Ballet, pronounced as ballay, is a dance form that has been there in the world since ages. One of the most mesmerizing and awe-inspiring dance forms, ballet had its roots well laid centuries ago. While the dancers are at the tips of their toes in the dance, audiences are at the edge of their seats, with hearts pounding, eyes widening and smiles elongating. Balance is the key characteristic feature of this particular dance form. Truly graceful and spellbinding, dancers swiftly move past the stage, looking elegant, refined and exotic, all at the same time. Did you know that the history of ballet dancing goes back to the 15th century? If no, then this article would be worth reading. In the following lines, we have provided some interesting information on origin & background of ballet, just for you!
Interesting Information On Origin & Background Of Ballet
The word 'ballet' comes from a French word ‘balletto’, which stands for theatrical dances. According to one particular school of thought, ballet originated during the Renaissance court culture of Italy, in the 15th century. During that era, the dance was mainly performed to impress the nobility of neighboring states. While the men were robed in wigs, blouses, jackets and bloomers, the women adorned heavy-weighted, ornate gowns of many layers.
Ballet, at the time of Renaissance, was considered to be an artistic extravaganza that was accompanied by elaborate aristocratic banquet. When Catherine de Medicis, a member of the ruling family of Florence, tied the knot with King of France Henri II, in 1553, she introduced the ballet culture prevalent in Italy there as well. Catherine brought along with her Balthasar de Beaujoyeulx to France, as her chief musician.
Contrary to the above view, some historians believe that the historical root of ballet lies in the romantic city of Paris. For them, Ballet Comique de la Reine, performed at the Palais du Petit Bourbon, is the true birth of ballet. In the year 1581, Beaujoyeulx, a violinist and dance master, orchestrated a five-hour drama, depicting the ancient Greek myth of Circe, who had the magical power to turn men into beasts.
The ballet that was performed in Beaujoyeulx’s drama was characterized by blissful songs and poetry, coupled with brilliant stage effects and specially designed costumes. Talking about the dance form during that time, balance and control formed the basics of the dance. More often than not, they were used in conjunction with showy and unmanageable costumes. Still, the dance was as graceful as ever.
First Ballet Instruction
King Louis XIV and his nobles actively participated in the ballets given at his court, in the late 1600s. It was during this time that he acquired the name Sun King, for the role he played in a ballet. Taking the dance form a step higher, King Louis XIV founded the Royal Academy of Dance (today, Paris Opera Ballet), the first professional instruction for ballet. Coming to the dance form, the various postures of the dance were set down by the talented ballet master, Pierre Beachamps. This might come as a surprise, but the outward pointing of toes, to show off his shiny shoe buckles, laid the foundation for the basic ballet positions.
In the initial years, ballet was a male dominated dance, wherein men performed the role of both the sexes. It was only in the 1681 performance of Le Triomphe de l'Amour that the first female dancers performed professionally. By the year 1700, movements defined by the words jete, sissone, chasse, entrechat, pirouette and cabriole were already in use in the ballet. With time, the popularity of the dance form enhanced, as ballet companies developed throughout Europe. At that time, ballet can be described as a flamboyant dance form, with intricate settings and elaborate costumes.
During the latter half of the 18th century, ballet underwent a revolution, as French choreographer Jean Georges Noverre criticized professional dancers in his book ‘Lettres sur la danse’. According to him, ballet was a form of expression and articulation, which had taken a back seat with time. He urged the dancers to stop wearing masks, bulky costumes and headdresses and instead use their body to express emotions, such as anger, joy or love. With this, Noverre developed the ballet d'action, a form of ballet that conveys a story through movement.
Despite the changes brought by Noverre, the prominence of ballet went dipping down after 1830, although Denmark, Italy, and Russia continued to sustain the art form. The dance was later re-established in Western Europe, on the eve of the First World War, by a Russian company, the Ballets Russes of Sergei Diaghilev. This can be termed as the rebirth or reincarnation of the dance form, as ballet emerged strongly than ever before. Many choreographic and stylistic innovations were brought in, which enhanced the beauty and grace of the dance. With time, dramas and stories depicting mythology faded away, as romantic themes took charge. From being a royal activity undertaken by the emperors and kings, to being a hobby of youngsters, ballet has crossed oceans and made its mark around the globe. Today, it is one of the most sought-after dance forms!