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The Art of Ballet: History, Types, Health Issues, Stereotypes

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Introduction

Ballet is a theatrical dance that is a formal academic dance technique. Ballet is a dance that was combined with other artistic elements such as music, costume and stage scenery. Ballet was an art form that is created by the movement of human body. Ballet is theatrical and was performed on stage to an audience in costumes, pretty design and good lighting. The dance was able to tell a story to express a thought, concept or emotion. Terms like “ballet” and “ball” stem from the Italian word “ballare” which means “to dance”.

The History of Ballet

Ballet was originated in the Italian Renaissance courts of the 15th century. Noblemen and women were treated to lavish events especially wedding celebrations. During 15th and 16th centuries, the dancing technique became formalized. When Catherine de’ Medici, was an Italian noblewoman who was a Queen from France from 1547 until 1559 was married to King Henry II, she had introduced early dance into court life in France. At the beginning, the dancers were forced to wore masks, layers upon layers, large headdresses and ornaments. Such clothes were restrictive were sumptuous to look at but it was difficult to move in. From Italians roots, ballets in France and Russia developed their own stylistic character. By 1850, Russia has become a leading creative centre of the dance world and as ballet continued to evolve, certain new looks and theatrical illusions caught on and became quite fashionable.

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An Art or a Sport?

Ballet is an art; it is not a sport. Ballet is something that is a wonderful combination of both art and sport as it requires great skill and energy but also elegance a sense of musical rhythm. Art is not something that can be judged on a scale of 1-10 because the judgement takes away the passion and creativity. Art is something that were expression or application on human creative skill and imagination. Art in ballet is something that we need to view by our soul not only by our eyes only. Ballet is an art because it able to tell a story without using words. The phenomena of dance competition have pervaded the ballet world. These competitions that were held has ruin the art of the dance and completely destroyed the soul and emotions that were required in the ballet. This is the main reason how ballet and other form of dance has become more closer to sport than an art.

Competitions only highlight the athletic side of the dancer and did not focus on the sentimental sides of the dance. This become the main reasons why most of the dancers in this generations could not give the same vibes as older generations in dancing particularly. They did not able to portray their emotions and were mainly focus on winning the competitions. Competitions were also mainly focused on how the dancers on performing tricks. As we can see from the documentary of young dancers, First Positions, demonstrates the pressure on the ballerinas onto performing the perfect trick for the competitions. The focus was never on how dancer’s performance portrayed the emotions and the dance as a whole but rather on the perfections of her split leap or pirouettes. The competitions that were held have also spilled into the mainstream television, with shows such as So You Think You Can Dance. These programs have eliminated the artistic side of the dance and lead a wrong perception on how the dance should be. In actual ballet and dance, the dancers were required to have skills and enhance them by adding her or his own emotion to their perfected technique. By having these shows, it leads the viewers believes that dance is a competitive sport. The choreography strives for the ‘wow!’ factor only and had removed the basic ballet technique and the artistic freedom that had been taught around the world for centuries.

The purpose of ballet, especially the classical one is to tell the audience a story. Everything that were prepared such as intricate and complex set design, to the elegant costumes and pretty make-up, is crucial to the story of a ballet and the audience’s overall impression. To make a ballet performance what it is, so many artistic elements are combined, and the passion and emotion of the dancers is the final touch to the show. If dancers moved robotic-ally and performed only tricks, ballets would never tell a story effectively and invite audiences into a world of enchantment and fantasy that lasted two hours.

