Ballet: How it has influenced modern society and myself

All dance teachers always say, “If you do not have a strong ballet background, you have nothing.” Ballet dancers are the most disciplined, well mannered dancers of the art because at a very young age those who pursue dance as a career or just for fun throughout their childhood/young adulthood, such as myself, have the ability to take accountability for themselves and behave in a group setting as well as taking good care of the expensive costumes and shoes. It’s 2015, and only the “elite” and or fellow dancers actually enjoy going to the ballet, but ballet and fitness is making its way into one of the hottest forms of fitness to date. Also, Zumba, that has been around for about 10 years now has one of the largest followings in fitness around the world.

By the age of 7, my ballet teacher started to teach us the history of where ballet originated from and how it began to become the phenomenon it is today. Ballet has been around for many centuries. The evolution of Ballet goes as follows, it all started in France and Italy in the 1400’s and then the dancers would soon travel and dance around Europe. Before it was called Ballet as we know today, men used to pretend to fence and dance around for entertainment. King Louis XIV decided to train these dancers so they can improve and join his court . It took Russia over 200 years to take an interest and began to start training dancers. Later, the French became interested in the art and started to train their dancers. By the early 1600’s, the French words for ballet stuck and later became the universal language of “Ballet”. In mid 1800’s, Russia became the ballet capital of the world. Ballet was not popular in United States until the 1933 where George Balanchine founded the New York City Ballet. There are other variations on how ballet is taught such as the Italian way by Enriquo Cecchetti. Balanchines ballet form is the one most used and well known today. Since then, Ballet has evolved in so many ways and is the true foundation of all genres of dance. Contemporary/ lyrical dance was started because the dancers did not want to wear shoes on their feet so they called it barefoot dancing for many years (Time Toast, nod).

Ballet was not always huge tutus and pointe shoes. Male dancers used to wear masks and very heavy costumes that made it very difficult to dance in. The dancers back in the 1500’s would leap, promenade, and curtsies across the stage. Women did not start dancing until the 1600’s. The first female dancer decided that the costumes were too heavy, so she hemmed the skirt and wore a flat sole so she was able to dance more freely. The shoes the men wore resembled a modern day high heel. Today, female dancers dance with pointe shoes that have a box that consists of packed in fabric, layers of hardened cardboard, and glue to keep the shoe intact . Today, Ballet dancers use tutus that are shaped like a round table with a bedazzled bustier top or leotard. Most tutus cost between $100 to $200 depending if it is custom or store bought. As a ballet dancer, costume day is the worst day of a dancer’s month. Going through the 2-hour fitting and constantly getting stuck by needles while your naked in front of your seamstress isn’t the ideal way to spend your Friday night, but it all works out because the final product is amazing. A lot of the time the costumes are done the day of the performance, so before you are going on stage the seamstress is still sewing pieces of your costume together as you rush to put our pointe shoes on in less than 5 minutes.

Today, men are scrutinized for being dancers. Back in the 1500’s, not only did men dance, but also they did it in floor length dresses and masks. Male Ballet dancers usually wear tights and some kind to aerodynamic shirt so the men can turn and leap across the stage without having any costume malfunctions. Female dancers perform various variations in a ballet. A “variation” is a ballet solo that is recreated by a dancer or “prima”. A “prima ballerina” is the principle dancer or star of the show. Youth American Grand Prix is a predominantly a ballet competition where many girls do the same variation and have to be able to distinguish themselves from the other 15 girls doing the same dance.

A branch of ballet is the genre of Contemporary dance. Contemporary is freeing. It lets a dancer venture out and showcase their unique style. Unlike ballet, contemporary dance lets dancers break the conventional rules of dance such as, always being “turned out” or pointed toes. Similarly, the goal for a dancer is tell a story with movement. It is not just telling happy stories either, a lot of the time it is touching on heavy subjects such as death, depression, and addiction.

I love the way dance pushes me to perfection. Contemporary dance has helped me understand why I want to become a better dancer. It has shown me that it is okay to not be yourself for just a few minutes. It has taught me that venturing out and letting the music take you to another place is what a person needs sometimes. It has taught me that organized chaos is acceptable. Dance is what I use to make me happy, and to feel free. I started dance at such a young age and I am so grateful I stayed with it for so long, because it taught me so much about being an adult. It taught me how to be responsible, and organized at a young age. It also taught me to always stay true to yourself and own your unique style. Dancing for so many years has taught me dedication and to stay hungry for perfection because there is always room for improvement.

