Everything About Ballet

Everything Beginners Need to Know About Ballet

Most people seem to have a natural instinct for dancing. Even babies who are just a couple months old will jump up and down when they hear music. Ballet is an art form that hones that natural instinct and prepares dancers for incredibly technical moves. It is such a physical form that you could even consider it a kind of graceful sport.

If you are interested in ballet, then you will want to learn as much as possible about its history. You may also want to learn more about ballet training and the specialized pieces of equipment that make it possible for dancers to reach their goals.

In an ever-changing art like ballet, it is important for dancers to keep up with current concepts as well as the history.

History of Ballet

You may have noticed that many of the terms used in ballet are from the French language. Although ballet was started in Italy during the 15th century, most of its development happened in France when it moved from royal courts into concert halls. That’s when it became a performance piece that other people wanted to watch from the audience.

History of Ballet

Ballet thrived in France under the rule of King Louis XIV, who had been a dancer when he was young. Over time, though, people started to lose interest in the ballet. This encouraged some teachers and innovative choreographers to create new techniques that would breathe new life into the art. Still, the French audience had lost interest. Luckily, the art form continued in other parts of Europe.

Today, ballet is enjoyed by people all over the world. Some of the greatest dancers are from countries like the United States, China, and Russia. France remains an important center for the ballet, but it has not maintained its prominence compared to many other countries.

Popular Ballet Styles

Over the course of ballet’s history, at least four dance styles have been developed:

  • Romantic
  • Classical
  • Neoclassical
  • Contemporary

While these styles are rooted in the same tradition, each one has unique features that may attract dancers and audiences. If you are interested in studying ballet, then you should learn about the basics of each style. Doing so will not only make you a better dancer, but help you decide what type of techniques you need to focus on while training.

Romantic Ballet

The Romantic style was developed during the 19th century, a time when many artists and writers focused on expressing intense emotions. Like other art forms, ballet followed this trend.

Romantic Ballet Style

Many of the Romantic ballets feature plots where spirit women capture the hearts of men. This leads the men into a kind of fervor that they have never experienced before. Some popular ballets from this period include La Sylphide and Coppelia.

Classical Ballet

Classical ballet tends to focus on training methods that make it possible for dancers to perform highly technical moves. It is an extremely difficult form of dance for most people to learn since it requires extraordinary balance, strength, and flexibility.

Classical Ballet Style

There are actually numerous sub-genres of Classical ballet. Many of them are named for their countries or origin or the people who invented them. Some popular genres under the Classical title include:

  • Russian ballet
  • French ballet
  • Cecchetti ballet

Well known Classical ballets include Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, and the Nutcracker. To this day, they remain some of the most popular ballets performed around the world.

Neoclassical Ballet

Neoclassical ballet often uses the same techniques, language, and training methods as Classical ballet. The biggest difference between the two genres is that Neoclassical ballet takes an abstract approach to storytelling. In fact, many Neoclassical ballets do not have obvious plots. Instead, they use challenging body movements to express emotions.

Neoclassical Ballet Style

Many dancers feel that Neoclassical ballet is also more challenging than Classical forms. This is because Neoclassical techniques tend to focus on athleticism rather than delicate grace. This puts an emphasis on the dancer’s ability to push his or her abilities into new areas of the art.

Neoclassical ballet is a fairly recent development that was started in the early 20th century. There are several important choreographers within the genre. Some of them consider themselves Modern Ballet choreographers. In many respects, though, it is difficult for audiences to differentiate between Modern and Neoclassical forms because they have so much in common.

Contemporary Ballet

Contemporary ballet draws inspiration from several diverse sources. Some purists, in fact, believe that it isn’t ballet at all since it takes so many moves from other styles, including jazz and modern dance. Many contemporary ballets even include ethnic techniques that do not originate from Europe. To some, this simply does not seem like ballet at all.

Contemporary Ballet Style

Contemporary ballet does, however, have its roots in traditional techniques used in the art form. It just combines those techniques with moves learned from other cultures and types of dance. In some cases, the ballet forms are intentionally hidden within the choreography, but they still exist. As long as there is that connection, dancers can consider themselves a part of a long tradition that has changed considerably over the centuries.

