Most people believe that ballet originated in France, however, that is not the case. Ballet first originated in the Italian Reniassance courts in the 15th century. In ballet’s early years, it looks nothing like it does today. The dancers wore regular, but fashionable, clothing as their costume.
Much different from the commonly worn tutu and leotard that we often see today. This early form of ballet was often used at luxurious events like weddings where music and dancing were used to create a spectacle for noblemen and women. Dance masters would teach steps to the nobility, and the court could participate in the performance.
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In the 16th century, the wife of King Henry II of France named Catherine de Medici funded ballet in the French courts. Catherine was a great patron of the arts, and her festivals encouraged the growth of ballet. King Louis XIV helped make ballet more popular.
Louis was a dancer, so he performed many roles, including the Sun King in Ballet de la nuit. His outlook on ballet advaned from just a past time for anyone to an art that required professional training. In 1661, a dance company opened in Paris. The king’s dance teacher, Pierre Beauchamp, created the five basic ballet positions for the arms and feet which are still used today. In 1681, ballet started tomove away from the courts, and actually started performing on stage. The first professional ballet companies began touring around Europe to perform ballets for royal audiences. In te mid 1700’s, a French ballet master named Jean Georges Noverre believed that ballet was able to stand on its own as an art form. He had the idea that ballet should contain expressive, dramatic movement that should convey relationships between characters.
He is responsible for introducing a dramatic style of ballet that tells a story. Classical ballet was created during the Romantic Movement in the beginning of the 19th century, which influenced ballet, music, and art. It focused on the supernatural world of magic and spirits, and often showed women as fragile. Ballets that displayed themes like these were very popular and were called romantic ballets. Dancing on pointe shoes and wearing a tutu was common for a ballerina. Ballet started becoming more and more popular in Russia during this time, and Russian choreographers brought it to a whole new level by introducing classical ballets such as The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, and Sleeping Beauty. These ballets showcased classical technique by displaying pointe work, high extensions, precision of movement, and turn-out.
Also, more complicated sequences that were filled with difficult steps, leaps, and turns were added into the story. George Balanchine, choreographer and founder of New York City Ballet and School of American Ballet, transformed American ballet to what we see it as today. George Balanchine was known for his musicality in his choreography, and he is responsible for introducing neo-classical ballet, which is an expansion on the classical form of ballet. He is often considered the greatest inventor of contemporary “plotless” ballet. This style of ballet had no specific story line, its main focus was on movement being used to express music and human emotion. He achieved this by taking the technique and style that he learned from attending the Imperial Ballet School in Russia, and combining it with other types of movement and style that he obtained from his time on Broadway and in Hollywood. In 1933, he was invited to America by a young patron of the arts named Lincoln Kirstein, and together they founded the School of American Ballet. Balanchine would also co-found the New York City Ballet later on.
In 2006, American Ballet Theatre became became America’s national ballet company. During this time, there had never been a female African American principal ballerina, but in 2014, Misty Copeland made history by becoming the first female African American principal ballerina at American Ballet Theatre. Today, ballet is still highly respected, and the form and style of it is very traditional. The same technique and form along with other things are still used today. However, ballet is always evolving. Choreographers are always creating different and unique styles of ballet, and audiences are given a wide range of experiences of the art to enjoy. Contemporary ballet is an example of a more modern version of ballet because it is not strictly traditional.
It uses pointe technique, along with floor work and turn-in of the legs. Mikhali Baryshnikov, director of American Ballet Theatre, had a great influence on this style of ballet. Ballet is a very important part of the arts, and without it, all movement in other styles of dance wouldn’t be performed properly.