Category: Russian names
It’s not really so surprising that the names of dances would be strikingly rhythmic and melodic, but when I started to look into it, I was somewhat taken aback by the sheer number and variety—and by how many of them could conceivably be seen as baby names.
The following list cuts across time and space, from Italian Renaissance peasant dances and stately minuets to complex international folk dances to Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers to 1960s line dancing to 1980s Brazilian zouk.
ABHIA—a ceremonial dance done by southern Sudan tribal women around a mango tree
ABRAXAS—a serpentine ritual dance of the Greek Gnostics to the deity of that name
ALEMANDER—folk dance performed in Germany and Switzerland
APARINA—a Tahitian dance for 60 men and women sitting in four rows
BARYNYA—a lively Russian folk dance; also the name of several Russian folk dancing ensembles
BOSTON—the original name of the American Waltz, introduced in that city in 1834
BRANSIE—an old French follow-the-leader dance
CALATA—an Italian town dance done in triple time
CARINOSA—Philippine dance of love
CEROC—a simplified version of modern jive dance
CHACONNE—a slow, solemn dance of Spanish or Moorish origin; also a popular social dance in 17-18th century France
CHULA—a traditional dance from Portugal and southern Brazil; also means beautiful in Spanish
Many little girls proclaim that they want to be ballerinas when they grow up—most are drawn to the sequined tutus, the rhinestone tiaras, the shiny satin pointe shoes, and the chance to wear make-up. (Leaping and twirling to music are bonuses.) As a little girl, I was not immune to these charms, and I began studying ballet at the age of ten. Perhaps unlike most girls who take up dance, however, part of ballet’s appeal to me was that it fed my growing fascination with names. Read the program at just about any ballet performance, or pick up a book on dance history, and you will find an array of beautiful ballerina names of many different nationalities.
A hundred years ago, the Ballets Russes began presenting their first performances in Paris. Comprised predominantly of expatriate Russians, the fledgling company became wildly popular, and interest in dance soared. Touring companies such as the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo were offshoots of the original Ballets Russes, and they brought ballet to small towns all across the United States. Additionally, Russian choreographer George Balanchine honed his talent with the Ballets Russes, and eventually immigrated to America, where he began what was to become the New York City Ballet. The glamour of these dancers who had traveled the world before showing up in places like Lincoln, Nebraska was matched by their exotic, “Russified” names. For instance, Lilian Alicia Marks, an English girl who danced with the original Ballets Russes, became Alicia Markova.
These days, most dancers keep their own names, but that hasn’t made reading the roster of a company’s performers any less exciting or exotic. The American Ballet Theatre in New York, for example, has dancers from the Ukraine, Italy, Cuba, Spain, Argentina, Brazil, Japan, Russia, Uruguay, South Korea, England, France, China, Byelorussia, Australia, Finland, Portugal, and (of course) the United States in their ranks.
The language of ballet is French, but really, dance itself is the language that is spoken within ballet companies. I myself have had more Russian and Chinese ballet teachers than American ones, and the fact that most of these teachers spoke little English was rarely a problem. The international flavor of dance was enormously attractive to me as a young girl. I grew up in Florida and my family never traveled anywhere. I longed to see more of the world, but I settled for hearing about Beijing and St. Petersburg from my beloved teachers.
Reading magazines and books on dance, and seeing performances of different companies on television, I began to despair that I’d ever become a famous ballerina with a name like Heather Brown. My favorite dancers had names like Altynai Asylmuratova, Alessandra Ferri, and Sylvie Guillem. It seemed that you couldn’t be a ballerina without also having a lovely, feminine, and somewhat unique name. That isn’t entirely true, of course, but reading about ballet could be a goldmine to expectant parents looking for underused girl names with a touch of the theatrical and glamorous .
Here are some intriguing names of dancers, past and present, along with the company with which they are most associated. Some of these are stage names, but surprisingly, most are not:
Last week we unearthed twenty long lost literary girls’ names–some of which have rarely been used outside of books, plays and poetry– and now we turn to the boys’ equivalents. The diverse sources of these creative baby names range from Shakespeare to Stoppard– and be aware that, as before, the characters who bear them are not necessarily paragons of virtue.
ARKADY. A Russian saint’s name from the Greek meaning “from Arcadia,” it belongs to a genteel character in Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons and a much less benign one in Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, and is also a key figure in Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith.
