Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
Big Lee

Pronouncing Ballet Names

68 posts in this topic

R.S., yes, in America the accent is on the last syllable in "garage" though not in "garbage," except as a joke. What is done in musical comedy does not necessarily reflect the accent of any country; it has to do with rhyme and meter. While there are, of course, regional differences/accents in America, "BAL lay" is not one of them. It's bal LAY here. And Hans's hint above is a helpful rule. We TRY to get close to the French pronunciation :devil:

A note -- it's genuinely fascinating to get different pronuncations from around the world, but in this case, it could be confusing. People are posting "How do I pronounce this word or that word." They want to be able to talk about ballet with others and be sure they're pronouncing the word correctly. As I've stated, I'm giving American pronunciations as I understand and use them (often after having been corrected, or asking, others as I made my way along the same bumpy road!). Hans is posting what are correct pronunciations in American classes. So far, the questioners have been American, I think. If this becomes an international thread -- if someone from Switzerland or New Zealand wants to know how to pronounce a step or proper name -- perhaps it's best if someone from the questioner's country answered.

Share this post


Link to post

Alexandra

Was it Noel Coward who described the English and Americans as two peoples divided by a common language?

I think that it's best to find out what's the accepted pronounciation in your home country - for example, there's a certain painter that the English call Van Goff, the Americas Van Go and the Dutch Fon Hoh, with a gutteral H at both ends!

Personally, I always get into trouble with the word sorbet which, being Arabic in derivation rather than French, should be pronounced the same way a sherbet - but if you don't ask for sorbay, the waiter thinks you're ignorant.

Jane

Share this post


Link to post

Jane, I agree completely. That's why I've said several times that I'm giving acceptable American pronunciations (to American questioners). But those pronunciations won't work (or may not work) in lobbies elsewhere!

Share this post


Link to post

Now that I think about it, it is usually the French words that I hear pronounced differently by American and British people. For instance, in the US I usually hear the ballet term "bras bas" pronounced "bra BAH", and the painter Degas "DayGAH", but a Canadian friend who attended RAD school in London says "bra BASS" and "day GASS".

Share this post


Link to post

Yes. And Americans will say "REN ah sahns" and Britons say "re NAY sans." I've always thought that Americans will take a foreign word into the language as a foreign word, where other English speakers adapt the word to fits their own pronunciation rules -- but that's a very uninformed speculation!

Share this post


Link to post
I've always thought that Americans will take a foreign word into the language as a foreign word, where other English speakers adapt the word to fits their own pronunciation rules

I've noticed that with some Italian words, too. When I was in Italy I was puzzled by the inclusion of "rocket" as an ingredient in salads (in the translation). Then I looked at the Italian and was relieved to discover that it was arugula.

Share this post


Link to post

I like that one, Ari -- explosion salad :) Jane D's reference to the "two people divided by a common language" quote is often used to point out how the same thing has different names in English, as opposed to English :) (lift/elevator, lorry/truck, etc.)

Share this post


Link to post
As a general note on the pronunciation of French words, the accent is almost always on the last syllable.  "Sucre" is an exception (but not "sucré"), and I'm sure there are others, but in general, it's ball-AY, pee-KAY, bat-MANH, &c.

Well, you're almost right. :) The rule is:

-when the last syllable has a "e muet" (mute e, I don't know if it's the correct word in English), like in "sucre" (sugar) and in a lot of other words (e.g. "danse" (dance), "danseuse" (female dancer), "jambe" (leg), "épaule" (shoulder), "valse" (waltz), "sissonne", "pavane", "arabesque", "chorégraphe" (choreographer), "ballerine"...) then the accent is on the penultimate syllable (SU-cre, DAN-se, dan-SEU-se, JAM-be, é-PAU-le, VAL-se, etc.)

Actually the final "e" is almost not pronounced (but it depends a little bit on the regional accent). This happens in general when the final "e" is just after a consonant.

-else the accent is on the last syllable (dan-SEUR (dancer), bal-LET, opé-RA, chorégra-PHIE (choreography), je-TE, soubre-SAUT...)

