Chapter 8 The 19thCentury
I. The 19th century was a time of change with the Industrial Revolution affecting the economy, society and politics.
A. The steam engine expanded industries.
1. Western Europe saw many inventions during this period as well as the notion of developing national identities.
2. Russia was emerging from feudalism during this time and did not embrace industrialization.
a. Russia had become one of the most powerful countries in the world and was able to play a role in European affairs after especially after the defeat of Napoleon in 1814.
3. The English society in the 19th century was called the Victorian era because of the long and peaceful reign of Queen Victoria.
a. This time appeared to be dignified and restrained but there was child labor, prostitution, and the exploitation of colonials.
b. On the surface, women were placed on pedestals while men dominated business, but there were undercurrents of feminism.
4. The 19th century was a prolific and popular period for literature with novels, short stories and magazine articles being published. In Russia, writers avoided the
censors by using linguistic tricks and allusions their readers would understand.
a. Russian nobility spoke French and wore French fashions. Russian artists in theater, literature and music emerged.
II. Romantic Ballet emerged in the Paris Opéra when the director produced a spectacle in a weak opera hoping to achieve box office success since royalty no longer controlled or supported the Opéra. The dance section of Robert le Diable was the “Dance of the Dead Nuns” in which a group of dancers rose from their tombs with their lead dancer, Marie Taglioni. It was a ghostly stage vision that was enhanced by the use of new gas lighting. The result was box office success and prompted the production of La Sylphide which paved the way for the romantic era of ballet.
A. Romanticism in art and literature was a revolt against reason and a spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings.
1. Germany critics defined this term as arts based in medieval tales of romance and those derived from classical sources.
2. The romantic period last a little more than ten years in France, it had a profound impact of ballet development and romantic ballets continued to be
performed in the United States, Denmark and Russia throughout the 19th and 20th century and some are still performed today.
3. With the advent of factories, many people in Europe were employed as factory workers and sought relief from their humdrum lives by attending the ballets and other forms of theater. They sought entertainment and to indulge in being swept away to faraway lands and fantastic places.
4. Although many romantic ballets were performed at the Paris Opéra, many dancers had been trained at the La Scala opera house in Milan, Italy. Dancers and ballet masters traveled throughout Europe and often performed in Russia.
B. During the 18th century, males were the lead dancers in ballets and the 19th century saw females as the leading stars and characters of ballets. Male dancers took supporting roles in the romantic ballets and continued as ballet masters and arranged the ballets. Ballerinas danced on the tips of their toes to enhance their ethereal quality. The establishment of pointe work during this period became an essential feature of ballet.
1. Fillipo Taglioni was an Italian dancer, choreographer and ballet master and father of Marie Taglioni. His contribution to the ballet was a light and gracious
quality featuring the mystical quality of woman. In rehearsals, he was very demanding and often his daughter, Marie, had to be carried out of rehearsals from exhaustion.
2. Marie Taglioni is known for her unique quality of purity and lightness. The tips of her ballet slippers were darned and she would rise up on her toes as if she was defying gravity. She was famous and popular and adored by her fans. She had a brother named Paul who also danced.
3. Carlotta Grise was a pupil of Perrot and started entered the La Scala ballet in 1829. She danced the role of the first Giselle. Many people believe she was the first ballerina to wear a blocked slipper to dance en pointe.
I would like to detour from our textbook to discuss the origins of the pointe shoe and I believe it is pertinent in discussion of the romantic period. As often happens, even in recorded and documented history, the origins and the development of ideas and technique are sometimes credited to different people or groups. Some historians credit the Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova with being the ballerina responsible for creating the pointe shoe due to her high arches, weak feet and her inability to dance on her toes without support.
Reviewing how this came into being, it was Marie Camargo who first took
the heels off her shoes to enable her to leap and jump which would not have been possible wearing a shoe with heels. In order to keep the slippers on, ribbons were attached to the slipper and laced around the ankle. Looking also at the romantic period of ballet when women were seen as sylph-like creatures who danced on the tips of their toes and sometimes even wore wings to enhance the ethereal quality. Marie Taglioni darned the sides of her slippers to allow her to rise up on the tips of her toes. Her fans in Russia loved her so much they cooked her slippers and at them with a sauce. Research indicates that it was considered cheating to put leather or wood in the toes of ballet slippers for more support and re-enforcement of the shoes, although it appears many ballerinas did exactly that.
