BRIEF HISTORY OF BALLET By Wendy Oliver
Ballet refers to both a dance genre and a particular dance -A dance genre is a large category such as ballet, modern, or jazz -Swan Lake or The Rite of Spring are both ballets or dances Ballet performances blend choreographed movement with music and décor, and are performed by dancers trained primarily in classical ballet technique. Photo by MR Legman
Indiana University Ballet
Ballet technique includes the following characteristics: -5 positions of the feet, using “turnout” -use of pointed feet, with emphasis on the feet -toe shoes for women -codified positions of arms and legs -lightness, or pull away from gravity -movements emphasizing balance and elevation Ballet uses French terminology such as -plié (bend of the knees) -pirouette (turn on one foot) -grand jeté (leap)
Traditional Romantic or Classical ballet is typically done to orchestral music of the 19th century. The choreographer follows the rhythm and phrasing of the music, which was created specifically for the ballet by composers such as Peter Tchaikovsky and Serge Prokofiev.
Major ballet companies may have 60-80 members, and are organized hierarchically, with the corps de ballets at the bottom, then coryphees, soloists, and principals at the top. Most ballet companies showcase the works of various choreographers in both traditional and modern styles.
Milwaukee Ballet Company
Ballet first developed in Europe in the Renaissance period. -In Italy and France, dancing masters taught royalty and choreographed entertainments for the courts -Italian intermezzi (late 1400s) were interludes between acts of plays that combined dance, music, and drama -In the 1500 & 1600s, dancing masters began recording their choreography.
Catherine de Medici was a great patron of the arts, and commissioned many dance Works, including Ballet Comique de la Reine, a six-hour dance/drama involving both the Greek gods and the Queen of France!
Renaissance Dance • Renaissance court spectacles were often ornate • They emphasized geometrical patterns • They used steps that were taken from the popular ballroom dances of the day, including the pavane galliard, volta, and others • Women and men did these dances together in the ballroom, but onstage, the women’s parts were danced by men • Steps became increasingly complex, and dancing masters asked their pupils to practice them holding onto the backs of chairs for balance; this is how the ballet barre developed
• Dancing became stylish at all Renaissance courts in Europe, including those of Queen Elizabeth I and Henry VIII
Thoinot Arbeau, a French canon in the Roman Catholic church, wrote one of the first dance books, Orchesography, in 1589. It was a collection of the standard social dances of the time, and included correct social behavior and positions of the feet. Clothing was bulky and tight in the torso, restricting movement mostly to the feet.
Over time, ballet became more professionalized. In the early 1700’s, two women, Marie Camargo and Marie Sallé, broke tradition in the maledominated field. Marie Camargo
-Camargo shortened her skirt to show off her technique. She was known for her aerial work. -Sallé was the first female choreographer, and also simplified her clothing to make dancing easier. Marie Salle
In the late 1700’s, Jean-George Noverre composed 150 ballets which emphasized acting over dance technique. He argued that ballet should be unified works of art in which all aspects of the production contribute to the main theme, and that bulky skirts and heeled shoes be eliminated. Although none of his choreography survives today, many of his ideas carried over into the Romantic Era.
The Golden Age of Romanticism Early-Mid 1800’s Romanticism was a movement involving all the arts, which rebelled against narrow ideas of morality and old artistic forms • Poet Lord Byron and composer Franz Liszt are two examples of artists from the romantic era • Two examples of famous romantic ballets are Les Sylphides and Giselle. Giselle was choreographed in 1841 by Jules Perot and Jean Coralli to music by Adolphe Adam. This ballet is still performed extensively today. • Romantics often dealt with longing for the unattainable • Giselle epitomizes this longing: a young peasant woman falls in love with a man whom she can never marry, and she dies of a broken heart.
Characteristics of Romantic ballet: -Dancing en pointe -First tutus created -Women became dominant -Sylphs and fairies; supernatural -Ill-fated love Giselle
Women were also choreographing ballets at this time. -Fanny Cerrito choreographed Gemma, about an evil hypnotist’s attempts to seduce a young woman. -Terese Elssler choreographed La Voliere, about a woman who raises her younger sister among women only.
Dancing En Pointe • Toe dancing, or dancing en pointe, was invented during the romantic era • Today, toe shoes are made with reinforced toe boxes that are stiff • In the 1800’s, ballerinas wore soft slippers without support, but still managed to dance en pointe, due to their training • Marie Taglioni is the most famous pointe dancer of the era; her style was light and airy
Marie Taglioni in La Sylphide 1832
The Classical Period of Ballet, late 1800’s -Moved from France to Russia -Marius Petipa, Frenchman, arrived in St. Petersburg in 1847 as A dancer, and eventually headed the Imperial Russian Ballet -Choreographed many ballets with fairy-tale plots using pantomime and special effects -Emphasized symmetry and classical pas de deux -Most famous ballet is Swan Lake, 1890, to music by Tchaikowsky -The Nutcracker is also from this period, by Lev Ivanov -More demanding technical work was created; soloists often added their own steps to show off
Nijinsky in Afternoon of A Faun
Le Sacre du Printemps, reconstruction, Florence Dance
Early 1900’s & The Ballet Russes -Michel Fokine created a new style of ballet which moved away from showy technique and pantomime -Blended music, décor, and costumes to support a theme -Became a choreographer for famed Ballet Russes -Most famous work is The Firebird, to music by Stravinsky -The Ballet Russes became known for its modern style using famous visual artists like Picasso to design sets and costumes -Vaslav Nijinsky choreographed The Rite of Spring to music by Stravinsky, causing a riot in Paris in 1913
In 1933, George Balanchine came from Russia to the US to start the first serious ballet company. His style was a break From tradition; he created plotless ballets and focused Balanchine’s Agon more on the music than décor. His costumes often were simple leotards and tights. Although he died in 1983, his company, the New York City Ballet, is one of the most famous in the world today; his ballets are performed internationally.
