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Romantic ballet

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Three Graces: embodiment of the Romantic ballet, ca. 1840. This lithograph by A. E. Chalon depicts three of the greatest ballerinas in three of the era's defining roles: (left to right) Marie Taglioni as the Sylph in Filippo Taglioni's 1832 ballet La Sylphide; Fanny Elssler as Florinda in the dance La Cachucha from Jean Coralli's 1836 ballet Le Diable boiteux; and Carlotta Grisi as Béatrix in the Grand pas de Diane chasseresse from Albert's 1842 ballet La Jolie Fille du Gand.
The Three Graces: embodiment of the Romantic ballet, ca. 1840. This lithograph by A. E. Chalon depicts three of the greatest ballerinas in three of the era's defining roles: (left to right) Marie Taglioni as the Sylph in Filippo Taglioni's 1832 ballet La Sylphide; Fanny Elssler as Florinda in the dance La Cachucha from Jean Coralli's 1836 ballet Le Diable boiteux; and Carlotta Grisi as Béatrix in the Grand pas de Diane chasseresse from Albert's 1842 ballet La Jolie Fille du Gand.

The Romantic ballet is defined primarily by an era in ballet in which the ideas of Romanticism in art and literature influenced the creation of ballets. The era occurred during the early to mid 19th century primarily at the Théâtre de l'Académie Royale de Musique of the Paris Opera Ballet and Her Majesty's Theatre in London. It is typically considered to have begun with the 1827 début in Paris of the ballerina Marie Taglioni in the ballet La Sylphide, and to have reached its zenith with the premiere of the divertissement Pas de Quatre staged by the Ballet Master Jules Perrot in London in 1845. The Romantic ballet had no immediate end, but rather a slow decline. Arthur Saint-Léon's 1870 ballet Coppélia is considered to be the last work of the Romantic Ballet.

During this era, the development of pointework, although still at a fairly basic stage, profoundly affected people's perception of the ballerina. Many lithographs of the period show her virtually floating, poised only on the tip of a toe. This idea of weightlessness was capitalised on in ballets such as La Sylphide and Giselle, and the famous leap apparently attempted by Carlotta Grisi in La Péri.

Other features which distinguished Romantic ballet were the separate identity of the scenarist or author from the choreographer, and the use of specially written music as opposed to a pastiche typical of the ballet of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The invention of gas lighting enabled gradual changes and enhanced the mysteriousness of many ballets with its softer gleam. Illusion became more diverse with wires and trap doors being widely used.

