Four sections give an overview of ballet in this video from the Dance Arts Toolkit series. These sections include history, characteristics, dancer training, innovative choreographers, and how to watch ballet.
Ballet is a classic form of dance that originated with French nobility in the 17th and 18th centuries. A strong Russian ballet tradition developed in the 19th century. Like artistic dances in general, ballets tell stories, express ideas or emotions, or respond to music. Music, lighting, costuming, and body positions and control are all important aspects of a ballet performance.
Ballet communicates a sense of weightlessness and grace. Dancers work hard to conceal the effort that goes into making the dances look easy. A classical ballet dancer undergoes formal training that can be very grueling.
Ballet style and technique are rooted in five “turned-out” positions:
First position—heels touching, feet forming a straight line
Second position—heels wide apart, feet forming a straight line
Third position—one foot in front of the other with heel against the instep
Fourth position—feet apart, one in front of the other, heels in line
Fifth position—one foot in front of the other with the heel against the joint of the big toe
When in these positions, the knees should point directly over the toes when they bend, and the upper body should stay upright with shoulders over hips.
Throughout the history of ballet, many exceptional choreographers and dancers have developed. Some were responsible for significant changes and trends in the dance form and others introduced new techniques. Two examples are George Balanchine and Mikhail Baryshnikov. Today, ballet choreographers combine classic ballet with more modern forms to keep the form fresh and alive.