Fyodor Dostoyevsky once said that beauty will save the world. Times are tough and sometimes it feels like beauty can’t do much for us, people of the 21 century. Here is a video clip that will, hopefully, put a smile on your face and erase this unhappy frown for a while. Young American ballerinas from Anaheim ballet try to cheer you up by dancing everywhere in the city. This is a fun ballet!
Anna Pavlova – one of the finest classical ballet dancers in history – liked to watch for hours the gracious swans in public parks. It so happened that one of her favorite poems was Alfred Tennyson’s The Dying Swan. Her friend Mikhail Fokine – the groundbreaking Russian choreographer and dancer was also a fan of this Tennyson’s masterpiece. So it turned out to be very easy for Allan to convince Mikhail to create a solo ballet for her based on her inspiration. Pavlova ambitiously wanted to perform for a 1905 concert being given by artists from the chorus of the Imperial Mariinsky Opera.
At his parties Fokine often played on a mandolin to a friend’s piano accompaniment Saint-Saëns’s cello solo, Le Cygne (The Swan). He offered this musical work as the basis for the short ballet and Pavlova agreed. During their collaboration they agreed that the short ballet would follow the last moments in the life of a swan. Only one rehearsal was arranged and the short dance completed very quickly.
The Dying Swan ballet was performed for the first time in 1905 in St.Petersburg and became a national and worldwide sensation overnight. Anna Pavlova loved it so much that she performed it over 4000 times throughout her life. It became her signature ballet. Anna was that good that the Dying Swan ballet heavily influenced modern interpretations of Odette in Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake which was created much earlier in 1875. No wonder, that sometimes general audience mistakenly thinks that the Dying Swan is a part of the Swan Lake.
Lucky for us, there is an old tape made in 1925 where Anna Pavlova gracefully performs The Dying Swan. Famous ballerina was already 44 years and the video is not perfect, but the ballet dancing is still beautiful. I saw many interpretations and still think that this one is the best. By the way, the dot on Pavlova’s chest in the video symbolizes a fatal wound.
A significant part of ballet terminology is in the French language, because Ballet became formalized in France, thus, a a major part of of ballet terminology is in French. Pirouette is translated into English as a “whirl”. It is an important part of the ballet training when ballerina makes a controlled turn on one leg, starting with one or both legs and rising on pointe.
On this video the art of pirouette is demonstrated during ballet training by Finis Jhung – one of the legendary American ballet instructors. He began teaching ballet lessons since the beginning of the seventies and trained many dancers of New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre, aspiring professional ballerinas and amateur adult beginners.
Pirouettes can be executed with a single or multiple rotations. Ballet instructor Jhung shows in normal and slow motion how the non-supporting leg can be held in retiré position, or in attitude, arabesque level or second position. Then the pirouette returns to the starting position or finishes in arabesque or attitude positions.
It is impossible to imagine modern or classical ballet dance without entrechat. So what is entrechat in ballet moves, anyways? Basically, it is a step of beating in which a ballet dancer jumps into the air and rapidly crosses the legs before and behind each other. The dancer usually jumps from the fifth position and lands back in the fifth position. We count entrechats moves from two to ten according to the number of crossings required and counting each crossing as two movements, one by each leg. For example, in an entrechat quatre each leg makes two distinct movements.
There are two classes of entrechats in ballet dancing: even-numbered and odd-numbered. The even-numbered entrechats, or those which land on two feet: deux, quatre, six, huit and dix (2,4,6,8,10). The odd-numbered entrechats, or those which land on one foot: trois, cinq, sept and neuf (3,5,7,9).
For example: in an entrechat-quatre starting from fifth position, right foot front, the dancer will jump crossing legs and beating first the right heel on the back of the left heel, then at the front of the left heel, landing in the same starting position.