BALTHAZAR, the name of one of the three wise men, is scattered throughout literature, from Shakespeare ‘s plays to the rambunctious title character of J P Donleavy’s The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B.
CLAUDIO. A Shakespearean favorite, appearing in both Much Ado About Nothing and Measure for Measure; it’s a Latin clan name meaning “lame”–one of those literal meanings that can be ignored in the modern world.
DUNCAN. Duncan Idaho is the brave hero of Frank Herbert‘s classic fantasy series Dune. It’s a Scottish name meaning “brown warrior” and a nameberry favorite, despite some people’s association with Dunkin’ Donuts.
If you’re a fan of cool nickname names, you’ll find Russian baby names a treasure trove of possibilities. Some of them have already entered the American mainstream–Sasha and Mischa (both unisex), Talia, Katya–but there are many more Russian baby names that are less familiar but equally appealing, as are some of the full names.
Russian nomenclature in general is quite unique, in that each person has three personal names: a Christian name, a middle patronymic taken from the father’s given name, and a surname that reflects gender, so that a son of Ivan would have the last name Ivanovich, while a daughter would use Ivanovna. At birth, a child is given a formal name known as a “passport name,” but usually is called through childhood by his or her pet name. It is at the age of 16 that a person begins to be addressed by the formal first name and patronymic, so that, for example, Piotr‘s daughter Olenka would overnight become Olga Petrovna. The nickname often survives well into adulthood though–as in the case of Misha Baryshnikov, for example.
The list of Russian baby names below follows the name with its most common pet forms–many of which have an abundance of wintry charm.
Which baby name trends do we see coming in for 2009 and which do we see heading out? Here, our predictions for the year ahead.
BIGGEST BIG-PICTURE TREND: DEPRESSION ERA NAMES
The hit TV show Mad Men, set in the early 60s, reintroduced names that were all the rage when the characters were born in the 1930s: Don , Betty, Joan, Peggy. They’re plain names fit for hard times, and we predict the hardscrabble months ahead will inspire more babies with these names: Dorothy, Helen, Ruth, and Frances for girls; Thomas, Edward, Frank, Raymond, and even Harold for boys. Plus the stylish new occupational names–Gardener, Ranger, Miller–are likely to gain in appeal for both boys and girls as actual jobs become more scarce.
MOST SURPRISING COMEBACK NAME
Leon, middle name choice for Brangelina twin Knox, had become a joke in the U.S. but was on the rise in Europe, where all lion-related names–Leo, Leonora, Lionel–are tres chic. Leon and Leonie are the number one names in Germany and for the first time in decades, have style potential here.
BEST NEW TREND INSPIRED BY A CELEBRITY BABY NAME
Jessica Alba’s infant Honor has ushered in a new appreciation for virtue names, on the rise through the name ranks–and hopefully also in spirit–with Faith, Hope, Patience, Mercy, Justice, True, and Pax.
HOTTEST GENDER-BENDING TREND
Boys names that end in a vowel sound and girls’ names that end in a consonant. Examples: Ezra, Eli, Milo, Noah, Hugo for boys, and for girls, Annabel instead of Annabella, for instance, or Eden instead of Emma.
TRENDIEST TREND-RELATED TREND
Names that are considered too trendy by stylish parents by virtue of their association with other, trendier names or with high-visibility celebrities. Examples: Ada, fresh yet too close to the megapopular Ava. Pearl, too much like groovy Ruby. Roman, son of Cate Blanchett and Debra Messing. And Matilda, toddler of Michelle Wiliams and Heath Ledger.
GIRL TREND READY TO JUMP THE SHARK
BOY TREND READY TO JUMP THE SHARK
COOLEST MIDDLE NAME TREND
Names that carry powerful meaning, launched when people adopted the middle name Hussein in solidarity with Obama. Less name than symbol, the new middle name may carry political meaning, convey ethnic background, stand in for a place, animal, character, or thing that has meaning for the parents.
NEW “IT” VOWEL
MOST FASHIONABLE CONSONANT
NAME TREND THAT’S BEST FOR THE EARTH
MOST SURPRISING CELEBRITY NAME INSPIRATION
Arianna Huffington, whose Huffington Post was the media star of the 2008 election, is an attractive and influential person but hardly the kind of tabloid hottie who usually inspires thousands of baby namesakes. But joining Ashton and Angelina, the name Arianna has ascended with Huffington’s renown, reaching number 70 in the last year counted and certain to zoom much higher.
TREND WE’D MOST LIKE TO SEE DIE