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

Ballet IS a Sport!!

There is a really cool commercial from Under Armour that’s been out a few months now.  It features one of my favorite dancers… Misty Copeland, of course!  The point of the commercial is that ballerinas come in all shapes and sizes and that ballet is a sport.  With all of the jumping, spinning, leaping, and specific technically proficient movements, ballet is the equivalent of a very disciplined sport.  Yes, it takes the grace of an artist, but it also takes the strength of an athlete.  Ballet dancers use so many muscles and spend most of their time on relevé (that means on our toes)!  One of my teachers, Ms. Erica, calls it “beauty controlled” because there is so much discipline in every movement.  If you don’t believe me, just watch the commercial below….Misty rocks!  And if she isn’t an athlete, then there is no such thing!

Ballet……….I will what I want!

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

My 100th Blog Post!!!!

Guess what today is?  You guessed it!  It’s my 100th blog post!!!!  I am so excited.  I can’t believe I’ve written 100 entries.  That’s a lot of writing!  I had wanted to write a blog forever, like for six months or something like that.  I don’t keep a diary, but I really like to write.  And I have a lot of things to say, but not a lot of people to say them to.  So, I begged my parents to let me have my own blog.  It took them a while, but they finally said yes.  The title of my blog is “What Ainsley Likes” because my name is Ainsley and I write mostly about things I like.  My mom said that she named me after a character on a TV show that she used to watch called The West Wing.  Ainsley is an English name and it means “my own meadow.”  She said that she’d never heard the name before and thought it was really pretty.  It also reminded her of my sister’s name.  My sister’s name is Ashley.  It’s also English and it means “from the ash tree meadow.”  So, our names are very similar.

My favorite things are fashion, dance, books, and arts and crafts, especially origami.  These are all things I’ve been writing about in my 99 other blog posts.  But, I don’t just write about things I like.  I also write about what I am thinking – about other people, about school, about things going on in the world.  So, I guess in that way, my blog is kind of like my diary and I really wanted to share it with other tween girls like me, who probably wonder about some of the same things that I do.  I started middle school this year.  It takes some getting used to and I am still working on it, so I’ve written a lot about that in my blog.  I play the clarinet in the band, which also started this year and is taking me a while to get used to as well.  When I grow up, I would like to be a writer like John Green and a ballet dancer like Misty Copeland.  There’s no reason why I can’t do both.  I love to read.  My favorite book is The Fault in Our Stars.  I read the book and saw the movie.  I dance at my city’s ballet studio and this year for the first time I auditioned for The Nutcracker and I got a small part in it.  I am really excited about that.

I love, love, love to dress up and wear cute clothes!  My favorite things are dresses and leggings.  I love shoes too – flats, boots, and Converse Chuck Taylors!  I also have a thing for tutus, of course.  I am a dancer and I am going to be a ballerina!  I am very close to both of my parents and my grandma.  My sister graduated from college last year and she moved into her own apartment, but she came with us to Disney World this summer and she takes me places and buys me things.  My brother, Jacob, is in high school and he is a really, really, really good saxophone player!  He’s really, really, really annoying too!  Ha. Ha.  I have a dog named Ziggy.  He’s a shih tzu and he’s a Mr. Prissy Pants, without the pants, of course.

I also like to write about people, the kids that I go to school with and the ones that I dance with – mostly other girls.  I talk a lot about how they treat each other and how I’ve been treated.  I wonder a lot about what makes people so mean to each other.  I have a blog post about “mean girls.”  I want other tween girls to know that if they go to school with girls who are mean to them or they are around you on a sports team or in some other activity that you do, it’s okay to call them out on their behavior.  It’s okay to let people know if you don’t like how they are treating you.  Don’t feel like you have to put up with it because they won’t be your friend.  If they were really your friend they wouldn’t treat you like that in the first place!

I’ve had my share of mean girls to deal with, but I’ve also had a lot of good friends over the years – in school and at dance.  I’ve never had one or two really, really good friends though.  I’ve spent a lot of my time out of school in dance and I hardly ever have any free time to hang out.  I think that’s one of the reasons why I have never been super close with anybody, like a true best friend.  Sometimes it makes me sad, but then I think about what I am doing and why.  A lot of my friends wonder why I dance so much.  I do it because I love it, and I’ve set a goal for myself.  It’s a goal that I won’t achieve unless I put in the work to make it happen.  I feel lucky that my parents support me because it takes up a lot of time and costs a lot of money to be involved in dance the way that I am.

