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Calliope   

I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and was suprised to find some of the Degas ballet paintings still there, I thought they would have been in Philly

Anyhow, there's one titled "Dancer at the Bar"

are both bar and barre acceptable spellings?

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I think the label copywriter overtranslated the title. "Danseuse à la barre" would translate literally that way, but an art historian would not be likely to know that "barre" is a ballet idiom that's worldwide.

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Hans   

Bar is English and barre is French. Therefore, you can spell it either way; it just depends upon which language you prefer to speak--kind of like ballerina, ballerine, ballerino, and ballerin--they refer to the same types of people (female and male ballet dancers), but are spelled differently in the different languages. Each is correct; however, most ballet dancers prefer to speak French;).

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Hans   

If it helps, this is Gail Grant's definition from her Technical Manual and Dictionary of Classical Ballet:

Barre [bar].  The horizontal wooden bar fastened to the walls of the ballet classroom or rehearsal hall which the dancer holds for support.  Every ballet class begins with exercises at the bar.

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Yes, but now we're into my territory - museum work. Label copywriters have a responsibility to make sure that idioms are preserved where they are appropriate. My own museum translated some perfectly intelligible English labels into Spanish one time, with disastrous results. The labels had been written at about a 10th grade reading level, and the Spanish was highfalutin postgraduate engineering level. I was called in to another museum to help with an exhibit and found that a certain General habitually arrived on a battle scene and relieved the commander by punching him in the eye! I asked about this bit of history, and the copywriters showed me the biographical information that the General in question was well-known for his "coup d'oeil", which just means "glance" but in military science refers to the ability to arrive onscene and evaluate the situation and determine its remedy quickly. I believe it was Sergei Bondarchuk, directing Christopher Plummer in his film Waterloo who demanded that the star employ the Duke of Wellington's well-known speech impediment. Plummer did his homework, including contacting the then-present Duke of Wellington about this characteristic, and all he asked were mystified by the question. When he went back to Bondarchuk to ask what he wanted in a speech impediment, the director said, "All biography I read on Wellington, they say he had 'stiff upper lip'!";)

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