Ballet is one of the most well known and most practiced dance forms. Many children begin ballet classes at a young age and whilst many continue to study it at a high level, others stop after a few years.
It is a myth that you have to have begun Ballet dance at a young age to ever take it up or enjoy it! If you are dreaming of becoming a Ballet dancer then you will have to begin at a young age and train very hard, but many people can enjoy the benefits of Ballet dancing regardless of their inspirations to become a Ballet dancer or not!
A bit of history
Ballet dance as we know it today really began in the Romantic era of around the 1830's-1890's where dancers were performing Ballets such as La Sylphide (1832) and Giselle (1841). These ballets were based around supernatural creatures such as fairies and sylphs and the Ballerinas wore long ballet skirts. As a consequence of the Ballerinas dancing roles of flying creatures, a famous Ballerina, Marie Taglioni once danced so high on the tip of her toes to depict the slightness of the creature, a special shoe was created (the Pointe shoe) to allow the dancers to dance on the tips of their toes. This is the shoe Ballerinas wear today.
The ballet technique many people practice today came predominately from the next era, the Classical era which happened around 1890-1910. Ballets such as Swan Lake (1895), The Nutcracker (1892) and The Sleeping Beauty (1890) were created by Marius Petipa, the great choreographer of that time and danced to the music of Tchaikovsky. The ballet skirt became much shorter (the tu-tu) to show off the Ballerinas growing technique. Lots of mime and big costumes were key characteristics of these ballets and they would be very long, sometimes nearly 4 hours in length!
Around the time of 1910 lots of audiences started to become bored of the long ballets and the repetitiveness of the stories. This time was also a time of great change in the world with revolutions in politics and the arts. In Russia a man named Sergi Diaghilev began to make a stir in the ballet world! He took a group of ballet dancers from the Marinsky Theatre in Russia, to Paris, to perform some new ballets by a new choreographer called Michael Fokine. These ballets were greatly received as they were new and refreshing and so a new era of ballet begun!
The Ballet Russes under direction from Diaghilev ran from 1909-1929. Works such as The Firebird (1910), The Rite of Spring (1913) and Apollo (1928) were performed by famous dancers such as Anna Pavlova and Vaslav Nijinksy.
Choreographers such as Bronislava Nijinksa and George Balanchine created works which are still performed today and artists and designers such as Picasso and Coco Channel were commissioned work during this time.
When Diaghilev died suddenly in 1929 many of the dancers and choreographers from the Ballet Russes set up ballet companies around the world such as the New York City Ballet by Balanchine and The Royal Ballet in London by Ninette De Valois. New choreographers made their mark in Ballet history by creating ballets such as Kenneth Macmillan and Fredrick Ashton and many dancers such as Margot Fonteyn, Rudolph Nureyev and Darcey Bussell are names many of us find familiar from more recent years. Ballet has been around for many centuries and is evolving every day.
It is here to stay so come and join in to see what it is all about!