Ballet is considered an elite art form, involving much sacrifice and hard work, performed from an early age. It originated in the royal courts of Europe and has undergone transformations over the centuries to become the form we know today.
Like everything in the world, ballet continues to evolve, absorbing elements characteristic of successive eras and social changes.
Popular especially in Italy, masquerades and triumphs gradually made their way to the royal courts, combining dance and song with recitation, pantomime and music.
The Duchess was a descendant of the Medici, a Florentine princely family. She was married to the King of France, Henry II of Valois. She introduced to the court there what is now considered the first ballet in the world - the Ballet comique de la Reyne (Comic Ballet of the Queen).
The Ballet comique de la Reyne was created by the court musician at the behest of the Queen to celebrate the marriage of her sister, Margaret of Lorraine, to the Duke of Joyeuse on October 15, 1581.
The libretto was based on the 10th book of the Odyssey, which tells the story of Circe, a sorceress with the power to subjugate mythological figures. The ballet show combined elements of music, song, dance and recitation, and Belioioso himself described it as "a geometric mixture of many people dancing together to the sound of many instruments".
In addition to his military prowess, Louis XIV showed a talent for dance and actively participated in the art of ballet. He performed in the Ballet of the Night (Le Ballet royal de la Nuit) as Apollo, summoned to dispel the prevailing darkness. The King's costume referred to the rising sun and was richly decorated with pearls and diamonds. His performance in the play contributed to the king's nickname - the Sun King.
During his reign, the Palace of Versailles was built, and in 1661 he financed the construction of the Royal Academy of Dance, which, along with the Royal Academy of Music founded eight years later, laid the foundation for the famous Paris Opera.
Ballet began to be associated with specific postures, became structured. The first director of the Academy, Pierre Beauchamp, classified the basic foot positions and introduced the en dehors - outward - setting, which is still the basis of classical dance today. With this positioning, the dancers always face the audience.
The first ballet comedy was The Bores by Molière. More subdued productions were the so-called lyric tragedies, such as Psyché, considered the first of its kind. It was created in 1671 in response to Louis XIV's desire to create a spectacle at the French court along the lines of Italian opera.
By the end of the century, the mixing of styles led to a hybrid form called ballet opera.
In 1760, he published the treatise Letters on Dance and Ballets, in which he characterized the dancer of the time and made demands aimed at changing this art of dance.
One of the most important was the introduction of a new form of ballet performance - ballet d'action, which combined a dance spectacle with a plot. One of his works was Les Fetes Chinoises (Chinese Festivals). The performance took place on July 1, 1754 at the Opéra-Comique in Paris.
In 1766, the famous French choreographer tried hard to become a ballet master at the court of the Polish king. His employment was hindered by his reputation as an artist who created very expensive shows. Although he was not hired, Noverre sent Stanislaus Augustus an 11-volume work entitled Ballets de Noverre, containing librettos and scores for his choreographic works, as well as the ballet theory he created.
Ballets de Noverre is still owned by Poland and is housed in the Print Room of the Warsaw University Library.
International Dance Day is celebrated on April 29th. It was established in 1982 as a tribute to Noverre, who, according to sources, was to be baptized on that day.
The reformer of the women's ballet costume is considered to be Marie-Anne de Cupis de Camargo, a famous dancer of Spanish-Italian origin, who not only made the shortening of the skirt to above the ankle, scandalous for the 18th century, but also replaced heeled shoes with flats, paving the way for the creation of ballet shoes.
This was associated with the emergence of a new trend - Romanticism, which focused on issues of fantasy, fairy tale and emotion. Ballet performances tried to reflect the supernatural atmosphere, which led to the development of a new type of ballet shoes - pointe.
Thanks to the possibility of dancing on the toes, it was possible to achieve the effect of floating above the ground in the dance, which was closely connected with the introduction of the characters of mermaids, nymphs and other unreal creatures at that time.
She appeared in La Sylphide, which premiered on March 12, 1832, at the Académie Nationale de Musique (now the Paris Opera).
We are talking about works such as Giselle, Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, La Bayadère and Le Corsaire.
With the turn away from the romantic trend, ballet began to lose popularity. The renewed "revival" of this dance form is attributed to the choreographer Marius Petipa, considered the father of Russian classical ballet.
During Petipa's time, the heart of ballet art moved from France to Russia, where he created, among others, The Pharaoh's Daughter, Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and Don Quixote. He did not reform ballet in any significant way, but he refined certain elements, such as raising the technical level of the dancers, which included the creation of divertissement ballet, characterized by glamour, dance shows and the introduction of folk dances into the performances.
Previously, the music that accompanied the dancers on stage had one main function - to set the rhythm and tempo. No attention was paid to other potential benefits of musical accompaniment.
This began to change with Marius Petipa's collaboration with Pyotr Tchaikovsky. Today, it's hard to find a person who doesn't associate musical motifs from Swan Lake or The Nutcracker with the Russian composer. Music on stage began to complement the dance show, adding mood and character.
Today, Russian ballet teaching is considered one of the best in the world, and Canada benefits from its achievements. France, Denmark and Italy have their own teaching methods.
In the course of time, the costumes of the dancers and the form of the performances have changed. In addition to the traditional, world-famous performances, theater directors, with the participation of choreographers, create new shows, drawing, for example, on the achievements of modern dance.
Ballet also appears as an element of musical performances, accompanying other styles of dance. Classical librettos are modified and independently created music, such as the works of Frederic Chopin or Stanislaw Moniuszko, is introduced to create ballet shows.
Ballet steps are called pas.
Dancers, who make up the entire company, are assigned specific roles in which they can perform on stage. Assignment is based on experience, skill, appropriate body type, but also on having the stage personality necessary to perform each role. The basis of the ensemble structure is the corps de ballet, which performs synchronized dances as a group and provides the background for the artists who perform independently.
An intermediate function is performed by the corps de ballet and the coryphée, dancers who do not yet have the title of soloist but who no longer perform in the corps de ballet. They are responsible for dancing the smaller solo parts.
Principals and first soloists are members of the entire company and dance the principal roles in the show. Some First Soloists are given the title of Principal, a distinction reserved for the greatest stars of the entire company, which is called differently in different countries (e.g., l'etoile in France, which literally means star).
The male principal soloist is called the first dancer. A ballet master, on the other hand, is an educator who accompanies the dancers during practice and rehearsal and is responsible for the overall skill of the troupe under his direction. This role is most often held by former ballet dancers after their stage careers have ended.
Today, many dance schools and community centers offer ballet classes. Classes for adults are also popular. Anyone who is interested in this art or wants to work on their posture can easily find a class in their area.