The Roots of Modern Classical Ballet

Classical-BalletAlthough France is recognised for its outstanding work with early ballet, a number of other countries explored this wonderful form of art. One of the main early exponents was Russia, a country which has been greatly admired for its magnificent ballets.

Post 1850, the Parisian ballet started to fade, yet, because of the mastery of high profile dancers including Marius Petipa, Enrico Cecchetti, Arthur Saint-Léon, Jules Perrot, and August Bournonville, it prospered in both Russia and Denmark. During the latter part of the 19th Century, liberal artist promoted orientalism, and the Eastern world was regarded as a place of decadence, exoticism and extravagance.

The ballet master Pepit, who often wrote ballets with Tchaikovsky, was adored by the public after he directed ballets such as the 1862, Pharaoh’s Daughter. Together with music from Tchaikovsky, he produced pieces which were rooted in European folklore. These included 1895’s Swan Lake, 1890’s Sleeping Beauty, and 1892’s Nutcracker. These formidable works are still shown all over the world today, and the classic stiff short tutu skirt that is still worn to this day derives from that period.

European ballets toured many regions around the world including South and North America, and made ballet a globally respected art form. When it came to Ballets Russes, in the early 20th Century, the ballet had completed a full circle, and it was once again in Paris when Sergei Diaghilev formed this company at the end of the Revolution. He teamed up with Stravinsky and brought out great works including Petrushka and Firebird.

Under Soviet rule, the ballet in Russia continued to develop, and after a lean period during the 1920s, innovative choreographers and dancers took to the stage in the mid-1930s. The Kirov and the Bolshoi ballet companies were in demand, and Cinderella, and Romeo and Juliet are a testament to that era. Later, the Ballets Russes settled in France, after which it started to have a wider audience, especially from the U.S.