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The history of Ballet

Ballet is a formal type of dance that tells a story and the names of the dance moves come from the French language. But did you know that Ballet actually originated first in Italy over 600 years ago and the French word, Ballet, comes from the Italian word Ballare which means ‘dance.’!

Back then, dances called ‘Balletto’ were often performed at weddings or special occasions. Dance steps were small hops, slides, curtsies and gentle turns and the dancers did not wear ballet shoes like they do today. Dancers wore masks, head gear, extravagant jewellery and lots of layers of costumes which often made it hard for them to dance.

In 1533, Catherine de’ Medici an Italian aristocrat, married French King Henry II and she brought her love of dance and music to France. In 1581 she organised a ballet called Le Ballet Comique de la Reine (The Queen’s Ballet Comedy) and this is when the history of Ballet in France really began.

One hundred years later, classical ballet as we know it today was formed in the Court of the French King Louis XIV. He was a passionate dancer and founded the world’s first ballet company, the Ballet de l’Opera de Paris.

In the 18th century, ballet became a serious dramatic form of art and it was divided into three techniques, serieux (serious), demi-caractere (half character) and comique (comical).

The 19th century is when ballerinas started to wear pointe shoes and the first person to dance en pointe was Marie Taglioni, dancing in the famous romantic ballet, La Sylphide.

In a romantic ballet, the female dancer wore a full white multi-layered tutu and dancing en pointe gave an illusion of her floating. Two other popular ballets of this time were Giselle and Coppelia.

Ballet started to become very popular in Russia in the latter half of the 19th century where the famous Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake came to the stage, thanks to a master of choreography, Marius Petipa. This is when dancers began to wear the classical tutu, which is much shorter and stiffer. This tutu was worn to show off the ballerina’s legs and how hard her dance movements and footwork were.

In the 1980’s the contemporary style of ballet was created. This is a mixture of classical and modern dance which allows the dancer to have a greater range of movement in their upper body and to show other styles including floor work and turn-in of the legs.

Today ballet is in many countries around the world. Some of the most famous are the Royal Ballet in London, the San Francisco Ballet and the School of America Ballet in USA, Australian Ballet, Bolshoi Ballet, National Ballet of Canada and the Nederlands Dans Theatre.

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1 Comment

Feb 21, 2023

Very interesting!

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