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Break that code - Ballenglish (UK) /(US)/(elsewhere)


mimi66
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In another thread, someone wondered what is the definition of "some previous experience of ballet" in relation to the level of an open class.

 

I thought it might be fun to make up some sort of dictonary for those ballet terms or ballet related phrase which does not make sense to non-ballet population.

 

Also I would imagine some of the terms are different in various parts of English speaking world.

 

Non-English terms also welcome!

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To kick off, that familiar phrase purporting to give a detailed explanation for ballet class levels in the UK, "those with some previous experience of ballet".

 

This is a Ballenglish (UK) for "those who are at least intermediate level". 

 

Edited to add:  Oh no!  I meant to spell "Ballenglish" not "Bellenglish" for the title of this thread!  Is there any way to amend this????

Edited by mimi66
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There is also the "finger dance".....that is when dancers learn choreography or memorize it  by using their fingers instead of practicing it physically.  

 

The look on the faces of the "uninitiated" is fun to watch.

 

As for words privy to the dance world:  "Break a leg" and "merde' usually get a frown from those on the "outside."

 

or

 

"It was a wonderful class, I ache all over."

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Thank you Jannet, for amending my typo!

 

taxi4ballet and legseleven... Well now we are deep into philosophical questions...  :D  I must run just now, but I will attempt to add my definition a bit later!

 

Anjuli, same in spanish - before the stage, so many "mucha merda" s going around it was so funny when I first heard the expression.

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I find the term 'Intermediate' confusing because it could mean class for someone who is working at, or who has gained their RAD Intermediate (previously called 'Elementary'), or it could mean an adult dancer who has done ballet for 2 or 3 years and it's a class that caters for people a bit beyond beginners level. So 'Intermediate' here actually could mean 'Improvers'.

 

The 'problem' I have noticed with terms like 'Intermediate' is that I have seen the effect of this confusion for adult dancers, who started ballet as an adult. I have seen adult dancers who have done ballet for a couple of years and have placed themselves in an Intermediate adult class. They then decide to do RAD classes, and assume they 'must be' in at least Intermediate level because they are going to an adult intermediate class. I'm not saying they're defintely not suitable for doing an RAD Intermediate class, but I have noticed that some adults invite themselves onto classes that are too advanced for their current level, and then think they 'should be' at the same name level for a syllabus class, or open classes such as those in Pineapple.

 

The term 'Beginners' is confusing as well. I have seen beginners' classes, which are so basic that they would explain the positions of the feet and arms in the first lesson, etc, for the first week of term. By the way I think this is a good thing. But there are other beginners' classes, which aren't for those who have never done ballet before; they would be better described as Improvers' level.

 

'Levels' can be confusing too. I've noticed that if classes use 'level 1', 'level 2', etc, and there are different teachers, the actual difficulty of classes would vary depending on who was teaching class. The levels could be interpreted differently by each teacher. I once went to a level 2 class, which expected dancers to do a fouette turn in arabeque during barre!

Edited by Dancer Sugar Plum
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This is my take on the term "general" and  "intermediate (elementary)" in the context of open class.

 

In the old (antique by now?) RAD grading system, the first vocational grade was called "Elementary".  Elementary in relation to vocational training, that is.  At this level, one would have learned most of the steps danced in ballet (including grand allegro steps), along with the class room manners and conventions.   

 

RAD subsequently changed the "Elementary" grade's name to "Intermediate" now over 10 years ago... But for some reasons "Elementary" is still used to describe level of the open class.

 

Now "General" class.  It means a class for people with "Elementary" level skills (eg those above grade 6) upwards  - to professionals.  There is a huge gap in technical skills between Elementary (now intermediate) level to that of Intermediate (now advanced) level, hence the description "everyone welcome".

 

I know it really should have read "everyone who have progressed at least grade 6 level onwards welcome".   Oh, by the way, "some previous experience of ballet" "those with some knowledge of ballet" are also saying the same thing - above grade 6-ish.

 

If we are to use analogy, learning ballet is a bit like learning a foreign language.  First few years (more like 5 in reality for over 30) are spent to learn grammer and build basic vocabularies, so that one becomes more or less competent to read some newspapers or perticipate general social conversation with others without much inhibition.  In ballet, that is pre-Elementry (now pre-Intermediate) level. 

