Dancing and Ballet Dancing and Ballet Dancing is the art of moving the body in time to music. Dancing is both an art and a form of recreation. Most people dance to have fun or to entertain others, but dance can also be used for communication. Dancers express feelings of joy without saying a word. Since prehistoric times people have danced, and there are lots of kinds of dancing. There is folk dancing and religious dancing, popular dancing and theatrical dancing, to name a few. Out of all dancing, theatrical is probably the most entertaining.
Theatrical dancing includes ballet, jazz, tap, and musical comedy. Theatrical dancers may take great personal satisfaction in creating something beautiful. However, their enjoyment is not as important as their ability to interpret the dance to the audience. All types of dancing require practice and technique, but probably none require as much as ballet. Ballet dancers seem to ignore the law of gravity as they float through the air in long, slow leaps. They keep perfect balance while they spin, and at times, their feet move so rapidly that the eye can hardly follow the movements. Women often dance on their toes while men lift them up like they were as light as feathers. Ballet dancers take joy in controlling their bodies, but they can only perform difficult steps after many years of training. Ballet classes are held for both professional and beginning dancers. Because professional dancers must keep in shape, they usually take at least one class daily. Beginning students may take anywhere from three to ten classes a week to improve their technique. Ballet classes begin at the barre where dancers develop better technique.
Later they move to the center where they do exercises to strengthen and improve their dancing. Next, the women sometimes work on pointe , and the men will work on big, energetic jumps. When developing a ballet, many people must work together to make it the best show it can be. There is a choreographer (one who composes dances), an orchestra and a composer (though some ballet companies use recorded music), people to make scenery, costume designers, and most importantly, the dancers. Ballet dancers have short career.
Most become professional before the age of twenty and retire by the age of forty-five. Good dancers by far out-number good jobs. Some dancers may spend many months auditioning – only to be turned down. Dancers’ lives are not easy. They have to attend many rehearsals and have little time for anything else. The average pay isn’t very good, though star performers can earn large salaries. Dancer’s career problems are sometimes too much for them, which is very sad since dancing is such a beautiful art.
GREAT DANCERS Anna Pavlova (1881-1931) Anna Pavlova was a Russian ballerina who was known for her gracefulness. She is best known for her three minute solo of “The Dying Swan”. Pavlova traveled all over the world and could often make people cry when she danced this piece. She studied at the Imperial Ballet School and then joined the Imperial Ballet Company. In 1906 she became prima ballerina of the company.
She later formed her own company and took it on tours until the time of her death. Enrico Cecchetti (1850-1928) Cecchetti was one of the greatest ballet teachers of all time. He also helped train many great dancers of the 1900’s. He was known for his technique and speed. Cecchetti is best known for his leading male role in “La Scala” and the Bluebird role in “The Sleeping Beauty”. He was born in Rome and began teaching in 1890. He taught at the Imperial School of Ballet and later became an instructor for the Ballets Russes de Diaghilev in Milan, Italy.
In 1918 he opened a private school. He was the last great dancer of the strict Italian tradition. George Balanchine (1904-1983) Balanchine was a Russian choreographer who developed a new trend in American and European Ballet. His ballets usually weaved designs inspired by music instead of telling stories. Balanchine was born in St. Petersburg and left Russia when he was twenty to join the Sergei Diaghilev Ballet Company in Paris. He then became its leading choreographer. Balanchine came to the United States in 1933. He founded the American School of Ballet whose performing company became the New York City Ballet in 1948.
Mikhail Baryshnikov (1948- ) Baryshnikov is currently one of the worlds leading ballet dancers. He performs in a style called bravura which features brilliant, daring dancing. He is known for his highly developed technique. He was born in Riga, Russia, and began studying ballet at age twelve. At the age of nineteen he had become a soloist with the Kirov Ballet.
Baryshnikov moved to the West in 1974. He later joined the American Ballet Theatre. In 1978 he joined the New York City Ballet and later became the artistic director of the American Ballet Theatre. Vaslav Nijinsky (1890?-1950) Nijinsky was the most famous dancer of his time. With thick thighs and sloping shoulders he acted out his roles so completely that his body seemed to change from one role to another.
He had such amazing body control that his dancing seemed to be spontaneous and effortless. He was born in Kiev Russia and first studied dance at St. Petersburg Imperial School of Ballet at the age of ten. He traveled to Paris with Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballet Company in 1909. Nijinsky had great international success until 1913 when Diaghilev dismissed him for marrying another dancer in the company. He rejoined the company in 1916 in the United States, dancing as brilliantly as ever.
But only a year later mental illness ended his career. Fred Astaire (1899- ) Astaire is an American dancer who became a star of musical motion pictures. He is best known for his graceful, imaginative dancing. His real name is Frederick Austerlitz, and he was born in Omaha, Nebraska. From age seventeen to age thirty-three he and his sister Adele Astaire starred as a dance team in many Broadway musicals.
In 1933 he teamed up with dancer Ginger Rogers in the movie, “Flying Down to Rio”. Their dancing delighted audiences, and they made nine more films together. Melissa Hayden (1923- ) Melissa Hayden is a Canadian ballerina who danced in the Radio City Music Hall in New York City. She then joined the American Ballet Theatre in 1945. She danced with the New York City Ballet from 1950 to 1973 where she starred in many ballets created by George Balanchine.
She won special praise for her interpretation of the title role in Briget Cullberg’s ballet, “Medea”. Alexandra Danilova (1904?- ) Alexandra Danilova is a Russian ballerina who won international fame for her warmth, intelligence, and radiant dance style. She was born in Peterhof and became a soloist with the Marinsky Ballet (now Kirov Ballet) in 1922. In 1924 she joined the Sergei Diaghilev Ballet Company in Paris and became a favorite of all audiences. She was prima ballerina with the Col. W.
de Basil’s Ballets Russes in 1933 and then with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo from 1938 to 1952. She retired in the late 1950’s. Bibliography “Baryshnikov, Mikhail.” World Book Encyclopedia. 1985 ed. “Cecchetti, Enrico.” World Book Encyclopedia. 1985 ed. “Danilova, Alexandra.” World Book Encyclopedia.
1985 ed. Grant, Gail. Technical Manual and Dictionary of Classical Ballet. New York: Dover, 1967. Horosko, Marian, and Judith R. F.
Kupersmith. The Dancer’s Survival Manual. New York: Harper & Row, 1987. Kent, Allegra. The Dancers’ Body Book.
New York: Quill, 1984. “Misha the Rainmaker.” Dance Magazine, Jan. 1992, pp. 44-49. “Nijinsky, Vaslav.” Encyclopedia Americana. 1958 ed.
Whitehill, Angela and William Noble. The Young Professional’s Book of Ballet. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton Book Co., 1990.