But it seems to me that in general the stress on the accented syllable is a bit less strong in French than in English (but it probably depends on the regional accent...)

Actually memorizing where the accent is in English words is not easy for a French speaker!

:(

In French arugula is "roquette" so it's indeed the same word as "rocket"! There's also "riquette" which is another kind of salad (of the region of Nice, I think) but very similar. And even in Italy, arugula has a lot of different names (rucola for example).

About Petipa, just to make everything more complicated :) I wonder how himself pronounced his name? Perhaps it is of Italian or Provençal origin, and so it was Pe-TI-pa? Anyway his name always makes newcomers laugh because it's pronounced the same as "petits pas" (small steps)...

By the way, how is pronounced "Balanchine"?

Share this post


Link to post

My daughter had a ballet teacher whose cat was named Petti-paws.

Share this post


Link to post

What a perfect name for a ballet cat!

Estelle, thank you for the French lesson. The accents in French DO seem much more orderly than in English!

I don't know how to do it phonetically, but Balanchine is pronounced BAL an cheen

As for Balanchivadze -- ???? bal an shee VAD ze is what I've heard, but I'm sure it sounds different in Georgian.

(Another Americanization of a name I just remembered -- Helgi Tomasson. In Iceland or Denmark, he would be Toe MASS son; here, it's TOM a son.)

Share this post


Link to post
(Another Americanization of a name I just remembered -- Helgi Tomasson.  In Iceland or Denmark, he would be Toe MASS son; here, it's TOM a son.)

Or maybe that's another American regionalization. :) After mispronouncing it once (more, actually, I'm sure), the State Theater crowd made sure I knew it was to-MAS-son.

Share this post


Link to post

This one I got from the source :) I had to interview, and introduce, Tomasson years ago at a symposium at the Kennedy Center and I asked him. He said, there it's Toe MASS son, here it's TOM a son.

Share this post


Link to post

You are of course right, Estelle--I was writing for English speakers who would probably not pronounce the "e" at all (it always bothers me, though, when people say "Les Misérab"). I notice that in classical singing, the e muet seems to always be fully pronounced as a separate syllable, though it's often barely audible when spoken.

Alexandra, if Balanchivadze is pronounced with the same accent as my teacher's name (Djou-lou-kha'-dze), then the stress is indeed on the next to last syllable, but I am certainly no expert on Georgian surnames!

Maybe I'm weird, but I've only heard "Tomasson" pronounced with the accent on the 2nd syllable.

Share this post


Link to post

While on the subject of Georgian names, what about Ananiashvili?

I've always pronounced it Ah-nan-YASH-vee-lee. But the former head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, John Shalikashvili, pronounced his name Shall-ee-kash-VEE-lee.

Anyone?

Share this post


Link to post

Ari, I've always heard "Ananiashvili" pronounced with the accent on the next to last syllable.

We wouldn't happen to have any Georgians on the board, would we? :)

Share this post


Link to post

I'm not sure about Ananiashvili, but there is a georgian violinist I much admire named Batiashvili, and I always have heard her name pronounced with the accent on the second to last syllable. It think I have read some board members report that they have met her, I wonder if they have any special insight.

I'd like to add two questions to the list, if I may:

First, I was looking at the Fall ABT schedule and noticed some works choreographed by Jiri Kylian, which I have no clue how to pronounce.

Also I'm a bit at a loss with NYCB dancer Nicholas Magallanes.

Share this post


Link to post
You are of course right, Estelle--I was writing for English speakers who would probably not pronounce the "e" at all (it always bothers me, though, when people say "Les Misérab").  I notice that in classical singing, the e muet seems to always be fully pronounced as a separate syllable, though it's often barely audible when spoken. 

