Dance Day 6 : What has changed in ballet?

Since a lot of people seem to search for information about what’s changed in ballet, I decided to do a better post about it than I did here. Please keep in mind that I’m not a professional dancer nor an expert. It’s but humble me, okay? Okay.

What’s changed? Well, the most important thing I guess, is the technique. Dancers have seriously improved their technique. For example, 32 fouettés are sort of obligatory in Swan Lake now, while some dancers (Maya Plisteskaya) used to do piqués as well. Ballet has, just like any other artform, imposed greater requirements. Lots of people on YouTube claim it’s a pity all dancers have become robots instead of charismatic actors. Watching dancers from let’s say 1940 you can indeed tell their technique would no longer suffice today. Are they really better actors? Are they really more charicmatic?
Who are we to judge that? I mean, stage presence was probably more important than it is now. Our view on ballet has changed – we want to see the 32 fouettés – so we expect a good technique. But nowadays, there are still dancers who are good at acting as well. Marianela Nunez as Odile is what I consider to be a good example of that. Not all dancers are good actors, agreed, but remember as well that there used to be lots of dancers, and not all of them were recorded. These days it’s easy to record a performance, you throw it on the Internet and everyone deems. But that didn’t use to be the case. Maybe only the best dancers were recorded. If you’d only record the best dancers of these years, you’d get a totally different view of the ways ballet has changed…

But yes, technique has become the most important aspect of ballet today I believe. Those who do not meet the physical requirements will not get a job. Stage presence will not get you there. But it’s definitely a pro if you’ve got it. I believe so at least. All of us deem these days. YouTube is full of people who claim to have the right to judhe and the knowlegde to do so. Ballet is no longer for an elite, it’s become something everyone can watch. But it’s not really a part of our culture anymore I think. At least here, in Belgium, people rarely go to the ballet. Especially now with all the crisis stuff, this cultural associations if I may say so, have a lot to suffer. Maybe wev’e changed ourselves, maybe we care less about this now. Has ballet become old-fashioned, Perhaps a bit. The stories are old, the music is very different from today’s music, etc. For me that’s charming, I like that a lot. But once, this was contemporary, and that’s no longer how it is. Okay, there’s this ‘neo-classical’ stuff as well, but I’m talking about Swan Lake, La Bayadere and other diamonds of ballet. Perhaps this world has become too different from our current world to really appeal to all people.

Still, there’s a lot going on in this world, it’s definitely not dead. It has changed, but change is normal and so is criticism. Have I answered your question?

For more Dance Days, check the categories!

Marianela Nunez as Odile in Swan Lake

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  1. I wonder if ballet goes through waves of popularity.
    I’ve noticed a lot more attention paid to Opera these days than in the recent past.

    It could also be that there are no great ballerinas to inspire those not deeply familiar with ballet (like a Baryshnikov or someone…).

    On the bright side,if no one else is gong, you’ll be able t get good seats cheap!

    • More attention? That’ss rather special… It is true that people seem to return to more classic things, if you know what I mean. Like, less tv, more cultural stuff. On teh other hand, thanks to the big giant crisis, everyone seems to save their money ‘just in case’. The National Ballet here has serious troubles. But perhaps that’s more because of the government than because of the audience…

  2. i agree that technique is important, but physique and performance quality are equally important. For me, I think ballet has become very athletic or even acrobatic as it can now be considered a sport, just like gymnastics, in addition to an art form. Demands on the body have gotten higher; such as more extreme extensions, more pirouettes, pointier feet, etc. I think a lot of these have to do with the fact that the pointe shoes we wear today are so different from those back then. They allow dancers to do harder movements on their toes. Regardless, there are many great dancers in all time periods, and even watching old videos we can be inspired by the charisma of say, Makarova or Plisetskaya. Today, some dancers succeed from their artistic abilities while others from their physical facility, and the lucky ones, both!

    • Thanks for your comment, Booky Bunhead! You say some interesting things. I believe you are right – the whole pointe shoe thing was something I hadn’t thought of, but in fact it might have had a bigger influence than I expected it to have.
      Though I find it a bit hard to believe that today some dancers succeed from their artistic abilities. I mean, it’s important still, I believe that, but if there physical abilities are not really enough, will they actually get a job? I don’t know.
      But you are the one who knows how things go probably! You’re aiming for a job as a dancer, right? How are things working out?

  3. There is something about ballet that’s alluring and desirable… Maya Plisetskaya actually is quite a hot tamale – ya know why? She was asked during one interview, Oh, Maya, how is it that you stay so thin? Maya went like: By f*cking eating less. 😀

    I love ballet 🙂 I wish I could do it – but I don’t think I will ever be able to…

    • Hahaha, what a kickass woman!
      Ballet is exactly the way you describe it. It’s never too late! Okay, you won’t become a pro anymore, but you can still enjoy just taking classes… Just do it ;).

  4. Nice post!
    I think this could be said about most sports and entertainment careers. It seems as time continues, people keep getting better at their crafts. Different people evolve the style of ballet and make it even more impressive than it used to be years ago, and like you said, now the audience expects it to be that good all the time!

    • Yes, we keep on running faster, leaping higher, further, lifting more weights… It’s just the way it goes, probably. And for arts, especially this kind of ‘sporty’ art it couldn’t have been much different. We expect those people to get better everytime too, so maybe it’s just us…

  1. How ballet has changed | No Blog Intended

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