Classical ballet generally means a traditional style of ballet that uses systematic and high- quality ballet techniques from after the Romantic ballet era. According to the professor’s lecture, architects and artists of Western Europe were brought into Russia by Peter the Great and his daughter, Catherine the Great of Russia, who also brought many ballet masters of Europe to Saint Petersburg, which was built in 1703 (00:00:26-00:00:53). Classical ballet was developed by Marius Petipa, one of the ballet masters who went to Russia at that time. He had a great effect on Classical ballet after he became the imperial ballet director of Saint Petersburg in 1869. As a result, Russian ballet emerged as the leader in Classical ballet.
The movements of Classical ballet are graceful and detailed. The scale of performance was very large, and symmetry and balance were emphasized in the choreography. The choreographers created strict regulations and procedures for the dance, and the choreography followed these rules in that era. Dance movement and mime were basic elements for the storyline of the performance, and plots were always focused on how the dancers move (“How Classical Ballets Are Arranged”). Classical ballet dancers’ movements always included standing on tiptoes, and actions such as spinning, jumping, or crossing their feet were also added to the movements. In terms of the footwork, the most interesting movement to me is sur les pointes. It requires stretching the instep fully and holding one’s weight on the ends of the toes (00:04:24 – 00:04:32). Pas de deux, which means love, is a typical characteristic of Classical ballet
Ruree 3 performance. Pas de deux is performed a male and female pair together in the climactic scene. Paul Kilbey stated that Pas de deux is revealed in representative works of art, such as a Romeo
and Juliet, Giselle, and Swan Lake (5 of our favourite ballet pas de deux). I also saw Pas de deux in The Sleeping Beauty and The Nut Cracker videos.
The Classical ballet costumes were tighter and highlighted female dancers’ legs after the ballet costumes of La sylphide became a trend in 1832 (“Ballet Costume History”). The male dancers usually wore suits or tights for a ballet. Dancers should wear toe shoes to perform the complicated and elaborate footwork. According to the professor’s lecture, an ensemble and conflicting chorus and solo dancer were used in choreographies by Marius Petipa (00:01:33 – 00:01:43). The background music of Classical ballet is created by a full orchestra, as the grand music of a full orchestra made the performance stand out. Tchaikovsky, one of the composers at that time, spent lots of time producing songs with Petipa. They collaborated to create many well- known performances, including Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and The Nut Cracker. Such ballet music was often repeated and simple (“Classical Ballet”), a fact that I also noticed when I listened to Classical ballet music. Classical ballets were usually held at court or in a large theater. Today, famous Classical ballets are sometimes performed in a large theater.
In the Romantic ballet era, the aristocracy only learned and performed ballet to express their status or provide court entertainment. More people, however, could enjoy and practice ballet when not only Peter the Great, but also Marius Petipa, founded big ballet academies in the Classical ballet period. With the establishment of ballet academies, dancers were able to focus more on balance, and the movement of Classical ballet developed more systemically.
Ruree 4 Modern dance is comprehensive, including not only revolutionized dances, but also how
the dances were made, and which choreographers created them. According to the professor’s lecture, most modern dance pioneers were female, and they called themselves “artists” (00:00:15 – 00:00:21). Isadora Duncan, Ruth St. Denis, Denishawn, Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman are representative examples of modern dance choreographers, and they created their own gestures and steps using emotions and moods. In the late 19th century, modern dance took on a different character to the techniques and costumes of Classical ballet, and women wore corsets and long skirts. By stopping the wearing of such costumes, modern dance choreographers broke the stereotypical frame of the movements of Classical ballet, and they wanted to reflect creative self-expression instead of traditionally high-quality techniques through their choreography. Among the many modern dance choreographers, Martha Graham is the most interesting to me, as she performed as a dancer until she was 75 years old, made over 180 choreographies.
Although Martha Graham’s early works of art were harsh, she ignored Classical dance styles and chased expressive, confident, and methodical performances. Her choreographies usually reveal an inner emotional experience, America’s identity, and a pioneering spirit. According to the American Masters, Martha Graham’s abstract and angular choreographies are often compared to Picasso’s paintings, Stravinsky’s music, and Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture. Her choreographies are very unique and shocking. Graham developed “contraction and release”, which is based on the respiration cycle, and this principle became the foundation of modern dance forms. She didn’t have any limitations in her choreographic forms. Martha Graham stated “I wanted to begin not with characters or ideas, but with movements . . . I wanted significant movement. I did not want it to be beautiful or fluid. I wanted it to be fraught with inner meaning, with excitement and surge.” When I heard this quotation, I gained a better
understanding of her performances.
Dancers usually wore minimal costumes in Graham’s performances. Among the costumes of her choreographies, the costume of Lamentation is very interesting. It was created in 1930, and she showed only her face, hands, and bare feet through her elastic costume while continuously pushing and pulling it. The background music was created by a full orchestra, but she also sometimes used traditional or folk music in her choreographies. Martha Graham collaborated with Aaron Copland, and together they achieved great success. In 1944, Graham premiered her choreographies with a song created by Copland, Appalachian Spring. She performed on a bare stage that had minimal lighting. Martha Graham said that she expects music, costumes, and settings to be a part of the drama rather than just decoration when she performs on a stage (00:21:25 – 00:21:38).
Josh Mapes stated that Martha Graham, one of the great modern dance choreographers, used athletic and modern movements, unlike other female dancers, because she was shorter and older than other dancers (Martha Graham: The mother of Modern Dance). Graham emphasized the power and triumph of great female heroines in her performances, because she learned dance when women were fighting for the right to vote in the United States. As an example, Heretic, which was created in 1929, describes the struggle of women in a hostile society.