AskDefine | Define ballet

Dictionary Definition



1 a theatrical representation of a story performed to music by ballet dancers [syn: concert dance]
2 music written for a ballet

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. A classical form of dance.
  2. A theatrical presentation of such dancing, usually with music, sometimes in the form of a story.


See also

Extensive Definition

Neoclassical ballet is a ballet style that uses traditional ballet vocabulary, but is less rigid than the classical ballet. For example, dancers often dance at more extreme tempos and perform more technical feats. Spacing in neoclassical ballet is usually more modern or complex than in classical ballet. Although organization in neoclassical ballet is more varied, the focus on structure is a defining characteristic of neoclassical ballet.
It is the style of 20th century classical ballet exemplified by the works of George Balanchine. It draws on the advanced technique of 19th century Russian Imperial dance, but strips it of its detailed narrative and heavy theatrical setting. Balanchine used flexed hands (and occasionally feet), turned-in legs, off-centered positions and non-classical costumes (such as leotards and tunics instead of tutus) to distance himself from the classical and romantic ballet traditions. What is left is the dance itself, sophisticated but sleekly modern, retaining the pointe shoe aesthetic, but eschewing the well upholstered drama and mime of the full length story ballet.
Balanchine also brought modern dancers in to dance with his company, the New York City Ballet; one such dancer was Paul Taylor, who in 1959 performed in Balanchine's piece Episodes. Balanchine also worked with modern dance choreographer Martha Graham, expanding his exposure to modern techniques and ideas. Also during this period, choreographers such as John Butler and Glen Tetley began to consciously combine ballet and modern techniques in experimentation.
Tim Scholl, author of From Petipa to Balanchine, considers George Balanchine's Apollo in 1928 to be the first neoclassical ballet. Apollo represented a return to form in response to Serge Diaghilev's abstract ballets.

Contemporary ballet

Contemporary ballet is a form of dance influenced by both classical ballet and modern dance. It takes its technique and use of pointe work from classical ballet, although it permits a greater range of movement that may not adhere to the strict body lines set forth by schools of ballet technique. Many of its concepts come from the ideas and innovations of 20th century modern dance, including floor work and turn-in of the legs.
George Balanchine is often considered to have been the first pioneer of contemporary ballet through the development of neoclassical ballet.
One dancer who danced briefly for Balanchine was Mikhail Baryshnikov, an exemplar of Kirov Ballet training. Following Baryshnikov's appointment as artistic director of American Ballet Theatre in 1980, he worked with various modern choreographers, most notably Twyla Tharp. Tharp choreographed Push Comes To Shove for ABT and Baryshnikov in 1976; in 1986 she created In The Upper Room for her own company. Both these pieces were considered innovative for their use of distinctly modern movements melded with the use of pointe shoes and classically-trained dancers -- for their use of "contemporary ballet".
Tharp also worked with the Joffrey Ballet company, founded in 1957 by Robert Joffrey. She choreographed Deuce Coupe for them in 1973, using pop music and a blend of modern and ballet techniques. The Joffrey Ballet continued to perform numerous contemporary pieces, many choreographed by co-founder Gerald Arpino.
Today there are many explicitly contemporary ballet companies and choreographers. These include Alonzo King and his company, Alonzo King's Lines Ballet; Nacho Duato and Compañia Nacional de Danza; William Forsythe, who has worked extensively with the Frankfurt Ballet and today runs The Forsythe Company; and Jiří Kylián, currently the artistic director of the Nederlands Dans Theatre. Traditionally "classical" companies, such as the Kirov Ballet and the Paris Opera Ballet, also regularly perform contemporary works.

See also



  • Ballet & Modern Dance: A Concise History
  • A History of Ballet and Dance in the Western World
  • The Oxford Essential Dictionary of Word Histories
  • The Classic Ballet
  • Ballet In Western Culture: A History of its Origins and Evolution
  • Off Balance: The Real World of Ballet
  • The Bournonville School The DVD, The Dance Programme, The Music. Copenhagen: The Royal Danish Theatre, 2005.2 discs. 225 pp. 139 pp. Illustrated. Hardcover,,
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Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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