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Pronouncing Ballet Namespet-EE-pah or PET-ee-pah


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#1 Big Lee

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Posted 08 July 2003 - 09:16 PM

Since I found this board, I wanted to ask this question and now I'm going for it!

I was wondering about the pronunciation of various ballet dancers/choreographers names. Whenever I talk about ballet, I always get nervous because I'm not sure how to pronounce people's names, because I have never heard them pronounced myself. So, a few examples -

Marius Petipa- PET-ee-pah or pet-EE-pah or pet-ee-PAH?

Female Russian Names: I have heard Danilova pronounced as da-KNEEL-ova, is this a standard pronunciation for russian names ending in -ova? In other words, is Toumanova too-MAHN-ova or too-man-OH-va?

That's all I got for now, but thanks for replying and I imagine other Ballet lovers have their own questions.

#2 Alexandra

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Posted 08 July 2003 - 09:23 PM

Thank you, Big Lee! (And welcome : ) Great questions. You're right. Fear of Mispronunciation is one of the great barriers. (I worried for years whether it was TERP see kor or Terp SICK aree. I've heard people use both.)

It's PET ee pah.

Russian names are usually on the second syllable -- Tou MAN ova, da NEEL ova. (Likewise, Mak KAR ova, Kar SA vina; and also for men: Noo REY yev.


Thanks for asking -- ask more :) And I'm sure others have some too (including me.)

Editing to add that we have both native French and Russian speakers on the board, so they may have a different take on this!!

#3 Estelle

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Posted 09 July 2003 - 03:34 AM

Actually, in French it would be "pet-ee-PAH", I think.

#4 balletshuttle

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Posted 09 July 2003 - 06:22 AM

So glad you asked that question. I always wondered myself! :)

#5 Alexandra

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Posted 09 July 2003 - 07:02 AM

To follow up on what Estelle says -- of course she's right (she's French :) ) but there are accepted English and/or American pronunciations of non-English names so that we don't sound as though we're trying to pronounce a language we can't pronounce.

I can give more Danish examples than French or Russian ones. Niels Kehlet is pronounced (sort of) Kay'l in Danish. (The ' means you think hard about a letter while swallowing). Americans think it's "Kay-let" When they're talking among each other, they'll say Kay'l. When they talk to us, they say Kay-let. Make sense? (I was rather startled when I began my book on Kronstam of how many people said "Hang Krwone-stam" until I realized that "Hang" was "Henning".

In America, we'd say PET ee pah, or risk sounding pretentious. I'm curious about the British pronunciation?

#6 Ari

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Posted 09 July 2003 - 07:27 AM

In America, we'd say PET ee pah, or risk sounding pretentious.  I'm curious about the British pronunciation?

I think PET ee pah IS the British pronunciation. It was Clive Barnes, the dance critic media star, who brought the pronunciation into widespread use. I wonder how Petipa was pronounced pre-Barnes?

#7 Alexandra

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Posted 09 July 2003 - 07:30 AM

I'm curious why you think this was something started by Barnes? (I know older critic/historians who were here before Barnes, and wouldn't pick up a pronunciation from him anyway, who pronounce it this way; that's why I ask.) I'd be curious, too, how Russians pronounce Petipa, since he spent most of his career there!

As you can see, Lee, there are no simple answers to anything in ballet :) But if you say PET ee pah in America (or, actually, pet' ee pah, only a slight accent on the first syllable) you'll fit in. Go to France, try Estelle's way :)

#8 Hans

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Posted 09 July 2003 - 10:55 AM

My Russian teachers pronounced Petipa the same way Americans do, as I recall.

Another commonly mispronounced name is Julia Makhalina. It's "YOO-lee-ah Ma-KHA-lina."

Now, say "Asylmuratova" five times fast :) !

#9 grace

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Posted 09 July 2003 - 02:54 PM

"British" pronunciation: PET ee pah

as alexandra says, the other may be more accurate, but would be regarded as pretentious.

great questions, Big Lee - as alexandra says, there are so many of these potential traps...

PAVLOVA: within my lifetime, accepted pronunciation has changed from pav-LOW-vu to PAHv-luv-u - and in australia where the meringue desert was named after her, we wouldn't dare call the desert PAHV-luv-u, even if we HAVE learned to pronounce the dancer's name that way!

it's a minefield! but thankfully, only your ego can be blown away - not your legs.

#10 Big Lee

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Posted 09 July 2003 - 08:03 PM

Hans, I personally pronounce Asylmuratova Julie Kent, eg.

Ballet Lover: Whose that great Kazakhastani Kirov ballerina?

Big Lee: Julie Kent.

Ballet Lover: Really?

Big Lee: Yes, Julie Kent is definitely Kazakhastani.

By the way, if Julie Kent is reading this, I love you and your easy to pronounce name.

I guess I would pronounce Asylmuratova as az-ill-moor-AHT-ova, though before this thread I probably would have said az-ill-moor-a-TOE-va.

#11 Alexandra

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Posted 09 July 2003 - 08:15 PM

By Jove, I think he's got it! :)

I'll add, post a pronunciation guide to the top 25 ballet name, on my To Do list and make it a sticky. I know every time a new Russian ballerina comes along I have to ask how to pronounce the name, and I'm sure I'm not the only one! (Although I have learned the second syllable rule :) )

#12 BW

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Posted 10 July 2003 - 11:36 AM

:wink: Wonderful thread!

I think I need a crib sheet to keep handy during ballet performances... Perhaps we could make one up with the Ballet Alert! logo and have them made gratis by someone in the plastics world...you know, sort of like those little "tips" guides? :)

#13 carbro

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Posted 10 July 2003 - 12:25 PM

Years ago I worked for a public official who was to bestow a civic recognition on Baryshnikov and Makarova. I drafted his remarks for the occasion, and made a point of emphasizing to the aide who was to accompany him that the ballerina's name was ma-KAR-ova. "Yeah, yeah," she waved me off.

At the presentation, official described the artistic accomplishments of Natalia ma-ka-RO-va, to the snickering of those assembled. :) :shrug: :wink:

#14 Ari

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Posted 10 July 2003 - 12:33 PM

I believe I was one of the snickerers, Carbro. Was this a vertically challenged gentleman who made his presentation at the Met?

#15 carbro

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Posted 10 July 2003 - 12:39 PM

Maybe.


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