Ballet – The Beginning of the Dance

Ballet is one of the most well-preserved dance forms in the world today, with multitudes of Ballet classes in Singapore and around the world for children aged 4 and beyond.  It is known and loved by audiences across the world.  But how did this beautiful art come about?

Let’s start off by explaining how this term “Ballet” comes about.  The word “ballet” comes from French and was borrowed into English around the 17th century.  The French word in turn has its origins in Italian balletto, a diminutive of ballo (dance). Ballet ultimately traces back to Latin ballere, meaning to dance.

Ballet is originated in the Renaissance court as a spectacle in Italy, but was particularly shaped by the French balletde cour, which consisted of social dance performed by the nobility in tandem with music, speech, verse, song, pageant, décor and costume.

Domenico da Piacenza was one of the first dancing masters.  Along with his students, Antonio Cornazano and Guglielmo Ebreo, he was trained in dance and responsible for teaching nobles the art.

Presented here is a brief timeline of how ballet evolved after that:

1581:
1)  The most important early ballet produced and shown was Balthasar de Beaujoyeulx’x Ballet Comique de la Reine, which was a ballet drama.
2)  The publication of Fabritio Caroso’s II Ballarino, a technical manual on court dancing.  This helped to established Italy as a center of technical ballet development.

1661:
King Louis XIV estalbished the Academic Royale de la Danse (which is now the Paris Opera Ballet).

The 18th century:
It was a period of vast advancement in the technical standards of ballet and the period when ballet became a serious dramatic art form on par with the opera.  In 1760, Jean-Georges Noverre focused on developing the ballet d’action, in which the movments of the dancers are designed to express character and assist in the narrative.

Reforms were also made in ballet composition and finally ballet was divided into three formal techniques serieux, demi-caractere and comique.

The 19th century:
It was a period of great social change; ballet shifted away from the aristocratic sensibilities through romantic ballet.  This was also the period where ballerinas such as Marie Taglioni and Fanny Elssler pioneered pointework that rocketed the ballerinainto prominence as the ideal stage figure.  And great teachers like CarloBlasis codified ballet technique in the basic form which is still used today.

After 1850:
Ballet began to decline in most part of western world but remained vital in Denmark and Russia.  Thanks to Russian companies who engaged in mutiple world tours after World War II, this revitalized ballet in the west and made it a form of entertainment embraced by the general public.

- Ivy 2006

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