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Ballet Picture by F. Von Munchen
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Ballet dance history archive origin title
    Before the Ballet, there were Chorales, Spectacles, Masques and Moorish dances. The Choral dance when performed as a Court dance for entertainment thus becomes a ballet:
* A Spectacle which was a type of Ballet was devised by the Romans - "Fabulæ Atellanæ," of which Charles V of France (1364-1380) presented to the German Emperor Charles IV (1316-1378) in 1377 was of this type.
* Dance interludes known, as Masques in England were the start of the pre-Ballet.
* However the Moorish or Moresque dance played an important role in the
early development of the ballet as well.

    It is said that the very first 'Spectacle' to lead the way of the Ballet was in 1448 when Milan's Duke of Galcazzo had just married Isabel of Aragon. Bergonzio di Botta of Torton gave a fete or Festilina (Feasting dance or Bacchus) in the Dukes Honor. This Fete was an affair to end all others and all Europe had gossiped about it for months and months, while even by today's standards it would be considered spectacular. Paintings, Sculptures and moveable scenaries were used as accessories. This fete would be copied many times over and would be usually held at night and soon become the principle amusement for all great occasions in European courts. This truly began the Ballet.

    The word Ballet comes from the Italian word Ballare (in Latin means: to dance), through the Italian "balletto" and is generally thought to be the creation of Baitazarini di Beigioioso of Tortona (Bergonzio di Botta) and in ancient Greek, The word "ballizo" (âáëëßæù) meant "to dance alone." Henrick Isaak (1450-1517), a Dutch composer while working in Italy composed some "Carnival Songs" as well as the creating of the "Ballo" (a dance) accompanied by his own Ballo music, the dancers also being the singers. The English word Ballad comes from this source which literally means "a song for dancing."

    Around 1530, Aglio, the Count of Savoy prepared and acted Ballets with the Prince's and Princesses of his Court. The main experiment in Ballet came from the court of France when Catherine de Medici (1519-1589) along with Henry II (r.1547-1559) brought a dance master in from Italy by the name of Baitazarini. On 10/15/1581, Catherine would hold the first Ballet called the "Ballet Comique de la Reine," for the Duc de Joyeux's marriage. A violinist named Beujoyeux who would later become the Valet De Chambre (dance master) designed this Ballet.

    The Ballet de Comique de la Reine would provide the essential ingredients and to form the pattern of Ballet from previous efforts. Baif would introduce to France the allegorical, moral and ludicrous ballets to court. The Court ballet was also introduced around this time and found great favor with King Henry III and King Louis XIV. Louis XIV would help to make the Ballet one of the biggest sensations the world had known and XIV also performed in many ballets in his youth himself. Louis founded the Academy of the Art of Dancing in Paris in 1661 as well as other Arts institutions. In 1588, a French dance master by the name of Thoinot Arbeau wrote a treatise on dance (book) entitled "Orchesographi" which today is considered a record of the Ballet and it's music. This treatise would be the main source for France to establish a higher position than Italy in developing the Ballet. In it, he describes the dances done in Ballets, such as the Volte, Gavotte, Courante, Allemande, Moresque, and Branle's. He described the dances in a notation system as well the technique used such as "Turned out feet" which led to the "Five Absolute Foot positions" in dance which were later formulated by Pierre Beauchamps (1635-1709).

    Of the Russian Ballet, Charles Louis Didelot (1767-1837) is considered the father of the Russian Ballet, however, it is said to have been introduced into Russia by the Tsar, (Romanov ruler) who reigned from 1645 by the name of Alexis Mikhailovich (1629-1676) during his wedding. Later, Peter the Great (Peter I,) who reigned around 1682/3 became very fond of dancing and western dances in particular in his court. Peter would take part in the dances as well. Empress Anne (Anne I-1693-1740) aka the Tsarina, who reigned from 1730, was also very fond of dancing and had young dancers trained in the ballet at the Imperial School for Cadets. Jean Baptiste Lande taught dancing at the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg in 1738. The first Heroic Russian ballet was composed by Domenico Angiolini (1731-1803) in St. Petersburg as well (Angiolini was an Italian dancer and brought to Russia by Russian Empress *Catherine the Great [1729-1796] in 1765.) Dancers who helped shape the Russian ballet were many such as Marius Patipa (1818-1910,) Jules Perrot, Chris Johansson (1817-1903) who primarily formed the distinct style of the Kirov Dancers.