Two Types of Ballet

Ballet are usually divided into two which is classical ballet dance and contemporary dance. Classical ballet dance is something that the most formal of the three ballet styles, because it was set to follows a traditional “set of rules” or technique. Meanwhile the contemporary dance is a classical dance that had modern touch with it as time grows. People said that the contemporary dance was created as a dance form that was emerged as an expression of the rebellion against the classical ballet. A classical ballet has a specific rule that need to be followed but contemporary ballet has none. In a contemporary ballet, there might not be music, costumes, scenery, story or footwear that is used but the classical ballet is the opposite. Classical ballet has five specifics things that should be included. First, it must tell the audience a story that often involving a boy or girl with a problem that will be resolved at the end. Then, it needs to have a specific costumes and scenery to easily portrayed the emotions. Next, it also should have music and the music must get along with the dance. It also needs to have a “folk” or “character” dance. Last but not least, the classical ballet dance must wear a pointe shoes and tutus skirt as it the classical way to show a person is a ballerina. Classical ballet is very specific in their straight lines and they would not ever draw away from this. Classical ballet’s movement are exact and can be broken down to how precisely they move. In classical ballet, the men are required there to make the woman beautiful. The woman also plays a game on being something that is out of reach. In the beginning, the costumes are beginning with a court costumes; wigs, hard shoes and large gowns however, it made the dancer become difficult to even move. Now, as times grows, the skirts became shorter and indeed we got the classical tutus. It also very fit to the body and literally accents the leg. Meanwhile males are usually in tights, flat ballet shoes and a fancy leotard. The music that were used are playing a role in depicting the emotion of the classical ballet dancer. It usually was a live orchestra play and the specific noises will foreshadow and explain the current scenes.

Contemporary dance is a dance for all people as it was used to be a stick figure image. Contemporary dance is about the emotion that were able to portrayed by the dancer. It also about women and how the man made them look good which made have a huge role nowadays. The music that were used in the contemporary dance will depicts the type of emotion that were expressed. The dancers will play different sounds and noises to help them to deliver the story to the audience. The music will able to help the dancers on feeling the beat. The costumes are specific to colour, shape and the ornament of the dancer. The shoes are an option as the contemporary dancer were not required on wearing pointe shoes like classical ballet did. The costumes will able to portrayed the emotions and expression of the dancer. The contemporary dance move was mostly improvised from the classical ballet dance and were given a modern touch to it and it really defy the rules of ballet. The structure of the dance comes from the emotions that the dancer is portraying.

Health and Injuries

Ballet is a particular dance form requiring strength, control, balance, agility, flexibility, and cardiovascular fitness. This incredible form of sport and art also involves extensive practice and discipline to master the performance techniques required. Most dancers train between six to thirty five hours per week. Because of the amount of coaching hours and repetition concerned in ballet, several of the injuries sustained by dancers are overuse injuries instead of acute injuries. This implies that the injury is the results of gradual wear and tear that more and more which worsens over time, instead of being caused by one specific incident. It’s vital to possess these styles of injuries treated early, and therefore the reason for the injury corrected in order that the injury doesn’t worsen to some extent wherever it’s limiting everyday activities, together with terpsichore. Often overuse injuries may be caused by variety of things together with growth spurts, muscle imbalance, incorrect technique, a amendment or increase in usual coaching load, a amendment or increase in usual rehearsal and performance schedule or incorrectly fitting footwear parapsychology especially pointe shoes. The most common overuse injuries in dancers be 3 classes including; tendinopathies, sprains (injuries that involve ligaments) and strains (injuries that involve muscles). Some common injuries for the ballet dancers include low back pain, muscle imbalance, back stress fracture, spondlyolisthesis, pars injury, scoliosis, snapping hip, labral tear, shin splints, trigger toe, bunions and stress fracture.

Acute or traumatic injuries are not as common in ballet in comparison to overuse injuries, it still occurs in the dancing population. Acute injuries are characterized by the having the injury suddenly., and it is usually as the results of the specific incident such as loss of balance. Acute injuries usually occurs in the dancing population due to a number of reasons that include loss of control during the massive numbers of quick multi-directional movements that were required during the dancing, in additions to the positions where the dancers are required to move both of their joints and muscles into the extreme ends of range where the structures are at the mechanical disadvantages. The common acute injuries in ballet dancers fall into two categories including; sprains and strains. Some common acute injuries that usually happens at ballet dancers includes facet joint irritation, muscle imbalance, spasm, hamstring strain, adductor strain, patella dislocation, meniscus tear, gastroc strain, ankle sprains and turf toe.