Instead of seeing Contemporary ballet as a departure from Classical ballet, it is possible for dancers and choreographers to see it as the next step in the art form. Most Contemporary ballets use abstract forms and lack cohesive plots, if there are any plots at all. In fact, many ballet companies that consider themselves Classical or traditional have performed Contemporary dances. This shows that Contemporary ballet is become more mainstream over time.

When to Start Ballet Training

When a person begins training for ballet often depends on his or her personal development. Not all people, in other words, are ready at the same time. Some of the world’s best ballet dancers, however, started training when they were very young children. Wendy Whelan, for instance, began training when she was just three years old.

Young Kids Training Ballet

Not everyone, of course, has the ability to start dancing at such a young age. Many boys and girls do not begin dancing until they are eight or even ten years old. Unless they are particularly talented, it is unlikely that these dancers will become professionals. Still, ballet offers a great way for kids to get the exercise they need to stay healthy. The physical nature of ballet also makes it a good option for adults who want to get more exercise and improve their coordination.

Keep in mind that many ballet dancers can only perform at the professional level for a short period of time. As they age, recovering from intense training can become more difficult. Of course, not everyone wants to become a pro. Still, starting a young age will usually make it possible for dancers to reach higher levels of stamina and technique.

Choosing a Ballet School

In order to get the most out of ballet training, it is important for dancers to choose the right schools that match their interests and objectives. You may want to consult a ballet school directory to help you find studios that operate in your area.

There is more to choosing a school than just finding one near you. Some teachers make their careers instructing dancers in specific genres of ballet. A teacher may choose to focus on Classical or Modern ballet, for instance. Since these categories involve significantly different training methods, students should choose their instructors carefully after doing some research.

Training at a Ballet School

You will also want to look for a ballet school that has classes for your age group. Most ballet schools offer a wide range of classes for children and adults. This is not always the case, though. If you choose a school that only organizes classes by level of experience, then an adult could find himself or herself training with a group of children. Just the difference in body size is enough to stunt the student’s progress, not to mention the awkwardness of dancing with people outside of his or her age group.

Of course, you should also consider price when choosing a ballet school. If you are using ballet to improve your athleticism and health, then you should expect to spend about the same amount that you would on a gym membership. This assume that the classes include at least a dozen students, or perhaps even more. If you want private lessons, then you can expect to spend considerably more.

Many ballet schools offer scholarships that make group classes and private lessons more affordable for dancers. Getting a scholarship, however, almost always requires previous experience. If you have not shown exceptional promise as a dancer, then it is unlikely that you will get a scholarship that pays your tuition at a studio, company, or school. This doesn’t mean that it is impossible, but it is less likely. Contact the schools that interest you to see if you qualify for scholarships or grants that can make your training more affordable.

Clothing and Equipment Needed for Ballet

Choosing the right clothing and equipment is an essential step toward becoming a ballet dancer. If you haven’t already started looking, then you may be surprised by the wide range of options available to you. This diversity makes it important for you to understand the differences between each item so you can choose the ones that are right for you. Without them, you may find that your progress stalls before you come close to reaching your real potential.

Ballet Shoes

There are four basic types of ballet shoes that dancers should know about. Beginners usually start with soft ballet shoes. These are slip-on shoes usually made of felt or a similar material. Since they’re very flexible, dancers won’t feel restricted by wearing them. This is a good quality for people who are learning the basic techniques commonly found in dancing.

As dancers progress, though, they will need to purchase new types of shoes designed for different techniques. Full sole ballet shoes are usually good options for intermediate dancers who haven’t mastered difficult techniques yet. These shoes have soles that are usually made of suede. The suede sole covers the entire bottom of the shoe. This offers a little extra support for dancers who haven’t built significant foot strength. The suede soles can also help dancers turn easily on their toes.

Ballet Pointe Shoes For Advanced Moves

A dancer with a little more experience will often opt for split sole ballet shoes. Like full sole ballet shoes, these designs have suede bottoms. What sets them apart is that the suede only covers the heel and ball of the foot. By eliminating the suede that covers the foot’s arch, these shoes give dancers the freedom and flexibility they need to perform intricate moves. Since they offer less support, though, the dancers will need strong feet that can withstand long training sessions.

When ballet dancers become very experienced, they often switch to pointe ballet shoes. If you have watched professional ballet performances before, then you have probably seen these ballet slippers before. These shoes are special because they have supports built into the toe. This lets dancers balance themselves on their tiptoes.

