How do you dance ballet
Atlanta Ballet | A Brief History of Ballet
The history of ballet begins around 1500 in Italy. Terms like “ballet” and “ball” stem from the Italian word "ballare," which means "to dance."
When Catherine de Medici of Italy married the French King Henry II, she introduced early dance styles into court life in France.
At first, the dancers wore masks, layers upon layers of brocaded costuming, pantaloons, large headdresses, and ornaments. Such restrictive clothing was sumptuous to look at but difficult to move in. Dance steps were composed of small hops, slides, curtsies, promenades, and gentle turns. Dancing shoes had small heels and resembled formal dress shoes rather than any contemporary ballet shoe we might recognize today.
The official terminology and vocabulary of ballet was gradually codified in French over the next 100 years, and during the reign of Louis XIV, the king himself performed many of the popular dances of the time. Professional dancers were hired to perform at court functions after King Louis and fellow noblemen had stopped dancing.
A whole family of instruments evolved during this time as well. The court dances grew in size, opulence, and grandeur to the point where performances were presented on elevated platforms so that a greater audience could watch the increasingly pyrotechnic and elaborate spectacles. Jump ahead 200 years and take a look at the proscenium stage at the War Memorial Opera House -- the elevation of the stage and dramatic height of the curtained opening will remind visitors of this development first hand.
From Italian roots, ballets in France and Russia developed their own stylistic character. By 1850 Russia had become a leading creative center of the dance world, and as ballet continued to evolve, certain new looks and theatrical illusions caught on and became quite fashionable. Dancing en pointe (on toe) became popular during the early part of the nineteenth century, with women often performing in white, 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 recognizable Romantic heroine - a sylph-like fairy whose pristine goodness and purity inevitably triumphs over evil or injustice.
In the early twentieth century, the Russian theatre producer Serge Diaghilev brought together some of that country's most talented dancers, choreographers, composers, singers, and designers to form a group called the Ballet Russes. The Ballet Russes toured Europe and America, presenting a wide variety of ballets. Here in America, ballet grew in popularity during the 1930's when several of Diaghilev's dancers left his company to work with and settle in the U.S. Of these, George Balanchine is one of the best known artists who firmly established ballet in America by founding the New York City Ballet. Another key figure was Adolph Bolm, the first director of San Francisco Ballet School.
Atlanta Ballet | Ballet Terms, Positions, and Poses
Gain a deeper appreciation for this art form by learning more about ballet moves, positions, poses, and more with this helpful glossary of dance terminology from Atlanta Ballet. This is not an exhaustive list, but a starting point to help you familiarize yourself with the language used to describe ballet.
Assemblé (assam blay) - Lifting off the floor on one leg, and landing on two. Legs assemble at the same time and return to fifth position.
Grande Jeté (grand jeh tay) - a big jump from one foot to the other in which the working leg is brushed into the air and appears to have been thrown.
Plié (plee ay) - means bent, bending - of the knee or knees.
Pirouette (peer o wet) - a rotation or spin - a complete turn of the body on one foot, on point or demi-pointe (half- pointe).
Tour en l'air (tour on lair) - a turn in the air - usually a male dancer's step, although ballerinas may do them to depending on the choreography.
Ballet Position Terms
Arabesque (Ah rah besk) - a position on one leg with the other leg raised behind the body and extended in a straight line.
Attitude (ah tea tude) - A variation on the arabesque. The extended leg is raised behind the body but bent at the knee at an angle of 90 degrees.
Croisé (quo say) - A dancer stands with legs crossed at an angle to the audience. The disengaged leg may be crossed in the front or in the back.
Turn-out - The dancer turns his or her feet and legs out from the hip joints to a 90-degree position.
Types of Ballet
Classical Ballet - a traditional style of ballet which stresses the academic technique developed through the centuries of the existence of ballet.
Modern Ballet - a type of ballet from the twentieth century. To this day, modern ballet looks to re-invent itself and reach out in an ever-increasing facet of creation and movement.
People of the Ballet
Ballerina - a female dancer in a ballet company.
Danseur - a male dancer in a ballet company.
Choreographer - a person who composes or invents ballets or dances.
