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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

History of the word "ballotté"

Ballet dictionaries and ballet teachers will tell you that the word "ballotté" comes from the French word meaning "to toss". Then almost immediately both are likely to adjure you not to pay attention to this, because the word "toss" implies carelessness while of course, like all ballet, a ballotté requires a lot of control. Some French dictionaries point out that ballotter is used to describe a boat being tossed about on the waves and suggest that ballottés are called this because their rocking motion is like the heaving and rolling of a ship.
But if you dig a little deeper into the origin of the French word, you discover something that might be more helpful. Ballotter comes from the word balle (ball -the spherical object, not the assembly for dancing) and originally was used to describe the movement of hitting a ball back and forth in the medieval version of tennis. I  think this is a much better description of a ballotté. If you think of the pointed foot being a tennis ball, you can almost hear the "thwock" as it gets sent back and forth over the centre line.

Here are Natalia Makarova and Mikhail Baryshnikov doing some beautiful ballottés  -- not to mention all the other steps they do beautifully! -- in Giselle (starting at 5:20 and again at 8:20)
(If you are receiving this post by email, click here for the video.)




For the history of the word "adage", click here.
For the history of the word "entrechat", 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 by clicking here.

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