Ballet is a dance of harmony, of elegance, of purity. It has evolved over hundreds of years, with its roots being in the Italian Renaissance of the 15th and 16th centuries. The French word renaissance (rinascimento in Italian) means "rebirth" and defines the period as one of cultural revival.
Ballet the flowering of human expression
The renaissance, "rebirth", was a flowering of human expression, with some of the greatest pieces of art, philosophy, literature, dance and technology arising from human consciousness at that time. Ballet was born from this epoch, and has captivated audiences with its grace and beauty ever since.
Ballet was at the pinnacle of the renaissance, because it gave humans the ability to express their ideas, and stories to large audiences. The rebirth of culture is highly dependent on a medium or avenue to share its ideas, and ballet had become the perfect medium for artists, and creators to express themselves during this time.
Very rapidly, ballet had begun to spread amongst the aristocracy of Italy, and then to France and other neighbouring European countries. A wonderful example of this, was Louis XIV appointing Italian ballet master and composer Jean-Baptiste Lully as "music master of the royal family".
According to Christophe Piccinelli-Dassaud, who wrote an article on "Louis XIV and the Antique Collections", he stated that "A fascination for antiquity was one of the central features of seventeenth-century European thinking."
In the early seventeenth-century, sovereignty used ballet to share their passion for classical culture, and put on shows about Greek and Roman myths. Thus, ballet had become a medium for displaying the King's and Queen's understanding of antiquity, and classical culture to their subjects.
Ballet shares the human experience, and ideas through dance
Ballet had become a tool for humans to share their understanding of the world and its history. One of the main figureheads, who understood the importance of Ballet as a medium to share ideas, was King Louis XIV, who was also known as the "Sun king."
The Sun King, whose name was derived from a role he played in a court ballet, put on a variety of subjects of ballet works, "in which dance formed only a part alongside declamation and song". It is said that of the works, "some were comic and others had a more serious, even political intent."
The Sun King, used ballet as a form of entertainment, to not only keep his courtiers satisfied, but also to share political messages, or portray himself in a postive light.
He knew that ballet could be an avenue of entertainment that could serve multiple purposes.
For Louis XIV, ballet was not just a form of dance, but it was a new platform, whereby humans could share messages about the fine arts, antiquity, politics and government affairs to larger audiences of people.
Louis XIV the Sun King brings ballet to the masses
With this realisation, Louis XIV, used his power to fund the Académie Royale de Danse in Paris in 1661, and help set up the world’s first professional ballet company - the Ballet de l'Opéra de Paris. This enabled dance training to be available for non-aristocrats, and a broader demographic of the French society. This was a monumemtal step in the history of Ballet and its progression as an art form.
Prior to this, Ballet had traditionally been perfomed in the courts solely amongst artistocrats. Now, the exqusite form of dance was in the hands of the public, and newly formed ballet companies.
This was of great significance, because soon the the ballet institutions became the "driving forces of the art form". This can be seen in the 18th century, where Ballet productions began to "tell the stories of ordinary people, as well as the heroes of mythology".
The ballet companies imagination, originality, creativity, and "ability to translate into movement current sensibilities" influenced the types of performances that were being shown to audiences, and also the repertoire of dance moves that were available to ballerinas.
Ballet blossomed in the 19th Century
This is most evident in the 19th century, with ballerinas beginning to "develop more complicated techniques such as pointe-work", and more "impressive displays of strength and grace." The ballet companies demonstrated this evolution of the art form to audiences, with ballet productions like Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake (1876), and The Nutcracker (1892).
Ballet is an expression of freedom and artistic endeavour
In conclusion, freedom of artistic endeavour has been crucial in the blossoming of ballet's success and prevelance around the world. In its early childhood, ballet was only performed in the aristocratic courts of Italy, but was gradually transferred to France, where Louis XIV nurtured the art form, and set up the first professional ballet company in Paris.
As the number of professional ballet companies grew, the way stories were told evolved, and the art form developed a new repertoire of dance moves, increasingly complicated techniques, and beautiful but elegant costume and set designs.
Today ballet translates the culture and political landscape through dance
The Renaissance, "rebirth", was a flowering of human expression, and ballet continues to be a beacon of light for this monumental period of cultural revival. Just like the term, renaissance, meaning "rebirth", ballet continues to go through various evolutions and rebirths as time goes on.
As each generation goes by, ballet provides a changing translation of the culture and political landscape that it finds itself in. It is a mirror for humanity to see itself, it allows us to pause for a moment, stop and reflect, as it pirouettes across the stage.
Find a ballet class Near me
Express yourself through ballet. Join a ballet school near you. Ballet classes start from an early age starting with toddlers. The popularity of ballet has grown in recent years and now attracts the over 60's.
Find a Ballet class in London today.
Here is a selection of recommended ballet schools in London
Siegeris Ballet School West London
Ballet Fusion London
Ballet Body Sculpture London