The earliest precursors to ballets were lavish entertainments given in the courts of Renaissance Italy. These elaborate spectacles, which united painting, poetry, music, and dancing, took place in large halls that were used also for banquets and balls. A dance performance given in 1489 actually was performed between the courses of a grand banquets,. The dancers based their performance on the social dances of the day. The Italian court ballets were further explored in France. Since most of the audience saw the ballet from above, the choreography emphasized the elaborate floor patterns created by lines and groups of dancers. Poetry and music accompanied the dances. Most French court ballets consisted of dance scenes linked by a minimum of plot. Because they were designed principally for the entertainment of the aristocracy, rich costumes, scenery, and elaborate stage effects were emphasized. The proscenium was first adopted in France in the mid-1600s, and professional dancers made their first appearance, although they were not permitted to dance in the grand ballet that concluded the performance; this was still reserved for the king and courtiers. The court ballet reached its peak during the reign (1643-1715) of Louis XIV. The Italian-French composer Jean Baptiste Lully and the French choreographer Pierre Beauchamp created many of the ballets presented at his court. Pierre Beauchamp is also noted for defining the five positions of the feet.
The Beginnings of Professional Ballet
In 1661 Louis XIV established the Acadmie Royale de Danse, a professional organization for dancing masters. He himself stopped dancing in 1670, and his courtiers followed his example. By then the court ballet was already giving way to professional dancing. At first all the dancers were men, and men in masks danced women’s roles, Just like in Shakespearian plays. The first female dancers to perform professionally in a theater production appeared in a ballet called Le Triomphe de l’Amour (The Triumph of Love) in 1691.The dance technique of the period, recorded by the French ballet master Raoul Feuillet in his book Chorgraphie included many steps and positions recognizable today. A new theatrical form developed. Eighteenth-century dancers were adorned with masks, wigs or large headdresses, and heeled shoes. Women wore panniers, hoopskirts draped at the sides for fullness. Men often wore the tonnelet, a knee-length hoopskirt. The French dancer Marie Camargo, however, shortened her skirts and adopted the now I iconic heelless slippers to display her sparkling jumps and beats. Her rival, Marie Sall‚ also broke with custom when she discarded her corset and put on Greek robes to dance in her own ballet. Women such as the German-born Anne Heinel, the first female dancer to do double pirouettes, also were gaining in technical proficiency.
Women dominated the romantic ballet. Although good male dancers such as the Frenchmen Jules Perrot and Arthur Saint-L‚on were performing, ballerinas such as Taglioni, Elssler, the Italians Carlotta Grisi and Fanny Cerrito, and others eclipsed them. Ballet gave way to virtuosic displays and spectacle and male dancing was neglected. Women even danced the principal male roles.
Russia worked hard to preserve the classical and histoical integrity of the ballet during the late 19th century. A Frenchman, Marius Petipa, became the chief choreographer of the Imperial Russian Ballet. He perfected the full-length, evening-long story ballet that combined set dances with mimed scenes. His best-known works are The Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake both set to commissioned scores by the great Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky.
Ballet has remained mostly unchanged in the 20th Century. It is one of those rare forms of art that is timeless and timeless and the classics remain in some way contemporary. WE are proud to include ballet in our curriculum at Omaha School of Music and Dance! If you too would like to be a part of history call us today at 405-515-6939 to get registered. We have options for all ages!
Call us today for more information or to get registered at 402-515-9639. Or visit our website at www.omahaschoolofmusicanddance.com!