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Even though Ballet's been around since the 1600s, when most people think about ballet what they're really thinking about is romantic era ballet, nineteenth century ballet. Tchaikovsky, that's everybody's um.. mental picture of ballet, so the 19th century is a really important time in the ballet, it's developed quite a lot since we came from Louis the Fourteenth, so what's happened so far? So we've already seen that women have started to wear shorter skirts, so we can actually see their feet, because what's the point of ballet if you can't see what their feet are doing after all. But, now we're going to see even shorter skirts, so we can see all the leg movement. Now there's a lot of muscles being used if you're a ballet dancer and we want to be able to see uh.. the beauty of the lines that the dancers are creating. This is also a period of time when dancers started dancing on point, thats the English version of on porte. My French is terrible, you know that, but dancing on their toes. That's a relatively modern idea for the ballet. So, the woman who was create... credited with both really shortening up the skirt and dancing on point is Marie Taglioni. Marie seem to be very common name for ballet dancers, maybe you just had to be a Marie to be a dancer, because all the famous ones in the early days were named Marie. So, she was the one who shortend that up. We have a.. a picture of her, not a photograph obviously from that period of time but we do have a painting of her that I uh.. would like you take a look at so that you can see sort of the style, so she's got a shorter dress, it's not as short ass the little tutus that you might think of when you have your mental picture of ballet, but it is a shorter skirt so that you can see her leaps and umm.. all those little fancy things that they do and she's also dancing on point, it was a very important thing at that time. In the romantic period, ballerinas really kinda became the be all and end all of ballet, if you think about the major title character's for ballet, Sleeping Beauty, Woman Swan Lake. the swans, women. Odette, Giselle, yeah the names the titles are almost all women, the men obviously have roles, but it's really all about a star vehicle for women for a good bit of the Romantic period. Thankfully, the Russians were really still focusing on male dancers and even if you think.. you think about the most famous male dancers in ballet, where, you know, we're talking about Naginsky and um.. Barishnikov, Russians. And that's.. the reason for that is that the Russians were still work in developing male dancers and female dancers, so they sort of saved the whole world of dance for men by developing this really strong program. There's a particular person associated with that Russian ballet thats a name you should recognize and thats Mariusz Petipa, he was a choreographer. So what's a choreographer? That's the person who actually writes the dance. They don't just go out there and make it up as they go, right, anymore than the musicians just go out and make it up as they go so, he was a.. a French choreographer, but he worked with Russian dancers. So he brought all that history of French ballet which you know they developed almost everything all the language is in French, but then he worked with these really, extremely well-trained, Russian dancers to come up with what is considered now, some of the best ballet productions ever. He worked with Tchaikovsky, who is the big-name for um.. Russian ballet from the uh.. romantic period. Tchaikovsky wrote three ballets; Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake and Nutcracker are the three, I...just..I don't like to deal with The Nutcracker, you know, it's one of those that gets done, everybody knows it but, it's probably not the work I would choose to talk about if I were going to do a big thing about it. So, he has these three big ballets, um... let's talk about how those ballets are structured. If you think about ballet as a team sport, there are layers of players, so you have your stars, you have the ballerina, the prima ballerina, who's the big star. She's yours Sleeping Beauty, your ode..Odeal in Swan Lake. Then you have your sort of second-team dancers who are working their way up to be the prima ballerina there is usually three or four of those who... who get them maybe some little.. they may get some solo dances of their own, but they often will dance surrounding the star, and then you have all the other dancers who are the supporting cast, so if you think about in Swan Lake, all those big scenes with all the Swans fluttering about the pond, that's all the rest of those dancers. we have a similar hierarchy on the male side so there's the main the uh.. main male dancer and we don't call him the ballerino, he's just the male dancer, ummm.. and then there are usually a couple of other male dancers who are sort the second teer, who often have some sort of specialty and they've and even the women often have a specialty. umm.. a woman might be a specialist in dancing on point so her solos will have her dancing like, forever on our toes and you think she can't possibly stay up there any longer and then she keeps going, and the men will be come often more acrobatic so they might specialize in doing pirouettes, spinning around and around. They might specialize in leaps umm.. so or even something thats umm.. really acrobatic so that they can um get some of those roles in the ballet where they need somebody to be a Chinese dancer who's doing hands and backflips and jumps and all those sorta exciting things. So that's the basic structure of how the uh.. the cast itself is put together and as you watch productions of ballet you will see that, especially in romantic ballet, that almost everybody has a chance. So there aren't many ballets where there's just the ballerinas and just the top tier everybody has some sort role to fulfill um.. So, I would like you to take a look at um.. some scenes from Swan Lake, give you a general idea the story of Swan Lake is um about Siegfried, who was a prince, gotta have