 

Another analogy would be that of driving.  Once you pass the driving test, you can drive the road with other drivers, but that does not make you a F1 racer overnight (or never).  This is the feel of "General" level open class.  Not open for those who hasn't got the driving license yet.

 

I would add that the transition between pre-Elementary (advanced beginner) level to Elementary level is a tough one.  I think many adults spend anywhere between 1 to 3 years for this transition. But the effort is worth it, because once you made that transition you can attend "open class" - anywhere in the world! 

Edited by mimi66
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Another ballenglish (UK) - a "mixed ability class".  In plain English it is Beginner/Beginner+ level (up to RAD grade 5-ish) drop-in adult class. 

 

There are a huge difference in the skills required for  absolute beginner's class and the skills required for  more advanced beginner (pre-elementary (intermediate)) level class.  Also it is quite usual for more advanced (Elementary (Intermediate)  upwards) dancers to attend beginners + level class for various reasons (eg working on some specific techinique or sometimes because there is no "General" class nearby).

 

By calling what is beginner/begginer+ class "mixed ability", it would encourage those who just started (or re-started) ballet to carry on lerning ballet at their own pace - as some people (wrongly) panic that they cannot even manage "beginner's" class, when they look around to see those who are more advanced beginners (i.e. those who has been learning ballet for a few years).

 

The "mixed ability " class is the  "everyone welcome" class - with an understanding  that this class will not be more difficult than Beginners+ level no matter who is participating the class (eg ex-professional dancers) 

 

I must add that Beginners+ level is not something to be underestimated. Some of the classical variation can be danced with the skills taught at this level!  (Not on pointe, though).  One should be doing simple grand allegro at this level as well as travelling turns.

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If we are to use analogy, learning ballet is a bit like learning a foreign language.  First few years (more like 5 in reality for over 30) are spent to learn grammer and build basic vocabularies, so that one becomes more or less competent to read some newspapers or perticipate general social conversation with others without much inhibition.  In ballet, that is pre-Elementry (now pre-Intermediate) level. 

 

Another analogy would be that of driving.  Once you pass the driving test, you can drive the road with other drivers, but that does not make you a F1 racer overnight (or never).  This is the feel of "General" level open class.  Not open for those who hasn't got the driving license yet.

 

I would add that the transition between pre-Elementary (advanced beginner) level to Elementary level is a tough one.  I think many adults spend anywhere between 1 to 3 years for this transition. But the effort is worth it, because once you made that transition you can attend "open class" - anywhere in the world! 

 

It's also difficult to know when you actually move from an advanced beginner level to elementary, or intermediate dancer to advanced. I don't mean exams of any syllabus here, more like a dancer's ability to cope with free classes in a particular level.

 

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With relation to all the above levels cited above, I enquired about a student of mine who did Intermediate Foundation (old pre-elementary not pre-intermediate as someone noted above) last year and will do Intermediate next year.  This year she is doing Grade 7 and will be preparing for Intermediate after the exam, so what level should she try for in classes at Danceworks or Pineapple?  Should she look for Intermediate level or beginner?  How on earth do you know what would be appropriate for a 13 year old?  I would have sent her to Anna Du Boisson's Elementary class on Friday, but she won't arrive early enough.  Obviously I wouldn't send her to Advanced or Professional, but it does so depend on the teacher.

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With relation to all the above levels cited above, I enquired about a student of mine who did Intermediate Foundation (old pre-elementary not pre-intermediate as someone noted above) last year and will do Intermediate next year.  This year she is doing Grade 7 and will be preparing for Intermediate after the exam, so what level should she try for in classes at Danceworks or Pineapple?  Should she look for Intermediate level or beginner?  How on earth do you know what would be appropriate for a 13 year old?  I would have sent her to Anna Du Boisson's Elementary class on Friday, but she won't arrive early enough.  Obviously I wouldn't send her to Advanced or Professional, but it does so depend on the teacher.

 

May be I am an old school, but generally open class are thought to be not suitable for children (some say no under 18, and some say 16+ ok, but it depends), and at 13, I would not recoomend her going to Pineapple or Danceworks anyway - apart from Anna's class when she would invite other younger dancers from her other classes.

