Gaynor Minden Pointe Shoes » Ballet-Modern FAQ - Part 2
Online Resources > Tom's Dance Page > Ballet-Modern FAQ

Part I

This release Mar 18, 2004.
Back to dance page

Part 1 of seven parts

To Part 2: General Questions.
To Part 3: Ballet, Modern Dance, and You.
To Part 4: History.
To Part 5: Miscellaneous questions.
To Part 6: Reading List.
To Part 7: Organizations.
Copyright © 1995-2004 by Thomas Parsons; all rights reserved. This FAQ may be posted to any USENET newsgroup, on-line service, BBS, or Web page, provided it is posted in its entirety, including this copyright statement, EXCEPT that this FAQ may not be posted to any Web page where such posting may result in assignment of copyright. This FAQ may not be distributed in part or in full for financial gain. No portion of this FAQ may be included in commercial collections or compilations without express permission from the author.

This FAQ is provided as is without any express or implied warranties. While every effort has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this article, neither Gaynor Minden nor the author assumes responsibility for errors or omissions, or for damages resulting from the use of the information contained herein. Please note that if you are reading this FAQ from any source other than my home page,, the version you are reading may not be the most recent.

Tom Parsons
Brooklyn, New York

New this release:

Corrected error attributing list of seven kinds of dance movement to Noverre; moved list into new entry in Part 3, Question C.22. Expanded and improved answers to Questions D.4 ("What is the oldest surviving ballet?") and D.5 ("When was the first ballet school started?")



  1.   General Information
    1. What is this group?
    2. Is there a group for modern dance?
    3. What is the difference between alt.arts.ballet and
    4. Are there any other ballet/modern groups?
    5. How can I access this group?
    6. How can I post to this group?
    7. Are there any dance pages on the World Wide Web?
    8. I'm only a beginner; should I just shut up and listen?


  1.  General Questions about Ballet and Modern Dance
    1. What is ballet?
    2. What is modern dance?
    3. What is a ballet class like?
    4. What is a barre?
    5. Why do dancers take so many classes?
    6. Why do dancers wear such funny shoes?
    7. Do women really dance on their toes? Why?
    8. Why don't men dance on pointe?
    9. Why do dancers stand with their feet turned out?
    10. What is a tutu...and why do they call it that?
    11. What are all these "positions?"
    12. What is "placement"?
    13. Why all that French?
    14. If a female dancer is called a ballerina, what is a male dancer called?
    15. What is a "Prima Ballerina Assoluta"?
    16. What are: a choreographer, a regisseur, a repetiteur, a ballet master, and an artistic director?
    17. What are the most popular ballets?
    18. Where can I find books about dance?
    19. Where can I find dance-related gifts?
    20. Where can I find dance videos?
    21. Where can I find dance-related clipart?
    22. Where can I find recorded music for ballet?


  1.   Ballet, Modern Dance, and You
    1. When should I start taking ballet?
    2. When should I start taking modern dance?
    3. I'm in my early twenties; it it too late for me to start a professional career in ballet?
    4. I'm 35 (or 45 or 55 or...) years old. Is it ridiculous for me to consider ballet classes?
    5. I'm thinking of returning to ballet after --- years; how should I start? Are there videos I can buy?
    6. I'm a man. I feel funny about taking ballet classes. I mean, isn't little...?
    7. Okay, I'm starting ballet. What equipment do I need?
    8. I'm a guy! Do I have to wear tights?
    9. Where can I buy dancewear?
    10. How can I make a tutu?
    11. How do I find/choose a school or teacher?
    12. How can I tell if a teacher is good?
    13. If the teacher makes me feel good, won't I become overconfident?
    14. I live in ----; where can I take classes?
    15. I don't know a thing about ballet and I'm trying to select a school for my child. What should I look for?
    16. What is this "Dolly Dinkle" business, anyway?
    17. What about studying in a university dance department?
    18. Where can I find out about Summer dance programs?
    19. I took my first class and I couldn't understand what was going on!
    20. I keep getting mixed up!
    21. What is "B-plus"?
    22. What are the basic movements in dance?
    23. How can I learn to raise my leg over my shoulder, the way I see other dancers doing?
    24. When can my daughter start toe dancing?
    25. I'm an adult beginner. Am I too old for pointe?
    26. I'm 5'7" (or whatever) high. Am I too tall for ballet?
    27. What is a career in dancing like?
    28. My daughter's gym classes are interfering with her ballet training. What can I do to make the school listen?
    29. How can I build a proper floor for dancing?
    30. How high should a ballet barre be?
    31. I'm job hunting. Any tips for preparing a résumé?


