For every dance lover, the art of dancing ballet is a must to learn. Though the original ballet dance was started in Italy, it spread and became popular among the French, Russians and most recently, the Americans. Rather than dancing, ballet can be considered as a graceful art that is influenced by many dance forms of the world.
A ballet dancer may need to practice for years, in order to achieve perfection in turning out feet and legs; only then, he/she can perform the various positions of ballet dance. In a ballet dance, a female performer is referred to as a 'ballerina'; whereas a male participant is called as a 'ballet dancer'. Ballerinas usually wear 'tutus' (short or full skirts) with their hair pinned up neatly. All the ballet performers wear stocking that cover the entire legs. Let's take a look at the history of ballet dancing.
The origin of ballet dancing dates back to the late fifteenth century in Italy, when it was performed as an interpretation of fencing. They were performed in large halls as an entertainment for the courts. The dance themes were based on the social event of a particular day. This was evident from a dance in 1489; performed during the course of an banquet whereby the action of the dance revealed the menu.
The first ballet dance that narrated a full story was the Le Ballet Comique de la Rein (The Queen's Ballet Comedy), which was performed in 158, in Paris. The aristocratic amateurs, as well as the royal people participated in this dance. The dance was presented by Balthazar de Beaujoyeux, the famous violinist and dancer, and was accompanied by music, poetry and songs.
It was during the reign of Louis XIV that the court ballet became very popular. He was regarded as the Sun King, in remembrance to the role that he played in one of the ballet dances. In 1661, the first school for learning ballet dance 'Academie Royale de Danse' was opened by Louis XIV in France. In those times, the dance was performed only by the male dancers. Men dressed in women's costumes, masks and wigs used to play the role of female characters. It was in the ballet dance Le Triomphe de l'Amour (The Triumph of Love) in 1681 that women started participating in ballet. The ballet dancers wore ankle-length costumes; which were, of course, very different from today's costumes.
When ballet dance was introduced, the most significant feature was the group performance, wherein the participants not only danced, but also sang songs and recited poems. The five positions of ballet dance were created in the 1600s by the well-known French ballet teacher and choreographer, Pierre Beauchamp. These basic positions, though modified a little, are followed even today. In fact, many of the dance steps known today, are identified by the French names.
In 1700, Raoul Feuillet, the French ballet master published the book Choregraphie on ballet positions and steps. In the mid 17th century, a new theatrical form was created, known as the opera-ballet. In this dance form, a specific theme was set and equal emphasis was given for singing and dancing.
The 18th century was a remarkable phase for developing new dance forms of ballet. It was in this time that ballet performers started wearing different dresses, hairstyles and footwear. The most notable ballet performance was Letters on Dancing and Ballets (1760), which was choreographed by the Frenchman Jean Georges Noverre. The famous step 'toe dancing' also developed during this time.
The romantic ballet (Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake), based on the supernatural themes and mostly dominated by the female dancers, developed during the early 19th century. In the United States, ballet dance became popular only in the 20th century, especially because of the Russian choreographer George Balanchine. It is often observed that ballet dance is interpreted in different manner in various cultures of the world. Nowadays, there are many ballet schools, where dance lovers can learn this wonderful art.