Ballet is, arguably, the most highly-respected dance style in the Western world. A lot of this is due to an admiration of the years and years of training that goes into becoming a professional ballet dancer, the amount of muscle control and strength that is needed to be able to perform ballet to a high level, and its long and rich history.
Ballet began in 15th century Italy in the Italian Renaissance courts, but it didn’t start spreading around the world until Catherine de Medici married the French king, Henry II, and introduced ballet to the French courts.
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Early ballet looked very different from the style you see today. The dancers wore masks, layer upon layer of clothing, elaborate headdresses, and formal heeled shoes. Over time, ballet morphed into what you would recognize today as the dance style and a lot of that was down to the Russian ballet schools.
In 19th century Russia, the techniques of ballet were really solidified. It is here that we see the introduction of en pointe (dancing on the toes), high extensions, the turn-out, and elaborate leaps and turns, and tutus.
Neoclassical ballet, which came about in the 1920s, was a rebellion against the over-dramatized style that characterized ballet at the time. It introduced more variation in positions and speed, as well as an element of freedom of movement. Since then, contemporary ballet has taken this freedom even further, with much more freedom of movement in the upper body and less adherence to traditional body lines. Although it should be remembered that many people still dance classical ballet today, most notably the Imperial Ballet School.
Ballet is breathtakingly beautiful, regardless of the style that is being performed. This video is a great example that really shows how relevant ballet still is, with a stunning performance in two outdoor locations to a BTS song, wearing masks to protect against Covid-19. And, in a strange way, this performance has come full circle with the masks reminiscent of the ones the dancers would have worn in the French courts. Ballet has always been able to grow and evolve, and it is so exciting to see where the innovators will take it next.
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