 

Children needs closer supervision than adults in class situation.  Of course, there are some adults who don't use enough common sense when dancing in a limited space with others, but as an adult you would have already learned how to avoid those people from life experience.  Childeren hasn't have enough experience to cope with the "unreasonable" situations!

 

Also if someone normally do syllabus works and not used to "free work" would have a hard time at first if they go to open classes, which also should be factored in.

 

Obviously this depends on the child as well - I have seen very accomplished 12 year old dancer navigating through perfectly General level open class. I was very impressed with her intelligence and matuariy - as well as her dancing. But I think she was an exception rather than the norm at her age - same can be said for her dancing ability, too!

 

I am not a teacher nor a professional dancer, so perhaps those experts might like to add/amend?  Personally, if I am going to an open class where I don't know the teacher nor the level of class (within the "Elementary" or "advanced" definition, that is), I would choose one level lower class initially.  One never waists time in doing "easier" class - basics are so important.

Edited by mimi66
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In another thread, someone wondered what is the definition of "some previous experience of ballet" in relation to the level of an open class.

 

........................................

 

I didn't just wonder what was meant by the definition I actually asked the Royal Ballet School to explain itself.  I published my email to the School and the School's reply which was very clear though not what some members of the Forum had expected.

 

However, there is no need to talk about that here.  I agree that discerning what is meant by "beginners" and "intermediate" is a lot of fun for those in the know but for those who are not and need a straight answer, the use of code or jargon is very irritating,

 

It is also perhaps damaging in that it goes contrary to the efforts of companies like Scottish Ballet and Northern Ballet (and now even the Royal Ballet) to make ballet accessible to the public. It is after all the public who keep ballet going whether as theatre goers, sponsors or indeed taxpayers.

 

The great thing about Northern Ballet Academy is that it specifies very clearly the level of ability that is expected for each level of class and it does so in the Queen's English.

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The reasons why open class level descriptions are so confusing:

 

-originally it was more or less linked with RAD vocational grades  - anything before "Elementary" was beginners. Not much confusion existed.

 

-then RAD changed it's gradings - Elementary became Intermediate, Intermediate become Advanced 1 etc.  I suspect the levels are also slightly different now. - for example  isn't old grade 5 a bit harder than current grade5? 

 

- a lot of adults dancers who has not done any ballet as a child entred into the market... For them, "Elementary" reads beginners, "Intermediate" reads someone with 6 months experience of ballet.  So they would come to the class with their own interpretation of the class levels and the inexperienced eyes cannot see that they are in the wrong class...

 

- some "General" classes operates at Beginners+ level. Probably wasn't the initial intention, but most of the clientele are at beginners+ level, so the teacher decides to accomodate the clients.  These classes are sometimes known for its tendency to turn into "advanced" all of the sudden if there is one professional dancer dropping by, or if lovely young advanced level vocational students turn up for the half term... 

Edited by mimi66
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[...]  I agree that discerning what is meant by "beginners" and "intermediate" is a lot of fun for those in the know but for those who are not and need a straight answer, the use of code or jargon is very irritating,[...]

 

 

 

This is why we thought we would decode some of them here. I didn't intend this topic to be all about level of the open class, but these are the prime example of ballet jargon, so naturally people are interested.

 

It is natural for any discipline to develope its own terms - and people who are used to them use them without realising that it is all greek to others.  On the other hand, learning the  jargons is a part of learning that particular discipline.  Because it means something specific and cannot be put in other words - like "a request for better ad further particulars" or whatever it was .  Of all people you lawyers should know that. ;)

 

So that this topic can move on from the class level, why not post other ballet jargons or terms you have encountered?  Judging from the "view" counts, there are enough interests out there!

Edited by mimi66
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Guest chinafish

One of my favourites:

 

RAD says: Grand jeté en tournant

 

A Cecchetti teacher of mine says: Grand jeté entralace

 

Some of my American teachers say: Tour jeté

 

They all mean the same thing...!

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One of my favourites:

 

RAD says: Grand jeté en tournant

 

A Cecchetti teacher of mine says: Grand jeté entralace

 

Some of my American teachers say: Tour jeté

 

They all mean the same thing...!

 

 

and then there's:  grand jeté entournant entralacé  :)

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It's great when the teachers just stick to the level though. One of the reasons I like a certain class at Central is the teacher sticks to the level no matter if some more advanced dancers turn up!! They just have to do the class at the level set. It's no more than I would expect an Advanced /professional class to suddenly simplify because a few not so high level dancers turned up!! It should be the same the other way round.

