Ballet For Dummies is a self help book for those who want to perform ballet or just watch it. The book is written by Scott Speck who conducted the San Francisco Ballet and Evelyn Cisneros who danced ballet and now is a Ballet Education Coordinator for the San Francisco ballet. The book serves many types of users. I just wanted to understand ballet a little better.
The first half the book puts you into dance slippers and shows you each of the moves that make up ballet. I didn’t realize there were so many; and so many variations. I thought the book did a good job of explaining each of the moves, showing the moves with photos, and helping pronounce the french terms that make up all ballet moves.
There are also chapters on history, dance choreography, mime, and ballet performances. My favorite section “The Part of Tens” reviewed the…
- Ten Most Commonly Used Ballet Steps,
- Ten Best-Loved Classical Ballets
- Ten Great Contemporary Ballets
- Ten Best Ballet Terms for Cocktail Parties
- Ten Fascination Facts about Professional Ballet Dancers.
This book was a good start on my ballet education, but I would need to study for a long time before I could get the hang of ballet, even as an observer. The book at least gave me an outline of what I would need to learn… French to start with. I’m not going to get very far without being conversant in all the french dance terms and the movements they correspond to.
A great ballet conductor we once knew used to joke that there are only two tempos in ballet: “Too fast” and “Too slow.” -p65
This graceful fake step allows you to look really good as you regroup and carry on. So good, in fact, that there isn’t a ballet dancer alive who doesn’t know this Golden Rule: “When In Doubt, Coupé Out.” -p183
In America, many male dancers start taking ballet because their sisters do- and then discover the challenge and physical workout to be fun. Some are even captured by the thrill of performance. And lots of ’em enjoy hanging around with a bevy of perfect beauties. But no doubt, young male dancers in the United States often have to endure ribbing about their chosen activity. But in some other countries, like Russia and Cuba, the motivation is different. In those cultures, a male ballet dancer is the equivalent of a sports hero. and why not? The virtuosic pyrotechnics of these professionals are not to be believed. Being the principal dancer of a ballet company is just as cool as being a basketball or football star. -p309
Important Terms for the Studio or Ballet Performance
- Battement tendu (bat-MAHN tahn-DUE): Brushing out your leg along the floor and pointing your foot. It also can be done lifting your legs to various heights, to the front, side, and back (also known as arabesque).
- En pointe (ahn PWANT or just on point): Balancing on the tips of your toes (for women only). This is achieved by wearing special pointe shoes.
- Grand jetè (GRAHN juh-TAY): A forward jump with a split.
- Pas de deux (PAH duh DEUH): A dance for two.
- Pirouette (pee-roo-ET): A turn or series of multiple turns.
- Pliè (plee-AY): Bending your knees. This can be a small or big bend, on one leg or two.
- Port de bras (POR duh BRAH): Movement of your arms and upper body.
- Sautè (soh-TAY): A small jump on two legs, landing on both legs.
- Tutu: A ballerina’s skirt, sticking straight out from the hips like a pizza.
To help tell you which direction to face as you do a particular step, use the following diagram to assign directions to a room.
Back Wall 4 5 6 3 7 2 1 8 Audience