Twentieth Century Ballet

The Dance of Progression

Ballet is one of the most beautiful dances in the world. In fact, it can be considered an art form or a means of expressing oneself through movement and dance. Ballet especially requires strength and dedication and is a very structured, though somewhat rigid dance form. This dance has had a significant role in Russian culture, particularly in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries but is constantly growing and changing over time, greatly affected by different historical events and impacting European society with its changes. One of the biggest misconceptions is that ballet is not progressive and will always remain the same, classical and structured. Yet, ballet is a dance of progression and can be traced from its early roots in the French courts of Louis XIV to ballet master Marius Petipa’s classical productions in collaboration with Tchaikovsky in the 1880s, which are still performed to this day.

The turn of the twentieth century was the beginning of a new age of Russian ballet, including Sergei Diaghilev’s surrealist, very controversial and revolutionary Ballets Russes that contradicted almost every aspect of the previous classical ballet with their modernity. Revolutionary fervor in 1917 introduced new themes to this modern ballet and attempted to create a new repertoire reflecting revolutionary ideals combined with efforts to return to nineteenth century Russian traditions.

Often it is hard to imagine ballet in forms other than Petipa’s classical Swan Lake and The Nutcracker, but one should remember that neoclassical and contemporary ballet exist as well, and other more recent dance forms such as modern and lyrical dance, have stemmed off of ballet but still possess the basics. Ballet is still changing to this day, and by investigating Russian ballet and its evolution, particularly its twentieth-century modernization, we can look forward to even more progression in the future of this beautiful dance form.