Due to the large amount of lower limb in ballet, it had no surprise that the lower limb are commonly injured area. There is some debate in the research as to which lower limb area are the most commonly injured area, however, the ankle, hip, knee, foot, leg and thigh are the areas that are most commonly injured among the ballet dancers especially female dancers. Low back injuries are the second most commonly reported injuries in ballet dance. This often occurs due to the large amounts of lifting in lower limb elongation required for the performance. Low back injury is often caused by overuse of the low back to compensate for the usage of the hips and buttocks. Injuries to the head, neck, trunk and upper limbs are the most least likely to occur in the ballet dance, however, if it happen, it most likely happens to the male ballet dancer due to the lifting elements that are required. There are many factor that that lead to injury among ballet dancer including, age, gender, training load,previous injury, flexibility, strength, technique, and footwear. The best treatment that required for an injury is prevention. To prevent injury, work on strength, flexibility, control, and balance is the best option. Please contact your physiotherapist for advice for guidance specific to your personal needs. Warm up and cool down before attending classes, rehearsals and performances is very important. This ensures that the muscles are warm and joints move smoothly and evenly before they move into positions where they may be at a mechanical disadvantage and at risk of injury.

Male Dancers and Stereotypes

The male dancers are usually nothing more in classical ballet than glorified tights chairs and ladders. While they are occasionally presented in brief solos and pas de deux (a duet for two dancers, typically male and female), the ballerina is primarily presented. While she’s dancing, they lift her up and stand there as she spins. The Western world has taken a view of male ballet dancers as weak, effeminate or homosexual since the early 19th century. Male ballet dancers fight the stereotypes that surround them through gender expectations and performance.A number of stereotypes were reported by male ballet dancers, including’ feminine, homosexual, wimp, spoiled, gay, dainty, fragile, weak, fluffy, woody, prissy, artsy and sissy. Watching a male ballet dancer take centre stage is rare, and there were these stereotypes where males should not be a ballet dancers as it will made them look more soft and did not have the masculinity in them. Male ballet dancers are frequently disdained for believing that ballet is a feminine activity. There are a few ways male ballet dancers are fighting against this idea. Compared to their female counterparts, male ballet dancers take on different movement characteristics and different techniques. There is a strong push within the dance world for male ballet dancers to have masculine features. Often they are told to dance like a young age man. Male dancers with feminine qualities of movement are usually looked down. These negative reactions to men in the dance world are due to the lack of male stereotype association with dance stereotypes. Men are often perceived to show qualities such as dominance, independence, authority, strength, and lack of emotions, and are expected to show them. People should stop these stereotypes as it had harms the minds of young boys that want to try ballet.

Black Swan

Black Swan is one of the film that portrays the dark side of the ballet dance. A ballet-based psycho-drama, it’s a brilliant and twisted film. It’s a highly exaggerated drama as a look inside a ballet company’s life — but it has real echoes of the classical dance world. The film also portrays ballet as a form of quixotic art that requires nothing less than complete submission to the craft. Black Swan can also be interpreted as an artistic perfection metaphor with all the psychological and physical challenges. Present in the film is the innocent Nina of Natalie Portman and the promiscuous Lily of Mila Kunis, the White Swan and the Black Swan ballet characters, and who Nina is versus who (or what) she is becoming. Tons of mirrors and reflections are thrown in for good measure, plus a colour pallet inundated with black and white. Duality is important in this film because what propels the narrative is Nina’s desire to achieve the features she lacks. Nina is driven to succeed not only because she wants to reward Thomas for her faith in her, but because she knows at any time that he can strip her of the role. Nina spends a lot of the film worried about this and continually fails to achieve Thomas ‘ main goal for her, which is to loosen up and dance with the kind of abandonment that defines the Black Swan as a character. The most shocking (and talked about) scene of the film takes place once the girls return to the apartment, get past an upset Erica, and enter the room of Nina. The repercussions of this event manifest the next day when Nina discovers that Lily is gone and, worse still, that she is late for studio practice. The other dancers are in the midst of practising for the show when Nina arrives and she discovers that another dancer has come in to play her role. The thing that saved Nina ultimately led to her demise as well. However, the film’s great irony is that Nina doesn’t seem to care. The only thing she seems to care about as she lies dying is the fact that she was ‘perfect.’ And she’s right in a way. She’s been perfect. She wasn’t just playing Swan Lake. She’s been living it. Black Swan is the best film by Darren Aronofsky and his actors turn to some of their career’s best work, especially Portman. It will be, to be sure, a lovely award at the Oscars next month. And all the accolades it receives will be deserved. Because just as Nina pulled off a perfect performance, I think Aronofsky may have just pulled off a perfect film, or one near it.

