Classical Ballet is a traditional, formal style of ballet that adheres to classical ballet technique. It is known for its aesthetics and rigorous technique (such as pointe work, turn-out of the legs, and high extensions), its graceful, flowing, and precise movements, and its ethereal qualities.
There are stylistic variations related to area of origin, which are denoted by classifications such as Russian ballet, French ballet, British ballet and Italian ballet. For example, Russian ballet features high extensions and dynamic turns, whereas Italian ballet tends to be more grounded, with a focus on fast, intricate footwork. Many of the stylistic variations are associated with specific training methods that have been named after their originators. Despite the variations, the performance and movement vocabulary of classical ballet are largely consistent throughout the world.
Ballet technique is the foundational principles of body movement and form used in ballet. A distinctive feature of ballet technique is the continuous outward rotation of the thighs from the hip, referred to as "turnout". There are five foundational leg positions in classical ballet, all performed with turnout. When performing jumps and leaps, classical ballet dancers strive to exhibit ballon, the appearance of briefly floating in the air.
Formal ballet training has been taking place since the late 1600's. The oldest ballet school was founded in 1713 by Louis XIV of France as the Royal Dance Academy School; it is now called the Paris Opera Ballet School.
Students typically learn ballet terminology and the pronunciation, meaning, and precise body form and movement associated with each ballet technique term. Emphasis is placed on strengthening the legs and body core (the center, or abdominals) as a strong core is required for many ballet movements (especially turns), and on developing flexibility and strengthening legs and feet for dancing en pointe.
Once the foundation of basic technique has been laid, female dancers begin to learn pointework and male and female dancers begin to learn partnering and more advanced jumps and turns.
Ballet class attireEdit
Female attire typically includes pink, black, or flesh colored tights, a leotard, and sometimes a short wrap-skirt. Males typically wear black or dark tights, a form-fitting white shirt or leotard worn under the tights, and a dance belt beneath the outer dancewear to provide support. In some cases, students may wear a unitard — a one-piece garment that combines tights and a leotard — to enhance the visibility of artistic lines.
All dancers wear soft ballet shoes (sometimes called flats). Typically, female dancers wear pink or beige shoes and men wear black or white shoes. Leg warmers are sometimes worn during the early part of a class to protect leg muscles until they become warm. Females are usually required to restrain their hair in a bun or some other hair style that exposes the neck. The customary attire and hair style are intended to promote freedom of movement and to reveal body form so that the teacher can evaluate dancers' alignment and technique.
Advanced female students may wear pointe shoes whereas advanced male students continue to wear soft shoes. The age at which dancers start pointe work varies from student to student. Strength is paramount for wearing pointe shoes for extended periods of time. Premature wearing of pointe shoes or insufficient training can result in injury. Ballet teachers usually do not allow a student to attend pointe classes before the student is deemed to have reached adequate age, skill and strength. Any younger than eleven, even with strong physique and technique, the bones in a student's feet will mold and conform to the pointe shoe and the girl's feet will likely be disfigured in structure.
There are several classical ballet training methods (or schools), each designed to produce a unique aesthetic quality from its students. Several of the training methods are named after their creators. For example, two prevailing systems from Russia are the Vaganova method (created by Agrippina Vaganova) and the Legat Method (by Nikolai Legat). The Cecchetti method is named after Italian dancer Enrico Cecchetti. Another training method was developed by and named after August Bournonville; this is taught primarily in Denmark.