Saturday, October 19, 2013

A brief history of ballet shoes (Part Two)

History of Ballet Shoes (Part Two) The Romantic Movement
After the fall of Napoleon in 1815 a new artistic movement began. The romantic period started with La Sylphide (1832) and ballerinas ruled supreme. These were characterized by soft, rounded arms and a forward tilt in the upper body. Leg movements became more elaborate and pointe shoes were introduced, enabling women to dance on the tips of their toes. Female dancers wore calf-length, white bell-shaped tulle skirts which eventually gave way to the tutu. The purpose of the male dancer was to lift the ballerinas and make it look easy.

Important Romantic ballerinas included, in addition to Marie Taglioni, Carlotta Grisi, the first "Giselle", Lucille Grahn, Fanny Cerrito, Marius Petipa and Fanny Elssler.

Charles Didelot (1767 – 1837)
Toe dancing was beginning to be seen at the very tail end of the 1700's. Dancers balanced on momentarily on their toes wearing soft ballet slippers. Charles Didelot (1767 – 1837) is credited with advancing the art form with innovations and developments in style and costume. Among other things he created a “flying machine” of rigged wires that carried dancers into the air and made them appear weightless. He became the first choreographer who brought a ballerina posing on the pointe in 1815 in the ballet Flora and Zephyr (1815, Paris).

Marie Taglioni (1804 –1884)
Marie Taglioni was the most celebrated ballerina of the romantic ballet and generally credited with being the first ballet dancer to go en pointe. Her shortened skirt gave a better view of her pointe work. These were considered scandalous at the time the dancer transformed toe dancing. Her grace, lightness, elevation and style earned her an adoring audience and a brilliant career.

Early ballet slippers
Marie Tagolioni’s dance technique mirrored the bare foot and she wore well fitting soft satin slippers with leather sole. Her ballet shoes had to be darned on the sides for strength but the tip was left free, for pointe work.

Ballet Stance
Hip rotation and foot position were originally to show off the court shoes. The dress of the dancers was adapted to shoe the intricate foot work.

Cult of the ballerina
At the height of the "cult of the ballerina", in Russia a pair of Marie Taglioni’s pointe shoes were sold for two hundred rubles, and reportedly cooked, and served with a sauce to a group of balletomanes.

Carlos Blasis (1803 - 1878)
Carlo Blasis set down the modern ballet technique by stressing the turned-out leg. He published a ground breaking technical manual for dance, the Trait Elementaire et Pratique de la Danse in 1820. As a dance teacher, he was interested in practicality for ballet practice and designed garments that revolutionized the clothing worn in the dance studio. He insisted dancers wore clothing that sat close to their shape. His dancers were free to execute complex and demanding steps.

August Bournonville
Danish choreographer, August Bournonvillen (1805 – 1879) was best noted for his “Bournonville slipper” worn by male dancers. Bournonville slippers are black and have a white, V-shaped vamp in the front. This helped give the impression of a long and pointed foot. They are still worn in productions of his ballets.

Notable ballerinas of the Romantic Era Francesca "Fanny" Cerrito (1817 – 1909)
Carlotta Grisi (1819 – 1899)
Lucile Alexia Grahn (1819 - 1907)

Emma Livry (1842 –1863)

Emma Livry was one of the last ballerinas of the Romantic ballet era and a protégée of Marie Taglioni. She died from complications after burn injuries sustained when her costume caught fire during a rehearsal.

Ballet Russes
The Russian Monarch established the St. Petersburg school in 1738 during the reign of Empress Anna (1693 - 1740). The academy was known as the Imperial Ballet School. Later Russia Opera Houses came under the direct control of the Tsar and productions were paid from the Imperial purse. During this time dancers became part of the Imperial household.

Marius Petipa (1855-1881)
He developed and defined romantic ballet and created the core repertoire of the Russian ballet. His best-known works were The Sleeping Beauty (1890) and Swan Lake both set to commissioned scores by Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky.

Russian Ballet
Stronger shoes
Ballet shoemakers started to make harder shoes for pointe work. Harder shanks were introduced with reinforced toe boxes to make the platform bigger. Marius Petipa made good use of the new shoes in his complex 'pouncing‘ routines.

Michel Fokine (1880 – 1942)
Michel Fokine was the first choreographer of the Ballets Russes. He instructed a technique that used the dancer's entire body at all times while expressing the story. Over the next several years, the Ballets Russes performed many ballets that have since become famous including Scheherazade and Firebird, and Petroucha. In Eunice (1907), he made it look like the dancers were in bare feet by having toes painted on the dancers' shoes. Bare feet dancing would have defied the rules of the imperial theatre.

Enrico Cecchetti (1850 -1928)
Enrico Cecchetti (1850 -1928) was an Italian ballet dancer, mime, and founder of the Cecchetti method. After an illustrious career as a dancer in Europe, he went to dance for the Imperial Ballet in St. Petersburg, Russia where he further honed his skills. Cecchetti was praised for his agility and strength in his performances as well as his technical abilities in dance. By 1888 he was widely accepted as the greatest ballet virtuoso in the world. He created a ballet technique that is now known as the Cecchetti method. Under his method dancers follow strict routines and daily exercises. Considered the greatest ballet virtuoso of his time he taught Anna Pavlova, Léonide Massine, and Vaslav Nijinsky.

