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The Ballet Bible – An accidental review

April 11, 2011

Being a very late starter in ballet training, I’m now settling in to week 6 of ballet classes as an adult.  The scholarship program has me taking 4-6 ballet classes a week in order to kick start my latent life as a ballerina.  In addition to the pure hard work and concentration, I found myself confronted with a dizzying array of terms and movements to absorb.  I unfortunately had the audacity to study Spanish in my formative years and find French to be a less forgiving language to learn.   You’d think the common Latin base would help, but apparently not.

So in an effort to keep up with getting quizzed by my instructors on the meanings of various words and trying to figure out just what everything is and means, I began my quest online for dance resources.  I found various online glossaries, some of which even included short clips of professional dancers.  YouTube became my new best friend while looking for freebie educational clips and descriptions.  While it did help to some degree, I often felt I spent more time searching than actually learning.  Everything was hodge-podge and my confusion was only minimally being eased.  And then I hit the jackpoint – the Ballet Bible!

I have to admit, I was skeptical at first as the website was rather on the gimmicky and sales pressure side.  From my other life in IT, I’m not a big fan of sites that are a single page of text ending in a purchase button.  There was relatively little information about the author as well.  But, I decided to take the plunge anyway because I was so desperate for a good resource on ballet.   I’m happy to report it was well worth the risk and money spent.  I would whole-heartedly recommend the site to anyone either starting out in ballet or looking for more resources.   I purchased both the guide and the online lessons.

Personally, I found the main guide, aside from an excellent boiled-down definition and terminology list, didn’t have too much information I did not already know from my other dance training and peripheral knowledge of ballet.  However, it’s a good general overview of ballet for someone starting from ground zero in dance. The real goodies for me were the glossary and video library.  It came packaged with an interactive glossary that includes a verbal pronunciation, a translation, a description and a list of variations.  It also includes an interactive video library of individual movements.  The additionally purchased online lessons are actually quite helpful.  She combines common variations of a single movement, describes the differences and she does freeze frames to explain the movement at various time points. There are also what are dubbed “one-on-one” lessons that breakdown basic movements in detail, where she discusses muscles used and proper alignment. Combining the glossary with the online lessons proved to be the gold mine I was in search of.  I was able to cross-reference terms while watching them in action and it was like the opening scene in Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, a room full of light bulbs turned on!

Photo by Rajibul Hasan

The resource in no way replaces taking in-person classes, but it is a fantastic supplement for learning. For the first time I felt like I actually was starting to understand what I was seeing and hearing in class.  I’m planning to make flash cards from the glossary and started a notebook to help me differentiate the movements and variations.

So if you are student in ballet, particularly if you are a beginner or an adult like me and feeling overwhelmed by the pace of classes and the deluge of terminology, don’t hesitate to purchase the Ballet Bible.  The site gives several testimonials of experienced dancers finding the site materials helpful as well, so it is well worth a look if you are farther along in your training too.

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