ETYM French, a dim. of bal dance. Related to Ball.
1. A theatrical representation of a story performed to music by ballet dancers; SYN. concert dance.
2. Music written for a ballet.
Theatrical representation in dance form in which music also plays a major part in telling a story or conveying a mood. Some such form of entertainment existed in ancient Greece, but Western ballet as we know it today first appeared in Renaissance Italy, where it was a court entertainment. From there it was brought by Catherine de Medici to France in the form of a spectacle combining singing, dancing, and declamation. During the 18th century, there were major developments in technique and ballet gradually became divorced from opera, emerging as an art form in its own right. In the 20th century Russian ballet has had a vital influence on the classical tradition in the West, and ballet developed further in the US through the work of George Balanchine and the American Ballet Theatre, and in the UK through the influence of Marie Rambert.
Modern dance is a separate development.
The first important dramatic ballet, the Ballet comique de la reine, was produced 1581 by the Italian Balthasar de Beaujoyeux at the French court and was performed by male courtiers, with ladies of the court forming the corps de ballet. In 1661 Louis XIV founded the Académie Royale de Danse, to which all subsequent ballet activities throughout the world can be traced. 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 ŕ terre and the development of dancing en l’air.
During the 18th century, ballet spread to virtually every major capital in Europe. Vienna became an important center and was instrumental in developing the dramatic aspect of the art as opposed to the athletic qualities, which also evolved considerably during this century, particularly among male dancers. In the early 19th century a Paris costumier, Maillot, invented tights, which allowed complete muscular freedom. The first of the great ballet masters was Jean-Georges Noverre, and great contemporary dancers were Teresa Vestris (1726–1808), Anna Friedrike Heinel (1753–1808), Jean Dauberval (1742–1806), and Maximilien Gardel (1741–1787).
Carlo Blasis is regarded as the founder of classical ballet, since he defined the standard conventional steps and accompanying gestures.
The great Romantic era of the dancers Marie Taglioni, Fanny Elssler, Carlotta Grisi, Lucile Grahn, and Fanny Cerrito began about 1830 but survives today only in the ballets Giselle 1841 and La Sylphide 1832. Characteristics of this era were the new calf-length Romantic 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. Important choreographers of the period were Jules Joseph Perrot (1810–1894), Arthur Saint-Léon (1821–1871), and August Bournonville. From 1860 ballet declined rapidly in popular favor in Europe, but its importance was maintained in St Petersburg under Marius Petipa (1818–1910).
Was introduced to the West by Sergei Diaghilev, who set out for Paris 1909 and founded the Ballets Russes (Russian Ballet), at about the same time that Isadora Duncan, a fervent opponent of classical ballet, was touring Europe. Associated with Diaghilev were Mikhail Fokine, Enrico Cecchetti (1850–1928), Vaslav Nijinsky, Anna Pavlova, Tamara Karsavina (1885–1978), Léonide Massine, Bronislava Nijinska, George Balanchine, and Serge Lifar. Ballets presented by his company, before its breakup after his death 1929, included Les Sylphides, Schéhérazade, Petrouchka, Le Sacre du printemps/The Rite of Spring, and Les Noces.
Diaghilev and Fokine pioneered a new and exciting combination of the perfect technique of imperial Russian dancers and the appealing naturalism favored by Isadora Duncan. In Russia ballet continues to flourish, the two chief companies being the Kirov and the Bolshoi. Best-known ballerinas are Galina Ulanova and Maya Plisetskaya, and male dancers include Mikhail Baryshnikov, Irek Mukhamedov, and Alexander Godunov, now dancing in the West.
Was firmly established by the founding of Balanchine's School of American Ballet 1934, and by de Basil and René Blum's (1878–1942) Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and Massine's Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, which also carried on the Diaghilev tradition. In 1939 dancer Lucia Chase (1897–1986) and ballet director Richard Pleasant (1906–1961) founded the American Ballet Theatre. From 1948 the New York City Ballet, under the guiding influence of Balanchine, developed a genuine American Neo-Classic style.
Marie Rambert initiated 1926 the company that developed into the Ballet Rambert, and launched the careers of choreographers such as Frederick Ashton and Anthony Tudor. The national company, the Royal Ballet (so named 1956), grew from foundations laid by Ninette de Valois and Frederick Ashton 1928. British dancers have included Alicia Markova, Margot Fonteyn, Antoinette Sibley, Lynn Seymour, Anthony Dowell, Merle Park, and Lesley Collier; choreographers include Kenneth MacMillan. Fonteyn's partners included Robert Helpmann and Rudolf Nureyev.
During the 16th and 17th centuries there was not always a clear distinction between opera and ballet, since ballet during this period often included singing, and operas often included dance. The influence of the court composer Jean Baptiste Lully on the development of ballet under Louis XIV in France was significant (Lully was a dancer himself, as was the king). During this period many courtly dances originated, including the gavotte, passepied, bourrée, and minuet. In the 19th century, as public interest in ballet increased, Russia produced composers of international reputation such as Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky whose ballet scores include Swan Lake 1876, Sleeping Beauty 1890, and The Nutcracker 1892.
With the modern era of ballet which began 1909 with the founding of the Ballets Russes, innovative choreography transformed the visual aspects of ballet and striking new compositions by Achille Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, and especially Igor Stravinsky (in, for example, The Rite of Spring 1913) left their mark not only on the ballet composers who followed, but on the course of music history itself. Later in the century, the formal tradition of ballet was upset by the influence of jazz, jazz rhythms, and modern dance originating in the US, which introduced greater freedom of bodily expression.
Today there exists a wide range of musical and choreographic styles, ranging from the classical to the popular. Many full ballet scores have been reduced by composers to ballet suites or purely orchestral works, which incorporate the essential musical elements, tending to omit musically nonthematic and transitional passages which may be, nevertheless, essential to the choreography and visual narration. Examples include Stravinsky’s The Firebird 1910 and Ravel’s Boléro 1928.
Umetnički ples, igra na pozornici, bilo kao umetak u operi ili u vezi sa pantomimom, samostalna radnja u kojoj se nemim pokretima i ritmičkim kombinacijama pokušavaju umetnički da prikažu ljudska osećanja i strasti.