Classical ballet is a form of dance that is based on very strict and precise technique. There is a certain amount of figure and movement in ballet. All movements (used in choreographies) are part of ballet exercises. Every ballet dancer should learn these movements during school. They should be repeated daily to keep the body in shape for dancing. Choreography is a kind of combinatorics. Always the same number of elements, or movements, agrees and combines differently in each ballet. There are ballets (Swan Lake) that were created over a hundred years ago. The choreography is almost the same as it was in its original form.
Ballet has its roots in the 15th century Italian Renaissance. Balletti (court spectacles) arose from the folk festivities of the Middle Ages. They were taken over by the nobility and adjusted to the party at the court. They contained poem, dance, poetry, mythological motives and more. They would end with a grand and festive dance. The audience was housed in galleries. She looked at the ballet from above, paying particular attention to the correct formations. This is present in ballet today.
Ballet continued to develop in the French court. One of the first major ballet performances was the spectacle of 1573. It was commissioned by Catherine Medici – Ballet des Polonais, on the occasion of the Polish ambassadors’ visit to France. 1581 The Balthasar de Beaujoeulx who created the Ballet des Polonais also created the first ballet that has a unique shop accompanied by dance and music – Ballet Comique. Dancers wear masks. Movements could evoke characters. Only men played ballets, as in dramatic plays of the time. The first women in ballet appeared in the late 17th century.
The most famous dancer of the 17th century was King Louis XIV. He is less known for his dancing skills than for his vanity. Ballets were worked for him by great artists (Jean Baptiste Lully and Molière). He was given the nickname King – Sun according to the role of Apollo, the sun god in Le Ballet de la Nuit. During his reign, the Royal Dance Academy was established. It was the first step towards professionalizing ballet.
In the 18th century, the opinion began to prevail that dance should not be decoration – it should also have meaning. English ballet master John Weaver creates Ballet d’action – a wordless ballet. He thinks the movement is enough to understand the story. On Weaver’s ideas, Jean Georges Noverre continues. Noverre opposes dance as a purely entertaining form. He thinks the essence of dance is expressiveness. Abolishes the use of masks in ballet; the audience could finally see the faces of the dancers.
The period of Romanticism began in the early 19th century. In 1832, La Sylphide Ballet is set up, one of the oldest ballets to be performed today. The title role is played by Marie Taglioni (the famous ballerina who first danced on her fingertips, en pointe, or on the spokes). She danced in the bell-shaped dress that made the famous tutu – a tulle skirt. In romanticism ballerinas come to the fore. By the 19th century, male dancers were more important and represented. Ballet dancing is increasingly associated with ease with fingertips. Big jumps are being introduced. Trying to get the impression of flying. The romantic ballet is called the White Ballet – the female choir wore white costumes, a white tutu. Along with La Sylphide, the famous romantic ballets are Giselle, Ondine and Paquita.
In the mid-19th century, ballet was at its peak. At the end of the century it began to decline. No more great choreographers or performers. In addition to Italy, France and England, ballet developed in Russia. The Emperor ‘imported’ French ballet, dancers and choreographers. Marius Petipa, one of the most famous choreographers, started as a dancer in Russia. Then he started choreographing. Petipa staged many ballets – Trnoruzica, Don Quixote, Bajader, Nuts and Swan Lake. Swan Lake was first choreographed by Julius Reisinger. He did not achieve great success. A few years later, Petipa introduced some changes to the story. He made his own version of Swan Lake. The rest is history. Three ballets to the music of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Swan Lake, Trnoružica and Orasar are today part of the repertoire of each ballet ensemble. The most famous ballerina of the time was Ana Pavlova.
In 1909, Sergei Diaghilev founded the Ballets Russes Ballet Company. A new era of ballet begins. His company employs some of the most famous choreographers of the time – Mihail Fokin, Vaslav Nijinsky, George Balanchine and Bronislava Nijinska. Famous composers with Ballets Russes have collaborated with Igor Stravinsky, Eric Satie, Maurice Ravel, Sergei Prokofjev, Claude Debussy and many others.
Their contribution to ballet was made by visual artists. They designed the scenery and costumes; Dalí, Picasso, Cocteau, Matisse, and even Coco Chanel. Ballet Shows: Birds of Fire and Petrushka worked together with Stravinsky and Fokine, Afternoon One Nijisky, Fokin and Debussy Fauna. The Dedication of Spring ballet was performed by Stravinsky and Nijinsky.
In the late 19th century, ballet had a well-defined structure. One of the parts of the ballet is the pas de deux or duet. But the pas de deux has its parts; adaggio, variations (male and female; solo points) and coda. The most famous pas de deux is the one from Swan Lake. Finally the Black Swan spins 32 fouettes.
The classic ballet is Swan Lake and Trnoružica. Mostly ballets from the Romantic period. Classic ballet is based on pure technique – rotation of the legs from the hips to the outside, openness of the legs up to 180 degrees, five positions of the legs that are actually the basis of the whole ballet technique. Ballet movements are demanding, difficult and unnatural to the human body. They require exceptional physical fitness, strength and control from the dancers. Dancers are expected to have a virtuoso gait that distributes all their body weight to just a few square inches of plaster. By some estimates, a ballet dancer picks up more than a ton and a half of ballerina during one performance. We can see the lightness and elegance on stage. Sometimes ballet seems to defy the force of gravity.
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