Beginnings of ballet

Ballet originated in the Italian Renaissance courts and was brought to France by

Catherine de' Medici

in the 16th Century.


During ballet's infancy,

court ballets

were performed by aristocratic amateurs rather than professional dancers.


Most of ballet's early movements evolved from social court dances and prominently featured stage patterns rather than formal ballet technique.

In the 17th century, as ballet's popularity in France increased, ballet began to gradually transform into a professional art.

No longer performed by amateurs, ballet performances started to incorporate challenging acrobatic movements that could only be performed by highly skilled street entertainers.


In response, the world's first ballet school, the

Académie Royale de Danse

, was established by King Louis XIV in 1661.


The Academie's purpose was to improve the quality of dance training in France, and to invent a technique or curriculum that could be used to transform ballet into a formal discipline.

Shortly after the Academie was formed, in 1672, King Louis XIV established a performing company called the Academie Royal de Musique de Dance (today known as Paris Opera), and named Pierre Beauchamp the head dancing-master.


While at the Academie Royal, Beauchamp revolutionized ballet technique by inventing the five positions (first, second, third, fourth and fifth) of ballet, which to this day remain the foundation of all formal classical ballet technique.

Ballet Techniques


Widely used ballet training systems

Ballet style

Training system



Danish ballet

Bournonville method

August Bournonville

Italian ballet

Cecchetti method

Enrico Cecchetti

Russian ballet

Vaganova method

Agrippina Vaganova

Legat Method

Nikolai Legat

English ballet

Royal Academy of Dance


French ballet


American ballet





Romantic Era Ballet Key Points:

era in ballet in which the ideas of Romanticism in art and literature influenced the creation of ballets.

Romanticism: Romanticism was characterized by its emphasis on emotion and individualism as well as glorification of all the past and nature

The movement emphasized intense emotion as an authentic source of


experience, placing new emphasis on such emotions as



horror and terror

, and


—especially that experienced in confronting the new aesthetic categories of the


and beauty of nature

-Said to have begun in the early 19th century specifically with the debut of Marie Taglioni’s

La Sylphide

at the Paris Opera Ballet. 1832

-Arthur Saint-Leon’s


is considered to be the end of the Romantic era of ballet. 1870



is one of Romantic era’s most famous ballets. 1841 Corrali and Perrot- choreographer

-the most challenging repertoire

-the development of pointe work through the Romantic period is notable. The illusion of weightless and floating was developed through this period. Ethereal.

-collaboration became an important part of the period: Scenist or Set Designer, Author of Story, Composer- written music especially for the pieces came in to play during the Romantic Era.

-Gas lighting enhanced mood and ambience.

-Special effects: Set pieces, trap doors, etc.

-Ballerina is beginning to be seen as a star

-Romantic Period: dancers wore a Long Full Tutu

Classical Ballet Key Points:

Marius Petipa- known as the father of Classical Ballet- St. Petersburg Imperial Theatres

-Petipa was working in the mid-late 1800’s.

-French- most famous for Don Quixote, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker

Classical Ballet Tutu- shortened to show off dancers’ skill

Ballet had become much more athletic, and the dancers in turn much more skilled.

Techniques were being honed and perfected and the art of training dancers was much more solidified.



Ballet Evolved

: Please watch all 15 episodes, they are very short and give a great explanation of early ballet and its evolution. You can click through to the right of the video that is playing.

Romantic Ballet


Video: Giselle Act 2 Pas Royal Ballet

Giselle: Gelsey Kirkland- Gelsey is one of the all time great but tortured ballerinas, she wrote an infamous and controversial book called

Dancing on my Grave

, here is one of her most famous variations.

Giselle Corps de Ballet Rehearsal: a peek into life in the Corps

Classical Ballet


Swan Lake

Swan Lake: corps de ballet rehearsal

The Nutcracker: waltz of the flowers- Corps de Ballet:

Sleeping Beauty Pas de Deux- great example of a classical pas de deux:

19 Female Classical Variations:

The Art of the Ballerina

Classical and Contemporary Ballet:

The Ballet Russe

Balanchine and NYCB

Ashley Laracey on Barocco

Concerto Barocco at PNB:

Please answer each question in a short paragraph.

What is your own personal experience as an audience member? What show or concert did you attend? Do you feel that the audience is an active or passive Did anything unique happen?

Are you born or bred to be a ballet artist- do you think it is culturally exclusionary? What is the cultural relevance of ballet and whether or not it is exclusionary. If so, how can that be changed? Why is it important that all people be exposed to the arts?

Compare the Giselle Pas de Deux to both the Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty Pas de Deux. How is the dance style different in Romantic period choreography (this is style from the era and has shifted a bit), to the Classical period choreography style.

Watch the rehearsals for Giselle Corps de Ballet and Swan Lake Corps de Ballet rehearsal. What is it like do you think, to be a part of the company as a Corps member. Do you see a big difference between the Prima Ballerina and Ballet Dancer stars that dance the Lead Roles and Pas de Deux and the company members that make up the Corps?

In the Royal Ballet’s Ballet Evolved Series, how do you think ballet evolved in its early stages, what physical differences did you notice as the art form progressed? How does Taglioni’s style of dance differ from Markova? How did pointe work evolve? How did ballet class evolve?

How did Diaghilev shape the Ballet Russe into the most influential and important dance company of the 20th century? How did he value collaborations with artists?

How did Balanchine shape ballet for the 20th century, how did evolve from the Classical period to contemporary ballet at the hand of Balanchine? Give some examples of his ballets that are a stark departure from the Classical style of ballet and why?

How important was King Louis XIV to the art form of ballet?

In all of his works, Balanchine’s movement is known for being quick, efficient, and expressing an “economy of movement”. Dancers that are trained under the Balanchine technique are extremely skilled and proficient with their lines and athleticism. His work runs the gamut from perfectly executed traditional and classic ballets like Stars and Stripes and The Nutcracker to Serenade, The Four Temperaments, and Agon.

Video Assignments:

-Please watch this short video on George Balanchine and his artistic contribution and importance to ballet


-Please view Balanchine's


ballet. (you


need to view the entire piece, it is 30 min. long, i would like for you to scan it and look for the repeated gesture, be sure to watch the beginning 0:00-3:00 at least, the repeated gesture around 8:00 and the end from 21:00 to the end ). *If you find yourself very interested in Balanchine, and have never seen Serenade, please treat yourself to the entire piece.

This was a defining work for Balanchine, created in 1934. Make note of the gesture he uses and repeats throughout, with the dancers' feet in 6th position parallel together (not a traditional position in classical ballet), with the outstretched arm and flexed hand. Very modern and bold, in a ballet, this gesture is said to have been inspired by Balanchine walking into a rehearsal one day as the sunlight was pouring through the windows, and the ballerinas stood around shielding their eyes from the incoming sun rays.



Please view the following videos of NYCB dancers talking about dancing Balanchine works. They are all very short. The link to the main page for the NYCB videos is: (if you should have further interest, there is a lot of wonderful material here)

Here are the pieces you are assigned to watch:

1. Ashley Bouder on


2. Maria Kowrowski on



3. Ashley Laracey on

Concerto Barocco


4. Tiler Peck, Sara Mearns and Teresa Reichlen on



5. Andrew Veyette on

Stars and Stripes


Why do you think Balanchine’s


is so important as a work?

Balanchine worked in many different styles from his more classical and traditional works like

Stars and Stripes

to more contemporary and abstract works like


. Which of his works that were viewed this week are you most drawn to and why?