Ballet is a formalized form of dance with its origins in the Italian Renaissance courts of the 15th and 16th centuries. It quickly spread to the French court of Catherine de' Medici where it was developed even further. In the 17th century at the time of Louis XIV, ballet was codified. The predominance of French in the vocabulary of ballet reflects this history. It also became a form closely associated with the opera. Ballet then spread from the heart of Europe to other nations. The Royal Danish Ballet and the Imperial Ballet of the Russian Empire were founded in the 1740s and began to flourish, especially after about 1850. In 1907 the Russian ballet in turn moved back to France. Soon ballet spread around the world with the formation of new companies, including London's The Royal Ballet (1931), the San Francisco Ballet (1933), American Ballet Theatre (1937), The Australian Ballet (1940), the New York City Ballet (1948), the National Ballet of Canada (1951), and the Delhi Ballet (2002). The etymology of the word "ballet" reflects its history. The word ballet comes from French and was borrowed into English around the 17th century. The French word in turn has its origins in Italian balletto, a diminutive of ballo (dance). Ballet ultimately traces back to Latin ballare, meaning "to dance".
Ballet originated in the Renaissance court in Italy, where aristocratic weddings were lavish celebrations. Court musicians and dancers collaborated to provide elaborate entertainment for them. A ballet of the Renaissance was a far cry from the form of theatrical entertainment known to audiences today. Tutus, ballet slippers and pointe work were not yet used. The choreography was adapted from court dance steps. Performers dressed in fashions of the times. For women that meant formal gowns that covered their legs to the ankle. Early ballet was participatory, with the audience joining the dance towards the end. Domenico da Piacenza was one of the first dancing masters. Along with his students, Antonio Cornazzanoand Guglielmo Ebreo, he was trained in dance and responsible for teaching nobles the art. In 1489 Galeazzo, Duke of Milan, married Isabella of Aragon in Tortona. An elaborate dance entertainment was arranged for the celebrations by the Italian dance master Bergonzio di Botta. Calco of Milan wrote about the event, and it was considered so impressive, that many similar spectacles were organized elsewhere. Ballet was further shaped by the French ballet de cour, which consisted of social dances performed by the nobility in tandem with music, speech, verse, song, pageant, decor and costume. When Catherine de' Medici, an Italian aristocrat with an interest in the arts, married the French crown heir Henry II, she brought her enthusiasm for dance to France and provided financial support. The first ballet de cour was the Ballet Comique de la Reine (1581), which was choreographed and directed by Balthasar de Beaujoyeulx. The ballet lasted for more than five hours and was danced by twenty four dancers.
Ballet developed as an art form in France during the reign of Louis XIV, who was passionate about dance. Pierre Beauchamp was the king's personal dance teacher and favorite partner in ballet de cour in the 1650s.] In 1661 Louis XIV, who was determined to reverse a decline in dance standards that began in the 17th century, established the Académie Royale de Danse. Beauchamp was appointed Intendant des ballets du roi and in 1680 became the school's director. Jean-Baptiste Lully, an Italian violinist, dancer, choreographer, and composer, who joined the court of Louis XIV in 1652. played a significant role in establishing the general direction ballet would follow for the next century. Supported and admired by King Louis XIV, Lully often cast the king in his ballets. The title of Sun King for the French monarch, originated in Louis XIV's role in Lully's Ballet de la Nuit (1653). Lully's...