User:LGreg/sandbox/Approches to Knowledge (LG seminar 2020/21)/Seminar 18/History/History of Ballet

The markers of ballet's founding


Ballet is a form of dance that came back from the Italian Renaissance, which occurred in the 15th and 16th centuries. Ballet emerged during noble receptions. People who were mastering dance were learning some steps to the others, and the court participated in some performances.[1]

Around the 16th century, an Italian noblewoman named Catherine de Medici, married to the French King Henry II, imported Ballet from Italy to France. She began to organize festivals, which encouraged court Ballet's development where music, decors, costumes were in the spotlight.[1]

King Louis XVI was passionate about Ballet and performed numerous roles like the Sun King in "Ballet de la Nuit." He popularizes Ballet by creating in 1661 the Royal Academy of Dance in Paris. That is when Ballet went from a pastime activity to a discipline requiring professional training. 1668 is also a big step for Ballet's world because it moved from the court (palace ballrooms) to the stage. This discipline was opening to a broader population range and wasn't reserved for the high society anymore.[2]

Jean Georges Noverre is an essential figure of ballet development. He believed Ballet could be an artistic discipline with dramatic movements, expressions, and relationships between characters. He fought for his ideas and, therefore, inaugurated "ballet d'action" (action ballet): a narrative form of Ballet, that became more popular in the 19th century.[1]

Why can ballet be considered as a discipline?


A discipline can be defined as a subject where there is a transfer of ideas and points of view, a framework, different ways of thinking, and an adapted vocabulary.

The Royal Academy of Dance is the first dance institution that ever opened. It created a Ballet framework and allowed it to become an art that could be spread from one person to another with specific rules set up by the Academy.[1]

A transfer of knowledge occurred when one person shared his or her expertise about Ballet with another one. For example, how to do some dance steps, or how to dance with musicality. When ballet masters began to choreograph some representations, they started to exchange ideas, developed their ways of thinking about Ballet, and they began to name the steps, hence creating a vocabulary around Ballet. [3]

Key moments of change and how it has changed


In the 19th century, the romantic movement spread to the world of art and culture, thus to Ballet. At that time, the representations were telling fairy-tail stories, with magical and supernatural themes, while women were incarnating delicacy and passivity.[4]

Marie Taglioni, daughter of Filippo Taglioni, transformed the world of Ballet. As she didn't have the correct physic and posture, she trained hours per day to align her posture with Greek statues. In the meantime, Ballet was pushed in "two seemingly opposite directions: simplicity and virtuosity." [5] When Marie Taglioni began at the Royal Academy of dance in 1827, she has been recognized as the person that revolutionized Ballet. Her movements were mixing old moves and modern ones. Her role in "la Sylphide" through the Romantique period marked a significant turning point in the ballet world. While men were for a long time, the principal characters, since Marie Taglioni's arrival, women were at the center stage (4). She was also the first to perform in point shoes ("type of shoe where dancers are standing on their toes).

Russian classical Ballet emerged in St Petersburg after the romantic period from a strong French influence. As well as in Russia ballet spread to England, where the Royal Ballet opened in 1926 thanks to the famous choreographer Sir Frederich Ashton and well-known ballerina Dame Margot Fonteyn. A few years later, the Royal Academy of dance was reformed as the Paris Opera Ballet. In America, it took a bit more time; Ballet became popular when Georges Balanchine came to America to open his own dance company. [4]

In the 20th, Ballet became more and more appreciated, popular, and accessible. Different dance styles arise from it, including contemporary dance (fusion of classical Ballet with modern dance), neoclassical (a more flexible and expansive version of Ballet that has been stripped from its theatrical and narrative nature). Ballet has reinvented itself and is now more focused on performance and technique than on the dance itself. Thanks to the new dancers and new choreographers like Maurice Bejart or Benjamin Millepied, Ballet evolves and changes. As they learn and master ballet's knowledge and Ballet's history, choreographer or dancers manage to developed new ideas, ways of thinking, or even a new era in the world of Ballet, by combining Ballet with another discipline, for example.

Lately, Ballet became mainstream; it is taught in the whole world and has been very publicized. Thanks to the movie Billie Eliott or The Black Swann that helped Ballet shine in the world. [6]


  1. a b c d Theatre P. A Brief History of Ballet - Illustrated by Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre [Internet]. Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. 2020 [Accessed 9 November 2020]. Available from:
  2. Dancewear Central. The History of Ballet Timeline | Dancewear Central [Internet]. 2020 [Accessed 9 November 2020]. Available from:
  3. Orinda Ballet Academy. "The Discipline of Ballet Class" [Internet]. ORINDA BALLET ACADEMY. 2020 [Accessed 9 November 2020]. Available from:,choreographed%20movements%2C%20we%20call%20steps
  4. a b The History Of Ballet - The Ballet Website [Internet]. The Ballet Website. 2020 [Accessed 9 November 2020]. Available from:
  5. Homans, Jennifer. Apollo's Angels: A History of Ballet. New York: Random House, 2010. 3-175, 341-550.
  6. A History of Ballet, City Academy London [Internet]. City Academy. 2020 [cited 9 November 2020]. Available from: