Ballet Evolved: How ballet class has changed over the centuries

Ballet Evolved: How ballet class has changed over the centuries

I have with us today Yasmine Naghdi and
Donald Thom. They look like the typical ballet dancers of today at the beginning of the day, they come in wrapped up in warm gear, they’ve got all sorts of torture instruments with them. They use all these gadgets to warm up their muscles and get themselves ready to start the ballet class. Then we have the
classical era when all those lovely tutu ballets came into being. We have with us Fumi Kaneko and
Tomas Mock. So as you can see we didn’t have any torture instruments at that time, they
just brought themselves, they kept themselves nice and warm because in
those days they didn’t have lycra or really stretching garments so sometimes
they even wore underwear, they’d use a petticoat and just tuck it into their pants so that we could see the legs better and they would start warming
up by stretching themselves in a more gentle way. As you can see Yasmine’s got going there. What you doing they are you doing there Yasmin? Why are you doing that? I’m rolling out my muscles to get the blood circulation going in my legs. Can you see these? I wish they’d had those in my day, keep your feet nice and warm. And then we have, from the era of Blasis, to represent that era we’ve got Gemma Pitchley-Gale and Marcelino Sambé Did you notice they came in and they curtseyed to me? Isn’t it lovely? And that’s what they used to do, they used to come in and they used to acknowledge the teacher before they went to their barre. Can you show me first position? Second position. Third, fourth, fifth and sixth. So what changed from here is that the turnout has increased from 45 degrees to 90 degrees, which is actually a very difficult thing to do because we have to
do that by holding onto the muscles at the top of the leg. However when all this
turnout started it wasn’t quite as well thought out so they had a vice to turn
out the feet, which of course must have been excruciatingly painful but nowadays
we’ve worked on things and they are able to rotate from the top of the leg. We’re going to start now by showing you the first exercise to be done which is the plie, the knee bend, most important and we’re going to see side by side how they’ve got much more subtle and movement has got bigger, let’s have a look: So you can see these poor guys here, they just did two plies lasting sixteen counts each and they would have continued with that in all the positions of course and then turned round and done it on the other side. So exercises have got shorter. So now we’re going to do on to battements. Battements are movements of one leg whilst standing on the other. We have grand battement, we have petit battement, we have all sorts of different battements, They’re nearly finished but the exercise really was much longer. Now they’re going to do them really fast, one in each position. Thank you. how did that feel? Long! Long? But does it feel good? It feels like you get warm really fast, yeah it’s good. It’s nice and lengthening because you have the time to think about… …where everything is placed. And what’s really interesting is you say it makes you warm really quickly, well the barre used to just last fifteen minutes because they just did two or three exercises and that was it while all this lot went a lot faster. They’re doing more exercises but of a shorter duration. So now let’s move on to grand battement and see what happens. They’re already finished, look! Now they’ve gone up onto their demi-pointe, they’ve gone really high. And they’re only going to the side now. They would go on now to the back. We’ve got the petit battement sur le cou-de-pied. That’s a really little beat round the ankle of the foot. Now that’s changed quite a lot too, can we see? So this is really low round the ankle and by the way it was all very decent in those days because as the legs went up we’ve come from the Baroque era where we had the floor length skirt suddenly we have this, well if the leg goes up, we can’t possibly be seeing the legs, so we had the bloomers. So now this opens just from the knee, sideways, and it helps for all sorts of little steps that we shall see later. As time goes on they start doing it on demi-pointe and they wrap the foot around the ankle and then as we do it now we have a fully pointed
foot and we can even have them to the front, petit battement du vent, that’s it. So now we can go on to the stretching. They would do stretching with the leg on the barre. In the day of Blasis they didn’t do any stretches because they did something called plastique poses. What are plastique poses? Well we’ve got a picture of plastique poses. Gemma could you just take that lady’s pose for me? Yes, and Marcelino. They would do that for three to four minutes and then having practiced various poses they would put little mime sequences together, so I’m just going to say Marcelino could you please say to Gemma, ‘I, you, love’? And Gemma, you can react. And then I’ll leave it up to Marcelino what you can do, ok? Here we go, let’s have a little practise.

About the Author: Michael Flood


  1. Aside from the ballet, the first tune that they were warming up to – was it some variations on "Se vuol ballare" from Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro? It's amazing how different tempo and harmony can change a melody. Beautiful.

  2. it would had been better if we could have been able to see everything at the same time to see any kind of difference and compare them

  3. It's the whole idea of dancing that has changed. Today the athletic component is very prominent. In the early XIX century you were gracefully telling a story without words.

