it requires a preparatory step such as a glissade to precede it. If an assemblé is en tournant it must be preceded by a preparatory step. Assemblés are done petit or grand according to the height of the battement and are executed dessus, dessous, devant, derrière, en avant, en arrière and en tournant. They may be done en face, croisé, effacé or écarté. Assemblé may also be done with a beat for greater brilliance. In the Cecchetti assemblé both knees are bent and drawn up after the battement so that the flat of the toes of both feet meet while the body is in the air.
Assemblé, double [doob la-sahn-BLAY]. Double assemblé. A term of the Russian School. This step consists of two assemblés to the second position at 45 degrees; the first assemblé is done without changing the position of the legs and the second with a change.
Assemblé, grand [grahn ta-sahn-BLAY]. Big assemblé. The jump is higher and the working leg is swept into the air into a horizontal position or à la hauteur. The legs join in the fifth position in the air before coming to the ground.
Assemblé, petit [puh-TEE ta-sahn-BLAY]. Little assemblé. The working leg is swept into the air with a battement to a point midway between a position of the foot à terre and its equivalent en l'air. This position is called demi-position in the Cecchetti method or demi-hauteur in the French School.
Assemblé battu [a-sahn-BLAY ba-TEW]. Assemblé beaten. Assemblés dessus, dessous and en tournant may be done with beats.
Assemblé dessus battu: Fifth position R foot back. Demi-plié, brush the R leg to the side and push off the floor with the L foot. On the return to fifth position the R leg beats the L in the back, opens slightly and comes to the ground simultaneously with the L leg in the fifth position R foot front. The beat is made with the calves.
Excerpted from Technical Manual and Dictionary of Classical Ballet by Gail Grant. Copyright © 1982 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
First published in 1950, this ballet reference guide has stood the test of time. Who's it for? Ballet students and teachers, choreographers, or any ballet enthusiast. Here's what the book covers:
-descriptions and definitions of over 1100 ballet steps (in alphabetical order)
-how to say the darn words (worth the price of the book alone!)
-illustrations showing you body positions for the more common ballet steps and movements
-cross-references to other names for similar steps/positions that vary from the Russian, French and Italian schools
A must have book that can easily be toted around, I doubt most readers will regret buying it. Other ballet resources I recommend include The 5-Minute Plantar Fasciitis Solution for practitioners who have trouble with their feet.
This dictionary has VERY complete definitions of terms- sometimes so lengthy, however, that the original movements are lost. There are some illustrations at the back, but I would have liked more to show moves more completely. Rambling verbal descriptions are nice, but we're doing movement- let us see it!
Wdqpkeke ., SIT
I had this book back when I was studying for my pre-pointe tests, and it helped me learn and remember the terminology that I needed, along with my teachers. Now I am teaching a pre-pointe class, and have asked my students to purchase the book. I always keep this book in my dance bag, and pull it out every once in a while for use in teaching to give my students a thorough education. I reccomend this for all ballet dancers and all ballet teachers! It's a terrific reference.
This book helps so much! It helped me understand what i was doing in Ballet instead of just doing it! Every dancer needs one! I take it with me to dance!
OH MY WAS THIS BOOK HELPFUL! This is my 8th year dancing (5th year in ballet) and i still dono all of the ballet terms. This book was EXTREAMLY helpful. My dance teachers told us that we should get it because it is great help... and they were right.
This book corrected a lot of mistakes I was making.. It explains everything very well.. Its an awesome book and every dancer needs this to refer back to.
This book is really helpful to dancers. It helped me studio for my exams at Chicago Association of Dance Masters, and Southern Association of Dance Masters!dancers definetly need to get one!