Ballet appeared as a distinctive form of dance in Italy sometimes before the sixteenth century. It initially involved movements, music and special effects that were integrated together. The first dance that was performed in France was organized by Balthasar de Beaujoyeux, a violinist and it was known as The Comic Queen Ballet (Lee, 40).
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This became the production of the dance, the court ballet (ballet de cour), and an earlier and initial version of the current / modern ballet. This production influenced a sixteenth century entertainment known as masque in an English court that was characterized by dance interludes (Lee, 91). In 1588 Orchesographie became the first piece on ballet dancing.
The major ballet dance development occurred in the 17th century in France. During the initial stages of this development at around 1610, the divertissements scenes came into being and resulted into the grand ballet. In 1661 and 1669 the Royal Ballet Academy and the Royal Music Academy respectively were founded by Louis XIV (Lee, 66).
The Royal Music Academy later transformed into the Paris Opera to later become the foremost National Ballet School in 1672 ( Lee, 71). The performances were mainly carried out by male dancers in which the female roles were played by boys in masks and wigs (Lee, 53).
The first ballet of a kind that incorporated trained female was the 1681 Triumph of Love that involved music by Lully. During this period until 1708, ballet continued to be a court display and involved drama or opera. This was followed by the first public performance commissioning of ballet (Lee, 58).
Afterwards, ballet was infused with new ideas which saw it develop as a distinct art. However, the court ballet maintained its historic conventions. It is during these times that they saw the beginning of the choreographic notes and the legendary themes.
A ballet school based in Italy brought in great influence that resulted in more elevated movements while the horizontal movements became less. The five classic positions of a dancer’s feet were developed by Beauchamps (Lee, 75). These positions form the strength of the dancer’s movement and stance.
There was a shift from earlier cumbersome costumes to newly designed ones that allowed for greater and unrestricted movement. Some of them include slippers, short tight skirt as well as heelless shoes. This style became popular from the second century courtesy of Duncan Isadora.
It was not until 18th century when d’action principles were brought about in the letters on ballets and dancing by ballet master (Lee, 110). His intentions were to shape ballet in such a way that it tells story with music, dance and décor as aiding tools. He wanted more of a dance, facial and body expressions.
To emphasize on naturalism, Noverre abolished the use of mask at around 1773. This was followed by other major innovations by several artists as well as technical innovation within the field of dance movement due to the continued alteration of the ballet attire (Lee, 111).
This was followed by a romantic period which formally began in 1832 after the production of La Sylphide (Lee, 135). This ushered in a new epoch that was characterized by brilliant choreography that stressed on beauty and proficiency of the prima ballerina. Ballet dance adopted filmy and calf-length costumes.
The new ballet involved the conflicts of flesh and spirit, reality and illusion. Legendary themes were put an end to and their place taken by fairy tales and love stories. During this period, a dancing style commonly referred as sur les pointes became favored by many and by the end of this century, there was the emergence of tutu, a short and buoyant skirt that ensured the legs were free. Costume sets and the choreography stopped being interesting and the imaginative feel required in ballet had been lost (Lee, 151).
The modern ballet period followed. This has seen major development in countries such as Russia, Britain and the USA. The Russian ballet has greatly developed with figures such as Sergei Diaghilev being hailed for their contribution. Russian dancing has for some time now been to its highest level and boasts several top ballet companies (Lee, 301).
The British ballet has not been left behind and the period between 1918 and present day has witnessed several transformations (Lee, 278). In 1930, Ballet Club was founded while the now famous Royal Ballet was established a year later. Through Royal Ballet’s efforts, the world is slowly giving male dancers an added colorful showcase (Lee, 278).
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In the USA, the American Ballet company was founded in 1934 which was followed by a first major school that helped to develop the talents of several famous American dancers (Lee, 312). Several companies have since then been created and via formal training and movement, choreographers from US have come up with new style of ballet that depends less on literary plot but more on electronic and modern rock music. The costuming and décor has been greatly simplified.
Lee, Carol Ballet in Western Culture: A History of Its Origins and Evolution. London: Rutledge, 2002.