Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Our Language

Someone (my mother, actually) suggested that it would be interesting for the blog-reading public to get a little tutorial on some of the lingo that we sling around the ballet studio. She's gotten pretty good at knowing what I mean when I talk about class, dress rehearsal, Jet Glue, merdes, a tech rehearsal, etc. etc., because of having raised a budding ballet dancer. But every so often something will come up in conversation that sounds completely foreign to her, which makes me realize how much of what dancers talk about amongst ourselves makes no sense to anyone else. So here's a partial list of our jargon (because it IS so familiar to me, it's hard to think of what to include, so I'm soliciting suggestions from my collegues, which are trickling in):

In no particular order:
  • Elephant Knees: The state of a pair of tights when you've had them on so long that they've stretched out and lost elasticity. The knees get all baggy and look like... elephant's knees, I guess.
  • Rosin Box: The shallow wooden box in the corner of the studio (and off stage in the wings) filled with powdered rosin. We step in the box and rub the tips and soles in the rosin for extra traction if the floor is at all slippery, and the women sometimes dip their feet in the rosin before putting their pointe shoes on to be extra sure the heels won't slip off. The men sometimes rosin their hands so they're more secure on their partner's costume for partnering.
  • Preset: If you've got a quick costume change or are using a prop of any sort in a particular ballet, it's the dancer's responsibility to make sure those things are set up where they need them to be before the show starts. That way, the dancer knows exactly where their things are and can't blame anyone else if they're not ready!
  • Marathon Show (aka Triple Whammy or Quadruple Whammy): This is just what it sounds like--- a performance that is so long and hard it feels like you are running a marathon. During Nutcracker, it's common for some of the women to have three or four roles in one performance (party scene, snow, marzipan; or party, snow, Spanish, flowers), hence the triple or quad "whammy".
  • Six o'clock Penche: A penche is a ballet step that is essentially an arabesque taken a lot further. From an arabesque, the dancer tips forward with their torso while raising their leg behind them in equal dimension. The line to strive for is to have your leg so high it's pointing straight at the ceiling. In this case, your two legs look like they're hands on a clock at six and twelve. Six o'clock!

More terms and definitions to come. If you've heard words or phrases and always wondered exactly what they meant, just ask!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your explanations Gavin! For those of us who don't dance, what's an arabesque? (can you explain it like you did so well on the Six o'clock Penche?)

    Also, you mentioned in preset that you'd have quick costume changes. I may not have seen it correctly in performances, but some of the dancers look like they've got different tights/leotards (not sure if that's the correct term) as well as tutus/costumes. Are you literally completely changing each time or is there layering that you usually do to cut down on the time it takes to be ready?

    With the elephant knees, how long (I know it's likely somewhat different based on the dancer) do tights last? Are they like dress socks where you wear them a couple times and after a few washes the elasticity combined with wear produces the elephant knees?