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Where did the word "adage" come from?Etymology of ballet terms


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#1 kbarber

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 03:17 AM

I have started a weekly series of ballet etymologies on my website. Today we start with "adage", and you'll be surprised to learn where it came from! Plus, you can find out what "dance" has to do with falling over.
http://toursenlair.b...word-adage.html
Enjoy!
Katherine

#2 Ray

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 04:40 AM

I have started a weekly series of ballet etymologies on my website. Today we start with "adage", and you'll be surprised to learn where it came from! Plus, you can find out what "dance" has to do with falling over.
http://toursenlair.b...word-adage.html
Enjoy!
Katherine


Thank you for this...it's so easy just to stop at one's potted definitions (i.e., adage is just short for adagio, a musical term for slow). A ballet teacher I had once stressed the importance of uncovering the basic meaning of the terms we used, and how they describe the movement quality of the steps they stand for in fundamental ways. Something I thought about all of my career.

#3 kbarber

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 05:11 AM

You're welcome, Ray. I'm glad you liked it! What you said may not be so true with some of the terms I'll be looking at in the next few weeks Posted Image

#4 Ray

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 06:15 AM

You're welcome, Ray. I'm glad you liked it! What you said may not be so true with some of the terms I'll be looking at in the next few weeks Posted Image


Haha, I can imagine! Looking forward.

#5 bart

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 07:55 AM

Thank you so much, kbarber, for your exploration of a term that, as you say, most of us think we understand quite well. There are depths here I would not have predicted.

I guess I have always thought of adagio as referring to a quality of movement and not just to tempo. For me, an example from Dupont's style in adage comes from the first set of developpes, one with each of her partners. Dupont, just a millisecond before completing the rise of leg, moves her head in the same direction, looking upwards towards her foot and supported hand. For me, this increases the impression of "ease." It makes you look upward, too -- a movement of the air. Gregory does not do this, which has the effect of calling attention to the balance itself and to the floor.

It's interesting that Gregory gets a hand from the audience. Dupont, by stressing ease and weightlessness, does not.

P.S. This is not to criticize Gregory, one of my all-time favorites.

#6 sandik

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 08:59 AM

What a treat, to start the day thinking about the Rose Adagio! Unfortunately, my web connection is a bit sticky this morning, so I didn't see all of the nuances in timing that Bart describes, though I'm very familiar with the coordination that he's discussing. One of the things I've always appreciated about this recording of Gregory's Aurora is the sense of modesty -- she doesn't really call our attention to the difficulty of the material, but instead concentrates on the youthful character. From what I can see in my connection today, Dupont has a similar approach.

The fact is that you can teach all kinds of steps with an adagio tempo, emphasizing the gradations in timing and the coordination of gestures that make this work really sing. It doesn't have to be done exclusively with the big and expansive extensions that make the classical variations such challenging work.

#7 Moonlily

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 09:22 AM

Thank you! This is truly informative. I like that it goes back to the roots and etymology of the word. The fine nuances in meaning become much more apparent this way. It is like the meanings that the word had at various stages of its 'journey' or development until present all left their traces in it in the form of subtle nuances.

In this context I was reminded how my flute teacher explained to me that when playing 'adagio', I should also have a 'sense of space' and not just play slowly.

#8 kbarber

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 11:44 AM

Thank you! This is truly informative. I like that it goes back to the roots and etymology of the word. The fine nuances in meaning become much more apparent this way. It is like the meanings that the word had at various stages of its 'journey' or development until present all left their traces in it in the form of subtle nuances.

In this context I was reminded how my flute teacher explained to me that when playing 'adagio', I should also have a 'sense of space' and not just play slowly.


A "sense of space"... how (unwittingly I'm sure) that echoes the distant origin of the word.

#9 Helene

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 12:17 PM

I'm not sure anything describes "at ease" more than Cynthia Gregory softly rolling off pointe from her balances.

There are so many magnificent details from that performance. I think my favorite is the way she presents her heel before and during her final curtsey.

Many thanks, kbarber!

#10 Moonlily

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 01:07 PM


Thank you! This is truly informative. I like that it goes back to the roots and etymology of the word. The fine nuances in meaning become much more apparent this way. It is like the meanings that the word had at various stages of its 'journey' or development until present all left their traces in it in the form of subtle nuances.

In this context I was reminded how my flute teacher explained to me that when playing 'adagio', I should also have a 'sense of space' and not just play slowly.


A "sense of space"... how (unwittingly I'm sure) that echoes the distant origin of the word.


I would definitely think this was unwittingly said as well. She wanted me to think of it of something that does not remain narrowly in one spot while it is slow, so that the single notes do not stand isolated but instead connect and therefore acquire some kind of 'motion'. "In each note, there should be a sense of lightly reaching out to the next one" -> This is again unwittingly very much echoing the origin of the word and I can also see how this has the effect of appearing 'at ease'. I think she could have simply described the features of what she saw as well played adagio music without realizing it was that close to the roots of the word.
In terms of dancing, it could be seen as 'connecting the steps' and 'fluidity', as opposed to having a set of different poses that stand for themselves. Dancers who possess fluidity definitely give me more of an 'at ease' feeling than those who don't.

#11 sandik

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 03:57 PM

I'm not sure anything describes "at ease" more than Cynthia Gregory softly rolling off pointe from her balances.


Wasn't that just the prettiest thing?

#12 bart

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 05:43 PM

Didn't want to disrespect Gregory, so I checked again. Dupont's "at ease" calls attention to her upper body. Gregory's calls attention to her lower body. Generally, Dupont seems to focus more on -- or have a greater gift of -- epaulement. Gregory always impressed me most with her foot and leg work.

Off Topic: Just noticed a difference in choreography at the end of the first allegro section, just as Aurora approaches her parents before being introduced to the princes. Dupont (dancing Nureyev's staging) performs a series of running jetes, each followed by a pirouette. Gregory does simple pique pirouettes. Another difference, this having to do with the first set of balances themselves: Dupont does the developes on point only with the first 3 princes, performing a series of supported turns with the fourth. Gregory does the same step with all four princes. Dupont's version adds variety and speeds up the pace. Gregory's extends the adagio spirit just a little bit longer..


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