Accessible Dance Dictionary


What is the Dark Room Ballet Dictionary?

The Dark Room Ballet Dictionary is a collection of several hundred definitions of ballet and general dance shapes and movements written by Krishna Washburn, the Artistic Director of Dark Room Ballet. The Dark Room Ballet Dictionary will be the first online ballet dictionary written in English with the educational needs of beginning ballet students in mind; the definitions do not require prior knowledge in order to interpret or understand. Also, as these definitions were written by a blind educator to support the learning of a community of blind and visually impaired students, the descriptions of the shapes and movements focus on physical sensation and body actions rather than what they look like. 

Why will the Dark Room Ballet Dictionary exist?

The Dark Room Ballet Dictionary will exist because of students like you!

When Krishna started to teach traditional blind dance techniques in Dark Room Ballet class, students wanted her to provide vocabulary words and their definitions so that they could study and remember new terms from class to class, which is probably more important for blind and visually impaired dancers than sighted dancers. Students who learn by listening need to be welcomed into the language of dance.

When Krishna started to research the many online dictionaries of ballet vocabulary, it became very obvious that these dictionaries were really meant for ballet teachers and choreographers, not beginner students, and the definitions assumed huge amounts of prior knowledge on the part of the reader.

Also, a lot of the definitions were traditionally worded, but not accurate (there is no sous-sous in a soutenou)! Krishna also could not find any ballet dictionary that accounted for the fact that many ballet vocabulary words are used to describe many different things (let’s be more specific when we say rond de jambe). Ballet is an old, vast, international art form, and Krishna wanted to give her students the tools to be able to study in any kind of ballet class. Teaching ballet vocabulary is one of the most important ways to welcome and integrate blind and visually impaired students into ballet education.

What will the Dark Room Ballet Dictionary be like?

Every definition is written in text that is screen-reader accessible, and every definition has an audio recording. The audio recordings were made by Dark Room Ballet student, visually impaired ballet dancer, and French teacher, Kristin Long.

The first section of vocabulary is not presented alphabetically, but logically in the order in which a ballet student would learn them in Dark Room Ballet Intro class, or any introductory ballet course. All other vocabulary is sorted alphabetically, with certain related definitions connected to one another.

Some of these definitions are new!

You heard it right: Krishna has named certain popular ballet leg patterns herself as a way to support her students’ learning. These are patterns that are commonly encountered in ballet class, but aren’t usually named. Krishna wanted to help her students study these leg patterns, and giving them names and definitions seemed like a helpful solution.

I’m a Dark Room Ballet student, and these definitions seem familiar!

The day before every technique class (Open Level, Intro, and Pro), Krishna sends out an email with every single vocabulary word she plans to say in the class. You’ve gotten these definitions in your email!

The Dark Room Ballet Dictionary is a living document, and Krishna writes a new definition roughly every week. Sometimes she revises or adds to definitions she wrote in the past after further research. We here in the Dark Room are very proud that the first student-oriented ballet dictionary on the internet emerged from Disability Arts community. We hope that this dictionary helps spark a shift in dance education, not only for blind and visually impaired learners, but for everyone: dance education should be demystified, inclusive, student-centered, and should operate from a growth model. When we have the right tools to learn, we learn, learn more, and learn more joyfully.