Our little series on explaining the basics of the main forms of dance that we teach at React Dance – today is Ballet.
Interesting Facts about Ballet
- Ballet began about 500 years ago in Italy as a form of entertainment in the courts.
- The first full-scale ballet was staged in Paris on 15th October, 1581.
- When ballet first started the dancers wore masks and heavy costumes that were difficult to move in.
- Women weren’t allowed to dance in public until 1681.
- The word Ballet comes from the word “dance” in Latin.
- There are four levels of dancers in a ballet company. At the bottom is the largest group, called the ‘corps de ballet’. Next are the ‘corphees’ who lead the corps de ballet and sometimes dance the smaller parts. Then there are the ‘soloists’ who dance alone. And at the top are the ‘principals’ who dance the lead roles.
- COOL FACT: A male dancer lifts over 1-1/2 tons worth of ballerinas during a performance. That’s like lifting 1,350 big bags of sugar!
- Pointe shoes are handmade. Their toe boxes are painted or “blocked” with glue, then baked in ovens to stiffen and strengthen them. Some professional dancers can go through 20 pairs of ballet shoes a week; in fact, some can wear out a pair of pointe shoes in one hour. On average, England’s Royal Ballet troupe goes through 15,000 pairs of pointe shoes a year!
- Before a ballet class you rub ‘rosin’ on your shoes to stop them from slipping. This is a yellow powdered crystal that comes from pine trees and is the same substance that cellists, bassists and violinists rub on their bows to improve their instruments’ sound.
- A prima ballerina can complete 32 fouette turns (a complicated turn where they whip their leg around), while staying in exactly the same spot on the floor. After the turns, her pointe shoe tip is hot to touch and it is so worn out that it is only then used in rehearsals.
- IMPORTANT: You DO NOT have to be tall and slim with super long legs to be a ballerina.
Ballet links you may like
The English National Ballet is one of the world’s great ballet companies.
The Ballet Association gives active support to the Royal Ballet companies and promotes interest in all aspects of their work.
The British Ballet Organisation has devised a safe and developmental program of dance study.
The British Theatre Dance Association for teachers and examiners.
Why should you child study ballet?
- Gross motor skills
- Physical fitness
- Learn to follow instruction
- A sense of discipline through learning new positions and steps.
Ballet is a great way for a child to keep fit, strengthen core muscles and a lovely way for him/her to explore their imagination through the magic of dance. They gain a sense of self-confidence and pride in their bodies and what they can accomplish through practice.
The skills learnt in ballet are useful for other forms of dancing like tap or jazz if they want to try something different at a later stage.
Famous Ballet Dancers
Anna Pavlova (1881-1931) was one of the most celebrated and influential ballet dancers of her time. Her performances in La Fille Mal Gardée and The Dying Swan were critically acclaimed and inspired many future generations of dancers.
Mikhail Baryshnikov (born January 27, 1948) is a Soviet-born Russian American dancer and choreographer, one of the greatest ballet dancers of the 20th century.
Margot Fonteyn (1919-1991) is known as the greatest English ballerina. She was born in Reigate, Surrey. Her most famous partner was Nureyev.
Darcey Andrea Bussell CBE (born April 27, 1969) is a retired English ballerina. She was Principle Dancer at the Royal Ballet School and is considered to be one of the greatest English ballerinas of all time. She attended her first ballet lessons only because her friends were going and often spent more time under the piano then actually doing the ballet class!
Watch Ballet online
A ballet dance video. “Anaheim Ballet: More Than Dance…”
Young ballet dancers audition for the London Children’s Ballet 2009 production of Snow White (Peacock Theatre, in London’s West End).
Children between 7 and 11 years old performing a little choreography for their parents – very sweet.
An insight into the English National Ballet.