Sunday I decided to attend the International Ballet Competition here in Jackson. This was my first experience with ballet and, by the end, I was completely won over. The level of athleticism is impressive, the music is fun, and the atmosphere is electric, but my favorite part is the judging. I love judging! I only wish I would have checked out Thalia Mara’s The Language of Ballet: An Informal Dictionary to learn some key terms before I attended. My date soon figured out that I was clueless because I kept using 4-H livestock judging terms instead of the proper ballet terms. She became suspicious when I praised one dancer’s pasterns. To avoid this mistake, here are a few items to learn before you attend your next ballet.
Demi-plié(d’mee-plee-AY): “Literally, half-bent. A half bending of the knees. The demi-plie’ underlies practically all the movements of ballet, and it is impossible to be a good ballet dancer if one does not have a good demi-plié” (42).
Impress your date by using this in a sentence. Instead of saying “That boy yonder can squat awfully low” try saying “My! I’ve never seen a demi-plié so pronounced!” He/she will be thoroughly impressed.
Plané(plah-NAY): “Literally, soared; hovered. A term used to describe any elevation movement or step in which the dancer tries to remain in the air as long as possible” (90).
Never ever say anything like “she sure can jump high.” Instead say “the plané in her emboité took my breath away.” Who knows what you just said but, man, it was pure poetry!
Cavalier (kav-ah-LEER): “The male partner of the ballerina” (30).
Ladies, please never refer to the male dancer as “the guy” or “the man.” Instead, he is the cavalier. “Well, our cavalier’s outfit leaves little to the imagination, no?”
By learning these few phrases you’ll sound more a little more knowledgeable and a lot more French. Either way, make sure you attend because the IBC is only in Jackson once every four years and it's well worth the trip.
Mara, Thalia. The Language of Ballet: An Informal Dictionary. New York: The World Publishing Company, 1966.