From Giselle to The Nutcracker, ballet is a romantic language, told not through the mouth, but the body. It features a rich, history, notable performances, and specific techniques.
Ballet originated in the courts of Italy in the Renaissance period. Rich nobility, royal families, and other well-to-do citizens were generally the only ones who would put on these early ballets. Ballets started out as entertainment for banquets. However, dancing was not the only feature at these luxurious receptions. In fact, dancing was not only entertaining. Both dancers and spectators thought it was interesting and “a profoundly intellectual experience.” (Ballet-Core of Culture.) It also included painting and poetry as well. These banquets were put on in big ballrooms.
In 1489, a banquet came one step closer to the ballet that is used today. The dance was a story. The story of the dance was related to the story. For example, when the dancers performed Jason and the Argonauts, roast lamb was served. However, this was still not ballet known today. This form of dance was just becoming more similar to today’s ballet.
In 1581, the first dance with a score debuted. This was danced by Queen’s Ballet Company. This dance was brought out just like classical ballet, but it didn’t have the same techniques as classical ballet.
Some early ballet companies were Academie Royale de Danse and the Paris Opera. Of course, there were many more notable companies. The Academie Royale de Danse, an organization for professional premier danseurs, was established in 1661. The term “danseur” refers to a male dancer, because women were generally not professional dancers. In the Paris Opera, singing and dancing were combined equally. A series of songs followed by a dance routine would usually occur in the Paris Opera’s performances. Even though it was still not common, the Opera let some women dance.
Since dancers were originally only men, they required extravagant costumes to play women and men in the ballet, just as in a play. Men wore massive wigs or headdresses, and they often wore masks, too. They also wore heeled shoes which are different from the flat leather or canvas slippers that men wear now in ballet. They wore breeches and vests, as any man would wear in those times, but sometimes they used lighter fabrics for their costumes to make up for the exercise. Women wore very full, hooped skirts that were draped at the sides. Women too wore heeled shoes for dancing. Later, the French dancer Marie Combargo shortened the skirts to make them more suitable for her famed jumps and leaps. She also changed from heeled shoes to flat slippers.
Dancing en pointe began around 1796. “En pointe” is the French term for dancing on your toes. In 1796, women did begin to dance en pointe. However, they could only balance on their toes for a second or two because boxed pointe shoes had not been invented yet. Marie Taglioni was among the first dancers to dance en pointe with pointe shoes. Sometime around...