A brief history
My friends often ask me who invented ballet. I already wrote some posts about it and just found this amazing TED-Ed video on youtube.
People have been dancing for as long as there have been people. But where does classical ballet come from?
As early as the 15th century, courtly dances were presented on festive occasions in Italy and France. One of the first ballet performances ever mentioned historically comes from Italy: in 1499 on the occasion of the wedding of the Duke of Milan. The Florentine princess Catherine de Medici brought the ballet to the French court through her marriage to Henry II in 1533.
The first ballet score
The first ballet whose score still survives is called „Le Ballet comiqué de la Reine“ and was danced at the French court in 1581 exclusively by men wearing masks and long costumes.
The King who danced
But it was Louis XIV, the famous French Sun King, who first turned ballet into an art form. He himself was an enthusiastic, gifted dancer and founded the first royal dance academy for professional dancers, the „Académie Royale de Dance,“ in 1661 and the first ballet company, the Ballet de L’Opera de Paris, in 1669.
The director and teacher of this academy, Pierre Beauchamp, is considered the inventor of the 5 classical ballet positions that are still taught today. Thus, France is considered the country of origin of ballet and this explains why most ballet terms are in French.
Slowly ballet evolved, the steps became more complicated. When in 1681 women were also allowed to dance, the movements became more refined. The time of ballerinas begins. This is therefore the beginning of classical ballet. However, it is always „only“ ballet interludes in operas or plays.
The first story ballet
The first independent ballet was created only in the second half of the 18th century. The Parisian Jean Georges Noverre promoted the dramatic action ballet and created the ballet „Medea and Jason“ in 1763.
The first prima ballerina on pointe
dancing on Ponte, however, came later. Marie Taglioni was the first prima ballerina to dance the still popular ballet „La Sylphide“ at the Paris Opera in 1832.
Primaballerina Marie Taglioni
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The King who invented ballet, BBC Four, The Arts Desk © theartsdesk.com