Ballet Master or Ballet Mistress - a person in a ballet company whose job is to give the daily company class and to rehearse the ballets in the company repertoire.
Balletomane (bal lay toe mane) - A ballet fan or enthusiast.
Additional Ballet Terms
Choreography - describes the steps, combinations, and patterns of a ballet or dance.
Pointe Shoes - The satin ballet shoes used by dancers when dancing on their pointes (toes). Pointe shoes are reinforced with a box constructed of numerous layers of strong glue in between layers of material. Pointe shoes are not made of cement or wood.
Tutu - the short classical ballet skirt made of many layers of net. A romantic tutu is a long net skirt reaching below the calf.
Barre - a horizontal bar (usually made of wood) along a studio wall for class exercises. Every ballet class begins with barre exercises.
Centre Practice - a group of exercises similar to those at the barre but performed in the center of the room. These exercises are done without the support of the barre and are normally performed with alternate feet.
Pas de Deux - a dance for two.
Adagio (u da zhe-o) - is a succession of slow, soft, lyrical, and continuous movements. Adagio creates the illusion that the positions flow from one into another.
Allegro (a leg grow) - allegro in ballet involves fast and dynamic movements, usually jumping steps and sequences.
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"When you dance a lot, the theater becomes native" - Interview
She was the first Chaga in "Polovtsian Dances" in the opera "Prince Igor" - a performance that opened the Krasnoyarsk Opera and Ballet Theater back in 1978. She danced Sylphide and Carmen, Conchita in the ballet Juno and Avos, and Eve in the ballet Creation of the World. Honored Artist of Russia Vera Surovtseva is one of the few in the Krasnoyarsk ballet troupe who has served the theater since its foundation. Today, Vera Nikolaevna is rehearsing with young artists - preparing them for performances and competitions. And she herself continues to appear on stage - she can be seen in the roles of Bertha in Giselle, the Sovereign Princess in Swan Lake, the Queen in Sleeping Beauty and other classical productions.
– You have been working in Siberia for 42 years. What brought you from the Volga to such a distance, to the Yenisei?
– When my mother found out about my decision, she took out a card and showed me: “See how far from home? Previously, the Decembrists were exiled there! I won't be able to visit you." I also did not expect that I would end up in Siberia and stay here for the rest of my life. She graduated from the Saratov Choreographic School, was already waiting for a call to one of the theaters. And suddenly Nikolai Sergeevich Markaryants, the chief choreographer of the then-under construction theater, arrived from Krasnoyarsk. He did not promise high salaries, but they provided us with our own housing almost immediately. I and four of my classmates agreed, on September 2 we were already in Krasnoyarsk. And on the 11th I turned 18 years old. I remember Nikolai Sergeevich with gratitude: he was a cheerful person and always supported the artists, did not give up in difficulties, was very sensitive when we were injured. Graduates from almost all schools of the Soviet Union were invited here. There was no one in our troupe only from the Baltic States, artists from Tashkent and Samarkand came from Asia.
– What was the ballet of the theater like at that time, did it differ from the current troupe?
– Since we came from different ballet schools, it took time to comb everyone's hair so that we looked well on stage. But with external heterogeneity, the youth of that time were distinguished by one thing - a passionate desire to work. And the salaries were lower than now, and the standard of living was lower, it was impossible to find anything in the stores. They sewed and knitted their own uniforms for rehearsals. For example, they bought bolognese raincoats and altered special pants from them. But everyone wanted to dance, get good parts - there was healthy competition. Even in schools, we got used to constantly learning something, and in the first years of work, this was especially evident - we continued to study with teachers in the theater, we tried to learn something new. We left home late in the evening, and in the morning we went back to the theater - we didn’t notice the time, we really liked doing ballet. I remember that we worked for the first month, and suddenly we were invited to receive a salary. We were very young, we were surprised: why? There are no productions yet, only rehearsals. They explained to us that work at rehearsals is a guarantee of further participation in performances, this is very responsible.
- Vera Nikolaevna, is it really different now?
