Because ballet was first nurtured in the royal courts and academies of France, French became the language of the art. All ballet exercises, steps, body positions, and movement directions have French names. These names are in use in every ballet studio the world over, although such wide diffusion has led to certain differences, even corruption, in specific terminology.
As might be expected, such a global art includes some regional differences in training and in the manner in which steps and poses are executed- differences in style. These distinctions often are referred to by such labels as the French School, the Italian School, the Russian School, The British School. Briefly de scribed, the French School has emphasized charm and elegance while the Italian School has stressed technical virtuosity.
The Russian School was founded by French ballet masters, but later it adopted and adapted the more brilliant technique of the Italian School. The combination of these and other sources produced the strength and flair that are characteristic of the Russian School.
In contrast, the British School is less flamboyant, more serene. The methods of two outstanding teachers, Enrico Cecchetti (1850-1928) and Agrippina Vaganova (1879-1951), have created schools of technique now being handed down by their many pupils. There is emerging an American School, a blend of French, Italian, and Russian influences with a distinctive dose of American restless energy and youthful spirit.
Dictionary of music for ballet class
The style of a class will reflect one of these or other schools, depending upon the training of the teacher. It is unwise, therefore, for the beginning student to study with more than one teacher, unless the teachers share a common technical background and philosophy of teaching. American dancers are beset with an urgent quest toward greater and greater technical achievements that frequently propels them to one instructor or school after another. The result of such frantic effort can be confusion in technique and ambiguity in style.
The technical vocabulary used in this book is based primarily on that used by the National Academy of Ballet. Under the direction of Thalia Mara, this academy, has tried to standardize ballet terminology according to its most common usage today.
Improve your knowledge with the classic ballet basic technique and terminology glossary.
It is advantageous to have studied French, but a student who has not will soon have a number of French words in his vocabulary after a few classes in ballet. These words are quite specific, and their use can greatly simplify directions that a teacher might otherwise have to use. In addition, the terminology simplifies the task of writing down class work or choreography, should that sometime be necessary or desirable.