Oct 05 2008
The majority of general public does not really know that ballet was not the invention of the French or Russian dancers but appeared much earlier. In fact, all ballet specialists conclude, that first ballet originated in Italy in the times of Renaissance. Naturally, ballet slippers, tutus or complex ballet positions and moves had not been invented yet.
First ballet or “ballo” as it was called in Italy, was the dancing performance designated for special occasions. It was not the entertainment of poor people, of course, it was the privilege of aristocrats. Only the highest nobility could organize ballo for lavish court pageantry, big weddings, or festivals.
All Renaissance ballet dancers – ballerinas - dressed according to the fashions of the times. But the choreography gradually was getting more complex – from simple dances to all kind of adaptations of court dance steps. This probably allowed the evolution of the ballo into more sophisticated type of dance in the end.
Female dancers of those times were not supposed to show their legs or even ankles to the public. All ballet dancers used masks without showing their faces to the public. Their artistic expression was supposed to agitate and excite the audience to such degree that it would join the participants in the end of their performance.
Ballo got big exposure when future French king Henry the Second married Catherine Medici who was surrounded by the patrons of the Renaissance art and culture since her birth. New bride replaced old Medieval dances with vivacious and extravagant dances of her native Italy. Ballo instantly became fashionable, and first famous ballet dancers became recognizable figures at the French court