In dance class there are terms for certain steps we learn. We then put steps together to make a combination or many combinations to make one routine. Mrs. Holst might say, 'Balance four counts, pirouette, chasse left, tour jete and arabesque, for example. This way of learning makes it easier to remember a particular dance.

In ballet, dance terms are always in French, because that style of dance was invented in France. Many times the word for the step actually describes the movement; for instance, pas de chat (pah duh shah) means "cat's step" and looks like the leap of a cat. Balance (bal-an-say) is a rocking step done by shifting the weight from one foot to the other in an alternation of balance. Chasse (shah-say) means "chased" and is a step in which one foot literally chases the other foot out of its position. This step is usually done in a series.

Pirouette (peer-oo-wet),a full turn on one foot, and plie (plee-ay), lowering the body by bending the knees, are among some of the first steps learned in ballet. Others are arabesque (air-a-besk), a position of the body supported on one leg with the other leg extended behind and at right angles to it, and echappe (ay-shah-pay), a step that is sort of like a jumping jack, only graceful. More difficult steps are tour jete (toor-zheh-tay), a jump from one leg to the other while turning in the air, and fouette (foo-eh-tay), a movement with the working leg brushing backward or forward with the force of the leg turning the body around. Fouett╚s are the turns that always get the applause when several are done at one time. This semester I worked on my fouett╦s, and I have been able to do 25 of them in succession.

Other types of dance like jazz and tap have their terms, but most of them are self explanatory, like "shuffle", "ball change", "leap" and "brush". A "grapevine" is done by traveling left or right while alternating feet at the front. "Buffaloes" are another way of traveling in tap with a hop, shuffle and step combination. "Wings" are a complicated set of steps that, when done correctly, six distinct sounds are heard.

My favorite type of dance will always be ballet, but I appreciate and enjoy all styles of dance.


Last update: 2002

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