The History of Ballet

Hello everyone!  Long time, no blog.  I’ve been having a very busy, yet relaxing summer.  It’s almost time to go back to school and for dance classes to start-up again.  Because I am a dancer and talk so much about my love for dance, I decided to write a series of blog posts about the history of different kinds of dance.  For my first post in the series, I am going to start with the form of dance I love the most – ballet!  I started ballet at the age of five and I didn’t much appreciate it in the beginning.  Now, I go to a dance studio where the main focus is ballet technique.  Now I am so much better at it because it’s all that I do.  The history of ballet is as interesting as the art form itself.  The word ballet comes from French and was borrowed into English around the 17th century.  The French word in turn has its origins in Italian balletto, but uses the shortened version of ballo (dance).

Ballet ultimately traces back to Italian ballare, meaning to dance.  According to Wikipedia, ballet originated in the Italian Renaissance courts of the 15th and 16th centuries and spread from Italy to France.  Catherine de’ Medici and Balthasar de Beaujoyeulx were responsible for presenting the first court ballet ever which applied poetry, dance, music and set design to a storyline.  In the late 17th century Louis XIV founded the Académie Royale de Musique (the Paris Opera), within which emerged the first professional theatrical ballet company, the Paris Opera Ballet.  The dominant use of French in the vocabulary of ballet reflects this history.  Theatrical ballet soon became an independent form of art and spread from Europe to other nations.  The Royal Danish Ballet and the Imperial Ballet of the Russian Empire were founded in the 1740s.  In 1907 the Russian ballet moved back to France.

Soon ballet spread around the world with the formation of new companies, including the San Francisco Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, the New York City Ballet, and many others.  In the 20th century, different styles of ballet continued to develop.  The United States choreographer, George Balanchine, developed what is now known as neoclassical ballet.  Subsequent developments have included contemporary ballet and post-structural ballet.  I want to be a ballerina when I grow up.  My favorite ballerina, Misty Copeland, was just named American Ballet Theatre’s first female African-American principal dancer.  I find her to be very inspirational.  Because of her late start in learning how to dance ballet (she was 13) and her race and body type, she is what’s known as an unlikely ballerina.  Keep reading my blog to learn about other forms of dance.
 

This is me in my ballet costume for a group dance I was in during my 5th grade year back in 2013 – 2014.  We danced to Discombobulate.  It is the theme song from the movie, Sherlock Holmes.

Congratulations to the Principal!!!

Today has been a great day in the world of dance. Misty Copeland has been named principal dancer for the American Ballet Theater.

I was able to meet Misty at my dance studio last year. She is so cool! I remember her telling us about all of the hard work and challenges of being a soloist. When she came to our studio, she was the third African-American soloist in the history of the American Ballet Theater. She also talked about her goal of being a principal dancer.  And now, she is the first African-American principal dancer in the 75 year history of the American Ballet Theater!  You can read about our meeting here. I also wrote about my dream to be like Misty one day here. Is it obvious I like her? Well I do. She’s one of my biggest inspirations. Ballet is the constant pursuit of perfection and Misty inspires me to strive to get better everyday….

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Here is one of the famous commercials she has done….

And yes, I still have her autographed books…Life in Motion Signautres

African-American Ballerinas

There are African-American Ballerinas you know?  The most famous right now is Misty Copeland.  There are others, but not a lot of others.  Misty Copeland is the third African-American soloist at the American Ballet Theatre and she is trying to expand ballet to more students of color through her Project Plié program.  Last week I was talking to my dance teacher, Ms. Erica, about whether or not it would even be possible for me to be a classical ballet dancer someday.  She said that it would, even though there are still a lot of people who don’t think that African-Americans make very good ballerinas.  Even Misty Copeland, as small as she is, was told when she was starting out that she had the wrong body type for a ballerina, that she was too muscular.   I am tall and muscular and built “solid,” like my dad says.  I hope that I will get so much better as a dancer and if I choose to pursue classical ballet as a career that somebody will see the artistry in my dance and in my body and give me a chance to dance for a ballet company, not because I’m black, but regardless of the fact that I am black.

