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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Between the cats? History of the word "entrechat"

Illustration courtesy of Ian Mitchell**

 An "entrechat" seems, to anyone who knows French, to mean "between the cats". This is intriguing, because I've never seen my cats jump straight upward and beat their little paws in the air. But then I've never seen them point their toes at their knees (if cats have knees) in a pas de chat either.

In fact, "entrechat" is a French corruption of the Italian phrase capriola intrecciata, literally a "complicated caper". Intrecciata comes from the word treccia (braid), which logically comes from the word tre (three) , since braids are made from three tresses (a word which has the same origin). "Braid" is  a clearer image of what the legs look like in an entrechat.

We'll come back to the word "caper" and capriola when we talk about cabrioles in the upcoming weeks.

** Ian Mitchell is a Leicester-based artist whose whimsical illustrations appear in my book Six Words You Never Knew Had Something to do With Pigs. He kindly provided his charming and quirky drawing of an  "entrechat" from the book for this post. Please visit his website at
and if you're in the Leicester area, drop by and visit his stall at one of the events listed at and buy a picture or two!

Here are Roberto Bolle and Carla Fracci doing a bunch of entrechats in Giselle

For the history of the word "adage", click here.
For "fouetté", click here.
For "bourrée", click here.  
For "pirouette", click here, and to find out what dancing has to do with falling over, click here.

If you love ballet, please check out my season of outstanding ballet trips in 2012-13 by clicking here.


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