November 20, 2011


Stretch your knees, lengthen the back, dance bigger and keep your popo under you! I know, I hear you.. popo what? That is how Madame addresses our ballerina derrieres. The first time we heard it, you could see the collective head-scratching going on. But as there was only the butt to point down in the given context, class was saved from getting lost in translation.

Apparently the French popo is a diminutive form of the French popotin, or as we would call it in English: your bottom. By the way, I said the class was perplexed. Curiously, I was not. You see, I lived my childhood in Germany and der Popo is popular usage there - mostly when talking to children. And both the French popo and the German Popo possibly derive from the same ancient Latin podex. But popo sure sounds nicer!

I thought it so cute to have once again a popo instead of a butt or the usual tailbone! Because not a class will go by when the portrusion of our popos is not an issue to be addressed and corrected. Dancers may have the firmest and shapeliest derrieres there are, but in ballet these are not to be flaunted. Au contraire! The ballet ligne dictates a plum line, and as such popos must point down at all times. It is not merely for the sake of appearance, but to center your dancing body around a strong axis. Form and function.

Unless of course there is choreography to tell you otherwise. If not, the popo never leads the way. If you do a developpé to the back, toes and heels and knees are lifted before the bottom is. If you do a lunge down, or a 6th port de bras, the same applies. As it does in preparations for en dedans pirouettes. Stick that popo out and the line is broken. It also throws you off your axis in turns. Think about it next time you´re in class. Point that popo down!


  1. Ah, you changed the look of the page! Nice photos, are those your legs/feet??:)

    Inspirational entry, like always:)) I´ll think of my popo and ligne in class next time as i sometimes let it pop out if the class is hard and im running out of strength.
    But, what does it mean to "dance bigger"?

    Have a good week and dance a lot!

  2. Hi Baluka!

    Thank you and yes, those are my own five feet. :)

    When you keep the popo down, it makes your dancing easier! Especially when you are getting tired.. that is also the moment when you grow stronger and advance. So don´t give up on your popo!

    To dance big means to dance outside of your own little "bubble". You breath and elongate your body, grow longer and taller. It also means to use more epaulement, to make your dancing three-dimensional and alive. The opposite of stiff and robotic. And it means dance your own maximum.

    I have picked it up from our teacher M-P. She always tells us to "dance bigger". :)

  3. Hahaha! I LOVE it, popo down... I will definitely remember that from now on & probably have a silent little chuckle to myself when I think of it in class! ;D

  4. Popo! I've never heard that term before, even the root french word despite being bilingual. Of course, I learned Parasian french in a country that speaks Quebecois or Acadien we were bound to miss some things.

    Keeping my popo down, as your Madame would say, sometimes makes me pop my ribs up so I always have to be careful to keep everything drawn in and up :)

    P.S. Loving the elegant photo attached to this post, and LOVE your new blog banner. Sorry it's been so long since I left comments.

  5. *hee* Popo! I'd forgotten the existence of that term :)

    PS Love the new header - reminds me of one of the pictures in the Degas exhbition at the Royal Academy (I bought a postcard of it).

  6. Hi Bead109!

    I'm gonna have a silent chuckle myself too :)
    It's fun to think that Madame's popo directions are being heard from Finland to England to Canada and to L.A.!

    - Johanna

  7. Hi Kim!

    Lovely to see you here again, I've missed you!

    Yes, it´s easy to miss something else when you´re concentrating hard on one specific part. With practice it gets better of course. And it sure helps to have a teacher constantly reminding you. I´m never more conscious of my popo than I´m in Madame´s class!

    I attached the WEAR MOI -photo because those popos are sure not pointed down :D But like you said, very elegant. I loved all their photos, those dancers look just amazing!

    I´m really happy you like the new banner, it was a very impromptu idea & photo-shoot. Put the collage together on picnik, and hey presto! Came out much better than I would have thought :)

    Oh, and how cool is it to be bilingual! I´m Finnish-German by the way..

    Take care Kim!

  8. Hi Nellie!

    It's kind of cute, for me "popo down" sounds more like a gentle reprimand given to a child.. But Madame does have that caretaking quality about her :)

    Thank you, you're such a sweetie! I like the colours of the banner. Kind of ballet-y, but not sugary. And those are old & dirty shoes! :)

  9. Ah, my grandmother was known to refer to one's bottom as a "popo" at times. Always makes me think of her when I hear the term. Not sure where she came up with it, though, seeing as she was Scottish, not French! Keeping the "popo" in line is a lifelong challenge... especially since you don't want to tuck, either, because that will make the line just as wonky in the wrong direction! Just one of the many things I love about ballet... you will never run out of challenges!

  10. Oh, that brings back a whole load of - mostly nice - memories. I have heard that in class so often when growing up! I was then dancing in the Dutch speaking part of Belgium.

    During the barre, our teacher used to go around class and softly tap on our popo with her cane to remind us, saying "Tire ton popo".

    Funny enough, I am now dancing in the French speaking part, but our teachers never ever use that term. Maybe because we adults get a litle sensitive and self conscious whenever anyone dares to refer to our popo.

    Or, maybe because popo is a word people use often with kids, however it means something else altogether ;-)

  11. Hi Rori!

    Wow, I had no idea the popo is so wide-spread (the WORD!) I'm glad it brings up nice memories for you.

    You're right, tucking under can be a problem. To keep the balance right, our teacher reminds us just as much to keep our "fronts" flat. It's a very active move, squeezing your inner thighs together, pulling your abs up, elongating your back and legs.. Phew! :)

  12. Wonderful post. The start of the video ( demonstrates an astonishing level of flatness in the popo (bottom pulled under) and standing leg turnout. It's hard to explain to the young ones that they need to do this until they see a visual example at the highest training levels.

    I'm not opposed to a "Russian back" (where they flare out the popo, put a slight sway in the back, and tilt the pelvis downward) as a form of expression often done at the top of an Échappé. In fact it has a cute charm to it sometimes. The problem is that students do it almost everywhere by students. The young ones are even worse and it's typically accompanied by the diaphragm sticking forward and out.

    It throws off the passe making it hard to hold and turn. It turns in the working leg in develope seconde. A lot of students don't realize how far under they have to pull the popo under to straighten out and flaten out and sometimes they mistakenly believe that they are "tucking under" and they resist the correction.


To That Special Ballet Teacher

To that special ballet teacher, who not only teaches you about technique, but helps build your confidence, nurtures your inner artist, ...