The Art of Ballet

(The Freeman) - December 9, 2015 - 9:00am

CEBU, Philippines - Here are ballet performances being scheduled in the city in time for the Christmas season. The Cebu Center for Dance and Balletcenter each has its own production. Those who appreciate ballet would probably go to see both productions, since these tell stories different from each other and, to some good extent, offer different theatrical experiences.

Entertainment is perhaps what the general public thinks to be the biggest value of ballet. But that may be so only in as far as the audience is concerned. The art form is quite different from the point of view of the ballet artists themselves.

Sue Jones, writing in www.datehookup.com, traces the origin of ballet to the courts during the Italian Renaissance period, as noblemen and women attended prestigious events involving dance, music, and a huge celebration. During the 16th century, Jones writes, Catherine de Medici's French court saw the art develop further; her efforts led to the growth of a program involving dance, costume, song, music, décor, and poetry.

Jones points out that King Louis XIV helped propel the art of ballet into a professional endeavor by dancing in many roles himself. A dance academy opened in Paris in 1661. By 1682, performers were dancing onstage instead of the courts. The efforts of Jean-Georges Noverre helped transform opera ballet into a dramatic narrative involving relationships between characters, an art form known as ballet d'action.

During the 19th century, classic ballets evolved to include supernatural and magical themes. It also conveyed women as passive and fragile. These dances became known as romantic ballets. In addition, dancing on the tip of toes or pointe work became the norm for ballerinas.

The popularity of ballet increased during the latter part of the 19th century in Russia. In fact, ballet soared to new heights with the development of timeless narratives, such as the "Nutcracker" and "Sleeping Beauty." Russian choreographers focused on classical technique while incorporating difficult sequences into performances. The classical tutu was also introduced during this time.

Ballet has transformed in style over the centuries, according to Jones. Classical ballet reached its height during the 19th century, with the influence of famous choreographers living in Russia. Classical ballet involves graceful movements, pointe work, turn-out of the legs, balance, symmetry, and emphasizes story ballets with elaborate sets.

In the 20th century, neo-classical ballet gained prominence. Neo-classical ballet involves increased speed and energy, countering the classical form with a stripped down story line and paired down sets. Contemporary ballet, for its part, incorporates elements of modern dance, with floor work, a greater range of body movement, turn-in of the legs, and pointe shoes.

Ballet dancers develop the incredible talent to elegantly move their bodies in ways that express thoughts and emotions. This is attained, of course, through rigorous training and a strict sense of personal discipline. In the words of prima ballerina and ballet coach Fe Sala Villarica: "Even when one is not dancing, a ballet dancer stands out by naturally exuding a sense of graceful poise and personal discipline." Ballet improves posture, mental acuity, physical prowess, and increased flexibility.

A good training in ballet could very well propel the dancer to fame and distinction. Star ballet dancers are celebrities. And this fact seems to motivate many dancers in their training.

There is admittedly a kind of competition among ballet dancers. Brittany Kottler, in an article at www.huffingtonpost.com, mentions the fact that ballet is competitive. "Ballerinas are extremely competitive with each other and the ballet world has a hint of a cutthroat culture."

In recent years, Kottler cites, the performance of the dance has changed. Dance competitions have since pervaded the ballet world. These competitions, according to Kottler, ruin the art of dance and completely remove the soul and emotion necessary in the art of ballet.

This is how ballet has come to be viewed by some as closer to a sport than an art. But Kottler argues that "art is not something that can be judged on a scale of 1 to10, [otherwise] the judgment takes away the passion and creativity." Competitions simply highlight the athleticism of ballet and limit dancers to only performing tricks, she says.

Kottler concludes that ballerinas are competitive with each other in the same way artists, musicians and actors are. "Ballet itself is [never] a competitive sport - it is an art."

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