a prince in these stories and he has gone hunting for swans. guess they didn't keep they didn't think swans were so pretty as we think them today, today we think ahhh. oooh cute swans. He goes hunting for swans, and of course there's tons of them in this big pond, but then there's this one swan that catches his eye and turns out she's really a woman who's been enchanted and turned into a swan and she needs a handsome prince to save her, that kinda fairy tale sort approach to things and he falls in love with her. That's Odette, so she's the swan that's always dressed in white umm... when you think the dying Swan, you know that that's her role. So he's..he's in love with her: well he goes back home and because he's a prince he's expected to marry you know it and so there's always a big party almost every Tchaikovsky ballet has some sort of big party scene. It's a chance to get all the rest of the crowd on the stage. So as you watch those, Pay attention to how different people act. There will be a lot of characters on the stage who don't really dance much at all and you'll see that they're not wearing toe shoes either, they're wearing basically what you think it was a sort of a street shoe, it's got a heel. like they would have worn back in Louis the 14ths time. We refer to those as character shoes, they're characters and they're wearing their shoes, but they're not going to be dancing the fancy stuff. Many of the people who played those particular roles in a ballet company are people who used to be um... you know, just part the regular, star kind of core, but once they reached the point, because it's very taxing discipline, there there are no forty-year-old um..angenieuxs in ballet. then they they roll over and they play the roles of the parents or people in the village and so they still get to do the dancing part they're just not doing that quite as physically demanding dances they would have done earlier. So you can tell those buy their clothes and their shoes, because they're going to be wearing generally umm.. costumes are appropriate for the story, whereas the the other people might be weird things that are looking allow for dancing to work a little better, so you can tell differences in the characters that way. One of the things that Tchaikovsky likes to do in these party scenes and their as I said, there's one and I think in every one of his ballets is that this is a chance to incorporate music of different cultures. Remember, Tchaikovsky's in the romantic period where exoticism was a big thing, trying to write music that sounded like it came from some other country. So in these party scenes there's always, always something like there's a Russian dance, there's a Chinese dance, there's an Arabian dance, there's different kinds of cultures be represented. He's written music that is supposed to sound like that. They wear costumes from whatever country it is they are supposed to represent and it's just really doesn't advance the plot at all, but it's a great chance for everybody to hear this wonderful music and for everybody else to get to do a dance, so umm.. I've given you one scene. Where you get to to see the party scene and this is where umm.. Siegfried's parents are bringing in all the eligible princessy types for him to choose from. So, this is..they have picked the girl so you can see that there are women around who are not part of the um we'll call them ethnic dances that these are the women that he's supposed to choose from. So he's got to make this choice, but he has of course already fallen in love with Odette the swan. Well, the man who put the curse on Odette has a daughter himself, and he has brought his daughter to this party because he wants his daughter to marry the prince. His daughter is Odeal, Odette and Odeal are danced by the same woman and ...dat... you can take this as sort of psychology project, here right, so this is the good side and this is the bad side so Odette, she is.. she's always wears black and she dances much more dramatically than the swan, the swan the swan's got to be graceful and all that.. Odette's the swan, grace. Odeal is more umm.. flashy you might say in her dancing. So now, poor Sigfrit is confused, I..uh.. uhh sort of recognize this, but not quite sure we're not supposed to get that she's the same person, um so then he'd agree he's gonna marry her but then he realizes that he.. it's still Odette and that it's all just a big mess. well the ending of the story changes, depending on who decides to put on the protection, so sometimes Odette and Siegfried get together and everybodys all happy and sometimes things don't end so well, so I've given you the ending of this ballet so that you can see this particular choreographer and directors choice as to how to end the story. So we have siegfried, we have Odette and obviously Odette and Odeal can't be on stage at the same time because they're the same person, but sometimes they will do interesting things like um.. have a, especially today, they could do a recording of the other character, they'll have projected on the back like um.. sort of a memory thing, that is he remembers her and he sees it in his mind's eye sort of approach. So, as you look at these um.. excerpts, as I said, I've given you one um that has a crowd scene, I'm giving you some of the classic Swan Lake swanee things, and also that final scene so you can see what audiences in the nineteenth century loved about ballet, and here some the wonderful music of Tchaikovsky that accompanies it. When you hear this music without the ballet, which is probably more common, remember that it will be called a suite, so it would say suite from um.. Swan Lake, and they would have chosen only the orchestral bits that they wanted to use, put them together in a little set and our orchestra will play it without any dancers so as you're looking for productions to go to if you decide you'd like to go see ballet live, make sure that they're actually doing the ballet and not just an orchestral suite from the ballet, because then you would be disappointed. So, enjoy Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake.