Young ballerina who performed first in history of ballet entrechat quatre was magnificent dancer Marie Camargo. She performed it during her debut at the Paris Opera with the ballet Les Caracteres de la Danse in 1726. It brought Marie Camargo fame and fortune. And, no doubt she deserved it: after all at those times the standard women’s ballet shoes looked differently. These were not ballet slippers or pointe shoes as we know them. Ballerinas danced in the conventional shoes that had heels!
In a sample YouTube video the ballet dancer performs quite tough 32 entrechats six in the second act of Giselle.
In any ballet studio we observe horizontal bars, approximately wast height, and wooden bars mounted along the walls. They are very important for ballet exercises and for developing dance techniques. In fact, every ballet training class for young and mature ballerinas start with basic barre ballet positions. These warm up exercises are very important for dancers as they relax ballerinas muscles. And this is just one of the benefits that barre work brings.
Typically, barre exercises make up a significant portion of the beginning ballerinas class. Young dancers who have just joined ballet studio may find barre exercises boring at first because they are slow and repetitive. Yet, soon enough, they learn to depend upon them.
Overall, barre exercises are extremely important in all levels of ballet training. They gradually build strength while teaching the body correct placement. Beginning pointe dancers will find them extremely useful too, as their ankles may not be strong enough to support them in the center. Barre work also prepares ballerinas for partnering, with the barre providing support that a partner would offer later, during actual partnering.
I could not pass by excellent video from Czech ballet school. Maybe, the music is out of tune, but young ballerinas vividly demonstrate the importance of barres and ballet stretching. I hope you will enjoy this video too.
One can not confuse a ballet tutu with any other female skirt. Designers use various materials to create tutus, the most traditional among them are tulle, voile, muslin and nylon.
It’s been a couple of centuries since female ballet dancers started using tutus during ballet performance. To an untrained eye they all look the same, but balletomanes know that it is not true. In the modern ballet there are 4 major types of tutus worn for ballet dancing. Two of them are classical with the difference in shape (bell or pancake). And the other too are romantic tutu and Balanchine-Karinska tutu.
Classical tutus of both types extend outwards from the hips. They are made with layers of netting and have fitted bodice. The main difference between them is that the tutu shaped as a bell does not use a wired hoop while the pancake tutu uses one that keeps the layers flat and stiff.
Romantic Tutu is probably the most famous of all ballet clothing. Specialists say that Marie Taglioni, famous ballet dancer of Romantic ballet era invented it and popularized it among European ballet dancers. This bell shaped tulle skirt is free flowing and emphasizes lightness and ethereal quality of the romantic ballets. The length varies between the knee and the ankle.
The last type of a tutu has an interesting origin. Father of American ballet and famous ballet master George Balanchine often choreographed ballets with a large assembly of dancers on stage. This led to an unusual problem with the traditional pancake tutus – ballerinas skirts often brushed against each other.
In 1950 famous designer Karinska that costumed Ballanchine’s ballets solved this problem. She invented so-called powder puff tutu that had looser appearance than a stiff pancake tutu. Her newly designed tutu was self supporting and did not require the wired hoop anymore.
It seemed such a simple idea to create special shoes for ballet dancing that would be lightweight and give the appearance of dancing barefoot. However, it took centuries to implement the whole concept before ballet slippers (or ballet shoes) began to look the way we know it now.
Ballet slippers usually come in four colors: pink, black, gray or white and made from satin, canvas or leather with flexible thin soles. People who just start to learn about the ballet dancing usually confuse them with pointe shoes, which have their own place in the history of ballet as we know it.
Male ballet dancers almost always wear ballet shoes, which is understandable, because they practically don’t dance en pointe. Young ballerinas always start with ballet slippers as their young bones and muscles are not strong enough for more for more sophisticated type of footware. It takes them not less than five years and lot of training before they can wear both types.
Ballet is a highly technical form of dance with its origins in the Italian Renaissance court, where it emerged in the late 15th century as a dance interpretation of fencing. Later ballet was developed into a very complicated dance works with mime, acting and other components that are set to music. Ballet has graceful, flowing and very precise movements with almost ethereal qualities.