– Surprisingly, working conditions have become much better, but for some reason less motivation. Nowadays, everything had to be done on our own. It's hard to imagine, but once we even slept on twine. And then someone had to “collect” you, because the body becomes numb, it’s not easy to get up on your own. Or set yourself an alarm clock to take a nap in this position for at least a couple of hours. Today, dancers have access to special clothing for classes, some programs and technical means for stretching, which is not on the video - performances with world ballet stars, master classes, competitive performances. I don't see any real competitive spirit. Maybe everyone calmed down? This is especially noticeable at competitions: people often come there who don’t really work in the theater, they just wander from competition to competition, throwing out all their energy there. Apparently, in everyday life they do not have enough adrenaline. But the competition cannot be an end in itself for an artist, this is not normal.
I don't want to slander: good, diligent young people come to the theater. But when you make a remark, you want not only the one to whom you are addressing, but also everyone around to react to it. Heard, tried on for themselves - and corrected mistakes, if necessary. My teacher was from the last graduation of Vaganova, she taught us this way. The theater is a special space. A ballet dancer must keep himself in shape all his life, every day. These are food restrictions, and special exercises, and gymnastics. The more you work, the longer you stay as a dancer. The lesson is not that you came, warmed up, rehearsed something. Everything is invested in the lesson: technique, dance - even in the lesson, the inner feeling of each movement should be developed. In the classroom, everyone does the same combination, but it is always noticeable who is full and who is not, repeats in a pattern.
– Was it immediately obvious that you would be a soloist?
– Probably. Although there was competition, you had to prove what you are capable of. I had a funny experience. Once I was appointed to the main role, but my girlfriend was not. We were inseparable with her, and I was very offended by the choreographer, I thought: how is it - I will teach, but she won’t? She didn't go to the staged rehearsal. The choreographer called me: “Vera, do you understand that it is more difficult to put a person on a part than to remove? You didn't come looking after a friend. What if she doesn't pull? How did I not get fired back then? (Laughs.) Perhaps only youth is characterized by such ideas of friendly solidarity.
- You had several modern ballets in your repertoire - in particular, you danced Eve in The Creation of the World, the part received high marks from professionals. What was this performance?
– A very interesting work to music by Andrey Petrov staged by Vladimir Fedyanin. There was a lot of humor in his performance, and the audience read it. According to the plot, Eve was tempted not by the Serpent, but by the Devil and the Devil - they danced seductively so that Eve also felt like a woman and seduced Adam. Although now this choreography already looks somewhat naive, a kind of fairy tale story. But the music is very beautiful, the final adagio of the expulsion from Paradise was well choreographed, the Birth of Eve number was excellent. We successfully toured with this ballet, it is a pity that it did not go long.
– There are only four people left from the first ballet troupe in the theatre. Have you ever wanted to leave Krasnoyarsk?
– Even before the collapse of the Soviet Union, many of us left, some now work abroad. For the first twenty years, the stage was without heating, in winter it could have a temperature of only +12 degrees, once the performance was even cancelled. And of course people didn't like it. And if, under such conditions, the salary also leaves much to be desired ... But, you know, when you are in demand, you dance a lot, the theater becomes native. And money is still not the main thing here - in ballet, only individual stars, constantly touring, receive high fees. Maybe you should have left when you were young. But something stopped. Over time, you take root - in the theater, in the city, a family, children appear. And when you start teaching and see that there is a result from your efforts, and you want to achieve an even higher bar, there is no time to think about something extraneous. The work was gripping. I have always been closely involved in the repertoire.
– Have you been engaged in pedagogy for a long time?
– For a long time, she was actively dancing. There was a time when there were no teachers left in the theater at all. And I was offered to do it. Later she studied at the Vaganova Academy, where she understood that there is an actor's psychology and a teacher's psychology. The teacher himself must dance. Practice gives you your personal understanding, attitude - to movements, to art, to the profession. It is important to know that if you teach a class according to one general program, then, while studying with one person, you are obliged to get out of him his individuality - not your own.
And already at the beginning of my teaching practice, I had a clear picture of what I wanted to achieve. When you explain to a ballerina - long, painfully - what she needs to do in the image of Giselle or Princess Aurora, but she does not feel it, you still have to, even at my age, at least with your hands, show what kind of drawing she needs to draw for herself . And play it in front of an audience.
– What else do you aspire to, what do you want to teach?
– Ideally, I would like to start preparing with the party artists earlier, three months in advance.