Throughout the world, there have always been many types of dance. Today, these types of dances include jazz, hip-hop, contemporary, tap, and ballet. Ballet is one of the most famous types of dances in the world. Today, ballet has spread through many parts of the globe and we recognize it as a graceful form of movement and theatrical dance. However, we often don’t think about the origins and history of where the dances, music, and attire of ballet came from.
One thing we know about ballet is that it is nothing new. Ballet began during the Italian Renaissance in the 15th century with both men and women. People of higher social ranking, like noblemen, were given performances of ballet in the courts. The epicenter of ballet moved to France after Catherine de Medici married King Henry II of France. She sponsored the performances in the French courts. Later, the ballet de cour program came to be. This event was a program that included costumes, songs, and poetry. Almost 100 years later, the art form of ballet was popularized thanks to King Louis XIV. His love for ballet helped it to progress from a hobby to a profession that required training for dancers to be at their best. Over many years, the choreography of ballet was redefined by many choreographers who decided to push the boundaries of the movements involved. They experimented with many different styles and movements. Some of these choreographers included: Frederick Ashton, Anthony Tudor, John Cranko, and many more who got creative with the dance moves.
Music has always been an important part of ballet. At the beginning of the ballet timeline, there was no orchestral music, only voices singing. As time passed, stringed instruments, such as violins and pianos, as well as woodwinds, were included along with the singing voices. Unfortunately, little seems to be known about the features and characteristics of music from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. However, today, music can be loud, soft, screechy, operatic, and fast. Due to technology, there is no limit on the sounds of music in ballet.
By the seventeenth century, dancers wore shoes with heels instead of ballet slippers. Men wore a stiff skirt that looks similar to the tutus of today. Women’s’ attire was much heavier than it is today. Tights were also an important part of the attire. Tights drew attention to the shape of the dancers’ legs for both males and females and also provided warmth. Another key part of ballet attire is the pointe shoe. It was crafted by Charles Didelot who removed the heels and made the shoes flat-bottomed, so the dancers could jump, turn, and fully extend their feet. Later on, around the 19th century, ballet shoes were fashioned so that the ballerina could stand on her toes allowing her to dance with twirling movements. Also, ballet shoes had ribbons sewn to the sides of the slippers and toe shoes that were crossed up to the knee and kept the slippers and toe shoes from coming off.
The first ballerina to dance en pointe was Marie Taglioni, in 1832. Pointe shoes can usually last hours up to 12 while a ballerina is dancing. In the twenty-first century, a ballerina has to purchase over 100 pairs of pointe shoes at approximately $80 each for only one season.
Many countries who heard about ballet became interested in having ballet for their entertainment. One of those countries was Russia. In fact, Russians have their own ballet style called the Vaganova method that was created in 1879. The two most famous Russian venues are the Bolshoi and the Kirov.
In 1948, a Russian child was born by the name of Mikhail Baryshnikov, who started dancing between the ages of 9 and 10. As he got older, he began to dance ballet for appreciative customers at several ballet venues. As he grew up, he was not happy dancing in Russia and defected to the United States of America, where he became the most brilliant and famous male dancer of the twentieth century.
Another famous dancer named Anna Pavlova was also a well-known prima ballerina as well as a choreographer. She founded a ballet company in 1911 and it was the first company of its kind to travel around the globe. Unfortunately, Anna Pavlova died at the age of 49 in 1931 from pleurisy, a viral infection which is an inflammation that causes pain when breathing and is caused by pneumonia
Today, many people have forgotten where ballet and its beauty came from. Although it is appreciated very much throughout the globe, people must realize that its history plays a significant role in understanding and appreciating ballet. We must become more educated and appreciative of the world of ballet for us to keep it alive for many generations to come.
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