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  • Writer's pictureSassySouthernBalletMama

You Said You’d Like to Know-Part 2 (Basic Ballet Terminology, Etc.)

So, now you know some basic Ballet Etiquette and a bit about how Class is structured, so let’s get into the vocabulary parts of life...

I‘m going to organize this section by the basic class structure we discovered in the last blog post, so discussing the exercises of Barre will come first, including the vocabulary for those exercises. However, I want to say this: the order of barre that I teach is 1) Based on the Vaganova or Russian Method of barre (and there are several other variations of barre work for other teaching methods-if you know an order different from mine, it’s not necessarily wrong, okay? Just another methodology!), and 2) slightly variable depending on what level of ballet class I’m teaching (not everything you see in an advanced class barre would or should be in a beginner’s barre work!).

Second, in order to do barre, I am going to assume that you know how to address the barre (hold the barre with one or two hands properly) and that you know the basic foot positions. As a refresher, those basic foot positions are parallel (some call this 6th position), 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th Positions.

When you are a beginner, a lot of your barre (and cente!) exercises will be done in parallel, (a natural not super turned out) 1st and 2nd. As you progress, you will begin to incorporate working also in 3rd or more likely, a slightly open 5th. After these positions have been perfected, THEN you will begin to work in 4th. It’s the hardest position to work in, so we save it for last, to give you the most time to develop your turnout, strength, flexibility and stamina.

Okay. So all of that being said, the order of the barre (I use), in it’s BASIC breakdown (also, I cannot figure out how to get accent marks working, so please forgive the lack of them here!!!):

1) Plie (plee-ay): to bend. We use the exercise of plié in all of it‘s forms to warm up the large muscle groups of the body;

2) Battements Tendus (Tawn-dew): to stretch and/or point the foot. We use tendu to stretch and warmup the foot, especially the instep, for all of the things we are going to ask our feet to do and support in class;

PS: Battements in it‘s original French means “to beat” or “beating,” so we use this word to indicate any exercise in which the working leg will extend away from the supporting leg and back in again, usually in succession.

PPS: Most Barre Exercises, starting with Tendus, can be done in the pattern called En Croix (Ahn-Cwah) Or “in the shape of a cross.” This means you will work, most typically, to the front of your body, then to the side of your body, then behind your body, then to the side of your body again (devant, a la seconde, derrière and a la seconde).

3) Battements Degages (Day-gah-zha) (or Battements Tendus Jetes, depending on your school): to disengage. We use this exercise to begin to train the muscles to work in a quick, successive manner;

4) Ronds de Jambes Par Terre (or a Terre, depending on your school), En Dehoers and En Dedans (RoHn duh Zhamb): circle of the foot on the ground, away from the supporting leg and towards the supporting leg. We use this exercise to warm up the hips for the Range of motion we demand of them throughout the ballet class;

5) Battements Fondus (faHn-dew): to melt. We use this exercise to prepare or legs for the takeoff and landing of jumps;

6) Battements Frappes (Frap-pay): to strike. We use this exercise to prepare the knee joint for the more sharp and dynamic actions required of it in class;

7) Petits Battements (peh-teet baht-mahn): little or small beats. We use this exercise much for the same reason as Frappes, and at the higher levels, they are often combined into one exercise, but with the added stress on isolation of the activity to take place below the knee joint on the working leg;

8) Ronds de Jambes En L’air, En Dehoers and En Dedans (rohn duh zhamb ahn Layr): circle of the foot in the air, away from the supporting leg and towards the supporting leg. We use this exercise to increase mobility of the knee joint as well;

9) Adagio (Ah-dahzh-ee-o): slow, sustained movements. We use this exercise to build musculature, increase flexibility and artistry; and

10) Grands Battements (Grahnd Baht-mahn): Big or large beats. We use this exercise to increase full range of motion and to prepare the legs for big, expressive movements that will be asked of them throughout the rest of class.

So, that is the VERY beginning of our understanding of Barre and why we do what we do during barre. I hope this helps all of you and I apologize for any misspellings!!!

Next week, we will continue our look at some basic ballet terminology, especially if it’s utilized at barre! Until then, keep dancing!

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