Regardless of your footwear, it takes a lot of foot and calf strength to do this. Having the right shoe, however, can make a big difference. If you are interested in performing in front of an audience, then you will probably need one or two pairs of pointe ballet shoes.

Ballet Clothing and Costumes 

There are all kinds of ballet clothing and costumes that you may want to purchase. For the most part, though, you can practice ballet in any clothes that are loose and comfortable. You do not want to wear something that will restrict your movement. A pair of comfortable sweatpants is usually all you need for practice.

When it comes to performing, though, you cannot expect to show up in a pair of old sweats. You will need costumes that are specifically designed for the dance production.

Ballet Costumes

Tutus are the most common type of ballet costumes worn by women. When you go to buy a tutu, though, you will notice that there are several types. Some have long skirts that hang all the way down to your ankles. Others have short, stiff skirts that stick out around your body. The type that you buy will depend on the dance you want to perform. You teacher will be able to help you choose something appropriate for the production.

Men usually wear tights that give them a full range of motion. If they need to wear costumes for a performance, then they will usually wear items that represent their characters. Someone playing a price, for instance, will need a ballet costume that has a regal appearance. Someone playing a servant will not need a costume that is so ornate.

Since there is a lot of variety, you should explore several types of ballet clothing and costumes to help you decide which options are right for you.

Ballet Training Equipment

If you attend a ballet school or studio, then you should have access to a wide range of equipment that will help you improve your skills. You don’t need to limit yourself to training in the studio there. Instead, you can purchase affordable equipment that will let you improve your technique at home. This is a good option for anyone who wants to improve quickly or does not have time to visit the studio every day.

Ballet Training Barre 

The ballet training barre is probably the most popular piece of equipment for dancers trying to master their technique. When you visit a dance studio, you will find the barre mounted to a wall. This gives you excellent support while you exercise and explore new techniques. It is also a good way for dancers to improve their flexibility.

Ballet Training Barre

 

If you plan to practice at home, then you will probably want to purchase a stand-alone ballet training barre. Of course, if you happen to have a wall that can support a training barre, you could always have one mounted. Doing that, however, is fairly expensive and takes up a lot of room. Only the most dedicated dancers would consider doing such a thing.

Since stand-alone ballet training bars are not mounted to a wall, you will need to exercise caution while using them. Too much force could cause the stands to turn over, which could lead to injuries.

Turn Boards

A turning board is one of the most effective ways for you to improve your dancing technique at home or in the studio. If you want to get better at spotting, and perfect the other functions of turning, then you should have one of these in your home.  When you stand on the board, you can feel how easily it makes turning. That’s because the plastic surface and curved design reduce friction from the floor. You can turn and turn on it with minimal effort allowing you to focus other aspects of turning.

Small-Header-BalletBoard

This accomplishing several things for beginning dancers. Perhaps most importantly, a turn board will help you develop your confidence. Performing multiple pirouettes in a row can seem like a daunting task to new dancers. By practicing at home with a turning board, you can build the skills and confidence that you need to perform moves in the studio. That’s the advantage of having this type of training equipment at home. Intermediate and advanced dancers will also see their skills improve by using turn boards like the Balletboard ™ regularly. This is a valuable tool for aspiring dancers.

 

How to Get Better at Ballet 

If you want to get better at ballet, then you will have to practice as much as possible to improve your technique. There simply is not a way to avoid this. Getting better takes a lot of hard work.

You can, however, make your training a little easier by making sure you have the right shoes and training equipment. Whether you have been dancing for years or you just recently got started, having the right items will make a world of difference. It’s practically impossible for a dancer to reach her or his potential without spending several hours a week practicing.

Get Better at Ballet

Finding a good teacher will also help you get better at ballet. Few things are more effective than personal instruction from a professional. A good teacher will know how to show you the proper way to develop your technique. Someone with plenty of experience should also know how to correct common problems that dancers have.

Instead of struggling to meet your goals by yourself, you can get assistance from someone who has already gone through the difficult process of mastering ballet’s difficult techniques.

The best teachers will also give you instructions that will help you improve your perform at home. You don’t always have to go to the studio to practice. You may only go to class once or twice a week. That’s fine as long as you practice your craft at home. When teachers assign you homework, you should follow their advice. The drills they recommend will help you develop the stronger, more flexible muscles that you need to dance ballet.

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