January 24, 2024

About the Author: Urpi

Urpi is the lead dance instructor at S&C Dance, where her passion for movement knows no bounds. Alongside her captivating dance classes, she also teach singing!

Earlier on in the History of Dance Part 2: The Times of Darkness and Light of Dance, we told you about how the Middle Ages was certainly considered the darkest times of dance as it was a period of time in which dance suffered from marginalisation subjected by the Church due to the misconception of dance as a pagan rite.

Later, when the Renaissance arrived, it brought light to dance again, as this was a time in which dance was revitalised because it recovered its importance as an art in society.

However, the most important contribution of the Renaissance to dance was that dance started to be registered, and without a doubt, this would lead to a time in which dance began to be studied systematically and orderly, and a new dance started to be performed with not only tremendous technique and virtuosity pushing the bodily capabilities of dancers but with so much passion on stage combining the heritage of Greek and Roman Theater.

So let’s keep travelling in time and let’s get situated first in the era of refined art, let’s have a look at the Baroque, the era preceding Romanticism and the birth of Ballet.

Artwork of Baroque dance

A Very Refined Dance in the Baroque

The arrival of the Baroque to Western culture at the end of the 16th century and the beginning of the 17th century meant a period of time in which art became more refined and ornate, keeping the order and beauty inherited from the Renaissance but adopting more dynamic and effective forms of surprising the public. In other words, the art during the Baroque was characterised by strong contrast and exaggeration, and dance was not an exception as the elements accompanying dance, such as music, theatre, and even the costumes, became very ornate.

At this time, dance also became independent from poetry, opera and theatre, achieving its own autonomy as an art and formulating its own vocabulary.

Following the example of the masters of dance from the Renaissance who started to register the dances during the Baroque a very well-known French choreographer called Raoul-Auger Feuillet created a more developed system of dance notation to transcribe in writing the diverse variety of dance steps known as “Choreographie ou Art de noter la danse”, but it was not until another very well known French choreographer called Pierre Rameau started to systematise the movement.

Indeed, he is said to be the creator and the most faithful defender of the five positions of the feet in ballet. Besides that, Rameau harmonised and defined the positions of the arms in relation to the feet.

The Baroque brought really great innovations to dance, and without doubt, one of them was the foundation of the first dance school called “L’académie Royale de la Danse”, founded in France during the reign of Louis XIV along with “L’académie Royale de Musique”.

Thanks to Pierre Beauchamp, another recognised dance teacher who was the lead dance master in “L’académie Royale de la Danse”, the work of systematisation that Rameau began continued to be taught in a very pedagogical way. What’s more, the first company of dance and music was founded and a vast array of dance plays began to be performed in theatres.

Among the most popular baroque dances that were choreographed by a vast array of dance masters, we have the “Minuet”, “Polonaise”, “Rigaudon”, “Passepied” and “Gigue”.

Nevertheless, the style of dance taught in “L’académie Royale de la Danse” was definitely the first obvious stylistic ancestor of Ballet that was on the verge of emerging in the next era.

Beautiful ballet dancer

The Arise of Ballet in the Romanticism

Undeniably, Romanticism, which was a cultural movement that originated in Germany and the United Kingdom and spread through all of Europe and other continents at the end of the 18th century, meant for all the branches of art a period of time in which art included the representation of intense emotions, the idealisation of nature, the emphasis on imagination and individual creativity as well as the exploration of historical and mythological themes.

As a result, the creation of dance plays was promoted more, characterised by a lot of drama, passion and expression.

In this context, the birth of Ballet was already a fact as its creation was a continuous process that has been brewing for years and although it was during the Renaissance that the term “ballet” appeared, stemming from the Italian word “ballare” which means “to dance,” when Catherine de Medici of Italy married the French King Henry II and she introduced early dance styles into court life in France, it was not until the arrival of the Romanticism that the word “ballet” became popular thanks to the dance plays performed by the dance and music companies.

In the theoretical aspect, the figure of the Italian choreographer Carlo Blasis stood out thanks to his “Code of Terpsichore”, a set of studies of anatomy and body movements expanding the vocabulary related to dance in Ballet started in France and distinguishing various types of dancers according to their physique.

From this point onwards Ballet was consolidated as a dance technique with specific steps and all the dance vocabulary was taught even internationally in French, as we mentioned before the steps were first codified in France by famous dance masters.

Around the year 1831, the classical ballet costume known as “Tutu” emerged, appearing for the first time in the Nun’s Ballet of “Robert Le Diable” by Giacomo Meyerbeer.

Then, by 1850, Russia became the leading creative centre of the dance world as the geographical centre of creation and innovation shifted from Paris to Saint Petersburg, where the Imperial Ballet reached heights of great brilliance.

The Mariinsky Theater and later the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow became the most prominent dance companies in Russia and with them Ballet continued to evolve, even certain new looks and theatrical illusions caught on and became quite fashionable.

Moreover, dancing on pointe, on toe became popular during the early part of the 19th century with women often performing in white “tutus”, the bell-like skirts, that ended at the calf.

Pointe dancing was reserved for women only, and this exclusive taste for female dancers and characters inspired a certain type of recognisable Romantic heroine, a sylph-like fairy whose goodness and purity inevitably triumph over evil or injustice, such as the beautiful ballet “ Giselle”, the most celebrated romantic ballet created by the French choreographer Jules Perrot.

Besides that, music began to be composed purely for ballet, highlighting the ballet “Coppélia” created in 1879 by the French composer Léo Delibes and the three exceptional works created by the Russian composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky which are “The Sleeping Beauty” (1889), The Nutcracker” (1893) and “The Lake of the Swans” (1895). In this way, Ballet was established as a worldwide dance technique and would continue to evolve in the next few years.

So, we invite you to read part 4 of History of Dance as the captivating history of Dance still continues, and in S&C Dance, we will gladly tell you more about this wonderful art.

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