Ballet is a combination of choreography and art, scenic design, lighting, costume, graceful movements and usually solemn music. It is an artistic dance like no other, that can be used to express different emotions or to tell a story. Traditional classical ballet dance which was choreographed with elaborate costumes and staging has been replaced by the modern ballet dance styles which creates room for a variety of ballet dance forms. Some forms of ballet dance include classical ballet, contemporary ballet, neoclassical ballet and post-structural ballet dance.
In the 19th century, romantic era brought romantic ballet style, the most performed classical ballet style. In the center of attention are ballerinas, female dancers, in classical short white tutus. They often played the role of mystical female that enslaved mortal men’s heart. Characteristics of this style are pointe work, precise body movements, and intense emotions. Best known romantic ballets are La Sylphide and Coppélia.
Classical ballet style , like French, Italian and Russian, is characterized by classical ballet vocabulary and techniques. Classical ballet has training methods which often got their names by their creators, like Cecchetti method, after Italian ballet dancer Enrico Cecchetti. In 1920 in London was created a Royal Academy of Dance method. This English style merged French, Italian, Russian and Danish styles. Best known classical ballets are by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, like The Nutcracker and Swan Lake.
Neoclassical ballet style opposite to classical ballet has abstract elements, as no strict scenery, plot and costumes and minimal set design. It eliminates the formalities and opens up to modern techniques and ideas. Modern ballet style emerged from neoclassical ballet style. Opposed to delicate moves greater athleticism was favored.
Contemporary ballet style utilized ballet techniques, like classical ballet and elements from modern, ethnic and jazz styles and allows experimentations with ballet and modern dance. There is a fine line between contemporary ballet and contemporary dance, and also between contemporary ballet and neoclassical and modern ballet. Dancers moves are bigger, faster, and so it is characterized by robust athleticism, floor work, turn-in of the legs, dancing barefoot, acting and mime.
French and American ballet style are not standardized as training system or method by one creator. French ballet style has training system from groups like Paris Opera Ballet School.
Technique & Execution
Ballet technique formalized methods and execution of body movement. They define toe pointing, body posture, arm movement and mode of turn. A great part of ballet training drill are ballet techniques. They are practiced to become a part of ballet dancers, to develop aesthetics of ballet and avoid injuries.
In the early part of the 20th century, Russian choreographers Sergei Diaghilev and Michel Fokine began to experiment with movement and costume, moving beyond the confines of classical ballet form and story. Diaghilev collaborated with composer Igor Stravinsky on the ballet The Rite of Spring, a work so different with its dissonant music, its story of human sacrifice and its unfamiliar movements that it caused the audience to riot.
Choreographer and New York City Ballet founder George Balanchine, a Russian who emigrated to America, would change ballet even further. He introduced what is now known as neo-classical ballet, an expansion on the classical form. He also is considered by many to be the greatest innovator of the contemporary “plotless” ballet. With no definite story line, its purpose is to use movement to express the music and to illuminate human emotion and endeavor. Today, ballet is multi-faceted. Classical forms, traditional stories and contemporary choreographic innovations intertwine to produce the character of modern ballet.