World Ballet Day!

The gorgeous art form of Ballet is the national Dance of Lemon Land and is firmly tucked into the hearts of many across the world. Today - 4th October 2016 - we acknowledge Ballet on 'World Ballet Day'. Numerous companies across the world are taking to youtube and various other outlets to live stream what goes on day in day out so if you are a huge Ballet fan, make sure you don't miss out!!

In todays Lemon Land blog I am uncovering a brief history of Ballet and my own personal history with Ballet...

Where did it all begin?

The Italians originally combined opulent costumes with singing, poetry, music and dancing performed at court by nobility during the Italian Renaissance. Catherine De Medici comissioned what is considered the first 'Ballet' (Ballet Comique de la Reine) in 1581 bringing this wonderous art into the hearts of the French.

It was under Louis XIV reign that Ballet began to evolve into the dance form we are more familiar with today. Wishing for performances to become more stylised and challenging Louis XIV established Academie Royale de Danse (The Royal Academy of Dance) in 1661. Ballets were now no longer performed by nobles as more was expected by the performer and thus the academy was created to develop a dancer. As was common in this era, no women appeared on stage and instead female parts were performed by young men until the 1680s where the Female Ballet performer was first introduced;  most famously La Fontaine also known as Mlle de LaFontaine.

As the dance form evolved so did the costumes and shoes. Originally, when performed in court, Ballets were danced in heels however when Ballet began to be performed on raised stages the feet were more prominent to the audience requiring a more elegant shoe, intricate footwork and shorter dresses to see this. The introduction of dancing 'En Pointe' was developed after Charles Didelot involved a 'flying machine' during a performance in Lyons 1795; right in the middle of the French revolution. This machine enabled dancers to rise up onto the tips of their toes giving the other-worldly, ethereal essence to Classical Ballet. The very first documented performances involving Pointe work took place between 1815 - 1830 and would more than likely have involved brief pauses on the tip of the toe giving the idea of weightlessness - it is however widely believed that rising onto the very tip of the toe had been performed long before this. 1832 saw Marie Taglioni perform 'La Sylphide' en Pointe combining a glorious Romantic - age style with Pointe work as an essential choreographic element.

By the 1860s the Romantic era of Ballet was over, leaving the expressive dreamy Ballerina with her long white Tutu behind to give way for a more modern take on the art revolutionising Ballet in western Europe. Ballet Russe in the late 19th, early 20th century was now very popular throughout giving a fresh take on the music, subject and themes, and of course the dancing. Britain and America also became big influences in Ballet in the 20th Century with all forms of dance now appearing within this classical art unltimately resulting in the Neoclassical and contemporary era.

These days all eras of Ballet can be seen on stage from Romantic Ballets such as Giselle to Russian influenced classics such as The Nutcracker. If you go and watch a Ballet today I can guarantee you will not be watching the same Ballet that was performed, 10 / 20 / 50 years ago - the influence of new more mesmerising technique, different art forms, new music, different choreographers adaptations keep Ballet the ever changing art form that is it today and shall continue to be for a long time to come.

Ballet may change, but it will never die out.

My Ballet History...

To be honest I'm not 100% sure where my love affair with Ballet actually began. I don't come from a dance or musical orientated family so it's not as if my path was laid out for me from birth in fact quite the opposite as it was a bit of a surprise!

Dance first entered my family through my older Brother; he discovered a love for Tap and Irish dance from a young age which of course passed onto me through watching his performances leading me to persue both forms of dance aswell. I think it was perhaps Mummy Lemons idea to try a Ballet class, either that or I'd seen a clip on TV or walked past a poster for one of the upcoming performances in Cambridge - I can't remember, I was only 3 years old; all I do remember is being completely engrossed in dancing! It was everything, from the movement and music to the technique, precision, costumes, competitions and shows. One of the earliest recordings I have of myself is dancing 'A Teddy Bears Picnic' during a show in 1998; even at a young age there is such determination for perfection that I gloriously flash my crisp white knickers to the audience to ensure my Teddy Bear is sitting in the correct place HOWEVER all whilst maintaing a fabulous first position... of course! During my first Ballet exam the same perfectionist mind set was maintained, when standing at the side whilst other candidates are dancing you are allowed to stand naturally and relax (so long as you're quiet!), but not this little Ballerina... I stood at the side smiling the whole time, feet in first position and holding my skirt out. The examiner wasn't even looking at me but I didn't care.

After a few years I had to eventually chose between Ballet & Irish dancing, with the dream of becoming a Prima Ballerina still very strong Ballet was victorious. I continued to work my way through the grades branching out into Modern and Tap (I'd given up on that quite near the beginning once I found Ballet) as well as performing in shows and competing in Dance festivals around the area.  So many dances over the years that I cannot name them all but several of my favourites: The Red Shoes (danced twice, once as a group and then as a solo years later),  Phoenix from the fire, Friends that Pass by, Questa Notte (what I referred to as my first 'big girl ballet' getting to dance with the seniors), The Zoo (getting to perform as a bluebird) obviously there are so many more but I wont list them all.

Eventually I had to grow up and was forced to realise that my body was not 'Prima Ballerina' material - it had been mentioned numerous times over the years by both peers and adults; not going to lie it had made me extremely body conscious especially as this was around the time I reached adolescence... Hmm yeah that was pretty rough! However as stubborn as ever I was determind to carry on and head somewhere down the path of Ballet, I had no idea where exactly but I knew not to just quit as I still absolutely adored dancing which even at the time I knew it was rare to find something you enjoyed that much plus - without sounding cocky - I was good at it too gaining good marks in exams and competitions so I must have been doing something right, it's not as though I was living a delusion.

So off I trotted at the age of 16 to dance college, indulging in different dance styles discovering where my love of Ballet could take me. College was an interesting experience where I managed to lose and find who I was at the same time - it was a rather narrow minded place the majority of the time and you had to 'fit in' to most people ideals to generally get noticed; wear the correct 'fashionable' clothes, wear false eyelashes and the right shade lipstick, know about musicals, be outgoing, be confident, have the correct style, know the right people... it goes on. Needless to say I generally didn't fit in, I was 'the Ballet bod' which in my heart of hearts I secretly adored but at the same time it was a hindrance as I wasn't at a 'Ballet college' I was at a 'Performing arts college' which meant I had to be amenable and cool so as to fit in with what was expected. At times I almost despised my love of Ballet as it felt like it was holding me back because I could not be who people wanted me to be -  I didn't realise that what they wanted wasn't actually what I wanted - so I placed my passion for Ballet in the shadows for the time being.

Since graduating it has been an absolute relief to be able to enjoy Ballet again, the tranquility of the movement, passion through every motion both when dancing and watching - the performance of magical tales. There is not much more beautiful in my mind than Ballet and I would most certainly describe my relationship with the art as a love affair; a whirlwind romance at the beginning in my childhood, then came the harsh reality before the bitterness and loathing then eventually blissful peace.

Enjoy your World Ballet Day and I hope all other Ballet lovers enjoy everlasting Ballet days.

Lots of Lemon Love x