The confusion is when it is labelled just "open class" what on earth does this really mean? A professional....but non company class? Is this where it arose? Students at more or less professional level who have finished their training and waiting to get jobs?

Unfortunately "open" gives the impression to the uninitiated that anyone is welcome to attend whereas it usually means at least Advanced level!!

Edited by LinMM
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LinMM, I know it is a bit bizzarre isn't it - the term "open class".  It is "open" in a sense that these classes are not company classes, I guess. 

 

I used to struggle with the word  "upstage" -  no, it's not about turning up in a class with white short tutu,complete with tiara when everyone else is wearing good old black leotard and pink tights.

 

It's a term to explain the positon on the stage, but used to indicate directions in the class.  "Upstage" is the direction away from the audience (back of the studio), and "downstage" is towards the audience (mirror in the studio).  Used for example when setting an exercise in the centre, as in "tendu a cote, towards upstage (or downstage)".

 

I alway mix them up... to me it feels right to call downstage an upstage!

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May be I am an old school, but generally open class are thought to be not suitable for children (some say no under 18, and some say 16+ ok, but it depends), and at 13, I would not recoomend her going to Pineapple or Danceworks anyway - apart from Anna's class when she would invite other younger dancers from her other classes.

 

Children needs closer supervision than adults in class situation.  Of course, there are some adults who don't use enough common sense when dancing in a limited space with others, but as an adult you would have already learned how to avoid those people from life experience.  Childeren hasn't have enough experience to cope with the "unreasonable" situations!

 

Also if someone normally do syllabus works and not used to "free work" would have a hard time at first if they go to open classes, which also should be factored in.

 

Obviously this depends on the child as well - I have seen very accomplished 12 year old dancer navigating through perfectly General level open class. I was very impressed with her intelligence and matuariy - as well as her dancing. But I think she was an exception rather than the norm at her age - same can be said for her dancing ability, too!

 

I am not a teacher nor a professional dancer, so perhaps those experts might like to add/amend?  Personally, if I am going to an open class where I don't know the teacher nor the level of class (within the "Elementary" or "advanced" definition, that is), I would choose one level lower class initially.  One never waists time in doing "easier" class - basics are so important.

My dd did an open 'intermediate' class when she was 13, and the teacher was happy for her to stay on and do the barre part of the 'advanced/professional' class which followed as well. 

 

We contacted Danceworks beforehand and asked if the class was ok for someone of her age and experience to attend, and also confirmed it with the teacher on the day. :)

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It's a term to explain the positon on the stage, but used to indicate directions in the class.  "Upstage" is the direction away from the audience (back of the studio), and "downstage" is towards the audience (mirror in the studio).  Used for example when setting an exercise in the centre, as in "tendu a cote, towards upstage (or downstage)".

 

I alway mix them up... to me it feels right to call downstage an upstage!

 

I worked it out in the end: if you think of a stage as raked, as they used to tend to be, then upstage is indeed at the back at the stage, and downstage at the front :)

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LinMM, I know it is a bit bizzarre isn't it - the term "open class".  It is "open" in a sense that these classes are not company classes, I guess. 

 

I used to struggle with the word  "upstage" -  no, it's not about turning up in a class with white short tutu,complete with tiara when everyone else is wearing good old black leotard and pink tights.

 

It's a term to explain the positon on the stage, but used to indicate directions in the class.  "Upstage" is the direction away from the audience (back of the studio), and "downstage" is towards the audience (mirror in the studio).  Used for example when setting an exercise in the centre, as in "tendu a cote, towards upstage (or downstage)".

 

I alway mix them up... to me it feels right to call downstage an upstage!

Wow I thought you experienced girls knew these things. You should see the raked stage of Leeds Grand Theatre, the back of the stage is considerably higher than the front, obviously to give the audience a better view of the performers. I remember my first pirouette on that stage, I nearly lost my balance because of the degree of slope, I could almost imagine falling over and rolling down the stage into the orchestra pit.

 

The term upstage / down stage arm/leg is extremely common; you experienced girls never cease to amaze me, I think you may need to get out of the studio more and on to stage where ballet should be performed.

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