Finally, I talk about myself – what I like about myself and what I don’t.  I think that’s another topic that tween girls can relate to, or teenage girls, or grown women for that matter.  There’s always somebody on TV or in a magazine talking about body image.  It’s one of the things that make girls bully other girls.  It’s one of the things that boys use against you to tease you about.  And apparently it makes girls and women do crazy things like starve themselves and become anorexic or get a lot of plastic surgery.  And in my “culture,” if culture is even the right word to use, how we look seems to be something that we are always dealing with.  Like, what I mean is that I am African-American or black and there is a long history of racism and discrimination against black people in America.  And in America, for years and years people didn’t really look at black girls and women as pretty.  I think that’s changed a lot from how it used to be because we have Michelle Obama and Beyonce and Gabby Douglas and a lot of other successful black women to look up to who are very pretty.  But, even Gabby Douglas got teased about her hair and she won the Olympics!  Hello?

The state I live in is like less than 10% black, even though the city I live in is around 15%.  I guess there is diversity here, but it depends on where you live and the things that you do.  I go to school with quite a few other black kids because the area that we live in has changed since I was really little.  There are way more on this side of town than there used to be when I was in kindergarten.  But places like in dance, there are only a few, and it gets down to one or two the older you get, so I am often the only one.  Sometimes, I feel different.  My skin is not really brown, it’s like yellowish-tan and people ask me all the time if I’m mixed.  My hair is different too because it is pretty long and thick.  I talk A LOT about my hair on my blog.  Most of my friends are white and they ask a lot questions about it.  Last year my dance company did a competition dance based on Peter Pan and The Lost Boys.  I was cast as a Lost Boy so I basically played a Native American/ Indian.  We had to wear our hair in two French braids and our dance teachers braided our hair.  Now, I have just as much hair as the white girls in the group.  Actually, I have more than almost all of them.  But, when one of my dance teachers braided my hair, she said that it was “greasy and gross.”  It’s like I wanted to say, “Honey, I’m black!  Black people have dry hair, so we put oil on it!”  She was rude and she singled me out to be mean to.  And I was the only black girl in the Company so I guess she wasn’t used to dealing with black people’s hair, but if that’s the way she thought of me, then do they expect other black girl’s to come to their studio to dance?  Then this year, the same dance teacher and another girl at the studio were “black-itizing” people’s names.  I was sitting right there during a break and they were taking people’s names and changing them to make them “sound black.”  My name is Ainsley and it’s English.  It’s not “black!”  Why would they do that right in front of me?  They just kept beating me over the head with the fact that I am different than them.  My mom talked to the studio owner both times, but she just kept saying that the teacher was sorry and didn’t mean anything by it, but she never actually apologized to my face.  And she’s still at that studio and I bet she’s still doing the same things.  I left that studio this year, not just because of this, but it sure didn’t make me want to stay.

And on the same subject, a lot of the black kids at school also make me feel different, especially the girls.  Here we go with the girls again!!  They say I talk too proper.  They say I dress prissy.  They say I am always trying to be the teacher’s pet.  They say I hang around the white girls too much.  They say I’m not black, that I think I’m white.  Well, since my mom is black and my dad is black, I am pretty sure that makes me black!!  I make good grades and I am smart.  I like the way I dress.  I don’t get in trouble at school and I might be prissy, but hey, so what!  I think I am a nice person and I try to be nice to everybody.  My mom told me that she was treated the exact same way when she was younger.  She said that it lasted all the way through college, but got better the older she got.  She is teaching me to be strong and to stand up for myself.  She is teaching me to be myself, no matter what other people think or say.  She is teaching me not to let other people make me doubt myself.  She says, “Shake those haters off!  They don’t like you because they don’t like themselves!”  As girls, we let body image, skin color, type of hair, the clothes we wear and all kinds of other things make us doubt ourselves and then we turn on each other and try to make other people feel as bad about themselves as we feel about ourselves.  That makes me sad too and so I write about it.

I hope everybody who reads my blog likes it.  I hope that you keep reading it and follow me and tell other people about it.  I hope that if you know any tween girls you will tell them about my blog.  Maybe they will read it and find a cute outfit that they like or a book that they haven’t read or a blog post about how to deal with mean girls and rude people.  Maybe they will read a post about how to be confident and how to love themselves and maybe it will inspire them and make them feel better about who they are.  Thank you for celebrating my 100th blog post with me.  In the coming months, I plan to write 100 more!  Keep reading and sharing.

Love, Ainsley