Three Characteristics of Ballet

by Tiffany Ameh
From the 19th century onward, ballet began to become the art form we know it as today.

From the 19th century onward, ballet began to become the art form we know it as today.

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Much can be said about the art of ballet. Ballet is both widely recognized and held as a standard for refinement and technical precision. Ballet characteristically tells a story to music, while the dancers display seemingly weightless maneuvers and techniques. Ballet's unique characteristics do well to distinguish it from other dance styles.

History

Ballet has a long history, stretching back to its origins in the Italian courts of Renaissance Italy in the 15th century. At that time, dancing was a part of the lavish spectacles given at meal times that also included art and poetry. Ballet spread throughout Europe, evolving and being refined over time. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, French choreographer Marius Petipa developed and perfected his version of the evening-long story ballet, the format that most people associate with ballet today.

Dancing "En Pointe"

“En Pointe,” a French term meaning “on the tip,” is a technique unique to ballet dancing. Toe dancing gives the impression of weightlessness, a characteristic also unique to ballet dancers. Pointe work is done by dancing on the very tips of the toes while wearing special reinforced pointe shoes. Dancing “en pointe” requires the dancer to have core stability and considerable foot and ankle strength.

Mime and Storytelling

Ballet productions tell stories, as in the classic ballets “Swan Lake” and “Sleeping Beauty.” Mime, the act of using bodily expressions to express emotion and situations, was widely used in Russian and American ballet until the 1950s. Though it declined in use afterward, mime is still considered a classical ballet technique.

Musicality

A ballet dancer who is considered graceful must also have strong musicality. This is when the dancer is so in tune and sync with the music that it seems that the music is coming from the dancer herself. The precise definition of musicality has been argued by ballet enthusiasts for as long as the art form has existed. In a 2005 interview with “Dance Magazine,” legendary American ballet dancer Gesley Kirkland said of musicality: “For example, innocence moves in a certain way, and that affects how you use the music. If you are doing a character who is struggling between opposing forces, the movements need more resistance and weight.”

About the Author

Tiffany Ameh has been writing articles since 2009. She attended California Baptist University in 2004 and is pursuing her Bachelor of Science in holistic nutrition at El Camino College.

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