Nowadays ballet dancers look-alike: slender, beautiful, graceful creatures that graciously dance on a stage while wearing pink tutus and pointe shoes. But in the beginning, the dancers looked different. In the beginning, only men were allowed to dance ballet. They were graceful, but they wore heavy costumes, masks, and short heels.
Little by little, the ballet world changed: women were allowed, the mask was tossed, the skirt was shortened, and the special shoes called pointe shoes became the norm. Ballerinas today need to thank the following dancers that revolutionized the stage.
Enrico Cecchetti, the ballet dancer who invented a new method of learning ballet
Ballet as art was born in Italy, but developed in France. But when people saw the beauty of the French dancers, they adopted their unofficial method of learning. Back in Italy, in a theatre’s dressing room Enrico Cecchetti was born. He was the son of two artists, and they tried in vain to guide their son to another profession. He wanted to become a dancer and a dancer he became. Let’s just hope that his parents realised their mistake when they saw their son doing pirouettes (one of the hardest dancing moves).
But he felt like something was missing. A way to internalise the basic principles of dance. So he took the five positions and seven basic movements of classical ballet and created a new way of learning how to dance.
He believed that a dancer should learn a new dancing move every week and that the next week they do the same dancing move but on the other leg.
In this method of learning ballet, every part of the body is important: you must not forget about your hand, even if you move only your leg. Meaning that your whole body should be one smooth element.
Well, dancers from the United Kingdom and the United States of America should thank him because this is the method that they learn today.
Marie Sallé, the first ballet dancer to bring changes
I mentioned how ballet was a male dance in the beginning. The French dancer challenged the world of ballet and managed to dance in this male-dominated field.
Her next goal was clothing. The female dancers needed more graceful clothes or simply put feminine. And, also, easier to dance in. A muslin dress was perfect for her.
Then she decided that the mask should go. And fifty years after she first danced without a mask, they we abandoned.
Her final step in her journey was the jewels in her hair. Again, to dance easier, she decided to free her hair of the jewels.
And if you still have doubts about how remarkable she was: Voltaire, yes the philosopher, said about Marie Sallé that she was an extraordinary and intelligent woman.
Carlotta Grisi, the first Giselle in the world of ballet
It is fitting that an Italian dancer that was born into a family of artists (opera singers) was chosen for the role of Giselle of the ballet with the same name. It should be noted that back then a ballet performance was accompanied by singing. However, Carlotta Grisi was praised for her dancing skills.
Giselle is a ballet blanc, a type of ballet in which the dancers wear white and there are supernatural creatures. The story is about the love story between Giselle and Count Albert, star-crossed lovers. Count Albert saw Giselle and fell in love with her, but knew that a relationship was not possible because of his title. He dressed in simple clothes and the young girl fell in love with him. But, alas, she found the truth and died.
When she first performed the role, people actually cried and believed that no one else could portray the range of emotion better than Carlotta Grisi. She was lively but had a better technique than most female dancers that were considered the best. She was a sparrow left free on a stage.
Giselle is still played today, but no one else could hold the candle to the original dancer.