    The first appearance of women in the Ballet came when dance master Jean Baptist Lully (1632-1687) presented "Le Triomphe de l'Amour" in 1668 that included for the first time four female dancers. Before this, boys in wigs and or masks performed all the female parts. Maximilien Gardel (1741-1787) would later discard the masks used in the Ballet in 1772. He did this while dancing on stage to let the audience know it was he, not Gaetan Vestris dancing (Vestris did it earlier in Medea & Jason- 1770). The early ballet consisted of mostly social dances of the day such as the Gavotte, Pavane, Allemande etc. Marie Carmago (1710-1770) is credited with trying to enlarge the variety of steps and dances from these mentioned. Georges Noverre (1727-1809) would make many changes in the ballet, which are still used to this day.

    There were many others who helped this dance grow, but space is limited. Ballerinas rose to the "Point of the Toe", which is called "sur les pointes" (toe dance). This made the heroines of the Ballet become "ethereal creatures" who inhabited the air, who rose from the grave as if she had no contact with the earth at all. Sylphides, Naiads, Fairies, and other enchanted species traveled the air and played a big part in these early Ballets. This ethereal effect is what led to Ballerinas dancing on point. Fanny Bias in 1821 and Marie Taglioni (1804-1884) in "la Sylphides" in 1832 danced on toe (entrechat.) Many mechanical devices were developed and came to be used to assist this ethereal process as far back as 1796 by Charles Ludwig Didelot (1767-1837).

    The first ballet seen in New York City was called the "Bird Catcher," presented in 1792 by Alexander Placide and his wife as well as John Durang being in this company as well. The "Turnout" of the feet of the ballet dancer became favorable around 1588 and has proven irreplaceable over time. Marie Taglioni introduced the Tutu, which is accepted as the standard costume today, in the ballet "La Sylphides." Eugene Lamy designed this tutu (wonder what type of material he used ... Lamay?... lol ... just kidding).

    When ballet declined in Western Europe (France and Italy), Russia then became the main field for the ballet dancer. Hollywood would later capture an essence of the ballet and Agnes de Mille and Ballanchine would lead the way thru cinematography. Many dancers would help spread the love of Ballet. Dancers like Pavlova, Mordkin, Taglioni, Camargo, Essler, Baryshnikov (sp?), Ted Shawn, Fonteyn, Toumanova etc. All styles and forms of dance had ratings when performed and would be reported as follows:
1) Lowest degree was called "Grotesque." Which meant the dancer was unsteady, movements were Imposing while demanding ... skill rather than gracefulness.
2) The second degree was called "Comic." Generally steadier than the first, representing the customs, Pastimes, or romances of the lower classes.
3) The third degree was called "Demi-charactre." This class exemplified affairs of ordinary life such as a love story or plot was representing the common people.
4) The fourth degree was called "Serious dances." These were usually found upon the tragic staging. This represented the highest possible degree of skill and elegance.
5) The fifth degree was known as "Pantomimic or Ballet." These acts conveyed the entire act through Dance (no sopken words).

Birth Place

Creation Date


Dance Type

Europe 1448 Bergonzio di Botta of Torton Ballet


Poets / Writers

Music Titles

1377 - Charles V of France Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837) Ballet (Bembo)
1400 - Galeazzo Visconti
(Duke of Milan)
Phillippe Quinault (1635-1688) Ballet de la Comédie (Praetorius)
Voltaire (1741) Ballet des 3 Aages (Praetorius)
1430 - Phillip the Good Ballet des Sylphes (Berlioz)
1530s - Aglio-Count of Savoy Ballo (Molinaro)
1540s - King Louis XIV, XIII Ballo Polacco (1599)
1540s - Catherine de Medici Faust
1581 - Henry II, IV Lo Ballo dell' Intocia (Valente)
1600's - Countess of Bedford Nutcracker
1600's - Queen Ann $ Amazon Popular Ballet Music (MP3's)
1700's - Duke Of Wuerttemberg
1770 - Marie Antoinette
Prince of Lamarck

Night Clubs



Billy Rose's Horseshoe Cambridge Theater 1669 - Paris Opera House (Academie)
Cotton Club George White's Theater
Latin Quarter Grand Palais 1738 - Russian Imperial School of Ballet
Moulin Rouge Jacobs Pillow (1930s)
Radio City Music Hall Majestic Theatre (1935) 1812 - La Scala Opera House (Milan)
Waxhall Gardens (Vauxhall) Maryinsky Theater (1860)
Camargo Society
Ziegfeld Theater Metropolitan Opera House (1880s) Folkwang-Schulen
National Theater Internationales de la Danse
Roxy Theater National Academy Of Dance
Theater de Monte Carlo Petrouchka (1935)
Theatre Comique St. Petersburg Imperial Ballet
Theatre Italien Commedia Del (1760s) Stockholm's Royal Opera House