The French school of Ballet emphasized refinement and the Italian school was more athletic and pushed technique to the limit in order to achieve dazzling virtuosi feats. Pierina Legnani did thirty-two fouettes en pointe on the tips of her toes to the amazement of audiences, which would have been impossible without a wooden support in her shoes and so, this then became the standard for all ballerinas to perform. As the evolution of the pointe shoe changed the ballet form, it should be noted that this advancement of the ballet form and the technical difficulty actually rose out of a period when women were sen as ethereal beings who were delicate and light and dancing on the tips of their toes and floating
without effort. During this period, and up until this time, most of the ballet masters and influential contributors were men. It is common knowledge in all ballet schools, academies or colleges that during this time, ballerinas made choreographic and technical contributions to dance, but there is very little acknowledgment of this historically. For the purposes of discussion, Anna Pavlova is most often credited with the actual development of the pointe shoe, but it is important to know that the actual technique of dancing on one’s toes was initiated by Marie Taglioni which would not have been possible without Marie Camargo dancing without heels, but Carlotta Grise is believed to be the first ballerina to wear a blocked slipper to dance en pointe.
When ballerinas were putting wood or leather in their shoes for extra support, it was at first considered cheating and then when the use of the shoes demonstrated the increased support would allow technical advancement of the for of ballet dancing, it then became the stand that all female dancers were to achieve. The influence of the romantic period remained in the continuing show of effortlessness while performing extremely physically demanding feats of technical and athletic execution. One source for this lecture makes note of the acceptance of the football players being able to grunt and groan while playing football and the beauty of the execution of for in the sport of football or baseball might happen, but in ballet, it is imperative that it happen. Dance is a performing art, although at this
point in history we see ballet advancing to a very technically demanding and athletic form, with students having been carried out of dance rehearsals from exhaustion. On stage, the performing art continued to maintain that it was and is effortless. Thinking on this note, during the industrial revolution, audiences attended the theater and the ballet to escape from their humdrum lives and to be taken to a more magical place and this became the development of dance from entertainment to dance for escape. The advancement of the pointe shoe along with the theme and the attitude of fantasy melded and created an illusion that an extremely difficult technical feat was effortless.
Earlier in our review of this period of romantic ballets, there was reference to a somewhat feminist uprising and in the world of dance, what is evident from the development of the pointe shoe is that women, in the role of the ethereal sylph, developed no only their technique, but the actual pointe shoe to enable them to have the strength to achieve the look of being light and flying on the stage. Ballet, at this point, changed the focus from the male dancer being dominate to the female dancer with the man performing the supporting role.
Wikipedia and Gaynor Mindons homepage, www.dancer.com
4. Fanny Cerrito was born in Italy and danced at La Scala. She had brilliant
technique and became the star of the London Stage. She was married to Arthur Saint-Léon, a dancer and choreographer and composer for a short time.
5. Lucille Grahn was a Danish dancer and danced the title role in August Bournovilles first production of La Sylphide. Grahn left Denmark to dance in Paris tour and mostly performed sylph roles in which she excelled. She also danced in Pas de Quatre. After she retired from performing, she became a ballet mistress.
6. Fanny Elssler was a Viennese dancer who trained at Theater an der Wien.
She traveled throughout Europe and was an instant success in America. She was able to execute the most difficult technique en pointe and was a rival to Taglioni.
In Moscow she was given more than 50 curtain calls hundreds of bouquets and gifts of jewels. Essler offered a contrast to the femininity of the other romantic-era ballets with her versatility and her ability to display earthy movements as opposed to the ephemeral nature of the sylph.
7. Jules Perrot was a French dancer and ballet master who had danced in Paris and become a soloist at the Kings Theatre in London. He was Taglionis partner and Carlotta Grisis teacher. Perrot is considered the greatest male dancer of the romantic era. He created ballets using dramatic plots and expressive
choreography. His choreography for Pas de Quatre brought the four leading
ballerinas of the romantic era together and showed off their personal syles.
8. Jean Coralli was of Italian descent but born in Paris and was a dancer, choreographer and ballet master. He produced his most important ballets at the Paris Opéra.
9. August Bournoville was a Danish dancer, choreographer and ballet director. He studied with Auguste Vestris at the Opéra and absorbed much of the French style of the danseur noble and the technical virtuosity of the 19th century French-school male dancer. His ballets became the foundation for the Royal Danish Ballet and he kept
ballet alive and flourishing in Denmark while it declined in Europe in the late part of the 19th century.
10. Salvatore Viganò was a son of dancing parents and in addition to being a dancer himself was a talented musician, poet and painter. He focused on individual movements of stylized gestures for the corps de ballet and became known as the “Father of Italian Ballet.” His technique and ideas about the corps de ballet resurfaced in the next century in the work of Michael Fokine.
11. Carlo Blasis was a dancer but his greatest contributions to ballet were as a teacher and his writings as a ballet theorist. He invented the ballet position of attitude. Among Blassis’ writings are The Elementary Treatise Upon the Theory