Dance, like anything else, is evolving constantly. Choreographers are becoming more and more creative and finding new ways to tell a story on the stage. Dancers are also trying to come up with unique ways to distinguish themselves from the rest of pack. Dance will no longer be just skinny bodies and insane flexibility. Dancers and teachers will be taking a holistic approach with strengthening the core and bodies (Ballet Shoes and Bobby Pins, 2013). Ballet is also used for a new type of fitness, named Barre Fitness. It incorporates basic ballet movements to sculpt muscles into longer and leaner muscles.

Dancers have come around the way of thinking that healthy is beautiful. After doing my research and from experience with my fellow dancers, dancers are now forced to look athletically built and if they are too skinny we are put on a diet to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. The stage is a wonderful place to be, but it can be stressful at times because if the crop top and hot shorts are a little small everyone is going to notice causing the dancer to become self -conscious. No one wants to be the girl or boy who is constantly talking about his or her weight. Us dancers have the ability of a lifetime to change the game and make sure the up and coming generations are willing to follow in our foot steps to a healthy life of eating right and fitness.

Not only has ballet influenced every genre of dance but also it has broken down the doors of the fitness world. With Barre Fitness, women and men are able to achieve that “ballet body” that that they desire. There are multiple studios popping up around the USA. There are 5 Barre Fitness studios in Tampa, Florida and many others around Florida. Barre incorporates basic ballet movements and conditioning techniques used by dancers to sculpt their bodies. The ideas was built around the fact that when muscles are warm they are malleable and are able to be shaped and sculpted into longer and leaner muscles to give the ballerina look (Crane, 2012). These classes are for whomever wants a rocking bod, and it’s a fun, new way to get fit.

Dance has also broken into the fitness world by the fun, cardio workout, Zumba. Zumba incorporates dancing and fitness to sculpt and tone muscle while fitness goers dance to Salsa, Merengue, Bachata, and Reggeaton music. This high intensity workout helps men and women achieve the body they are looking for by just having fun and letting lose for an hour or so.

Dance and fitness are also great ways to deal with stress. Fitness and dance are ways I can focus on something other than work, school, or whatever my current stress may be. With those activities, that stress from the day is gone even for just a little while. Fitness provides a clear mind, body, and soul. You feel as if you can conquer the world after a great workout. Most people know that feeling of self-gratification. The feeling that you did your best, and it was enough. We get that feeling after experiencing some type of stress. People search for some type gratification from their jobs, friends, or social media. People go out of their way to appear as if their lives are absolutely pristine and perfect on instagram, tumblr, or Facebook. The amount of likes has become a way for people on social media to feel like they are #winning. In the older generations, winning was playing a great game of baseball, asking out your crush, or being able to go to the mall with their friends. Now in today’s generation, getting 1000 followers on instagram, and making sure your selfie is perfect even though they’re probably touched up with some free IPhone photo editor software. To a dancer, winning is nailing the most perfect dance and hearing the applause of the audience. Hearing the scareams of your best friends in the wings as you take your bow and head off stage to embrace your mom and choreographer for a job well done.

Dance has even ventured out into the music scene and influenced one of the most rising genres to date, Electronic Dance Music (EDM). Electronic Dance Music known as EDM is one of the fastest growing music genres of the decade. Many artists from across the globe use various music softwares and to remix songs into an electronic hit. 20 years ago, EDM was considered “Rave” music and the “ravers” would go to warehouses and dance the night away. It was more of an underground scene that only the “weird kids” went to. Today, Rave culture is super mainstream and people of different ages, genders, and sexual orientations enjoy this fast paced and party genre of music. Many popular EDM artists originated from European countries and are changing the way electronic music is produced and distributed. People from all over the world are now getting the dance fever and dancing to this electric style of music all over the globe.

If it was not for ballet, our society would not be able to watch amazing ballet dancers take over mainstream pop/ alternative songs such as Chandelier by Sia and Take Me To Church by Hozier. Dance has been such a huge part of my life for so many years. As a child, we were taught this rich history of ballet, so we can appreciate where it comes from. By the time I was 8, I was able to tell anyone who Balanchine was and his contributions to the dance world were. Not only was my class able to recite history verbatim, yet we were able to dance a few of Balanchine’s dances taught to us by our fearless leader, Elsa Pardo. Ballet taught me that everything has a back story and to always study (or practice) to improve your art. Dancers are now striving for an athletic and healthy build and dance has influenced the lives of many including the fitness world. Barre fitness and Zumba is all the rage in the United States. I am happy to see that dance has affected so many people from around the world and people are able to appreciate it as the beautiful art that it truly is.

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