lundi 5 octobre 2009

Mao's last dancer (2009) and French ballet words

I saw Mao's last dancer and I know it doesn't have much to do with France or French or Paris but I'll write about it anyway and somehow try to tie it back to this blog... ;)

Well, if you haven't gathered from one of my previous posts, my background/heritage/ethnicity/culture (whatever you want to call it) is Chinese but I have spent my whole life in a Western country. I first learnt of the suffering of 'my people' generations back when I read Amy Tan's wonderful novels. Since then I've watched Zhang Yimou's brilliant films and other films set in China. I guess it's hard for me to comprehend how hard my ancestors had it, or even my parents.. although my parents always drummed it into our head how lucky we are, and how when they were growing up there were no cars, or washing machines, and how they had one pair of shoes per year, one bar of chocolate per year.. people were just so poor back then.

I do feel lucky, privileged and extremely grateful that I was not brought up in poverty and in a free and liberated country and I do actually feel blessed that I have known two cultures for my entire life.

Since I've read quite a few books now and many websites talking about people getting 'culture shock' when they go to France, I have thought about how I'd deal with it when I go there, and to be honest, I think I have pretty good adaptability skills after all my experiences growing up and living abroad and being quite tolerant and open-minded of others' cultures. Not to say I won't have my I-want-to-tear-my-hair-out days but still...

So back to the movie, it reminded me of The pursuit of happyness (2006) a bit in that the theme was with dedication, persistance, patience, stamina and determination*, one can achieve anything they set their mind out to do.

So, still trying to somehow tie this in with my blog... I have to almost laugh when I hear about people learning a language and going to one class a week.. that is, 2 hours (at most) per week and they think they will somehow become fluent in it. And then when they don't, they blame the teacher. As I read somewhere on someone else's blog, it's not the teacher that is bad, but the method. IMHO to learn a language you need to practise and use it every single day. Preferably for at least 1-2 hours a day. I actually spend on average 1-4 hours per day studying French. I don't have any delusions about how long it will take for me to be fluent (at least B2 level) but I do believe that to succeed in anything you need to have realistic goals, and be prepared to put in the hard yards. But also, you need to want it bad enough. I think a lot of the time when people don't succeed in doing something they really wanted, it's because deep down they didn't want it bad enough.

So I guess for me, seeing this film, it just reinforced the *dppsd in me and I'm going to do whatever it takes to get me to Paris, and to live there for at least a year, and also to become fluent in French.

Back to the movie... I had not read the book prior, and I had not read any reviews or watched any trailers. I find that I tend to enjoy movies more when I have zero expectations. And boy did I enjoy it! It was such a treat. If you enjoyed 'The pursuit of happyness' and 'Billy Elliott' or any movies made by Zhang Yimou, you would love this. The actors are brilliant and are ballet dancers in real life. I enjoyed having flashbacks to the 80s with the daggy hairstyles, clothes interior decor, and music... I loved being able to understand the Chinese parts without needing to read the subtitles (except the odd word here or there like 'revolutionary')... there really wasn't anything I didn't enjoy.

And I'm so pleased to read that Li Cunxin (who wrote the autobiographical book the film was based on) got a Father of the Year award for 2009. He is now a stockbroker and lives in Sydney with his wife and 3 kids.

In the film it became apparent that most ballet words are French so this is my last ditch attempt to tie the film back to the topic :) Of course the word ballet itself is French too. I guess it's a bit like all the pasta related words in Italian. Once you get the literal meaning from the Italian word it's actually just an ordinary word and doesn't sound so 'exotic' anymore.

Ballet words with French origins, and their literal English meanings

À la seconde - to the second (position)
Arabesque - in Arabic fashion
Arrière - back
Assemblie - assembled
Attitude - posture
Balancé - to stay/swing
Ballon - bounce
Barre - the bar
Battement - kicking
Batterie - drumming/beating
Brisé - breeze
Bras Croisé - crossed arms
Chaînés - chains
Changement de pied - changing of feet
Chassé - to chase
Coupé - cutting
Corps de ballet - bodies of ballet
Croisé, croisée - crossed
Degagé - to unblock
Danseur - (male) dancer
Demi - half or smaller
Demi Detourné - half turn
Derrière - backside
Dessous - under
Dessus - over
Devant - in front of
Développé - developed
Double - double
Échappé - escaped
Effacé, effacée - erased/obscured
Elevé - rise/lift
En - in
En Croix - in (the shape of a) cross
En dedans - in inside
En dehors - in outside
Entrechat - weaving/braiding
Entrée - bring in/enter
Épaulement - shouldering
Failli - fail
Fondu - to melt
Fouetté - whipped
Fouetté jeté - whipped throw
Fouetté rond de jambe en tournant
Pas de deux - 'step of two' (a dance by two persons)
Fouetté rond de jambe en tournant - whipped round of the leg in turning
Frappé - hit/strike
Glissade - slide
Grand plié - big fold/bend
Grand jeté - big throw
Grand Pas and Grand Pas d'action - Big step and Big step of action
Jeté - throw
Ouvert, ouverte - open(ed)
Pas - step
Pas de basque - step of the Basques
Pas de bourrée - step of Bourrée
Pas de chat - step of the cat
Pas de chat, grand - big step of the cat
Pas de cheval - step of the horse
Pas de deux - step of two
Pas de poisson - step of the fish
Pas de valse - waltz step
Passé - passed
Petit saut - small jump
Piqué - pricked
Pirouette - spin
Plié - bending of the knees
En pointe - pointed
Port de bras - carriage of the arms
Posé - posed
Relevé - lifted
Retiré position
Retiré devant
Rond de jambe - circle of the leg
Rond de jambe à terre - circle of the leg on the ground
Rond de jambe en l'air - circle of the leg in the air
Rond de jambe attitude - circle of the leg in posture
Demi-grand rond de jambe - half-big circle of the leg
Grand rond de jambe - big circle of the leg
Soubresaut - jolt/jerk
Saut - jump
Saut de chat - jump of the cat
Soutenu en tournant - supported in turning
Sous-sus, Sus-sous - Under-over, Over-under
Sur le cou-de-pied - on the neck of the foot
Tendu - to point
Temps levé - time raised
Temps levé sauté -time raised jumped
Tours en l'air - turn in the air
Tombé - fall

From Ballet terms



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