Little Bits of History

Mars and Venus

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 2, 2015


March 2, 1717: A ballet is performed at Drury Lane Theatre in London. The Loves of Mars and Venus was the first ballet to be performed in Britain. The story was derived from Greek mythology and based on PA Motteux’s play of the same name written in 1695. It was choreographed by John Weaver. The role of Venus was performed by English dancer Hester Santlow. She was considered to be a beautiful woman known for her dancing and acting abilities. It is not certain who had the role of Mars but it is believed to have been the French dancer Louis Dupre. At the time, ballet was rather sparse on the dramatic content and Weaver hoped to change that. Through dancing, gestures, and movement, he hoped to convey the plot and emotions of the myth without spoken or sung text.

Ballet is a performance dance which originated in the 1600s during the Italian Renaissance. It evolved into a concert dance in France and Russia. Catherine de Medici brought the dance form to the French court and the classical form developed there under Louis XIV who in his younger days was dancer in ballets by Pierre Beauchamp and Jean-Baptiste Lully. In 1661 Louis founded the Académie Royale de Danse (Royal Dance Academy) and gave them the task of establishing standards for the art as well as certification of dance instructors. In 1672, with Louis retired from the stage, he made Lully the director of the Académie Royale de Musique (Paris Opera). It was there that the first professional ballet company was formed – the Paris Opera Ballet.

Since this was the first truly organized school of ballet, it explains the predominance of French in the vocabulary of ballet. From à la seconde to tutu, French predominates in the naming of various terms used to describe the dance techniques. It is not the only language represented. From adagio (Italian for “at ease” and meaning slowly) to waltz (German for “revolve” which explains the movement of the dance) other languages are represented along with their contribution to the world of ballet.

Today, there are various styles of ballet available, each with their own technique and vocabulary. Classical ballet developed early and is subdivided by region of influence. There is Russian, French, and Italian ballet as subgenres. Many of these are noted for training methods and typically named for their creators, such as the Cecchitti method created by the Italian dancer Enrico Cecchetti. Neoclassical ballet moves forward from classical and is usually with a faster tempo and includes added non-traditional technique feats. Contemporary ballet includes elements of both classical ballet and modern dance. The most widely performed and best known style is the Romantic ballet (or Ballet blanc).

A lot of people insisted on a wall between modern dance and ballet. I’m beginning to think that walls are very unhealthy things. – Twyla Tharp

Ballet is sort of a mystery to me. And I don’t want to unravel that mystery. – Robert Caro

The real American type can never be a ballet dancer. The legs are too long, the body too supple and the spirit too free for this school of affected grace and toe walking. – Isadora Duncan

I think of the New York City Ballet as the Yankees without George Steinbrenner. – John Guare

Also on this day: The Beatles – In 1963, The Beatles released their first LP.
We Got Your Number – In 1925, the Joint Board on Interstate Highways was formed.
Barings Bank Collapse – In 1995, Nick Leeson was arrested for fraud in connection with the bank’s collapse.
Women Only – In 1903, the Martha Washington Hotel opened.
Poetry Was Very Important – In 1882, a poet attempted to assassinate Queen Victoria.

* Ballerina by Frode Inge Helland

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