Challenges Encouraging to Work Harder

When new students of ballet are standing in the doorway of the studio anticipating their first dance class, they should feel excited, curious and willing to learn. When a new dancer starts studying, it will hopefully open new doors and opportunities, and not only will the student learn about ballet technique, but also important life lessons. The responsibility and privilege of a ballet instructor is to teach important values to students through dancing. It’s a very complex ballet. You always have to learn a new move or try a new lift, and you can always be better. Your arabesque may be too low, or you may have to work on your presence on the stage. There is always room for improvement in life. We can be better, faster and stronger at all times. We can accomplish anything we set our minds to. Ballet is all about grace and beauty. A quality called ‘stage presence’ is what separates a true ballerina from a ‘dancer”. In all aspects of life, this hard work would encourage us to work hard. Challenges are meant to be met. The difficult steps that always tripped us up, were not something that we should avoid. They were something that we should rise up and perfect. Everyone in the class strives to be the best, and you might think you’re the best because you’ve got the most training, or you’ve got the most trophies, but there’s always someone better. But, just because there’s someone better than you, it doesn’t mean you’re shutting down and quitting. Let that person be someone who encourages you to be a better dancer.

References

  • Is Dance a Sport or an Art? (n.d.). Retrieved from; https://www.voicemag.uk/blog/2647/is-dance-a-sport-or-an-art
  • Ballet is harder than football. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.debate.org/debates/ballet-is-harder-than-football/1/
  • Unknown, & Hayleymckell. (1970, January 01). Contemporary Dance vs. Classical Ballet. Retrieved from http://dance1010ballet.blogspot.com/
  • Whittet, E. O. (2018, November 08). Is There Such A Thing As Ballet That Doesn’t Hurt Women? Retrieved May 23, 2019, from https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/ellenoconnellwhittet/ballet-me-too-nycb- women-gender-injuries-sexism
  • Hospers, J. (2019, March 14). Philosophy of art. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/topic/philosophy-of-art/The-interpretation-of-art
  • What is Ballet? – Photos & Examples from Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.pbt.org/learn-and-engage/resources-audience-members/ballet-101/what- is-ballet/
  • Physio Works – Physiotherapy Brisbane. (n.d.). Retrieved May 23, 2019, from https://physioworks.com.au/Injuries-Conditions/Activities/ballet-injuries-physio
  • DiGiovine, E. (2019, May 07). 5 Life Lessons Ballet Taught Me That I Use Every Day. Retrieved May 23, 2019, from https://www.elitedaily.com/sports/life-lessons-ballet/1677783
  • Steve. (2012, May 13). An Analysis of Black Swan. Retrieved May 23, 2019, from http://www.spacesquarterly.com/blog/an-analysis-of-black-swan
  • Purcell, C. (2017, June 30). Are Male Dancers Being ‘Dismissed’? This New Conference Thinks So. Retrieved from https://www.dancemagazine.com/are-male-dancers-being-dismissed-this-new- conference-thinks-so-2450885673.html

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