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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Spelling Demons

Mel Johnson

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Pirouette - which sometimes becomes confounded with the spelling of "silhouette" or "diarrhea". Not a pleasant picture, in any case.

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Not to put too fine a point upon it, but the British past participle of "spell" is still "spelt", which is also the word for "buckwheat grain", and the British spelling of "diarrhea" actually uses an o-e ligature, so "diarrhœa"


Britain and America are two countries divided by a common language.

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I think you'll find, in the UK at least, spelled and spelt are interchangeable (my English teacher always said that 'spelt' was the lazy way to spell it though, I thought he was talking a load of rubbish personally but I guess it rubbed off as I do generally spell it 'spelled'!!). I've never seen the spelling diarrhœa, only diarrhoea, I can't find it spelled your way on any of the on line dictionaries but it's probably also interchangeable.


Quote from dictionary:

spell. past tense and past participle: spelt, British English also: spelled, especially American English.

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Spelled and spelt are both OK here - the OED actually lists 'spelled' first but doesn't come down on either side as being more usual. UK English likes to leave room to indulge the peculiarities of your mood, or perhaps just to flummox people trying to learn the stuff...


I have been fine-tuning my students this week on the difference between 'owing to' and 'due to', but along with the rest of you the one thing wish I would like granted would be to never ever see 'definately' again ...

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I was asked by a colleague on behalf of his daughter about some phonetically spelled (note spelling) ballet terms. I could work them all out except for "shasma".


Does anyone have any idea what this might be?


Seriously, how can we expect people to know foreign terms and spell them correctly, when they've never seen them written down? Shouldn't this be part of every dancer's basic education? There aren't that many terms to learn, after all, at least when dealing with the basics.


Do any teachers here explicitly teach the terms AND their spelling?




PS about spelled and spelt - naturally I turned to my trusty friend Fowler. In Modern English Usage, all uses of the terms were counted (before the coming of computers) in all the quotations given in the OED (Oxford English Dictionary - which takes up about 30 ft of shelf space for people who've neve seen it) for the 19th and 20th Centuries - there were equal numbers of uses of each. However, apparently since then usage has moved towards spelt. And that does not distinguish between the past tense and the past participle, which confuses the matter. So there.

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In my training, when we were moving into the intermediate level and beginning pointe, we had to take a written exam and get a certain mark.... The exam included the teacher showing us positions of the body, etc, and us writing them down, or asking us to write down the meaning of words, etc.... Extra points were given for good spelling, accents, etc.


What I really must do is print out all the guidelines for how to get accents off my laptop, and keep them on my desk.

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The vocabulary of ballet, including meanings and spellings, SHOULD be taught starting with grade 1. Unfortunately, it is not. I have always done it, but since I don't teach lower levels, and have not for many years, I find that I am starting from scratch with the upper intermediate and advanced level students all the time, no matter where I am. I think you can see by the spelling we encounter here on Ballet Talk that there is a serious lack of attention to this in most schools. :(


On another area of English, not spelling, I do get somewhat annoyed with how many people refer to others with "that" instead of "who". We see things like "I have a daughter that is 12.....", etc. I find this puzzling, and often wonder about the basic English education in this country. Why do even adults say things like "...oh yes, me and so and so saw that the other day"? And then, as mentioned before by Mel Johnson, the frequent use of lower case, even by adults, for the personal pronoun "I". :o How can we expect the students to learn, when the adults do not speak or write correctly?


I don't think we are expecting perfection in terms of punctuation, spelling, etc., but there are a few basics which could be more carefully handled. (This is an area where I must give great praise to our moderators, who, in addition to their knowledge of their areas of specialty, all WRITE really well!!! :clapping::flowers:)

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I was asked by a colleague on behalf of his daughter about some phonetically spelled (note spelling) ballet terms. I could work them all out except for "shasma".


Perhaps "changement"?

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My students from Grade 1 get homework each week - I choose 3 or 4 of the weaker exercises, write them on the whiteboard which the children then have to copy into their notepads and practise for the following week. So they do learn some of the words and spelling from this level although I don't test them. They obviously learn the names of the movements during class but not how they are spelled.


I sometimes get my older students to work out an exercise from the syllabus book though, that's quite funny as it never turns out exactly right although they do seem to understand most of the terminology.


I'm a member of my regional RAD Committee and I've actually been working on a 'theory book' to raise money for local events. The hope is that teachers in the area will buy them to sell to their students and profits can be used to run scholarship events etc. It's broken down into levels or grades, each section has all the terminology used for a particular level, how to pronounce it and a description of the step. When it is finished and printed it will definitely be compulsory for my students from Grade 1 and above!

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:clapping: Ms Leigh, without getting too political here, might I say that at least some of the less than accurate grammar and spelling may have to do with the legislated testing requirements? Teachers are forced to give up these types of lessons, or give them as "busy" work or homework (no classroom instruction) in order to teach material that is directly tested. As long as employment and salaries (and employer bonuses, as well as school district status, which is tied to taxes... it's all about the MONEY) are tied to test results, our students will continue to to use and spell our language inappropriately. We teachers try to maintain quality while meeting the demands of the state, but there is little support from administration. They feel the pressure, too. As long as politicians cut educators out of the picture when the writing curriculum and setting testing requirements, we will continue to write and speak poorly, yet all high school graduates will know how to "pass the test", a skill we all know to be valuable in the real world! :flowers:
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I was asked by a colleague on behalf of his daughter about some phonetically spelled (note spelling) ballet terms. I could work them all out except for "shasma".


Perhaps "changement"?


That's my bet, which in itself is shorthand for "changement de pieds".


And don't get me started on "teaching to the test"! I get kids here at the museum who think George Washington is important ONLY BECAUSE he's on money!

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My kids' studio teaches the names and spelling of all the steps. From Level 1 on, the dancers bring a notebook to class and are given one term to write down each class. They must pass a test before they are approved for pointe (in theory ...). The test consists of translations (both ways, French to English and English to French), identifying individual steps performed by a demonstrator, and also identifying the steps in some enchainements.

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