Bluff your way in Ballet

In order to mock something, you must first understand it thoroughly. 

Bluff your way in Ballet is just such an example of, as the Sunday Telegraph rightly points out, "An amazing amount of solid fact disguised as frivolous observation".

Below, you'll find the How to Translate a Ballet Review excerpt taken from Craig Dodd's excellent 'Bluff your way in Ballet' book. 

Now sadly out of print, secondhand copies can usually be picked up cheaply and we heartily recommend you try to get your hands on one. 

Perfect for the ballet aficionado, it contains brief histories of the main Ballet eras, overviews of the great ballet companies (although now quite dated, they're accurate nonetheless) and glossaries of characters, steps and more. 

It's a little gem and if you can find one, you'll love it.   Enjoy.

From Bluff your way in Ballet ~
How to translate a Ballet review

Remember that critics hunt in packs.  Careful reading, usually between the lines, will reveal pack leaders and camp followers.  You will soon learn to recognize that if the Daily Bugle likes a performance, the Daily Thunderer is likely to approve as well.  But, just as night follows day, the Evening Crier and the Evening Bystander will dislike it.  Astute observation can therefore greatly reduce a ballet lover's newspaper bill. 

Look out for the following phrases

Suggests much, but is rarely fulfilled.  Many
dancers remain promising until retirement

An over 3o-year-old who was once promising

Coped well with the technical demands
Fell over but is a long-time favourite of the critic

Partnered strongly
Threw the ballerina round with excessive force

Partnered tentatively
Dropped the ballerina

Dazzling technique
Flashy steps at the expense of all else

Sensitive artistry
Simpered excessively. 
The French and Italians excel at this


Innovative choreography
Obscure or downright perverse

Avant-garde choreography
Something supported by the Arts Council
entirely for the benefit of the
choreographer involved

Enfant terrible of ballet
Terribly childish choreography

Interesting interpretation
The critic had no clue what the dancer was doing

Let the role speak through the steps
The dancer couldn't act for toffee

A triumph of acting ability
The dancer couldn't dance for toffee

Made his or her presence felt
Upstaged everyone else

Guest artiste
Either an expensive import, or the company humouring an old dancer doing a bit part

Lively tempo
The orchestra managed to keep well ahead of the dancers

Triple bill
Three short ballets with two long intervals.  The Royal Ballet are market leaders in this department

Gala evening
Odds and ends of ballets the company couldn't make a regular evening of

Royal Gala
As above, but at higher prices and graced by a minor royal of Danish or Austrian origin

Invaluable programme notes
The ballet was unintelligible. 
Or the critic wrote the synopsis

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