The word “ballet” was derived from the Italian word “ballare” for “to dance”. Technically, ballet can be defined as, “choreographically organized combination of dances”. Ballet is the creation of stylized performances by combining academic dance techniques with various artistic elements such as music, decor and costume. Ballet can either be dramatic (narrative) or purely aesthetic.
The birthplace of classical ballet is Italian Renaissance’s courts. Aristocrats, who threw banquets, organized dramatic dance shows that were generally about mythological themes during the amusements before and after meals. Renaissance court ballet, performed with magnificent scenery and fascinating costumes, laid the foundations of classical ballet as we know it today.
Louis XIV of France who ascended the throne in the mid 17th century initiated “comédie-ballet” and “opéra-ballet” shows by establishing Académie Royale de Danse (Royal Academy of Dance). Rapidly progressing in technical sense, ballet reached its peak in 18th century with choreographic works of Jean-Georges Noverre. Court dresses were pushed aside, costumes matching the themes were preferred; moving away from the court halls, stages open to general audience were composed. Famous female and male dancers began to emerge as ballet became widespread. Marie Camargo and Marie Salle as well as Gaetan and Auuguste Vestris can be counted as the primary ones.
19th century was an era that romantic ballet had become widespread in Europe and Tsardom of Russia. Trained in this period, choreographers like Auguste Bournonville, Jules Perrot and Marius Petipa, “prima ballerinas” like Fanny Elssler and Marie Taglioni brought a large audience in ballet. Ballets by Tchaikovsky assured the popularity of this aesthetic art form forever.
In the beginning of 20th century, ballet witnessed a new impulse: Ballets Russes (a Russian ballet company), founded by Sergei Diaghilev in Europe, began to present colorful and magnificent ballets which are predominantly mimic, and which go beyond the ordinary forms of step, movement, setting and costume design that resemble Renaissance performances This company which laid the foundation of contemporary ballet led great artists like Mikhail Fokine, Vaslav Nijinsky, Leonid Massine, and Georges Balanchine to emerge.
Rooted and developed in Italy, France, Denmark, Russia, and Great Britain, classical ballet is perpetuated by companies, like Bolshoi, Kirov, Metropolitan, The Royal Ballet (in London), La Scala di Milano, as well as artists, like Margot Fonteyn, Rudolf Nureyev, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Ninette de Valois, Anton Dolin, at the present time. At this point, it must be indicated that there are two “anti-theses” of classical ballet today: Contemporary ballet and modern dance. Grown out of the seeds that Diaghilev planted, contemporary ballet found expression in Georges Balanchine’s neoclassical ballet and Maurice Béjart’s dance theatre productions for the first time. Modern dance technique and method proposed by Isadora Ducan had developed (as a result oflaboratory work) and established at an academic level in the first quarter of 20th century.
Institutionalization of the ballet by the hand of state in Turkey occurred in the mid-20th century.
Although Ankara State Conservatory was planned to include ballet, this plan has not come to realize until 1950 due to various reasons. Yeşilköy Ballet School, an educational classical ballet unit founded on the initiative of Ninette de Valois, Joy Newton, and Audrey Knight in İstanbul on January 1948, was moved to Ankara and joined State Conservatory. A handful of dancers who graduated from this department in 1956, 1957, and 1958 composed the core of State Theater Ballet Department. Later on, State Opera and Ballet has become institutions operating in Ankara, İstanbul, İzmir, and Mersin.
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