Sunday, 2 November 2014

Insights: Ballet Evolved

A few months ago, I posted a video of the Royal Ballet's Insight series called "Ballet Evolved". Today, I got to attend the actual event in the Royal Opera House's Linbury Studio. The event comprised a lecture with demonstrations by members of the Royal Ballet, which helped to illustrate the points being made. The lecture was given by Ursula Hageli, a former ballerina and now ballet mistress with the Royal Ballet. She has been running the Ballet Evolved series for a few years now. She was also joined by Dr Giannandrea Poesic, a ballet historian and lecturer at the University of Bedfordshire. 

The theme of the lecture was the ballet class and how it evolved over the last four centuries. According to Hageli, the ballet class is the most important part of a dancers day: it is where dancers warm up, strengthen and generally prepare their bodies for all to come. Dancers attend class every day. As ballet itself evolved (more turnout, higher arabesques, more complicated spins, point shoes), class, too, evolved to ensure dancers were equipped with the necessary skills. For example, Marie Taglioni was the first ballerina to go en pointe, but this was before the invention of point shoes. Thus, this required an immense amount of ankle strength! (Interestingly, point work, though first introduced in France, really took off in Italy because it was where, thanks to the shoes makers Italy is generally so famous for, the point shoe was developed!)

The evolution of ballet was demonstrated by dancers of the Royal Ballet, among them Gemma Pitchley-Gale, who was wearing bloomers under her knee length tutu - part of the 18th century ballet uniform, designed to maintain the ballerina's modesty by not revealing too much leg! Also, the lovely Fumi Kaneko, for whom today was the first time performing in front of an audience after returning from injury. And Marcelino Sambe, who, in addition to being a great dancer, is hilarious! It was really nice to get to see the dancers personalities come through!

Ballet Evolved was interesting, informative and entertaining ,and I shall definitely attend the next event! The event was filmed, and videos should be going up on Youtube soon. I will post them here when they become available. 

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