What was the origin, evolution, and history of the romantic dance form – Classical Ballet?
Classical Ballet, also known as romantic ballet, is a dance form based on formalized positions and movements of the feet, arms and body. It is fashioned to enable the dancer to move with the highest speed, control, agility, grace and lightness.
The turned-out position of the legs forms the foundation of classical ballet. For this reason, the position adds more mobility to the hip joint and makes the extended leg more pleasing.
Classical Ballet may represent realistic, romantic and mythological subjects based on different emotional and dramatic situations. Also, Classical Ballet consists of three sections – pas de deux or adagio, which is a dance for two, individual performances by partners, and coda or final pas de deux.
Consequently, Classical Ballet has a rich history divided into chronological periods.
Origin of Classical Ballet
The origin of classical ballet dates back to 15th and 16th centuries when it started as a form of entertainment for aristocrats. Initially, the dance sprang in the Italian Renaissance courts and crossed boundaries to France with the help Catherine de’ Medici. She was an active propagator who gave the dance form a new aristocratic style.
King Louis XIV popularized classical ballet in the 17th century. He was a passionate dancer who performed many roles, such as the Sun King in Ballet de la nuit. As well, he established the Académie Royale de Musique in Paris. Ultimately, the dance form started its modern era in Russia during the same period.
Evolution of Classical Ballet
Historians divide the evolutionary history of classical ballet chronologically:
Classical ballet was born in Italy’s Renaissance court. Initially, the dance form was performed by court dancers to entertain aristocrats. It comprised of short, choreographic pieces showcased in royal palaces.
Specifically, the dance form consisted of dynamics, rhythms, music, and nature. Classical ballet spread to France under the aristocratic influence of Catherine de’ Medici. Classical ballet became a concert dance form in Russia and France during this period.
Eventually, classical ballet spread to France under the aristocratic influence of Catherine de’ Medici. In addition, classical ballet became a concert dance form in Russia and France during this period.
Aristocratic money aided the initial development of court ballet. Aristocrats dictated the literature, music, and ideas used in the ballets during this time. Marco Fabrizio Caros, Domenico da Piacenza, Antonio Cornazzano, Guglielmo Ebreo and Cesare Negri were some of the notable classical ballet dancers during its formative years in Italy.
The period between 16th and 17th centuries was the period of Baroque and court ballet. The dance entered the French culture and became a part of various political and public events.
During the reign of King Louis XIV, classical ballet developed as a performance-focused art of dance, comprising of long-lasting, narrative shows for the royal court. Pierre Beauchamp was a prima ballet dancer and the private dance teacher of King Louis XIV. He organized the five positions of the arms and feet.
Louis XIV established the Académie Royale de Musique in the 17th century. It was during this period when the dance form experienced a rise in standards. Académie Royale de Musique laid the foundation of Paris Opera Ballet. It is an integral component of the Paris Opera and the oldest classical ballet company.
It was during the 17th century that classical ballet became a ballet of action. The dance form gained technical skillfulness and featured excellent soloists during this period. Moreover, shorter skirts and shoes without heels became popular as ballet costumes.
Besides Louis XIV and Pierre Beauchamp, Catalina de Medicis, Moliere, Pecour, Marie Camargo and Pierre Rameau were few other notable figures associated with classical ballet during this period.
Romantic Origin, Evolution and History of Classical Ballet – 20th centuries
The end of the 17th century started the romantic ballet history of this art of dance. Classical ballet included two acts: first about the real world and second about the unreal.
In the later part of the 18th century, ballerinas predominated the dance form.
Pointes, soul’s expression, European mythological tales, lyricism, and love between mortals and immortals became a part of the classical ballet.
Lettres sur la danse et les ballets, a 1760 work of Jean-Georges Noverre, focused on ballet d’action. Movements in ballet d’action assisted the narrative and expressed character. Classical ballet became considerably popular in the courts of many countries in Europe.
Spain, Poland, Germany and Portugal began to organize ballet troupes during this period. They adopted entertainment styles from France and Italy royal courts and performed across Europe.
Filipo Taglioni, Jules Perrot, Fanny Elssler, Carlotta Grissi and Fanny Cerrito were amongst the few classical ballet dancers of this era.
The 19th century marks the academic, classical and imperial ballet history of classical ballet. It started in Mariinsky Theater of Saint Petersburg. It comprised of choreographic vocabulary and technical skillfulness borrowed from French and Italian schools respectively.
Also, Classical ballet had a theatrical sense because it integrated mimes, fairy tales, and folkloric dance forms. Lev Ivanov, Marius Petipa, and Enrico Cecchetti were some of the figures who brought great social changes to this art of dance.
YOUTUBE (TED Ed):
20th century – present
One can designate the 20th century as the contemporary and non-classical period of classical ballet. Russia contributed extensively towards the development of contemporary art values of classical ballet.
Sergei Diaghilev brought the dance form back to Paris. He opened his company called Ballets Russes there. Ballets Russes had dancers from the Russian exile community in Paris.
Classical ballet began to have a stronger influence in the United States of America after Ballet Russes moved to Paris. This era also marked the emergence of neoclassical ballet and contemporary ballet.
During the modern era, dancers mix their choreographic legacy with contemporary art values. A few notable figures who marked the beginning of contemporary ballet include V. Nijinsky, M. Fokine, Maria Rambert, George Balanchine, Robert Joffrey and Sylvie Guillem.
Some of the most famous ballets of all time include the romantic Romeo & Juliet, A Midsummer Nights Dream, Don Quixote, and Giselle.