I don't know much about classical singing, but perhaps it's a bit the same as in poetry: when the "e muet" is followed by a consonent, it does count as a syllable (but not when it's followed by a vowel), and also in classical poetry, some "e"s which wouldn't be pronounced at all in modern French (like the final "e" in "envie") are pronounced. For example, in Verlaine's verses "Il pleure dans mon coeur / Comme il pleut sur la ville", the final "e" of "pleure" does count (so that each verse has 6 syllables), it's the same for Baudelaire's "Une atmosphère obscure enveloppe la ville": the final "e" of "enveloppe" does count while those of "atmosphère", "obscure", and "ville" don't.

But well, I'm a getting a bit off-topic... :blushing:

Are there any rules about where to put the accent in English or American names?

And just by curiosity: how are Millepied and Marcovici pronounced?

Share this post


Link to post

Jiri Kylian: I've always said/heard YEER ee KILL ee yan But I don't know.

It also occurred to me that our attempts at writing things phonetically may not work around the globe. Estelle, the "chine" in Balanchine rhymes with keen or mean, and the "ch" is pronounced like in the English word "chew," if that helps.

You just want to know about Millepied and Marcovici to see how far off the mark we are!!! :blushing: I've heard them as MILL a pyay and Mar ko VEECH ee

Share this post


Link to post

As for rules about how to stress American names, I don't think there can be any because almost all the names here had their origins somewhere else.

I've heard "Millepied" and "Marcovici" pronounced the same way you describe, Alexandra; the trouble is that Marcovici is a French person with an Italian name! I know how it would generally be pronounced in Italian, but I imagine that in French it would be Mark-oh-vi-CHI...am not 100% on that, though. Millepied is rather simpler, as both his nationality and name are French (as far as I know) so I think that in French the stress would be on the last syllable. Estelle, "pied" is considered a monosyllabic word in French, right?

Share this post


Link to post

One year, around February 14, I bought my wife a button which read, "Be my Balanchine."

And how about Jacques d'Amboise? Most everybody called him Zhok Dambwoz, but occasionally one heard Zhok Dambwah.

Share this post


Link to post

I don't know if it matters that much to Jacques. After all, his real name is Jack Ahearn. But out of respect to his mother, he does say, dam-BWAHZ. D'Amboise was her maiden name.

Share this post


Link to post
:blushing: Ah yes, that great pair, Mildred Herman and Jack Ahearn!

Share this post


Link to post

And a further humorous/ironic twist was that he married Carolyn George. Therefore, a natural choice for one of their sons was George d'Amboise, echoing Louis XIV's very capable Interior Minister, Georges d'Amboise, of whom the king said to almost everyone's petition, "Let George do it. He is the man of the hour." :blushing:

Share this post


Link to post
I've heard "Millepied" and "Marcovici" pronounced the same way you describe, Alexandra; the trouble is that Marcovici is a French person with an Italian name!  I know how it would generally be pronounced in Italian, but I imagine that in French it would be Mark-oh-vi-CHI...am not 100% on that, though.  Millepied is rather simpler, as both his nationality and name are French (as far as I know) so I think that in French the stress would be on the last syllable.  Estelle, "pied" is considered a monosyllabic word in French, right?

Hans, you're right about the pronunciation of "Marcovici" in French (except that perhaps the last syllable could be "see" instead of "chee")- but as you wrote it is originally an Italian name (or perhaps Corsican, I don't know) and in Italian it would be Mar-co-VI-ci. Such questions are difficult indeed- for example I know some French people whose name is originally from Germany, some of them insist on the German pronunciation and others prefer a "French-ized" one (for example "Siegel" pronounced "See-eh-zhel"), in such cases the only way to know is to ask the person! :rolleyes:

An example of name whose pronunciation isn't even consistent among French people is Guillem: some pronounce it "Guee-YEM" and some "Guee-LEM". I don't know how herself pronounces her name (there's a first name "Guilhem" which exists in Southern France,

and is pronounced "Guee-YEM", but I don't know if there is a link with her last name).

You're right about "pied", in general it's considered as one syllable (the only exception would be perhaps in classical poetry, but it's quite complicated and off-topic here).

By the way, his name is a bit like that of Petipa ("Mille pieds"= one thousand feet).

:blushing:

Share this post


Link to post
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0