Review by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower January 24, 2003 Square Dance (1957): Music by Arcangelo Corelli and Antonio Vivaldi, Choreography by George Balanchine, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Yvonne Borree, Peter Boal, and the Company. This light, but dynamic, piece included the vivacity of Peter Boal, whom I admire more and more on each visit to NYC Ballet. Partnering the elegant Yvonne Borree, he was focused, with a huge presence, amazing leg lifts, and sharp footwork. This choreography, brilliantly conceived by George Balanchine, fused American Folk Dance with Ballet. Balanchine wrote, "The American style of classical dancing, its supple sharpness and richness of metrical invention, its superb preparation for risks, and its high spirits were some of the things I was trying to show in this ballet." (NYCB Notes). The essence of Square Dance moves were extrapolated and embellished for Baroque Italian music. With freshness of spirit, the female dancers performed for the males and vice versa, like a show for each other, not competitive, but rather seductive.
Arthur Mitchell’s Dance Theatre of Harlem -First professional black ballet company -Originally, many thought blacks could not do classical ballet, but Arthur Mitchell proved them wrong -After performing with Balanchine for Several years, he left in 1968 to form DTH
-They perform both traditional and modern ballets; all their dancers are classically trained in their New York studios
International Style in Ballet • In the mid-20th century, as world travel became more common, audiences and artists alike were exposed to the work of a broad range of artists and companies. • This resulted in a large sharing of repertoire, where ballet companies from many countries showcase works by internationally famous choreographers such as John Forsythe, George Balanchine, Jiri Kylian, Choo San Goh, Anthony Tudor, Twyla Tharp, and Glen Tetley. This trend continues today.
Australian Ballet in a Glen Tetley work, 2003
Contemporary Choreographers William Forsythe works with pure, abstract movement from the classical vocabulary, at a very fast pace. Although American, he has spent much of his time in Germany, where artists are government-supported.
Twyla Tharp is a modern dancer who has choreographed For ballet companies and Broadway. Above is Mozart Clarinet Quintet, K. 581, 2002.
• Jiri Kylian, a Czech, is an independent spirit who choreographs using a ballet basis to which he has added modern elements including the use of the pelvis and torso • Although his work is abstract, it can be metaphorical and is often very emotional • He uses quick weight changes, high energy movement, and intricate partnering
Stepping Stones by Jiri Kylian, 1991
Ballet at the End of 20th Century • According to dance scholar Nancy Reynolds, ballet reached a “high tide” around the world in the period between the 1960’s -1980’s with a lot of innovation • Ballet at the end of the 20th c flourished in terms of social relevance, audience appreciation, and dancers’ salaries, although it did not maintain the high level of originality of the 60s-80s • In addition, new technologies allowed extensive documentation of work
Alonzo King’s Lines Ballet
Ballet in the 21st Century • Classics such as Don Quixote and Giselle continue on • Local, regional, and national companies continue to perform The Nutcracker at Christmas time • Newer choreographers have more experimental styles, often borrowing from modern and other dance forms • Ballet in the 21st c has a global reach that shows its importance as a common language across cultures Letitia Guerrero in the title role of Festival Ballet’s Carmen, choreographed in 2003 by Victor Plotnikov, Providence, RI
IMAGES/BIBLIOGRAPHY 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21.
www.Niu.edu/puaffairs/stepahead/6/images/ballet.jpg www.mrlegman.com/images/ballet.jpg www.indiana.edu/~bchem/images/ballet.jpg arts.state.wi.us/static/tour-aie/dance14.htm www.jilliancrider.com/5-wcolours.html memory.loc.gov/ammem/dihtml/diessay2.html www.streetswing.com/histmain/gif/pavane1.gif (pavane) patriot.net/~nachtanz/kreed/Caroso.gif www.earthlydelights.com.an/camargo_small.jpg http://nelly.johnson.free.fr/Danse/Dsalle.jpg www.mastersofballet.com/frafx/noverre.gif www.ballettonet/it-rep-giselle.html www.peopleplayuk.org.uk/collect... (Taglioni) www.contrib.andrew.cmu.edu/~sd3p/lake.jpg www.florencedance.org/images/center/mnativo/09.jpg www.exploredance.com/pressphotos/squaredance-borree.jpeg inkpot.com/classical/debusimages.html www.dancetheatreofharlem.com/agon.asp Waynewweb.ualr.edu/African%20American%20Theatre/Mitchell.ht Radio.weblogs.com/01124…/28.html (Glen Tetley) www.artscenter.org/dance.html
IMAGES/BIBLIOGRAPHY CONTINUED 22. www.lyon-passionnement.com/sorties/danse/img/second_detail.jpg 23. www.wanthony.com/Article%20Arch... (Jiri Kylian) 24. www.linesballet.org (Alonzo King) 25. www.ridance.com/fbcarmen.html (Festival Ballet) 26. http://atlanta.creativeloafing.com/2002-03-13/arts_dance-1.jpg 27. Jack Anderson, Ballet & Modern Dance: A Concise History Princeton, NJ: Princeton Book Co., 1986 28. Reynolds, Nancy & McCormick, Malcolm, No Fixed Points, New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2003.