Lost in translation/Tendu is as tendu does…

My housemate has left a copy of the freebie Russian paper out on the kitchen table. This morning in my somewhat bleary eyed, terribly vague state I mistook it for the local paper and misread their front page headline as ‘Crematorium, bitches!’*. It clearly didn’t say that, it said something probably far more profound in Russian but that was what my brain processed the Cyrillic script as saying. It was entirely not reminiscent of the occasion at university on which my best friend rambled away at me in Finnish about something and I turned round and answered her in English because I hadn’t entirely registered she wasn’t speaking English but I had, oddly, perfectly understood what she’d been saying.

There is a point to this… vaguely. Probably not, it’s probably likely to be a series of fractionally disjointed thoughts but… shh.

Ballet is, as the amazing Adult Beginner terms it, ‘French French Frenchity French French’. But here’s the thing, ‘ballet French’ and ‘French French’ are two slightly different things.

I still want to yell ‘hunted’ when we get asked what ‘chassé’ means. It doesn’t mean that in ballet.

When I was a kid, ballet was just ‘words’. Words in French, but words nonetheless. I knew pliés were about bending and tendus were about pointing and ‘something de bras’ was to do with waving our arms around and sautés were jumping. But actually, doing strict RAD classes they always were in the same order anyway so the words didn’t necessarily ever have to translate other than knowing which exercise came where. Word.

It’s less ‘just words’ now but still sporadically confusing because ‘ballet French’ is not always the ‘French French’ I read at university. It’s not the French I can argue quite eloquently in to explain why we should continue to commemorate the Holocaust and it’s not the French I can use to bluff my way through explaining the meaning of a Matisse painting. It’s not the French of the dreaded ‘Quinze joyes de mariage’ that I picked apart for historical linguistics or the French that made me want to throw my copy of Manon Lescaut to the seagulls.

But the thing is, see, ballet is French is French is French wherever you go. There will always be pliés and rondes de jambes and sautés in any given class. And I like that. It’s a kind of nice notion to think that wherever I went in the world I could rock on up to class and sort of know what was going on. I mean not necessarily the gumpf around the exercises but tendu is as tendu does, right? Right.

Yeah. Or something.


*This is probably second only to the time I was visiting my parentals and misread the front page of the local newspaper as ‘Man Opens Door To Flat’ and thought it was a slow news week even for Rural Derbyshire… it did, in fact, say ‘man stabbed as he opens door to flat’ but I clearly skipped the key words here.



Filed under I dance (not by Toyota), random stuff and nonsense

8 responses to “Lost in translation/Tendu is as tendu does…

  1. I gotta say something about this. Yesterday, before my intermediate ballet class started, I met a new girl who was from Belgium (from the Dutch-speaking part) and spoke very, very little Spanish. I told her I studied Translation and Interpreting, so she asked me to be next to her at the barre in order to interpret in French whatever the teacher said, and…
    She didn’t need me. At all. =(

  2. Excellent, I really enjoyed this post!

    Ballet French is ballet French except when your ballet teacher is French! Suddenly a tendu is not a tendu as I knew it, but a command to stretch your legs between a plié and a relevé. Degagés are now-formerly-known-as-tendus. Hand-in-foot-stretch is now a talon a la main, and instead of balances there are équilibres. My high-school French is very limited, but thank goodness I do understand Ballet.

    But I have to confess, when Madame said to put our “jambes sur la barre”, I kept hearing “jumps” on the barre. Luckily she gave us a visual and I was spared of having to figure out how to saut on said barre. It´s funny, because I knew that jambes are feet. But your brain does weird things sometimes.

    The chassé step I have always associated with one foot chasing the other, and it works for me. Fondues never make me think of cheese, but sometimes I like to imagine melting chocolate. And dipping strawberries into.. 🙂

    – Johanna

    • Heh, I am amused by the “jumps” on the barre. Although not going to be trying it out, funnily enough 😉

      Fondu does make me think of cheese, however, and makes me really hungry!

    • Hahahahaha! Jambes sur la barre! That made me laugh out loud! As a Spanish who speaks French, I had never thought that “jambes” (legs, not feet ;D) could sound similar to “jumps”! But it does! Sooo funny! And I can’t even imagine a ballet dancer jumping on the barre! All this time trying not to injure our feet… and finally we jump on the barre and break our toes… and everything else. Oh, stupid French. It’s all its fault! ;D

      Oh, and yes, there are some ballet words that are translated! In Spain we don’t do balances (English word) or équilibres (French word). Instead we do equilibrios! =) We do “talons à la main”, though. Sometimes.

  3. Maria

    Hi, I found your blog again! 🙂 I was so sad when I found out that the penguinshuffle address was deletet, but now you’re back! Yay!! 🙂

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