1938 - Ballerina Goldwyn Follies 1430 - Jason & The Golden Fleece
1943 - Red Shoes Scandals 1581 - Ballet of Circe
1946 - Specter of the Rose Ziegfeld's Follies 1581- Ballet Comique de la reine...
1951- An American In Paris [DVD] 1681 - Triumph of Love
1951 - Little Ballerina, the 1832 - La Sylphide (Start of Romantic Period of Ballet)
1951- Limelight [DVD] 1841 - Giselle
1947 - The Unfinished Dance 1848 - Faust
1953 - Mastera Russkog 1877 - Swan Lake
1955- Oklahoma! [DVD] 1890 - Sleeping Beauty
1963 - Eve with the Royal Ballet 1892 - Nutcracker
1966 - Romeo & Juliet [DVD] 1910 - Scheherazade
1967 - Schwanensee 1911 - La Belle Paree
1968- Pas de deux [DVD] 1935 - Aurora's Wedding
1972 - I Am A Dancer [DVD] 1935 - Three Cornered Hat
1978 - The Nutcracker [DVD] 1947 - Mephisto Waltz
1981 - Celebration 1951 - Jose Greco Ballet
1983 - Pavlova for all time [DVD] 1958 - Ballet Español
1985 - White Nights [DVD] 1959 - Les Ballets Africains
1991 - Margot Fonteyn Story [DVD] Grand Ballet d' Action (Noverre)
1997 - Great Pas de deux [DVD]
Amazon DVD Search List For Ballet
Amazon VHS Search List for Ballet

Other Dances

Allemande Cachucha Landler Polka
Alta Danza Can Can Mazurka Quadrilles
Balletti Contredanse Minuet Quaternaria
Balleto Cotillion Moorish Saltarello
Ballo Courante Pantomime Spanish Dances
Basse Dance Court Dances Pavane Spectacle
Buck and Wing Galop Piva Waltz

Dancers, Choreographers, Dance Masters

1550s - Baitazarini Alicia Alonso Fioretti Molière
1740s - Marie Camargo Agnes DeMille Gaetano Vestris Nijinsky
1740s - Marie Salle' Auguste Vestris Georges Noverre Olga Preobrajenskaya
1760s - M. Bionni Baryshnikov, Mikhail Nikolaevich Jean Baptiste Lully Tamara Geva
1820s - Carlo Blasis Beaujoyeux Léonide Massine Tamara Karsavina
1841 - Carlotta Grisi Charles Louis Didelot Margot Fonteyn The Taglioni's
1860 - Leontine Beaugrand Cyd Charisse Marius Petipas Tortajada
1900's - Anna Pavlova DennishawnDancers Martha Graham Vera Fokina
1910s - Enrico Cecchetti Fanny Essler Maximillian Gardel Vera Zorina
Fiocre Michael Fokine Marie LaSalle
... See Larger Ballet Dancers Listings

Books, Magazine Articles on the dance...



Date Published


Il Ballarno Fabrito Carosoo 1581 n/a
Ballet Comique de la Royne Balthazar de Beaujoyelux 1582 (program)
Nuove Inventioni di Balli Cesare Negri 1604 n/a
La Danse Ancienne et Moderne Louis De Cahusac 1754 Paris
The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d'Alembert Diderot & d'Alembert 1772 n/a
Lettres sur la Danse et sur les Ballets Jean George Noverre 1803 St. Petersburg
Basic Ballet William Walter English 1954 Random House
Grammer of the Art Of Dancing Friedrich Albert Zorn 1905 A.J. Sheafe
World History Of The Dance Curt Sachs 1937 Norton & Company
Dance Encyclopedia Anatole Chujoy 1949 A.S. Barnes


Song Writers


Bembo, Antonia (c.1670-1720) n/a 3/26/1938 - Liberty Mag
Berloz, Hector (1803-1869)
Lully, Jean Baptiste (1632-1687)
Pugni, Ceaser
Saint-Georges, Adolphe
Molinaro, Simone (16th Century)
Praetorius, Michael (1571-1621)
Valente, Antonio (1520-1581)

Misc. Research Words that may be related ... to help your searches

Ballate (songs) Court Medieval
Balletti divertissements Middle Ages
Ballo Etrennes Dansants (Dance Gifts) Point / Shoes
bar Liberatto Renaissance
Baroque Librettos Romantic period (1820-1870)
Cantica Lithographs Spectacles (Roman)
Canzon a Ballo (de Medici) Masquerie Wigs and Masques

Note: There is so much written history on the ballet and its dances, and dancers that it is to large to list.
This is a simple, brief, basic page.
[Ballet Dancers Listings]


click here for vintage Ballet Terms list