  4. Present day ballerina casually puts her foot in a giant rubber band and bends her back like 180 degrees. Yup, seems normal.

  5. Im 50, my teachers as a child were in their 80s, and I had to curtsey each time class began or I wohld get a sharp rap with a stick across my leg (only happened once!)

  6. Ah – the kind of “art” that requires white skin in order to receive a hefty government subsidy. Remember when old tiny dick trump was going to stop “giving” to all those (dirty word) liberal arts? Yeah, well some of his super rich and super white friends still enjoy the foot binding, abusive and misogynistic “art” known as ballet. Crazy

  7. If I came in and didn't say hello to my teacher she would be so offended. I thought this was the norm ? same with curtsies at the end of the class

  8. So wrapped is the old fashioned way to do petit battement? My teacher has us do it wrapped. It’s harder to do it and control it that way. I always end up somehow switching into a full point partway through and going front and back.

  9. It’s so annoying how different learning ballet is to being in a company. 1808’s is a normal Royal academy of dance style barre, while even though they’re trying to get more professionals they teach them differently. I think at an intermediate level it should change.

  10. Ugh, it was so annoying how that one guy on the very left didn't know what he was doing. THEY WERE SIMPLE COMBOS FOR GODS SAKE!!

  11. Funny, but historically dancers used to have much longer careers than they do now, so they must have been doing something right. I would not make fun.

  12. I love Ballet, I'm no dancer just someone who watches in awe of the beauty of all they do. It amazes me of all the work it obviously takes to be able to do what they do. It doesn't look easy to me at all. The pain they put on their toes WOW.

  13. Holy CRAP! Anyone else’s legs burning just WATCHING the 16 count grand pliés on the left? ?

  14. the difference between 1820's and present day stretching is representative of how things tend to get more difficult over time, back then you could lead a simple good life nowadays you practically have to be an engineer/doctor/speak3languages (all at once) to have a decent job lol

  15. My British teacher threatens (jokingly) that if we don’t turn out our feet, she’s going to pull out a Vice (Not sure how to spell that)

  16. Literally could’ve sworn I heard “donald trump” at the beginning and was like “oh weird not the type of activity I would figure he’s into”

  17. this is interesting but bro the videography sucks you can’t really compare anything that well

  18. I like the 1820 forms just because you build the strength through slow thought out motion. . . many now adays you'll have poor technique untill maybe a year in or so (in small dance studios)

  19. Lol to that arrangement of “sull’aria”!! Would love to be in the head of that pianist. Just love these classes

  20. To be honest – I really liked the look and the style of the 1820 more than the others. I love the costumes and the slowness for some reason. Imagine – they only had 15 minutes of bar exercises, but everything was so isolated and precise. I would think that would lead to gorgeous muscles and great muscle memory. I also like the politeness of the era. I wonder what their actual ballets must have looked like – aside from theatrical spectacle, I am certain that must not have been as athletic as dancers are now. I am sure it was more about storytelling and artistry than technically awe inspiring stamina and moves. So I think it would be very cool (maybe daring and ambitious) for them to put on a short ballet using only the costumes, music, theatrics, and sensibility of the 1820s. I would also like to see some innovation. If "ballet" pays homage to the old traditions then someone should create "ballEx" (ballet experimenta) that winks ahead to the future. I would love to see how The Wiz, Grease, Pretty Woman, or The Breakfast Club would look as a ballet.

  21. I was born in the wrong time. I think the dress and bloomers are adorable.
    I prefer that over seeing everybody’s undercarriage

  22. Qué maravillosa serie de vídeos y qué gran presentadora. Mi enhorabuena al Royal Opera House por un trabajo ejemplar.

  23. My knees would not allow me to do plies well or often even as a kid, in my 30s it's not better lol but it does provide a base for other dances

  24. Ballet dancers have such beautiful bodies, but their feet look so battered, i feel kinda bad for them, ballet looks tough, i cant even walk gracefully

  25. My mother put my daughter in ballet around age 10. Years later I asked what she really wanted to do. She said, "I just wanna play softball, mom."

  26. I live hoe that teacher(I assume) is like causually walking back and fort on that stage and then suddenly shows some ballet moves and do them so good and with pointed foods. She seems to be old but it's like her body isn't

  27. I love this. My ballet class was somewhat of a combination of these different eras, we didn't have all those warm up tools.

  28. It is very UNprofessional to divide Ballet just by ages…ballet should be divided historically by Ballet Syllabus/Methods(nationalities)!

  29. 7:54 Me on the left: Mom please don't take my wifi away!
    Mom: i'm sorry son, but you mist study 40 hours a day.

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