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The History of Ballet

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Dance in the Roman culture was characterized by folk dancing, religious and ritual dancing that later advanced into theatre presentations with the influence of civilization. The first ballet was Ballet Comique de la Reine that was commissioned by Catherine de’ Medici in celebration of her niece’s marriage to Henry IV of France. Catherine was influential on issues related to fashion and art nonetheless the Comique de la Reine ballet was organized by Balthazar de Beaujoyeulx who was an Italian choreographer. The combination of art, dance, and music during the ballet dance highlighted the mythological aspect that aimed to impress the French. The theme of the dance aimed at reminding both the guests and visiting nobles that the Medicis of Florence was still in control of the Papacy and Europe. Men of the court thus performed the first ballet since the women were required to maintain their positions.

Initially, the male dancers only performed court dances dressed in certain costumes as they performed folk dances, which were inherently elegant and slower. In this regard, the Ballet Comique de la Reine was the first choreographed ballet dance that focused on a specific storyline. Based on Catherine de’ Medici’s work, Ballet de Cour was initiated with the main attraction being the extravagant costumes and the unique geometrical patterns. The ballets relied on the court dances such as minuets, jigs, and pavane as well as the slow dance on the parading of peacocks. During this era, bouncing was prohibited due to the unique costumes that required the men to adopt an elegant and slow dance. Currently, the dancers’ elegance during a presentation and the erect posture still has an impact on the classical ballet dancers.

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Several historical dancers influenced the current Ballet system through their daily contributions. Louis XIV, for instance, was referred to as the Dancing King since he focused on the standards of perfection in the art of dance. He is renowned for defining the first essential positions of the feet in ballet alongside Jean Baptiste Lully thus making it easier to choreograph complicated movements and simplify the teaching process to new dancers. On the other hand, Diaghilev was a Russian promoter of arts who revolutionized ballet through integrating other art ideas such as painting, drama, and music with dance.

Romantic ballet dealt mainly with spiritual subject matters and exotic locations whose romantic themes were found in the Gericault and Turner’s art. This era began in between 1930 to 1970 where women were allowed to go on stage and perform. Moreover, romanticism was found in Bryon, Gautier, and Rousseau’s literature and the music of Chadwick, Paganinni, Liszt, and Wagner. This type of ballet includes the use of Romantic tutu as their costumes that would consist of a white, multi-layered skirt made of tulle. For instance, in the play Gisselle Act 2, the dancers appeared on stage in a romantic tutu’s and pointe shoes to give the audience a floating illusion. The dancers could also throw sharp kicks to emphasize certain concepts using fast turns and high kicks during the performance.

Classical ballet is a formal dancing style that is based on traditional ballet movements that varied from one region to another. Furthermore, it is characterized by Louis XIV standard of perfection that involves the basic feet positions during a performance. It requires elegance, graceful and precise movements that dictate the dancers’ prowess in the routine. The emphasis is on building one’s strength in their lower body since its essential in the movements during certain routines. Dancers such as Felia Dubrovska and Vaslav Nijinski focused on classical ballet with their flawless movements and intensity and depth of the music.


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