  1.  Ballet History
    1. Who invented ballet?
    2. I thought ballet was a Russian art.
    3. When was the first ballet?
    4. What is the oldest surviving ballet?
    5. When was the first ballet school started?
    6. How did ballet develop after the founding of that school?
    7. Who was Noverre?
    8. How did ballet develop in the nineteenth century?
    9. Dance in the 20th century


  1.  Miscellaneous Questions
    1. Is there a way of writing down dance, the way we write down music?
    2. Is there software for doing choreography?
    3. Is there software for my dance studio?
    4. What is Contact Improvisation?


  1.  Reading List
    1. Books
    2. Periodicals


  1.  Organizations
    1. General
    2. Organizations offering help with eating disorders


I wish to thank Eliot Aronstern, Lise Brenner, Victor Eijkhout, and Lance Westergard for reading the first draft and providing valuable comments and suggestions. Thanks also to Robert Atwood, Tom Baird, Randy Barron, Marion Bastien, Eileen Bauer, Michael Bjerknes, Melinda Buckwalter, Laurel F. Brady, Bonnie Brooks, CarlosC14, the Collier Family, Mark Coniglio, Alan Corneretto, Nancy Dalva,, Callum Downie, William Fitzgerald, Jean Fitzpatrick, Claudia Folts, Eyvonne Gratz, Robinne Gray, Lisa M. Hahn, Alice T. Hall, Claudia Jeschke, Steve Keeley, Frances Kemmish, Kathy Kerr, Keith Knox,, Sandi Kurtz, Joel Levine, Matthew Lewis, Vanessa Marino, Debby McConnell,, John Moran,, Bob D. Peterson, Roger Plaut, PriMoDnc <>, Lori Pryor, Amy Reusch, Rocio C. Barraza Rivacoba, Jessica Schein, Shannon <>, Tim Scholl, Sheila <>, Robert Greskovic, Estelle Souche, CHO Tomoko, Tim Victor, Jack Walker, Kimberly Wallace, Karen Ward, Jim Williams, Leigh Witchel, Trog Woolley, Mark Zetler, and many other contributors to this group whose postings and suggestions (and corrections) are gradually finding their way into this FAQ.

A note about foreign characters

Ballet terminology is, with few exceptions, in French. I have used the HTML codes for accented characters: é for acute e, and so on. But with some browsers, notably lynx, these codes are not supported. If you use such a browser, strange spellings--like plii for plie'--may result from the interaction between the browser and your system.

  • In a group as young as this one was when this FAQ was first written, we didn't have enough data to identify "frequently-asked" questions, with a few exceptions; hence many of the entries were answers to questions that we might reasonably expect to be frequently asked, or at least wondered about. I chose to discuss things that I myself had wondered about; things that, I surmised, beginners and non-dancers must wonder about (since this group is specifically intended to include them); a few technical points (well known to dancers but not to spectators); and a brief history of ballet from 1489 to the close of the Diaghilev era. Coverage has since been expanded in response to requests and suggestions from the group. The FAQ ends with some questions that don't fit well into the other categories, a list of references and periodicals, and a list of dance-related organizations.

    This FAQ is posted bimonthly (on even-numbered months) in alt.arts.ballet, and also to, where most FAQs are available through anonymous FTP. It is also posted on my web page. This FAQ and several others can also be obtained by e-mail from the Dancers' Archive. E-mail with one of the following "get" commands in the Subject line. You will get from 1 to 4 emails back, depending on which FAQ you requested. Here are the commands:

        get aab-faq
        get rad-faq
        get stretch-faq
    The word `get' must be specified as shown above, otherwise the email server won't know what you want to do. The word `faq' can be capitalized, but the other words (rad, stretch, dancewear, and aab) cannot. `faq' cannot be mixed-case. For this FAQ, request aab-faq. The other two: rad-faq is the FAQ for and stretch-faq is for Brad Appleton's FAQ on stretching (see Question C.20.)

    Amy Reusch has assembled a draft FAQ containing advice for aspiring dancers who wonder whether they should include college in their plans. It can be found in the ballet-modern directory of the Dancers' Archive under the name, Schooling-FAQ.

    1. The purpose of alt.arts.ballet is to provide a forum for people with an interest in ballet and/or the more modern outgrowths of classical ballet.

      All questions, comments, information and discussion pertaining to ballet and/or modern dance are welcome, and ALL members of the ballet/modern dance community (e.g., dancers, choreographers, fans, students, etc.) are encouraged to participate.

