Thursday, January 11, 2018

Ballet: The Balanchine body

In the early English Ballet an entire story was portrayed through dance and pantomime but after 1735 greater attention was paid to ballet alone. About the same time England became the place where foreign ballet dancers performed in front of rich patrons. However, it was not until the early part of the twentieth century before English ballet dancers began seriously contributing to the art form.

Margot Fonteyn was a major dancer and was the focus of Ballet world attention for almost thirty years.

In 1929 after the Ballets Russes was dissolved many dancers immigrated to the United States. Those that remained in Europe joined companies such as the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and the Original Ballet Russe. In the 1930s they toured the United States from coast to coast.

The School of American Ballet was established in 1934. The Ballet Theatre (American Ballet Theatre) was founded in 1940 and a few years later George Balanchine formed Ballet Society. The formal costumes for the premier performance were too constricting and Balanchine discarded them and let the dancers dance in rehearsal costumes. The look caught on and was instantly recognised in Balanchine's ballets. The choreographer gave his name also to the stereotypical slimline body image now associated with ballet dancers and achieving the "Balanchine body." Unfortunately, this also led to many eating disorders in ballerinas and ballerina.

In 1948 the director of New York City's City Centre Theatre invited the Ballet Society to work alongside the New York City Opera in the Theatre. This was the beginning of the New York City Ballet. Balanchine's influence on American ballet was immense and in his romantic "Walpurgresnacht Ballet", the ballerinas dance the first and third sections in high heeled shoes. Their steps are deliberately restrained and their feet are symbolically floored by their footwear. In the second section, the dancers wear classical pointe shoes and their movements express an impassioned freedom. The choice of shoes was central to the ballet's story as the choreographer was offering the ballerina's pink satin pointe slippers as a metaphor for elusive sexual love.

An interesting comparison especially when European dance shoes of the Chinoiserie period have been compared to the bound feet of Chinese women.

Reviewed 18/01/2016

1 comment:

Ballet said...

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