Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

How Ballet Terminology is Disputed and Employed as the Language of Dance

How Ballet Terminology is Disputed and Employed as the Language of Dance

Maya Stovall

Ballet terminology is often referred to in the dance world as ‘the language of dance’. Although ballet terminology is a useful tool for cross-cultural communication among dancers, the idea of ballet as the language of dance may cause people within the world of dance, as well as within society generally, to conflate this concept with the idea of ballet as the foundation of all dance techniques. Scholars including Dixon Gottschild (1996), Jackson (2005), Monroe (2011), and Spohn and Spickard Prettyman (2012), have problematized the history of ballet and its implications with respect to the world of dance. Here I build on this work by analyzing the limitations and strengths of the language of ballet (alternatively, ballet terminology), and the multi-faceted impact that the ubiquitous language of ballet may have on the dance world in general. Drawing upon ethnographic interviews and literature review I investigate multiple issues associated with ballet in relation to society and the dance world through the lens of the ways in which ballet terminology impacts and shapes the dance world generally. Ballet terminology is a rich tool available to dance speech communities; however, the problems and limitations associated with the historical and socio-cultural context of ballet must be considered in order to maximize both use of the language of ballet, as well as the continuation and expansion of ballet as an embodied, dynamic, and contemporary dance technique.


April 9, 2014 - Posted by | abstract

1 Comment »

  1. Studying ballet in the Netherlands (yes, yes, long ago), we were told that we should expect to be able to teach and understand all instructions in French, since international classes (all over the world) used that not just as terminology for steps and positions but also as the lingua franca. I always though we were already lucky not to have to learn Latin as the universally accepted language (as was true in academic circles until about 100 years ago). Oh, chassee, pas de bourree…

    Comment by Miriam Jacobs | January 30, 2017 | Reply

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