Ballet Steps Through History

From its advent in the pageantry of the Renaissance period of the 15th century, ballet has become an expression of your soul by dance. During the Renaissance period in Italy, Domenico da Piacenza, a master of the arts, taught nobles and others to perform in the court. These musicians and dancers performed for extravagant events such as weddings. With the introduction of the Ballets de cour, performances showcased dancers with beautiful costumes and voices for song. The art of ballet saw great development in the courts of France in the 16th century, when Catherine de Medici of France married Henry II of Italy. Catherine de Medici helped ballet flourish in France, thus most of the terms have French origin.
In 1581, Le Ballet Comique de la Reine was performed in Paris and told the story of a magical sorceress, Circe, being defeated by King Henry III. This was considered to be the first ballet and was staged by Balthasar de Beaujoyeux. He was an Italian composer, violinist, dancer and choreographer. He worked in the court of Queen Catherine de Medicis.
During the reign of Louis XIV (the Sun King) from 1643 to 1715, ballets of the French court thrived. Italian-french composer, Jean Baptiste Lully, and French choreographer, Pierre Beauchamp, created many of these ballets. Beauchamp is credited for documenting the five basic positions of the feet.
L'Académie Royale de Danse was established in 1661 under Louis XIV. Here professional dancing was born in a room of the Louvre. Initially, dancers were men until 1681 when female dancers performed in Le Triomphe de l'Amour.
Ballet began to evolve, in time. Elegant moves were displayed with toe dancing. The lines of the body could be better seen in tutus as opposed to floor length hoop skirts. This was evident in La Sylphide, a romantic ballet danced in Paris in 1832. La Sylphide is the story of a sylph (fairy) and a Scottish farmer named James on his wedding day.
A famous ballet, Giselle, followed in 1841. Giselle is a peasant girl, who becomes a beautiful sylph known as a Wili that dances in the Rhineland forest. The Wilis have met their fate by dying before becoming wed. After midnight, filled with a grudge, the Wilis descend upon human males who may happen into the forest, never to be seen again.
In the latter part of the 19th century, Marius Petipa, chief choreographer of the Imperial Russian Ballet, contributed to the brilliance of the ballet world with The Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake (also choreographed with Lev Ivanov of Russia.) The score to these famed story ballets were by Tchaikovsky.
The Sleeping Beauty is a ballet which begins with the celebration of the birth of Princess Aurora. Unfortunate events occur when the King and Queen forget to include the evil fairy Carabosse who in turn casts a spell upon Aurora to die on her sixteenth birthday. The spell was to be invoked after Aurora gets pricked by a pin. The kingdom's fairy of protection, the Lilac Fairy, casts her own spell for Aurora to sleep and awaken 100 years later by the kiss of a Prince. A famed ballet virtuoso of the time, Enrico Cecchetti, danced the parts of Carabosse and the Blue Bird. The Cecchetti method of ballet, named for Enrico Cecchetti, involves strict technical training and the understanding of individual ballet movements to the body as a whole.
Set in medieval Germany, the ballet Swan Lake tells the story of Prince Siegfried and his love for the captivating Odette who is a swan by day, gliding in the lake of tears. From midnight to dawn, she lives in her human form. Odette and her companions have fallen under the spell of the evil sorcerer Von Rothbart. The only way to undo the curse is to marry a prince who is pure of heart. Through deception and storms, Von Rothbart tries to maintain his spell. However, his efforts were in vain, foiled by the true love of Prince Siegfried and the swan Odette.
The Nutcracker premiered in 1892. This famed work itself had a journey. Initially, the ballet was based on the story "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King," by E.T.A. Hoffman and later revised by the French writer Alexander Dumas. Ivan Alexandrovitch Vsevolojsky, director of the Imperial Russian Ballet decided to make Dumas' transformation entitled "The Story of a Hazelnut-cracker" to a ballet. Marius Petipa and Pyotr Tchaikovsky again collaborated.
Unfolding at the annual Stahlbaum Christmas Eve party, Clara, a German girl, is given the gift of a nutcracker by her godfather Drosselmeyer. Her brother Fritz breaks the nutcracker which is soon repaired. Yet after the party, a worried Clara sneaks down to check on her beloved nutcracker and falls asleep. Magical dreams come to her of the nutcracker, a mouse king, a prince, and lands of snow and sweets.
In modern times, The Nutcracker was staged with the vision of George Balanchine. As a youth in Russia, Balanchine danced for the State Theater of Opera and Ballet. He also had exceptional knowledge of music having studied at Petrograd Conservatory of Music. With this experience and his genius, he became principal choreographer for the Ballet Russe. He later brought his expectations to the United States in 1933 and revolutionized American Ballet. Under Balanchine, The New York City Ballet Company performed The Nutcracker in 1954. The Nutcracker remains a holiday classic.
Throughout the centuries, ballet has become so refined in music, costumes and movements. Exquisite extensions are showcased from the point of the toe shoe to the aura surrounding the dancer. Ballet steps through history as art.

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