Cult of the ballerina

Lithograph by A. E. Chalon of Carlotta Grisi (left), Marie Taglioni (center), Lucille Grahn (right back), and Fanny Cerrito (right front) in the Perrot/Pugni Pas de Quatre, London, 1845. The premiere of the Pas de Quatre is considered to be the Romantic ballet at its zenith.
Lithograph by A. E. Chalon of Carlotta Grisi (left), Marie Taglioni (center), Lucille Grahn (right back), and Fanny Cerrito (right front) in the Perrot/Pugni Pas de Quatre, London, 1845. The premiere of the Pas de Quatre is considered to be the Romantic ballet at its zenith.

The Romantic era marked the rise of the ballerina as a central part of ballet, where previously men had dominated performances. There had always been admiration for superior dancers, but elevating ballerinas to the level of celebrity came into its own in the nineteenth century, especially as female performers became idealized and objectified.[1] Marie Taglioni became the prototypical Romantic ballerina, praised highly for her lyricism. The movement style for Romantic ballerinas was characterized by soft, rounded arms and a forward tilt in the upper body. This gave the woman a flowery, willowy look. Leg movements became more elaborate due to the new tutu length and rising standards of technical proficiency. Important Romantic ballerinas included Marie Taglioni, Carlotta Grisi, Lucille Grahn, Fanny Cerrito, Pauline Leroux and Fanny Elssler. The plots of many ballets were dominated by spirit women—sylphs, wilis, and ghosts, who enslaved the hearts and senses of mortal men and made it impossible for them to live happily in the real world.

While ballerinas became increasingly virtuosic, male dancers became scarce, particularly in Paris (although they were still common in other European areas, such as Denmark).[2] This led to the rise of the female travesty dancer - a female dancer who played male roles. While travesty dancing had existed prior to the romantic period it was generally used in tableau and walk-on (marcheuse) parts. Now it became a high-status occupation, and a number of prima ballerinas made their names by dancing en travestie. Fanny Elssler and her sister both played travesty parts.[3] The most well known travesty dancer was Eugénie Fiocre, who was the first dancer to play Frantz in Coppélia, as well as a number of ballerina roles.[4]

Design and scenography

Romantic tutu

A romantic tutu
A romantic tutu

The costume for the Romantic ballerina was the romantic tutu. This was a full, white, multi-layered skirt made of tulle. The ballerina wore a white bodice with the tutu. In the second acts of Romantic ballets, representing the spiritual realm, the corps de ballet appeared on stage in Romantic tutus, giving rise to the term "white act" or ballet-blanc. The dancers wore pointe shoes to give the effect of floating. However, sometimes they decided to throw in extra sharp, sassy movements to portray the given concept or intent, often using high kicks and fast turns.

Special effects

Romantic ballet owed much to the new developments in theatre effects, particularly gas lighting. Candles had been previously used to light theatres, but gas lighting allowed for dimming effects and other subtleties. Combined with the effects of the Romantic tutu, ballerinas posing en pointe, and the use of wires to make dancers "fly," directors used gas lighting to create supernatural spectacles on stage.

Famous ballets

Notable choreographers

Notable composers

Notable theatres


  1. ^ Kant, Marian (2007). The Cambridge Companion to Ballet. United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. pp. 175–176. |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  2. ^ SMITH, MARIAN (2007-03-01). "The disappearing danseur". Cambridge Opera Journal. 19 (01): 33. doi:10.1017/s095458670700225x. ISSN 0954-5867.
  3. ^ Garafola, Lynn (1985). "The Travesty Dancer in Nineteenth-Century Ballet". Dance Research Journal. 17 (2): 35. doi:10.2307/1478078. ISSN 0149-7677.
  4. ^ Kennedy, Fenella (2017-05-04). "Rethinking the Travesty Dancer: Questions of Reading and Representation in the Paris Opera". Dance Chronicle. 40 (2): 192–210. doi:10.1080/01472526.2017.1321374. ISSN 0147-2526.
This page was last edited on 21 September 2018, at 05:37
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