Look at these articles, which will tell you more about the subject.
NY Times: Where Are All the Black Swans?
Huffington Post: Misty Copeland, Ashley Murphy & Ebony Williams Cover ‘Pointe,’ Proving Black Ballerinas Rock

Pointe Magazine

I Met Misty Copeland Today!!!

AWESOME day I had today!  I met Misty Copeland!  That’s right, THE Misty Copeland!  For those of you who don’t know who Misty Copeland is, I’ve blogged about her before.  She is the third African American female soloist in the history of the American Ballet Theatre.  She was in town today at our city’s ballet company/school – the one that I am going to start taking classes at this fall (actually, they start in August).  She was teaching one of their Summer Intensive classes and she had a book signing today.  I have her book and I am reading it right now, so you will see a book summary on it real soon.  Today she talked about her life.  She was one of six kids born to a single mother.  They were poor when she was growing up in California and they struggled a lot.  She was “discovered” during a ballet class at the Boys and Girls Club when she was thirteen, which is late to begin training as a ballerina.

She said that she worked really, really hard and within four years she was a professional dancer with the American Ballet Theatre, which is like unheard of!  She was really behind when she started and she took three ballet classes a day, six days a week for four years to get where she is today.  I think that is incredible!  She was talking about Project Plié, which is a program that teaches ballet to poor, minority students in Boys and Girls Clubs so that one day there will be more diversity in dance at the professional level.  I hope I can dance professionally one day.  Anyway, I sat on the front row with my parents to hear her talk and answer questions and then I was the first person in line at the book signing.  She signed two books for me and we took a picture together.  Take a look.

Life in Motion

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Life in Motion Signautres

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Misty Copeland

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I love to dance.  If you’ve been reading my blog over the last two months, you know that about me for sure.  I have been going to a medium sized recreational studio for five years now and I am in the Company.  We do special performances around town and we compete in dance competitions.  I take ballet, jazz, and tap primarily.  I have been in pointe/pre-pointe for a year now and we perform dances in those styles as well as musical theater, lyrical, and hip-hop.  I have been thinking for a while about what it would be like to pursue dance more seriously, maybe even as a career, to train real hard and perfect my technique and study dance in college.  I know that dancers don’t have long careers, so I’d have to be able to do something else when I stopped dancing.  In that way, dancers are like athletes.  I am considering leaving my studio that I love and all of the girls that I’ve been dancing with over the last few years to go to the dance school run by our city’s ballet company.  I think that they take dance more seriously and they are training students to be dancers when they grow up.  They also do not consider themselves to be recreational and they don’t do stuff like dance competitions.

Dance started up again this week, summer classes.  We are also busy re-choreographing, re-blocking, and rehearsing our dances for Disney World.  We’re going there to dance in July.  I think after the Disney trip, I am going to leave my studio.  I am scared and I am excited all at the same time.  I have already invested six years in dance and I spend A LOT of time at the studio as it is.  I believe that I want to study ballet full-time and focus on being a better dancer so I can see how far I can go.  I visited the new studio about a month ago and took a class.  I have all my enrollment papers filled out.  I will have to tell my teachers and the girls that I dance with.  Maybe one day I can be like Misty Copeland.  For those of you who don’t know who Misty Copeland is, she is the third African American female soloist for the American Ballet Theatre (ABT).  Anne Benna Sims and Nora Kimball were the first two soloists at the ABT.  They danced there in the early and mid-1980s, making Misty Copeland the first in twenty years.  Misty Copeland was born September 10, 1982.  The American Ballet Theatre is considered one of the three leading classical ballet companies in the United States.  The other two are the New York City Ballet and the San Francisco Ballet.  People say that Misty Copeland is a prodigy because she didn’t take her first ballet class until she was thirteen at a Boys and Girls Club.  After three months of studying ballet, she was already en pointe.  By the time she was fifteen, she was winning dance awards and getting offers to dance professionally.  She joined the ABT Studio Company in September 2000, and became a member of its Corps de ballet in 2001.  In August 2007 Misty Copeland became a soloist with the ABT.  I don’t know if I have what it takes to do what Misty Copeland has done, but if I am ever going to find out, I have to try something new.  Wish me luck!