The emergence of Ballet
Ballet emerged during the Italian renaissance period in the 15th century and was further enhanced by the French and the Russians until it became a court dance. As time passed, ballet had been taught in a number of schools around the world, which have helped to evolve the art. Although ballet first appeared in Italy, it was the French who really developed it. The performers were amateurs and the French monarch used the performances to show off the country’s wealth and splendor. The problem was that the costumes were so elaborate that they restricted the performer’s movements.
King Louis XIV was particularly keen on ballet and in 1661 he founded the Royal Dance Company which trained teachers in the art. In 1672 the Paris Opera was formed and from this the Paris Ballet emerged, which was the first professional ballet in the world.
As the music became more detailed, it was clear that the performers had to be properly trained and athletic. From this situation the ballerinas soon emerged and the ballet fairly quickly became home to performers who were talented gymnasts and athletes in their own right. The popularity soon spread to other countries and although the ballet lost its appeal in France, the momentum had been started.
As ballet spread around the world, different varieties of it emerged. The classical ballet can be seen in the productions of “Swan Lake” and the “Nutcracker”, which demonstrate both traditional technique and vocabulary. Classical ballet differs depending on where it is performed so the Russian classical ballet is different from the French Classical ballet. Romantic ballet is a sub-division of classical ballet. It was characterized by codified steps and pointe work. It started with the 1827 ballet “La Sylphide”, with these productions being dominated by the female dancers. This style of ballet produced many famous dancers including Marie Taglioni and Jules Perrot.
Neo-classical ballet is characterized with there being no clear plot. There is little in set design, so the stage is open to different interpretations from the directors. The production of “Apollo” in 1928 is considered to be the first of this type of ballet and its writer, George Balanchine, was also responsible for producing “Episodes” in 1959.
An off-shoot from neo-classical was the modern ballet. This form of ballet was typified by the greater athleticism of the dancers, as it strayed from the earlier delicate styles. The use of aggressive music was seen in the 1967 “Astarte” by Robert Joffrey, with sexual tension and rock music being a feature of the choreography. Contemporary ballet tends to be a mixture of all of the different styles and allows more experimentation to be introduced into the performance. It utilizes modern dance techniques used in the 20th century and has mixed modern trained dances. Some of the best contemporary ballets have come out of America, with the choreographer Twyla Tharp famed for her productions of “Push Comes To Shove” and “In the Upper Room”.
Ballet has produced a number of performers that are household names, such as Rudolph Nureyev and Anna Pavlova. Their performances have made them highly sought after, earning them extremely attractive salaries. The different ballet companies around the world are also very popular and some will tour different countries giving performances. The Moscow ballet is constantly on tour and are famed for being one of the best companies in the world.
Ballet has managed to stand the test of time and has evolved with changing eras.