American-born choreographers and dancers also added to the development of American ballet. "Choreographers such as Ruth Page, Agnes de Mille, and Jerome Robbins created dances to specifically American themes. American dancers who have gained fame in the 1900's include Maria Tallchief, Suzanne Farrell, Cynthia Gregory, Edward Villella, and Arthur Mitchell" (Ballet History, 2006).
Ballet became firmly established in Australia in the early 1900's soon after visits by the ballerinas Adeline Genee of Denmark and Anna Pavlova of Russia. Pavlova was the one in particular that inspired Misha Burlakov and Louise Lightfoot to found the first Australian Ballet Company. Many dancers who visited Australia while touring stayed on to form companies of their own. The best known include: Helene Kirsova, Edouard Borovansky, and the Austrian-born Gertrud Bodenwieser. The Australian Ballet opened in November 1962 for its first season. Among the most famous people linked with the company are Sir Robert Helpmann, Anne Woolliams, and Marilyn Jones. The first professional ballet company in New Zealand was founded in 1953 by the Danish dancer Poul Gnatt. The New Zealand Ballet Trust, formed in 1960 and renamed the Royal New Zealand Ballet in 1984, performs both classical and modern ballets (Ballet History, 2006).
During the mid-1900's, many choreographers founded their works on dramatic action. The Pillar of Fire (1942), by Antony Tudor of the United Kingdom, told a story of rebellion and repentance. Fancy Free (1944), by the American choreographer Jerome Robbins, featured three sailors that were looking for fun in New York City. In Germany, John Cranko created full-length ballets for the Stuttgart Ballet based on plots from works by William Shakespeare and Alexander Pushkin. Today, many choreographers prefer to exhibit dancing without a story. It is done either as an expression of the music or as a study in a particular style of movement. It is thought that the greatest influence in this type of ballet was George Balanchine of the New York City Ballet. His works included a series of collaborations with the Russian-born composer Igor Stravinsky. He also created choreography for more romantic music, such as Vienna Waltzes (1977). Sir Frederick Ashton of the United Kingdom's Royal Ballet also choreographed non-dramatic ballets, such as Symphonic Variations (1946) and Monotones (1966). Exceptional teachers of the art of ballet during the 1900's have included the Irish-born Dame Ninette de Valois, founder of the company that eventually became the Royal Ballet; the Polish-born British ballet director Dame Marie Rambert; and the gifted Russian-British teacher Vera Volkova (Ballet History, 2006).
Contemporary ballets are seen as showing a wide variety of different styles. It was during the 1970's, that some ballet companies began to perform modern dance works. It was during this time at most choreography settled into a formula. It was also during this time that the idea of pure dance also grew in popularity. It was in the 1930s that the symphonic ballet was created. This aimed to express the musical content of symphonies by the German composers Ludwig Van Beethoven and Johannes Brahms. Balanchine also began to create plot less ballets in which the primary motivation was movement to music. His ballet Jewels done in 1967 is considered the first evening-length ballet of this type (History of Ballet, n.d.).
In 1956 Russian ballet companies such as the Bolshoi and Kirov began performing in the West for the first time. The intense dramatic feeling and technical genius of the Russians made a tremendous impact. Russian influence on ballet still continues today, both through visits from Russian companies and the activities of defecting Soviet dancers. During this same time dance in general underwent an enormous upsurge in popularity beginning in the mid-1960s. Ballet also began to show the influence of a younger audience, in both themes and style. "The athleticism of dancing was enjoyed in much the same way as sports, and virtuosic steps were admired for their challenge and daring. Popular music such as rock and roll and jazz was used to accompany many ballets" (History of Ballet, n.d.).
Today's ballet collection offers great variety. New ballets and reconstructions and re-staging's of older ballets coexist with new works that have been created by modern-dance choreographers for ballet companies. Choreographers tend to experiment with both new and traditional forms and styles, and dancers constantly seek to extend their technical and dramatic range. The frequent tours of ballet companies allow audiences throughout the world to experience the full range of today's ballet activity (History of Ballet, n.d.).
Ballet can be traced back to the early Italian Renaissance period. This was when lavish dances that incorporated many arts were performed in banquet halls and based on the dances of the day. During the first ballets, poets recited their writings, artists painted and singers sang. It was more of a combined celebration of the arts. Ballet as we know it today was greatly influenced by the French. It was the French Pierre Beauchamp who developed the five positions of the feet, still used today as the basis for all ballet moves (Mcgee, 2006).
When professional ballet was established during the 1600's most of the dancers were men. The female roles that were present in ballet were performed by men dressed as women. The first female dancer in the history of ballet performed in 1681 in a ballet entitled "The Triumph of Love. It wasn't until the 1700s that the idea of ballet containing music came about when ballet was combined with opera. "Often, ballet would be performed between courses at an opera and eventually within the opera itself. Only later did the two separate and ballet become its own entity" (Mcgee, 2006).
French dancer Marie Camargo transformed ballet when she sent the costumes of the dance into history. Up until Marie shortened her skirts and wore slippers on her feet, dancers wore elaborate costumes and headdresses for ballet productions. Pointe shoes were brought in around 1830. These shoes permitted a woman to float in her dance, which was ideal, as many roles of the female dancer were that of spirits and other unearthly beauties. Russia quickly caught on to the beauty of ballet and soon, in the 1900s, dancers were attending ballet schools from a young age, training to be professional ballet dancers (Mcgee, 2006).
Today ballet is seen as a combination of efforts from history. The evolution of costumes, roles, music and story are now consistent in classical ballet. A classical ballet will always have scenery, often rotating throughout the story. A ballet will always tell a story. Usually, the story of ballet revolves around a tale of lovers with a problem that must be resolved. Often, as with the Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty, the story is one that audiences are familiar with. Others, they are not. In ballet, the whole story is set to music; the music is created by a composer. and, while costume styles may change, the female ballet dancer, or ballerina, will always be seen in point shoes, allowing her to rise up on her toes as though floating on air (Mcgee, 2006).
The modern way of ballets was actually lead by Marius Petipa a Frenchman who was commissioned to be the chief choreographer of the Imperial Russian Ballet. He introduced the full-length, evening-long story ballet, combining mimed scenes with set dances. "He is best known for the Sleeping Beauty (1890) and Swan Lake, both of which were set to scores of Tchaikovsky" (20th Century Ballet, 2006). Ballet as seen today is a combination of efforts from throughout history. The evolution of costumes, roles, music and story are now consistent in classical ballet. A classical ballet will always have scenery, often rotating throughout the story. A ballet will always tell a story. Usually, the story of ballet revolves around a tale of lovers with a problem that must be resolved. Often, as with the Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty, the story is one that audiences are familiar with. In ballet, the whole story is set to music; the music is created by a composer. and, while costume styles may change, the female ballet dancer, or ballerina, will always be seen in point shoes, allowing her to rise up on her toes as though floating on air (Mcgee, 2006).
For the dancers, technical ability is a means to an end, not the goal itself. They work to develop the skill to stay in balance while standing on one leg and extending the other backward. Ideal physical characteristics for a ballet dancer include long arms and legs, a long neck, and a comparatively short torso. The best body for ballet is flexible, slim, and strong. Dancers cannot change their body proportions, but they can develop most of the other desirable physical features through training. Every great dancer started with a less than perfect body for ballet. Ideal dancers should also have certain mental characteristics. They should have a feeling for rhythm and an understanding of music. They should be aware of the relationships between objects…