Ballet means “to dance.” The word made its way into English from French sometime around 1630. Ballet originated as a type of performance dance in the 15th century Italian Renaissance courts. It later transformed into a form of concert dance in Russia and France. Today, it is a highly sophisticated dance form with its own vocabulary based on French language. Ballet has transcended its European roots and in now an international dance form enjoyed by many throughout the world. Ballet tickets sell hot as fans of this art form eagerly wait to see these classy performances live.
Traditional v Modern
Being a sophisticated dance form, ballet requires trained artists and choreographers. Traditional ballet is performed on classical music in which dancers wear elaborate costumes and perform on magnificently designed sets. On the contrary, modern ballets dancers wear simple costumes and there is no use of elaborate sets or scenery.
Ballet, as mentioned earlier, originated in Italy and later spread to France. This was because of Catherine de’ Medici, an Italian aristocrat, who later became Queen of France. With royal patronage, ballet developed rapidly in France, in which the dancers were often noble amateurs. Since ballet had royal patronage, it often served a political purpose in its early days.
If Catherine de’ Medici made ballet famous in France, it was another French royal under whose reign it reached new heights. King Louis XIV founded the Académie Royale de Danse in 1661, which was established to certify dance instructors and standardize ballet. He also appointed Jean-Baptiste Lully the director of the Académie Royale de Musique. This appointment would later lead to the birth of the Paris Opera Ballet, the first professional ballet company.
The Decline of Traditional Ballet and the Rise of Modern Ballet
After 1830, ballet started to decline in France. However, it continued to develop in other countries such as Russia, Italy and Denmark. The modern ballet was introduced in Europe just before the beginning of the First World War by Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, a ballet company, which pushed the boundaries of traditional ballet.
Neoclassical Ballet and other Dance Genres
American ballet and George Balanchine are synonymous. Balanchine, a choreographer developed neoclassical ballet. Other forms of ballet that emerged in the 20th century were post-structural ballet and contemporary ballet. Ballet also led to modern dance and dancers such as Arthur Mitchell, Natalia Makarova, Gelsey Kirkland, Suzanne Farrell, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Erik Bruhn, Maria Tall Chief, Rosella Hightower, Margot Fonteyn, and Rudolf Nureyev.
Various Ballet Styles
For a variety of reasons, over a period of time, various ballet styles have emerged. Initial style changes were influenced by where ballet was being performed. The styles that emerged later were independent of their geography. Neoclassical ballet and contemporary ballet incorporate both traditional ballet and non-traditional techniques and movements.
Today, the most popular ballet style is called Ballet blanc or romantic ballet. This ballet style focuses on ballerinas dancing in a particular way, all the while keeping their bodies balanced on the tips of fully extended feet within pointe shoes. This is also called the Pointe technique.
This style developed during the Romantic period. This mid 19th century ballet featured themes which emphasized intense emotion as a source of aesthetic experience. The plots revolved around spirit women enslaving the hearts of mortal men. Some of the best romantic dancers of the period were Fanny Elssler and Marie Taglioni, while some of the best romantic ballets were Coppélia and La Sylphide.
As the name suggests, this ballet style is based on traditional ballet techniques and vocabulary. However, within this style, there are different styles based on geography. For example, Russian, Italian and French ballets are all different, yet classified as classical ballet. Classical ballet styles, in addition to geography, may also differ due to specific training methods. Some of the most famous classical ballets are Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker and Swan Lake.
Neoclassical ballet is the same as classical ballet with the exception of use of the abstract. In this ballet form, unlike classical ballet, scenery, costumes and the plot are not quite clear. Furthermore, the music is not necessarily classical music, but could be diverse. George Balanchine’s Apollo is considered to be the first neoclassical ballet.
Contemporary ballet is any dance form, which incorporates ballet techniques. It allows for experimentation and exploration, as long as the roots of classical are apparent. George Balanchine and Twyla Tharp are considered to be the pioneers of contemporary ballet.
All forms of ballets have had its share of audience and thus ballet tickets have always been in demand.