Ballet Terms


A term first mentioned in connection with Massine's "Ode" (1928) in which Diaghileff attempted to put the vogue of abstract painting, then a novelty, on to the stage. An abstract ballet is one in which the dancers appear as figures in a pattern and only mark cerebral relationship, without creation of mood or character. Ashton's "Sc example.


Derogatory term applied to the virtuoso dancer who is not concerned with dancing as a whole, but merely with performing the largest possible number of pirouettes, or forcing her legs still higher into the air irrespective of distortion in the hip-line, etc.

ADAGE (French), ADAGIO (Italian)

1. The opening section of the conventional 'pas de deux', that is, adagio and/or entre, Variation I, Variation II, Coda. These terms can bear some relation, or none at all, to their musical equivalents. For example, the adagio from the pas de deux known as 'The Blach Swan' from 'Swan Lake' is described on the score as 'tempo de valse ma non troppo vivo quasi moderato'; this is followed by a solo for the Prince, Variation II for Odile, is an orchestration made after Tchaikowsky's death of a piece for piano. The Coda is an independent piece of music bearing no relation to what has gone before, unlike its equivalent in the world of music.


See Pistolet


See Caractere


1. A position of the leg.

2. A movement thus qualified is performed with the relevant leg raised from the ground.

3. A step performed while jumping.


1. A part of a ballet class and the steps contained therein.

2. Definition of part of a ballet by reference to the music.


See also Arabesque; Attitude; Tour en l'air. An almost horizontal pose.


See Role, tour de


See also soubresaut. The dancer springs off both feet and jumps forwards or backwards, with both legs straight and clinging together, inclining the whole body in the direction in which he is travelling and landing on both feet. The obliqueness of the body in the air is the only differentation between this step and an ordinary soubres- aut.


See Temps Plane

Resembles a Soubresaut Poisson, but the knees are bent.


See Equilibre


See also Quatrieme derriere; Bras; Jambe; Chasse, Turn out. One leg is extended behind the dancer with straight knee and pointed font, the supporting leg either bent or straight. The body is held erect. In Arabesque Allongee the line of the body is roughly parallel to the floor. In Arabesque Penchee the dancer leans down to the ground to form a line inclining downwards from the raised back foot to the outstretched hand or hands. This line may also be produced when the dancer's arms are extended behind her. To perform arabesque penchee the dancer usually stands on a straight leg in arabesque and then lean forward and back again in a slow see-saw movement, keeping the body and raised leg in fexed alignment. (N.B. Nothing is more ugly than the spectacle of a dancer lifting her back leg as far as she/he can and then continuing to stretch arm and shoulders further down to the floor.) In Arabesque and in Arabesque Allongee the back foot may rest on the ground in pointe tendue. On her entry in the "Blue Bird" pas de deux the ballerina executes an arabe- sque with the body erect. In Act 2 of Giselle, before Giselle begins to dance, is het bow to Muthra an arabesque allongee with the right foot pointe tendue.


See a poster in any balletshop.


See also Methode; Serpette. It is a common fallacy to-day that the most beautiful legs are perfectly straight; hence the detrimental use of the terms arque (bow-legged) and jarrete (knock- kneed). However, the study of anatomy will quickly convince one that Noverre's division of the adult human physique into these two categories is correct, as absolutely straight legs are so rare as to require no special term. Generally children are very knock-kneed, but if they become powerful and tightly-knit as adults the muscles of the leg will make the bones set so that when the feet are together and parallel a gap is seen between the knees. This is not a malformation to be remedied, any more than is its opposite; but merely evidence of a powerful physique, common among boxers and sprinters, possessing certain advantages and drawbacks which it is futile to attempt to alter. The arque dancer is remarkable for her power and ballon, and best expresses herself in movement, not in pose. Because she is thightly knit her extensions are never very high; loosening and stretching exercises only lessen her natural abilities and make her a straining copy of the jerrete type of dancer, who is remarkable for the elegant clarity of her movement and the beauty of her positions. This difference in physique is as great as the vocal difference between a soprana and a contralto; the singing teacher who attempted to make all students sing in the same register irrespective of voice would find few pupils, yet this is continually attempted in the ballet world thought it would be more sensible to make the most of the contrast.


See Sens


See also Battement A term which is usually in use for the execution of an arabesque with round arms instead of stretched ones.


See also Permant Quest Artist. The Oxford English Dictionary definition of "artist" includes the words "one who makes his craft a fine art". The distinction between craftsmen and artists is applicable to dancers; for the expert craftsman of the dance may not have the intellectual approach by which to transform his craft into fine art, nor may he be interested in so doing. There is a vast difference between the dancer who treats technique as an end in itself, and the dancer who uses his or her technical equipment, such as it may be, with artistry: e.g., the dancer who controls her movements to make them uniformly soft, or clear and precise throughout, or to give each step its own different character: or the dance who phrases his steps to underline either the musical phrase or their dramatic character. There are infinte ways in which dancers can show artistry, and when labelling a dancer "a great artist" some qualification of the statement is necessary.


See also ferme. A firm step starting with and ending on both feet. 1. The dancer throws one leg up and springs off the other: while ascen- ding the raised leg continues to rise. On landing, both feet close down together. When performed with a slight spring, an assemble is usually a proparatory movement: however, it is effective in itself when performed with a high spring. Assemble can travel in the direction in which the leg was reaised, and can be performed while turning, or with a beat. Small travelling beaten assembles are called Brises. 2. Assemble sur les pointes is not a jump. The dancer brings one foot in sharply as she springs on to her toes, with the legs close together. This is usually performed turning, when the dancer makes a bold sweep of the leg round to the front or the back before swivelling round with the feet close together (Detourne). Assemble sur les pointes is often per- formed with a slight stop (Soutenu) at the end.

Francois Hofstede