History Of Ballet. Classical Ballet Movements Remain Firmly Entrenched In Strict Techniques Of Original Style.
We have the fifteenth century Renaissance courts of Italy to thank for the wonderful dance techniques called ballet. In those days the art of fencing was at its peak and artists could see that the many moves of fencing were both graceful and artistic – that is, when people weren’t actually trying to kill each other. Ballet came about as an artistically interpretive form of fencing. The courts of Louis XIV developed it further in the 17th century, which is why so much of the terminology is expressed in French.
But Russian and Danish sources took that early dance and changed it into the ballet we know today. From the 1850s onward, their styles and teaching had dramatic influence on the dance of ballet, and Russia particularly, was instrumental in bringing this art form to Europe and from there to the western world. It has been enriched and embellished by the many dance styles, folk tales and legends of Russia.
As with most art forms, ballet continued to evolve and change, splitting into several different dance styles such as classical ballet, neo-classical and contemporary. Classical ballet movements remain firmly entrenched in the strict techniques of the original style of ballet, although that encompasses five different styles from the greats of Russia, Italy, Denmark, England and another created by George Balanchine, called the ABT method.
Neo-classical does contain many elements of classical, but adds its own styles taken from other classical dance techniques. It is not as strictly formal as classical ballet and is often performed at a much faster tempo. While it does use many of the moves of the 19th century Russian imperial dance, what was stripped away are all the detailed narrative and theatrical settings. This left the dance itself, along with non-traditional costumes such as leotards and including other elements such as the off-centered position and occasional turned-in leg.
As well as having a big hand in neo-classical ballet, George Balanchine also had a great deal to do with contemporary ballet. In fact he is considered to be one of the major pioneers of this contemporary art form. Permitting an even greater array of movement than either of the two previous styles, contemporary ballet is influenced to an even greater degree by the modern dance. Two innovative dances depicting contemporary ballet are Push Comes to Shove and In the Upper Room, both choreographed by Twyla Tharp, who also worked for the Joffrey ballet company. Today, many ballet companies focus exclusively on producing contemporary ballet works.