Brief History of Ballet

Nicole Lopez
WRC 1013.034
Curtain Rise to Curtain Fall
It was the dance of the royals and European aristocracy. Flamboyant and elaborate
music and costumes graced the halls and courts of high society. The word “ballet” is Italian in
origin but would later in centuries to come be recognized worldwide. The art itself has evolved
over time shaping around and within history. Progressing from the French courts to Cirque du
Soleil, ballet can take root in most dancing styles that we see today. Ballet can be broken down
most simply into three set styles; classical, neo-classical, and contemporary. Each technique
has emerged from one another yet all the while remaining true and steady fast to its own
In Paris 1581 the first ballet was performed at the request of Queen Catherine de Medici by Balthasar Beaujoyeulx, a renowned musician and choreographer. However this first ballet was not like the light and fluid fashion we find now indentified in Classical Ballet. It was in fact more dramatic, staged, and clothed like that in an opera or play with large bright costumes, masks and wigs. This form of dramatic “restraint” carried over as costumes became lighter causing the both men and women dancers to display great jumping and turning feat. In conjunction women stopped wearing high heeled shoes, replacing them with soft flat slippers began strengthening their ankles to dance quite literally on top of their toes. In 1832 came the introduction of pointé shoes, sturdy shoes of numerous layers of cloth which made it easier to dance upon. Combined with the grace and art of storytelling that the theater brought to ballet, strong yet gravity defying movements created the basis of classical ballet. The style was highly established in Paris Opéra 17th century but then began to decline. Attention was turned to Russia in late 19th century as ballet grew. “The dance scene there was unlike that of any other country in the world…most prestigious of the...