When most people think of dance, they think of classical ballet. Ballet is one of the most well-known forms of dance, as well as one of the oldest forms. It is also known as the foundation of many other dance styles like modern and jazz, and even hip-hop has elements of ballet in it. At Mercury Academy of Dance, we offer ballet for all ages. Whether it’s your first ballet class, or you’ve taken many before, continuing training in ballet can help you improve in not only this style, but all other styles of dance as well!
Ballet originated during the Italian Renaissance courts of the 15th century. Noblemen and women would attend lavish events where dancing was an essential part of the event. It was viewed as a dance that only those of higher class were allowed to partake in since it required to be taught by someone else, so naturally, only people of elite status could afford it. In the 16th century, the Italian noble named Cathrine Medici, began to fund ballet in the French Court. The elaborate festivals she threw would often focus around the elaborate performances of ballet that were choreographed to popular music and poetry at the time.
A century later, King Louis XIV helped to popularize the art form. Many people attribute him with popularizing and standardizing the art form. He was a passionate dancer himself, and his most popular role was that of the Sun King in the ballet called Ballet de la Nuit. His love for ballet elevated the art form from being that of a social dance to an art form that required professional training.
In 1661 ballet academies were opening and by 1681, ballet had moved away from the royal courts and was now being performed on stages. Operas had now included ballet to be part of their shows, and it was starting to be viewed as its own art form. Composers were writing music specifically dedicated to the art form and, as a result,it started to gain more popularity.
The 19th Century
Some of the most popular early classical ballets are ones such as Giselle and La Sylphide, and were created during the Romantic Movement within the first half of the 19th Century. This movement was a large and very influential time for all art forms, but specifically for music and ballet. Many Romantic Movement ballets focused on stories surrounding spirits and magic, and often showed women playing many passive and fragile roles. During this time, pointe work started to become the main normative for ballerinas. The long calf length skirt made out of tulle known as a romantic tutu was also introduced as a way for viewers to see the intricate footwork of the dancers.
During this time period, the popularity of ballet started to enter into Russia. During the later half of the 19th Century, Russian composers and choreographers were beginning to take over the world of ballet. Choreographer Marius Petipa is one of the most well-known choreographers, who gave us the iconic ballets such as The Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty, and Swan Lake. This choreography featured stronger female roles and movement that was more complicated and striking. It often featured sequences of turns and leaps that would showcase the strength of the dancer. The classical tutu was also introduced during this time, which is the short flat skirt that most people think of when the word ballet comes to mind. This tutu was designed to feature the dancer’s legs and showcase the difficulty of the moves and footwork the dancer was doing. Due to the length of the skirt and the female leads, ballet was considered to be somewhat controversial and frowned upon by more conservative generations and individuals.
The 20th Century
In the early part of the 20th Century, Russian choreographers, Sergie Diaghilev and Michel Fokine, began experimenting with more daring and edgy choreography that moved away from the classical forms and storylines that were portrayed in the 19th Century. Music that was more dramatic and energizing began to emerge, and the music of Igor Stravinsky was featured heavily by these choreographers. One ballet that came out during this time, The Rite of Spring, which features a story of human sacrifice, was so different and unfamiliar from previous ballets that it caused the audience to riot when it premiered in New York City.
One choreographer, George Balanchine, became one of the founding fathers of modern ballet. He introduced his own form which focused heavily on the movements of the dancer, and not so much of the plots or storylines that most ballets had focused on in the past. He focused his movements on illuminating human emotion or endeavor, and used music that was different from the typical orchestral music ballet had been used in the past.
Ballet has become a multi-faced art form that has embraced its older more classical roots, along with the more modern neo-classical styles. It embraces both traditional stories and contemporary choreography that can give us both a traditional and more modern feel. Ballet is one of the oldest art forms that has really not changed much from its initial start in Europe.
No matter what city you are in, you’ll be able to find some form of ballet being performed whether its classical or modern. Ballet has become a pristine art form that can even translate into a professional career. There are even colleges and universities that have majors dedicated to the art form and can prepare those to go into the professional world of ballet.
At Mercury Academy of Dance, ballet has become a staple and we offer classes for all ages! View our website for a full schedule or contact us today with any questions!