Tag Archives: ballet

Book Review: Ballet Basics

ballet basics book cover

Ballet Basics


Ballet Basics

by Sandra Noll Hammond


National Dance Week is April 22 – May 1

Ballet Basics was the book that was used for my college ballet class. It is similar to Jump into Jazz, the book I just reviewed, in terms of how it is organized. I have the fifth edition (2004), but there is probably something more recent by now.

Chapter 1: The Ballet Class – This chapter goes into all the different things a beginner would need to know, such as attire, music, posture, shoes, and the structure of the class.

Chapter 2: Ballet Technique: Barre Work – Barre exercises for the beginner are explained, with illustrations.

Chapter 3: Ballet Technique: Center Work – Ballet exercises away from the barre, (in the center of the room) are explained, including port de bras (carriage of the arms), arabesque (balancing poses where the leg is extended behind), connecting movements, and pirouettes and other turns.

Chapter 4: Ballet Technique: Allegro – Allegro is an Italian word that means fast and lively. In ballet, it applies to both quick little jumps (petite allegro) or larger jumps (grand allegro) that may look fairly simple but can be quite challenging to do well.

Chapter 5: The Ballet Body – Information on different types of exercise that complement ballet, injury prevention, and nutrition.

Chapter 6: The Ballet Profession – Information on performance, and opportunities for a career in dance.

Chapter 7: Ballet History – This is a very detailed chapter that traces the roots of ballet from the middle ages to the present time. I used this chapter as a basis for a research paper I wrote for my college dance appreciation class.

There are illustrations throughout of both male and female dancers, and the book is specifically designed for adult students


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CD Review: Highlights from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker

Highlights from the Nutcracker Ballet

This is a CD of highlights from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Ballet.  For those that are not familiar with the story, it follows the the adventures of young Clara (sometimes called Maria) and her toy nutcracker that has been magically turned into a prince.  They travel to the land of sweets and encounter dancing snowflakes, waltzing flowers, dancers from various countries, and the Sugarplum Fairy and her Prince, among other characters.  Then at the end Clara is magically returned to her house on Christmas Eve, and the Prince is turned back into the Nutcracker.

This is a nice CD to have if you have ever seen the ballet, because you can use it to remember your favorite parts.  Even if you haven’t seen the ballet, you can just enjoy the music, especially since the music closely follows the story of the ballet.  For instance, the the Waltz of Flowers sounds like a waltz, and the dances from different countries all sound different. It seems that every Nutcracker highlights CD has slightly different selections.  This one is a mix of standard selections (such as the Snowflakes Waltz and Dance of the Flowers), but other things are omitted, like the Spanish Dance.  I’m sure there must be a recording of the complete ballet that one can get, but I never see it around.  This particular version is imported from Canada, and is performed by the Northstar Orchestra.

The tracks are:

1) Overture
2) Exit of Guests/Night
3) Battle
4) Snowflakes Walse
5) Entrance of Clara and the Nutcracker
6) Arab Dance
7) Chinese Dance
8) Russian Dance
9) Shepherd’s Dance
10) Mama Zhigole and Clowns
11) Dance of the Flowers
12) Pas De Deux:  Fairy Drazhe and Prince Orshad
13) Final Walse/ Apotheosis

Reference:  Northstar Orchestra, Classical Christmas: Highlights from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker (Westmount, Quebec, Canada: Direct Source Special Products, Inc., 1998).

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