The Russian Revolution
After the revolution, The Imperial Ballet School was dissolved by the new Soviet government, but later re-established as the Leningrad State Choreographic Institute. Anatoly Lunacharsky, the People's Commissar for Enlightenment, opened the Bolshoi Drama Theatre in 1919. At first a lack of talented dancers meant local folk dancers were used and dancing styles became more robust and incorporated athletic style, especially for male dancers.

Pierina Legnani (1863 –1930)
Italian schools pushed technique to the limit. When Pierina Legnani performed a bravura (thirty-two fouettés on pointe) it caused a sensation. The secret of the Italian success was their stable shoes. Italian ballerinas danced in harder, stronger footwear which gave support. Eventually the stars of ballet moved to Russia their dancing shoes were made firmer, and eventually grew quite hard and stiff. Even today Russian made pointe shoes are stiffer than other makes.

Anna Pavlova, (1881-1931) The most celebrated Russian ballerina was Anna Pavlova maintained the ideal of balancing on the smallest, pointiest tip. In truth her feet were extremely rigid to strengthen her pointe shoe she had a piece of hard wood on the soles. Strictly this was considered "cheating", however her status allowed it and her shoe modification became the precursor of the modern Pointe shoe. . According to Margot Fonteyn's biography, Pavlova did not like to see her modified footwear in photographs and had them removed or altered to appear as if she was using a normal pointe shoe. She was much celebrated by the fanatical balletomanes of Tsarist Saint Petersburg, her legions of fans calling themselves the Pavlovatzi. She formed her own company and became the first ballerina to tour ballet around the world.

Development of en point shoes
Pointe work allowed performers freedom to move and achieve greater grace. Pointe shoes evolved with a flat toe box as a platform. This base helped develop calf and leg muscles during strenuous routines and allowed the entire weight of the body to be precariously balanced on the rigid points of one or both feet. The new footwear enabled maneuvers like pirouettes, arabesques and the dancers required to develop skill, strength, agility, and grace.

The Tutu
The bell-shaped Romantic dress of the mid-1800s gave way to the tutu at the end of the 19th century. Connoisseurs of ballet wanted to see the new technical feats and fancy footwork of their ballerinas. The new long, floppy, 16 layer tutus reached to the knee and allowed the female dancers much greater mobility in such technically demanding ballets as Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and Paquita.

Belle Époque (1871 - 1914 )
Burlesque performance became more mainstream in Belle Époque Paris at the Moulin Rouge. Belle Époque dancers like La Goulue and Jane Avril were Paris celebrities who danced the Can-can and modeled for Toulouse-Lautrec's iconic poster art. Classic ballet was less popular and skirts were shorter with more leg exposed. The female dancers wore pointe shoes.

Ballet leotards

After trapeze artist Jules Leotard (1838 – 1870) was seen wearing his leotard Modern dancers started to wear them for practice. Others had adapted the popular one-piece bathing suit, made famous by the Australian long-distance swimmer Annette Kellerman (1886 – 1975). Dancers wore the long sleeve version of ballet leotard with a scoop neckline. Some dancers started to practice in bare legs but bare legs were never very popular with most dancers for practice because the leg muscles need to be kept continually warm. The Ballet Renaissance
The revolutionary music of composers like Stravinsky began to influence of modern dancers like Isadora Duncan and others. A ballet renaissance grew in both Europe and America. Paris, London, and New York City became major centres. After the Ballets Russes was dissolved in 1929 many dancers immigrated to the United States.

Isadore Duncan (1877 - 1927)
By the early 20th century that dance clothes began to change to those that are commonly used today. Isadora Duncan, one of the first innovators, was considered to be an extremist when she discarded shoes, stockings and tutus and danced on stage in bare feet and flimsy Greek tunics. Her flimsy Greek tunics soon became the practical and acceptable style of dancewear worn for rehearsal.

George Balanchine (1904 – 1983) Choreographer extraordinaire George Balanchine is considered the father of American ballet. He let the dancers perform in rehearsal costumes and the look soon caught on. Balanchine's dancers had a stereotypical slim line body image which is now associated with modern ballet dancer. The new order of ballerinas wore shorter “powder-puff” tutu to allow the entire leg to be seen. Balanchine moved towards the creation of plotless ballets where the motivation was movement in response to music rather than to a storyline. Walpurgresnacht Ballet 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.

English Ballet
In the early English Ballet an entire story was portrayed through dance and pantomime but after 1735 greater attention was paid to ballet. 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.

Ballet Tights
When stretchable Spandex replaced nylon legwear became smoother, less scratchy and stopped bagging at the ankle. Improved fabrics allowed dancers to cover their feet without impinging on movement. In practice ballerinas wore tights with their bodysuits and topped them off with some knitted legwarmers to keep their muscles warm.

Male Principle Dancer
During the last century the male principal dancer (danseur noble) has came to prominence. Renowned for their athleticism in general they do not dance en pointe. American ballet, under the influence of George Balanchine, continues to depict abstraction in theme and simplicity in design where as Russian and English ballet exemplifies storytelling and lavish production.

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