    2. This is it. Don't be misled by our name; modern-dance people post here frequently and are welcome here.

    3. Our group branched off from Eliot Aronstern founded alt.arts.ballet, in May 1994, to provide an on-line locale for discussion of any and all topics related to ballet and modern dance as a performing art. The primary focus in is on discussion of social and competitive partner dancing, although there remains some degree of overlap between these two groups.

    4. No; this is it. But there is a ballet chat group on the New York Times board, accessible though America OnLine. (The following information is supplied by and Valerie Noelle.) To access it,

      • From the AOL pull down menu, select GO TO "Keyword" (or command K on the keyboard).
      • Type in "@times" and hit the "go" button.
      • At the "welcome to NY times" menu, click on "Message Boards" at the bottom.
      • At the "@times message boards" menu, click on "list categories" at lower left.
      • Scroll down till you see "Music & Dance," and click on it.
      • Scroll down and you will find the following categories:
        • "Ballet Students"
        • "Gone Dancing"
        • "Dance Styles, Dance Careers"
        • "The Ballet"
        • "Singers, Dancers, Musicians"

      There is also a mailing list, called the Dance Ballet Mailing List. (The following information is supplied by Rocio C. Barraza Rivacoba.) Its description is as follows:

      Dance Ballet is a general discussion group about classical dance and ballet, made up of professional dancers, directors, students, instructors, choreographers, dance artists & photographers, studio owners and many others.
      To subscribe, send an e-mail to

      with the subject, "Subscribe" (without the quotes). You will receive a questionnaire; it's not very demanding (essentially, all you must do is be interested in dance); once you've answered that and returned it, you're subscribed.

    5. Direct access to the group is available via news readers at most sites. This FAQ includes a link to a.a.b.

      If you are unable to access alt.arts.ballet, please make a request (to your local net news administrator) to have this group picked up on your local site, and/or contact Eliot ( directly by e-mail for assistance.

      You can also reach the newsgroup via the Web; use

      For a mailing-list subscription, e-mail to from your account; make the body of the message

          subscribe ballet-modern

      If you ever want to terminate your subscription, e-mail to the same address with the body
          unsubscribe ballet-modern

      After subscribing, you post messages by sending them to

      Early postings to this group are archived in Dancers' Archive (maintained by Eileen Bauer,, but because of a lack of disc space, nothing has been archived since February, 1997, and the files, which run back to the inception of the group, are nearly all compressed with the gnu zip data-compression utility. The compressed files have an extension ".gz" in their names. To extract these, you must download them and run the decompression program gunzip on them. To access Dancers' Archive, do an anonymous FTP to, use the gopher to access Dancers' Archive, or, on the Web, use
      or use

      Two gopher routes to the Archive: (1) gopher and wander down the nonprofit menus until you get to Dancers' Archive. (2) gopher, select New York Art Line, then Music, Performance and Dance, and then the Archive. Many a Web page--including this one--also includes a link to the Archive.

      Eileen now also offers a daily digest of alt.arts.ballet. To subscribe to it, email with either the subject or the body containing the line:

         subscribe ballet-modern-digest
      You unsubscribe by sending the message,
         unsubscribe ballet-modern-digest
      Subscribers will receive one post per day, probably averaging ~50k. (The digest is automatically purged of spams, by the way.) If you are already a subscriber to the ballet-modern mailing list, this is a separate service and you will NOT be automatically unsubscribed from the regular list.

    6. You can post articles to this group with your newsreader.

      If your provider won't support access to the alt. hierarchy, you can also post here by e-mail via one of the following addresses:



    7. Yes. Web pages are generally a mixed bag; some pages are just lists of links to other pages; some are still under construction; and some are full of information and pictures. Moreover, Web sites sometimes just disappear without a trace. The following entries are pointers to lists of pages.

      Dance Index Resources:

    8. Victor Eijkhout, in the FAQ for, asks this question and answers it as follows: "No. Tell stories about your experiences, or post questions and listen to the--no doubt conflicting--answers you'll get." (But read this FAQ first.)

      If you're new to the Net, however, it's a good idea to look around at various newsgroups and get a feel for the way things are done. There are virtually no rules, but there are customs. On the news.answers group you will find a number of useful documents for familiarizing yourself with the Net. I particularly recommend:-

      • A Primer on How to Work With the Usenet Commmunity
      • Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Usenet
      • Hints on writing style for Usenet
      • Rules for posting to Usenet
      (I said there were virtually no rules; that last document would be better named, "Guidelines for posting....")

      It's also a good idea, with any group that's new to you, to "lurk"--i.e., to read without posting--for a week or two to see what the group is like and the kinds of topic that are discussed.

    Continued in Part 2.