Ballet is the name given to a classical dance that originated in renaissance Italy during the late 15th century. It features expressive movements. Advanced ballet dancers dance en pointe, for women. Men always dance on flats. However, dancing en pointe requires skill, strength, and instruction from a trained teacher.
During the 15th and 16th centuries, ballet grew popular in Italian royal courts. When Catherine de'Medici became the queen consort of France, she brought ballet with her, and ballet was further cultivated in France. (that is why many ballet names are French) Classical ballet, as it is today, was brought in under Louis XIV of France. (the Sun King). He founded the Royal Academy of Dance, pretty much the first "elite" dance school. From it arose the Paris Ópera. From there it spread throughout Europe and Russia, and later to America and Australia, where schools such as the Royal Ballet, The Russian Ballet, and numerous other companies and schools were founded.
Ballet as a WholeEdit
Dancing "En Pointe"Edit
Dancing en pointe can be painful and stressful. In order to be able to stand on the tips of your toes while dancing, a woman/girl must wear pointe shoes. They are similiar to regular flats, but they have a flat canvas at the tip so one can dance en pointe. Many dancers aspire to dance en pointe. However, since pointe shoes can easily damage your feet, it is important to start en pointe only when one's foot has stopped growing. Depending on the person, this age can range from 11 to 14. During this time, serious ballet dancers slowly switch to pointe.
*Please Note: Some schools switch their students to pointe at an early age, such as seven. Note that while the ideal time is once your foot has stopped growing, these students care for their feet too.
(See: Ballet Movements and Positions )
There are a lot of famous ballets, cultivated from around the world.
Prince Siegfried has just turned 21, and his mother tells him that now that he is of age, he will be soon married. Angry, he takes his crossbow and runs away to the woods with his hunting friends. There, they come across a beautiful lake on which graceful swans swim. The most elegant of them all has a crown atop her head. She is the Swan Queen. When night comes, she turns into a beautiful maiden and tells him that her name is Odette, and that they (meaning all the swans) have been cursed by an evil sorcerer. The only way they can become fully human is if a man pledges his love to her (Odette) . Just as the Prince is about to, the evil sorcerer turns up out of nowhere and the swans disappear. The next day, the Prince is thrown a ball by his mother. He still thinks about Odette, but he does dance with some of the princesses. However, the sorcerer soon arrives with his daughter, Odile, whom he has enchanted to look like Odette. He dances with Odile and confesses his love for her, not knowing that the real Odette is watching from a window. As she flees, he sees her and the Prince leaves the ball to follow after Odette. At the lake, Odette is being consoled by the other human swans. The sorcerer arrives with Odile and demands that the Prince marry his daughter. He states that he would rather die with Odette than marry Odile. Together, the two jump into the lake and the curse is broken. The other maidens push the sorcerer and Odile into the lake and they too drown in the lake. As the sun rises, Siegfried and Odette rise into the heavens.
It is Christmas Eve at the Stalhbaum household. The two children in the family, Fritz and Clara, wait for the annual party to start. During the festives, a master toymaker gives out presents to all the boys and girls. Clara receives the best of them all: a nutcracker. Fritz is jealous, and plays catch with his friends, but then the nutcracker breaks. The toymaker repairs the nutcracker and suggests putting him under the Christmas tree. Clara ends up falling asleep with the nutcracker after the party is over. At midnight, Clara begins to shrink (and wake) and the toys begin to grow. The mice attack the nutcracker and the wooden foot soldiers (who are not wooden anymore). Clara frees the nutcracker from the grasp of the mouse king by throwing her shoe at his head. Then, the nutcracker is easily able to claim victory. Clara lies on the nutcracker's bed with the nutcracker, but the bed becomes a sleigh and brings them higher and higher. The nutcracker turns into a human prince, and then the sleigh goes through a snowy forest where the snoflakes start to dance. Clara and the prince arrive in the land of sweets, where they are welcomed as royalty by the Sugar Plum Fairy. They are then presented with the dancing from every sweet. First Hot Cocoa dances, then coffee, and then China Tea. Matrioskas dance to lively music after the China Tea. Following even more dances, they are finally presented with a solo from the Sugar Plum Fairy.
Clara wakes up after, normal sized, next to her beloved nutcracker.
Anna Pavlova (1881-1931) - Russian prima ballerina and choreographer
Maria Tallchief (1925-2013) - first Native American prima ballerina
Mikhail Baryshnikov (b. 1948)- Russian male dancer, one of the most iconic dancers of the 20th century
George Balanchine (1904-1983) - dancer and choreographer of the 20th century
Alicia Olonso (b. 1921) - Cuban ballerina
Fernando Bujones (1955-2005) - principal for the American ballet
Marie Salé (1707-1756) - dancer and choreographer from the early 18th century. Prominent in both London and Paris.
Isadora Duncan (1877-1927) - American born dancer who lived in Europe for most of her life
What it is TodayEdit
American Ballet Theatere - NYC, USA
New York City Ballet - NYC, USA
San Francisco Ballet - San Fransisco, California, USA
English National Ballet - London, England
Pacific Northwest Ballet - Seattle, Washington, USA
Royal Ballet - London, England
National Ballet of Canada - Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Boston Ballet - Boston, Massachussets, USA
Bolshoi Theatere - Moscow, Russia
Bejart Ballet - Lausanne, Switzerland
Paris Opera - Paris, France
Bolshoi Academy - Moscow, Russia
Munich Ballet School - Munich, Germany
Canada National School of Ballet - Toronto, Canada
Royal Ballet School , London, England
Paris Ópera Ballet School , Paris, France
Vaganova Academy - St. Petersburg
Royal Winnipeg Ballet School - Winnipeg, Canada
Ballet is depicted in numerous works, such as movies, TV Shows, and Art.
Ballet is in not only documentaries, but also fictional movies. An example is Billy Elliot, the story of a British boy who wants to become a ballet dancer. He receives critisism from his all-male family (his mother is dead) but follows his dream with the help of a girls' ballet teacher at the local studio.
A famous TV show, Dance Academy shows the lives of students at an elite national ballet academy in Sydney, Australia.
Ballet has been portrayed in art extensively, most notably during the Impressionistic period of the late 1800s. A very famous painter of the time, Edgar Degas, painted and sketched many ballet dancers. He was known to sit in the back of studios and sketch ballerinas as they dance, in the 'middle of flight'. He would sometimes ask dancers to come to his art studio and include them in a more famous and time consuming piece. Sometimes, however, if he wanted a painting, he would make several sketches at the ballet studio and paint the actual thing at home. He is most noted for depicting dancers from the Pairs Ópera. A gallery of his works can be found here.