Many new students feel that ballet is very foreign as a whole.
Walking with your toes pointed...always having your legs turned out...and making sure your knees are always straight. I don't know what else is more out of the ordinary from everyday activities.
On top of the foreign movement is the foreign language that accompanies every ballet class...those French words that direct every step the teacher commands as if they all make sense.
Why is ballet terminology in French?
Ballet originated in the Italian Renaissance in the 15th century but later developed into a concert dance form in France and Russia. In fact, the French word 'Ballet' was adopted into the English language around 1630. Eventually the art form's popularity was so widespread in France, it set the stage for much of its terminology.
Every ballet term has an English translation and frequently reflects the movement being performed. For example, the word 'Fondue' which means 'To Melt' is performed by an action of both legs bending or 'melting' at the same time. Similarly, 'Elever' which means 'To Elevate' describes a dancer who is rising to their toes with straight knees...very much like an elevator. Additionally, 'Sauter' is 'To Jump' and is performed during the center portion of class by completing a series of jumps. This is also a frequent activity of cooking when food is tossed or 'jumped' in a heated pan.
What is the best way to learn ballet terminology?
Practice the correct terms and know their translations. Whether practicing in class or at home, the terms are just as important as the steps themselves!
Look up terms on the Internet; numerous sights offer ballet dictionaries with the opportunity of seeing the word and reviewing its definition and frequently the movement associated.
So the next time someone asks your student "Parlez-vous francais?" they can say yes...however it will probably be an entire ballet oriented conversation!