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Thursday, 2 February 2012


The first important dramatic ballet, the Ballet comique de la reine, was produced in 1581 by Catherine de Medici 's director of court festivals, Baltazar de Beaujoyeulx for a wedding celebration at her palce in Paris. It was a five hour spectacle, performed by male courtiers, with ladies of the court forming the corps de ballet and an audience of 10,000.

In 1588 a book crucial in the development of ballet, Orchesographie by Thoinot Arbeau, was published. It set forth the dance steps and rhythms that became the ballet postures and movements in the 17th and 18th centuries.

In 1661 a group of dancing masters asked King Louis XIV to establish an authorized academy, and he responded by giving them a room in the Louvre for their use. Thus was founded the Académie Royale de Danse, to which all subsequent ballet activities throughout the world can be traced.

Ten years later, Pierre Beauchamp was appointed director of the Académie Royale de Danse. Some credit him with the invention of classical ballet's five positions.

Until 1681, female roles in ballets in France were taken by young men.

The Loves of Mars and Venus was the first ballet performed in Britain. It was premiered on Saturday, March 2, 1717  at the Drury Lane Theater in London. English choreographer John Weaver created the ballet using as his primary source Peter Anthony Motteux's play, The Loves of Mars and Venus.
The role of Venus was performed by the beautiful English theater star Hester Santlow, She was paired with the suave and elegant French court dancer, Monsieur Dupré,

Long, flowing court dress was worn by the dancers until the 1720s when Marie-Anne Camargo, the first great ballerina, shortened her skirt to reveal her ankles, thus allowing greater movement à terre and the development of dancing en l'air.

International Dance Day is celebrated every year on April 29, the birthday of Jean-Georges Noverre (1727-1810), the creator of modern ballet.

Jean-Georges Noverre (Perronneau, 1764, Louvre)

Prior to Jean-George Noverre, ballet's were large spectacles that focused mainly on elaborate costumes and scenery and not on the physical and emotional expression of the dancers. Between 1758 and 1760 he produced several ballets at Lyon, and published his Lettres sur la danse et les ballets. Noverre's treatise on dancing and theater expressed his aesthetic theories on the production of ballets and his method of teaching ballet.

In the early 19th century a Paris costumier, Maillot, invented tights, which allowed complete muscular freedom.

The 1830s saw the new calf-length white dress and the introduction of dancing on the toes, sur les pointes. The technique of the female dancer was developed, but the role of the male dancer was reduced to that of being her partner.

The tutu, designed by Eugene Lami, was first used as a ballet skirt in La Sylphide in Paris in 1832.
However the word “tutu” only appeared in English in 1910.

Russian ballet was introduced to the West by Sergei Diaghliev, who set out for Paris in 1909 and founded the Ballets Russes (Russian Ballet). Diaghilev pioneered a new and exciting combination of the perfect technique of imperial Russian dancers and the appealing naturalism favoured by Isadora Duncan.

American ballet was firmly established by the founding of Balanchine's School of American Ballet in 1934. From 1948 the New York City Ballet, under the guiding influence of Balanchine, developed a genuine American neoclassic style.

With more than 220 professional dancers on its books, The Bolshoi Ballet is the largest ballet company on the planet.

Bolshoi means 'big' in Russian.

The Seattle-based Pacific Northwest Ballet is said to have the highest per capita attendance of any ballet in America.

The average lifespan of a pointe shoe for the dancers in the New York City Ballet is two days, with 8,500 shoes used in a season.

Source Hutchinson Encyclopedia © RM 2012. Helicon Publishing is division of RM

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