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Ballet: An elegant dance form King Louis XIV was passionate about

By Tania Bagwan,

Ballet is a theatrical dance form that originated during the Italian Renaissance.

Ballet can be categorised into four main forms: Classical ballet, romantic ballet, neoclassical ballet and contemporary ballet.

Ballet is regarded as one of the most elegant dance forms in history. As a dance form, it possesses its own vocabulary and is highly technical in nature. It takes years and years of practice to be qualified to perform ballet professionally. Ballet has spread its unique influence globally, although it is much more prominent in the West. However, it has become quite popular in India too over the last decade, with numerous ballet schools opening around the country. 

Ballet has slowly and steadily been evolving over time, with various schools around the world incorporating their own take on it. However, at its core, this performing art still remains grounded in its fundamental elements. Here is all you need to know about ballet, and its history.  

What does the word ballet mean? 
The word ballet is derived from the Italian word ballare which means ‘to dance.’ It is a theatrical dance form which includes music and choreography. Ballet is a formal dance technique in which external elements such as the stage and costume also play an integral role.  

The origin and history of ballet 
The origin of ballet is traced back to the Italian Renaissance during the 15th and 16th centuries. It was primarily developed as a form of court entertainment, and this is how it was formalized. It spread to France and got widely popular there when Catherine de Medici of Italy was married to France’s King Henry II. She introduced ballet to the courts in France.  

At first, the ballet costumes for the dancers were quite restrictive and this reflected on the dance too. The dance was not as fluid as it is now. However, it was over the next century that the French king, Louis XIV, changed the vocabulary of ballet. He performed it himself too, and took it to new heights. The popularity of ballet in France started to decline after 1830. However, during this period, it spread to other places such as Denmark, Russia and Italy, again.  

Variations of ballet 
Ballet can be categorised into four main forms: Classical ballet, romantic ballet, neoclassical ballet and contemporary ballet. Classical ballet developed in France, Italy, England and Russia. It is the oldest form of ballet. Romantic ballet emerged in the romantic era, and is characterised by pointe work, more female dancers and longer, flowy tutus.  

Neoclassical ballet is the most distinct form, as it does not have a structure plot, costumes or any scenery. Thus, it is more abstract in nature. Contemporary ballet, on the other hand, is marked by the absence of ballet shoes. it is performed barefoot. It incorporates mime and acting.