Topical History

History of Ballet

Ballet commenced in ballrooms during the high renaissance in North Italy. At first, court guests played principal and chorus members of the dance. Sandra Noll Hammond in Ballet Basics, describes dancing masters teaching new dances and techniques to the court members and the ballroom parties. These choreographies were documented through shorthand symbols, poems, and abbreviations for movement names. Once written records of the dance began, ballet soon morphed into extravagant pieces that only practiced dancers could execute. According to The Classic Ballet-Basic Technique & Terminology by Lincoln Kirstein and Muriel Stuart, Milanese dancing masters codified rules for the manner of performing in these social gatherings. Guests were now audience members, and trained dancers now the entertainment of the night. Originally floor patterns were quadrilateral, designed equally for four sides of a ballroom that held no single stage-focus. Unlike today, initial style had a lively feel with lifted heels and skirts off the floor in an upbeat manner. By the time Franco-Italian mannerist art began to sweep through Europe, ballet also had been given its aristocratic style and dance vocabulary. Ballet over the years would create grand conservatories and dance schools whose students now spend their entire lives attempting to master the art of ballet.