Terminology vs. Slang

Cricket and Kim, back stage of "Peter Pan" the ballet

As teachers, we all struggle at times when it comes to training our young students proper terminology and technique. Being able to relay to them the correct terms and positions, and have them mimic back what they have learned is often a wobbly feat at first.

Connecting all the movements, and making them appear strong and sharp is what we strive for. For some, the learning comes easier than for others. Practice has a lot to do with it. You can train your students in the proper form, but if they don’t practice – all that hard work can fall on deaf ears. Students need to want to be there. They need to want to learn.

It is critical that teachers and assistant teachers know the proper terminology, and be able to demonstrate the movements. You can’t learn it from reading a book. It takes years of practice, and concentrated muscle memory to become skilled in the art of dance technique. As well, it takes years of study to learn the proper terms (and slang).

Dancing throughout the years, most have probably heard different terminology used for different movements. Take for instance a jete lanses (turning leap), or better known to others as a barrel leap or calypso.  Which term is correct? The Jete lanses is the original term. The turning leap and/or barrel leap are a cultural manifestations, as is the calypso. It really depends on where you are dancing, as to what it is called. Many only know it by one name only. Some also confuse a renverse’ with a turning leap, but they too are not the same. A lot of the original ballet movements have had cultural slang words created to describe them.  View the Jete lanses/barrel leap here: A barrel leap

I like the definition of a “leap over a log” on Off Jazz’s website. You can view it here.  I would be interested to know what others might call it. What is the ballet term?

The back bone of dance is technique.   Having said that, I do know that  a lot of new technique has been developed over the last 50 years, that has created whole new forms of dance. You can probably think of a lot,like, Hip Hop, Lindy, or Modern, or Contemporary. Each genre of dance seems to have taken something from the other. You have whole new vocabularies to describe movement in dance. It’s cultural and it’s still growing. What I do notice about all these genres of dance, is the basic’s of Cecchetti Ballet.  There still seems to be a hint of Cecchetti in all the genres.

When you start to research the origins of dance, you begin to learn about the rituals that came with it. All that cultural stuff. The most ancient images of dance depict people dancing before their gods, as a form of worship. Dance as entertainment isn’t seen until about 1400 BC . Egyptian paintings show women in lose clothing and  musicians, on the walls of tombs. It was thought that these women dancers would keep the males delighted in the next world.

Ballet first appeared in Rome during the Roman Pantomime. But it disappeared during the mid-evil time period. It returned in the lavish plays and dances put on for kings and courts in the early years of the Renaissance.

Terminology goes through changes, as with anything else. Cecchetti Ballet, was the product of one, ENRICO CECCHETTI.   When you think about dance terminology, most people in the US have trained under the Cecchetti Ballet method in some form or another.

It is well worth knowing the correct terminology for ballet. That way you aren’t thrown off when someone uses an incorrect term. Teach your students wisely. If you teach them correctly the first time, you shouldn’t have to repeat the lesson too often.