Kelli R. Peed
Development of Ballet and Pointe
Beginning its development in the 1500's-1600's, the concept of dance emerged into a beautiful art, known as ballet. Ballet now proves itself the basic structure to all dance genres, and new styles of dance continue to surface as history continues to write itself. Ballet also represents a new age for women, tired of being in the background and wanting to make a name for women in the arts. Having great success, women now end up as the majority in ballet and even have a skill for them to call their own. The women embrace their nymph-like characters by defying gravity, dancing on the very tips of their toes on Pointe. Ballet's development played a significant role in history, allowing more arts to form and more women to rise up.
Ballet, in its distinctive form, emerged in Italy in the late 1500's. The Italian School of Ballet became a significant influence on ballet movement and structure. ("The Development Of Ballet in Western Europe") The movement became less horizontal and more elevated, creating the illusion of dancers floating as they move across the stage. Influenced by the gravity defying dance, extraterrestrial characters, such as fairies, gradually started developing amongst the ballets. ("History of Pointe Shoes and Technique") Ballet's structure intensified through Pierre Beauchamps' development of the five classic feet and arm positions commonly used in the present day. These positions keeps structure to the dance because practically every properly executed ballet movement begins and ends with one of these five positions. "First position: Keep heals together, turn feet outward in a straight line. Second position: Turn feet outward in a straight line, separated by distance of one foot. Third Position: Turn feet outward, place heels together one foot in front of each other. Fourth position: Turn feet outward, place one foot in front of the other on parallel line, separated by a distance of one foot. Heels and toes are in line, forming a square. Fifth position: Turn feet outward, place one foot directly in front of the other, the first joint of the big toe projecting beyond either heel." (Stuart 32) The positions created more structure and skill to begin framing the art into an elite art, based on training and mastered skills.
Ballet's major progression took place in France during the sixteenth and seventeenth century, the same period of time in which Louis XIV founded the royal Ballet Academy. Le Ballet comique de la Reine was presented in the French court of Catherine de Medici in 1533, and was the first ballet to combine movement, music, décor, and special effects. In making this combination, its development became the advancement for modern ballet. (Homans 3, 4, 5) Women begin to make their mark in 1681. The Triumph of Love was presented, being the first ballet to use trained women in its production. ("The Development Of Ballet in Western Europe")
Costumes were very cumbersome, especially women's costumes, with long skirts and high-heels. Since men were the primary dancers in this time period, they quickly shed the excess weight, but women continued to stay in the background. Female dancers continued to dance in ridiculous costumes until the day that Marie Camargo, ballerina in the Paris Opera Ballet, shortened her skirt and wore tights that were to be the first form of ballet shoes. (History of Pointe Shoes) Eventually, the Italians developed a shorter, more buoyant skirt that became the modern day tutu, ("The Development Of Ballet in Western Europe") which gave female dancers an opportunity for freer movement and allowed the turned out movements, developed by French choreographer, Carlo Blasis, to be noticed. "The first essential for the legs is to succeed in turning them fully outward. Strive after suppleness in the hips in order that the thigh movements shall be free and the knees well turned out… This, of course, assists...
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