In the column “Henrik teaches French”, I let you in on some technical sides of the ballet life. I’ll try to explain some steps, certain parts of the performance and hopefully even teach you some french terminology while we’re at it! Today: Titles
As all eccentrics, dancers love titles. We have a bunch of them, and use them freely to sound better, more elevated and more raffined than the rest of the world. Let me explain;
The Italian title Ballerina is usually used for a female soloist, but the title has no clear boundaries on for whoit should be used, and translated, it really just mean “female dancer”.
A variation is the Prima Ballerina Assoluta. It is really a title only for those female stars that has danced the leading roles in a long list of given classical ballets (some may say it’s valid only if they did so in a short list of theatre’s in the world as well), but this is not necessarily followed today. Normally, the term is used for the leading female principal in a company. Translated from Italian, it means “The first and absolute Ballerina”.
A male dancer on the other hand, is called Danseur (from French). It is a term widely used also outside the ballet world (my computers spelling-program even knows it), meaning just male dancer.
A variation of the term is the Danseur Noble, or noble dancer. It is a term usually used for male soloists, dancing leading roles. It is nevertheless really a term describing a form or style rather than the position of the dancer – a danseur noble is a male dancing with a certain sophistication, and with a very clean technique. This term simply don’t fit all male soloists, regardless of their talent.
Another way to name a male dancer is by the term Virtuoso. A virtuoso is a vigorous dancer able to do great “tricks”, and may fit the character soloist dancing roles like Basel from Don Quixote or Actaeon from Diana and Actaeon better than the more “prince-y” roles.
In some companies, most famously the French Paris Opera Ballet, they have titles for the positions inside the company. In the paris opera, the titles ranges from the lowest, Quadrilles, through the Choryphées, Sujets (subjects), premiéres Sujets – which are like soloists, and the Etoiles (stars), the great premiere dancers of the house.
Obviously, with all these titles, a Hierarchy developes in the theatre…
Until next time,