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Ballet Talk for Dancers

English terms

Jaana Heino

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As I am not a native speaker of English, I sometimes find it hard to follow the discussion on this and other forums. I have already figured out (with a dictionary) "leotard" and "split" and a great many other words, but I still have problem with some. I suppose some one can help?


The major two words that I now have trouble with are "placement" and "rolling in".


I cannot give a definitive context for placement, other than that it appears in several different ones and seems to have something to do with hips and shoulders?


"Rolling in" appears in advice like "you should not force your turn-out from the ankles, because if you do you start to roll in" or something like that. (There's a great many things I can imagine going wrong if you force your turn-out, and I can name them in Finnish - just cannot figure out what this English word corresponds to... :))

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Jaana, here are a few URLs which might be useful to you (I'm not a native speaker either, I'm French): http://www.abt.org/library/dictionary/index.html


A ballet dictionary on the web site of ABT.



The Webster dictionary online


Both don't seem to include "placement" and "roll in".


Tom Parsons' ballet FAQ includes a dictionary: http://www.panix.com/~twp/dance/dicty.htm


The definition of "placement" there is:


placement. Roughly, alignment of the body. Becoming properly placed means learning to stand up

straight, with hips level and even, shoulders open but relaxed and centered over the hips, pelvis straight

(neither protruding nor tucked under), back straight, head up, weight centered evenly between the feet.

This posture is frequently described as "pulled up," but it is also a relaxed posture; you aren't tensed up

like a soldier standing at attention. (A teacher once said you should imagine that you are suspended by a

thread attached to the top of your head. This suggests both the "pulled-up" and relaxed aspects of good

ballet posture.) And as you dance, you seek to maintain this posture except when the step requires

something different, like épaulement, or like the slight forward arch of the spine that accompanies an



Hope this helps...

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Jaana, rolling in is pronated feet. It's when the inside of the foot rolls slightly towards the floor, with more weight on the big toe side. (One can also roll outwards, if the weight goes too far over the smallest toe.) The rolling in of the feet, as with the knees, is usually caused by trying to turn out further than one is able to control, or from turning out the feet instead of rotating the legs from the hips. Rolling causes knee damage and in the feet can cause bunions and arch problems.

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Thank you for the definitions and ballet dictionary links.


I get along pretty well with the ballet French and ballet Finnish, but the English on forums cause me problems sometimes, as I do not learn those terms in class... :)

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I can understand why some of the things would be difficult to understand or translate, Jaana, so please feel free to ask about anything that we can clarify for you!

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Jaana, as you've pointed out by saying that there's "ballet Finnish", almost every language group I've encountered has ballet-specific specialized terms. In English, two that come to mind are the metaphor, like "sickling", to describe a badly-pointed foot, with the toe going either inside or outside of straight, so creating the image of a farm sickle, or just plain slang, like "lame-duck turns" for piqué turns en dehors. Let us know what we can explain for you, and if we don't know, I'll bet that we know someone who does! :)

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Just a note - "sickling" translates literally into "ballet German"!

And I love the "lame-duck turns" - I would have NEVER guessed what that means!


Well, one of the aspects I LOVE about ballet is that the basic language is French, so you can work with teachers from so various nations - plus everyone will add his or her individual colour! (In my studio, we have teachers from the States, from Japan, Brazil, Romania, France and of course Germany - I think it's a wonderful way of "cross-culture", especially in these difficult times...)

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