by John Flowers
(New York City, USA)
Ballet Terms - Student John
I am just new to baIlet. Just starting out basically. Got interested in the art after watching CUNY on TV which features performing arts that includes classical ballet. I wanted to have accurate knowledge of the terms in ballet. I found out that it is difficult to grasp the meaning of "En Dedans" as opposed to "En Dehors". According to your dictionary, en dedans is inside turn while en dehors is outside turn. This is confusing because both legs can be either inside or outside of the other. In en dedans, which foot is on the air, is it the right foot or the left foot? And in dehors, is it the opposite? Since there is a circuitous movement, will it be clockwise for en dedans and counterclockwise for en dehors? It looks like your dictionary is backwards making en dedans counter clockwise while en dehors clockwise. I hope you will forgive my little knowledge.
In order to have a snap memory of what the terms mean, if possible, I want to have just one word to represent them. For example, Pirouette is turning; Balance is foot shifting; Ballonne is floor bouncing; Battu & Battement is beating of leg, Chase is chasing of the feet; Plie is bending; Pique is standing on toe by working foot; Avant is forward; Arrier is backward; Coupe is cutting of each other of the feet; Croise is feet crossing; Tendu is stretched; Ouvertte is open position of limbs; Pas is movement of steps; Jete is jumping; Dessous is under; Dessus is over; Derriere is back; Epaule is oblique position; Releve is raising of body; Fondu is sinking; Fouette and Flic Flac are whipping movements; Retire is withdrawal; Rond de Jambe is circular movement of leg; Grand is big; Petit is small; Glissade is gliding; Echappe is slipping movement; Attitude is standing on one foot and either arm is either curbed up or in the second position; Do you think my short meanings are correct and easy to remember?
Regarding Efface and Ecarte, I can't figure out their differences. What short meanings can you give them?
Mr. Odette, how did you start and what caused you to be interested in ballet?
Reply by Odette
To:- Ballet Terms - Student John
Thank you for your message, it's great to hear you are a new fan of ballet and have such energy to build your knowledge on this fascinating art form.
I will admit the terms can be very confusing to grasp in ballet, especially the ones like "En Dedans" and "En Dehors". I have been studying ballet for 13 years now, so the terms have become almost a natural language for me. I would say not to overwhelm yourself at first with all the terms, because as you study ballet more and more it will become very natural to you too.
However, it is useful to be familiar with the terms in relation to the movement in ballet class so you understand which step the teacher is asking for when she says "Pirouette En Dehors" or "Glissade Jete".
For "En Dedans" and "En Dehors", the term can not only be used for Pirouettes but also Rond de Jambe. However, the explanation for "inside" and "outside" helps you visualise the movement for the Pirouette, so it's not a literal translation for the legs but the general direction of the turn.
When you are turning "En Dedans", you go always towards the supporting leg which is inside. For "En Dehors", you always turn away from the supporting leg which is outside. If you are turning to the right "En Dehors", it will be a clockwise movement. It depends which way you are turning to which foot is in the air, so it is hard to decribe without showing you in person and could perhaps confuse you even more! I hope you understand the term a little more now? If not, there are many videos on youtube which show the difference between the two directions of turns. I always find it helpful to see the movement and then it becomes more clear for me to understand.
Ballet is very traditional in the meaning of the terms, so you will mostly find the same definitions everywhere to represent each movement. I do like your short meanings for the ballet terms and if this is a way to help you understand, then definitely keep it up. You can even create your own dictionary to translate the terms, which you can look at between your classes.
Actually, I became interested in ballet whilst I was a serious competing gymnast. It was always on my dance floor routines where I excelled and won medals, so I found myself diverting in dance classes and starting my journey to become a ballet dancer. I always remember loving to perform and be in the limelight, it was my passion and joy to dance since I was young. I loved listening to the music and dancing blissfully through each movement in my world.
I started training seriously when I was 11 years old, which was a wake up call to how much training I needed to make this my profession. As each year went on, I saw how physically demanding ballet was and even more so now I realize how challenging it is. Often, I just want to dance with the same freedom I had when I was a young child, but it is a very non-stop career where you never stop working on something and your goal for that control and physical strength never stops.
I love to inform other passionate dancers and make friends all around the world from people who visit my website. So, I'm very glad you found your way here and I hope you stay in touch. There is much to inform you with the hundreds of pages here and I would love to hear from you again.
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