A ballet is an artistic dance form performed to music, using precise and highly formalised set steps and gestures. In other words, ballet is a type of performance dance. It originated during the Italian Renaissance in the fifteenth century and later developed into a concert dance form in France and Russia. Ballet is a French word which has its origin in Italian “Balleto”, means to dance. Ballet has been globally influential and has become a wide spread and highly technical form of dance with its own vocabulary. It has defined the foundational techniques which are used in many other dance genres and cultures. In fact, various schools around the world have incorporated ballet and have blended it with their own cultures. As a result, ballet has evolved in distinct ways.
HISTORY OF BALLET :
Ballet originated in the Italian Renaissance courts of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Under the influence of the Queen Catherine de Medici, it spread to France and there it developed further. During those early days, the dancers who performed court ballets were mostly noble amateurs. The ballets were performed in large chambers with viewers on three sides. The ornamental costumes which the dancers wore in those days were meant to impress viewers but they restricted the freedom of the movement of the performers. French Court Ballet reached its pinnacle under the reign of King Louis XIV, who made Jean-Baptist Lully the director of the Academie Royale de Musique. It was from this, that the first professional ballet company, The Paris Opera Ballet, arose.
The modern era in ballet started with the arrival of “Ballet Russes” in Europe, on the eve of First World War. In the 20th century, ballet had a wide influence on other dance genres and it also took a turn, dividing it from classical ballet to the introduction of modern dance. This has led to modernist movements in several countries.
BALLET : THE TYPES
Overtime, stylistic variations and subgenres have evolved, while initially there were only classical variations. Some of the various forms of ballet include –
• Classical Ballet – Classical ballet is based on traditional ballet technique and vocabulary. It is known for its aesthetic and rigorous techniques (such as pointe work, turnout of the legs, etc), its flowing, precise movements and its ethereal qualities. Different styles have emerged in different countries, such as French Ballet, Italian Ballet, English Ballet and Russian Ballet. Several of the classical ballet styles are associated with specific training methods, typically named after their their creators. Some examples of Classical ballet productions are Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, etc.
• Romantic Ballet – Romantic ballet is defined primarily by an era in ballet in which the ideas of romanticism in art and literature influenced the creation of ballets, particularly during early to mid 19th century. The romantic era was marked by the emergence of Pointe work (tip of the toe movement), the dominance of female dancer and longer flowy dresses that accentuated the softness and added a delicate aura.
• Neo-classical Ballet – Neo-classical ballet is usually abstract, with no clear plot, costumes or scenery. It is the style of 20th century classical ballet. It comprises of the advanced technique of the 19th century Russian Imperial dance, but strips it of its detailed narrative and heavy theatrical setting. However, it retained many key techniques such as Pointe technique.
• Contemporary Ballet – It is a genre of dance that incorporates elements of classical ballet and modern dance. Many of its attributes come from the ideas and innovations of 20th century modern dance, including floor work and turn in of the legs. This style is often performed barefoot. Contemporary ballets may include mime and acting and are usually set to music.