Ballet - the princess of the dance world

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There is one big clue to the history of ballet - its language! All ballet terms are French - with good reason, because ballet really started at the courts of Louis XIV.

There had been ballets in Europe since the 1400's. But if a modern ballet fan could see one of these shows, they'd scarcely call it ballet - the dancers didn't do much more than march and bow. However, our 21st-century audience would recognize some of the steps.

The turn-out and arm positions of ballet developed from the courtier's combat training - picture a fencer "en garde", and you'll see the feet are in fourth position, and one arm is curved in fifth. Every courtier trained as a swordsman, therefore every courtier could dance.

It was at the courts of Louis XIV that these ballets reached their zenith. Louis loved to dance and his enthusiasm was reflected by his court (as you'd expect, if the courtiers knew what was good for them!).

Gradually, professionals took over and the performances moved from ballrooms to public venues. But what really set ballet on its way was when Louis founded a Royal Academy of Dancing, followed by the establishment of the Paris Opera in 1669. From here, the ballet masters fanned out to all the European courts. Royalty across Europe founded their own theatres - but all the dancers used the same technique, as taught by the Paris masters. Which meant they described the steps using the words their French teachers used - a custom that continues to this day.

Over the next 200 years, ballet transformed itself. Costumes became lighter, steps more complex, Jetes and pirouettes were discovered. Marie Taglioni danced on pointe, and created our vision of the classical ballerina - the dark hair drawn back in a bun is her hairstyle, the romantic tutu is her costume.

By the late 1800's, though, ballet was going off the rails. It was more important to outdo your rival's acrobatic tricks than to be an artist. Worse, ballet was gaining a bad reputation. To give you an idea, the word "tutu" comes from a very rude French word for a woman's nether regions, and rich men paid a premium for the front row of the stalls - not to appreciate the performance, but so they could look up the dancers' skirts. Many of the dancers (who were all female by this time, as all male roles were taken by women) took full advantage of their admirers' generosity!

Fortunately, in Russia things weren't quite as bad, and out of Russia came the dancers who would recreate ballet as serious art. They were the true beginnings of modern ballet - the stars of the Diaghileff Ballet.

When I first purchased this book I thought that it would be something fun to share with my students. I collect all things related to dance, knicknacks, posters, DVDs...hence books. When I stumbled upon the ebook online I thought at the very most that it would be a nice addition to my collection of souvenirs. I am a dance teacher and volunteer with work at a dance competition and I am always looking for things about the 'world of dance', I just love anything to do with dancing. I am a very big fan of So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing With The Stars. I can't wait for them to start again.

So when I actually had the opportunity to read the Ballet Bible I was presently suprised! It surpassed my expectations (which hadn't been very high considering the sales pitch). I had actually found a true gem, an ebook about ballet with solid, valid teaching techniques. The book has over 200 pages of VALID information - SURPRISE! SURPRISE!

Many of the students I teach are heavily into dance competitions such as American Dance Awards, Starpower, Headliners and all the other big ones that I'm sure many of you are aware of. So they are not always interested in how to become a ballerina, but I always try to engrain in them during their dance training that it isn't about how to become a prima ballerina that is important. It is the solid foundations of ballet training that support everything and anything they do related to dance. Ballet training is what truly separates the great dancers from the weak or mediocre. So they roll their eyes at me after one of my lectures and begrudgingly trek upstairs to the ballet room. Well there is one problem - finances. It is true that not all of my students can afford the extra classes that we offer at our school and of course fall short in their training. I must admit, although it is unfortunate, that these particular students don't always do as well when it comes time for dance competition season. Such a shame.

Well now we have - The Ballet Bible! Although you cannot of course compare this to an actual class it is a great study guide for those who want to put in some extra hours at home. If you can only afford one class a week but want to read up on some tips for improving your dance competition game or honestly improve your ballet technique as a whole, this is a great purchase.

Section 1 - "The 3 Simple Rules of a Prima Ballerina" is the pdf version of the ebook which contains over 200 pages of text, pictures and complex illustrations of ballet positions and movements. This part of the ebook tells you how to perform the moves correctly and also illustrates common mistakes that most people make when learning. This is the best part of this section of the material. Sometimes dancers really need to be shown the wrong way in order to correct themselves and conduct the move correctly. Excellent!

Section 2 - "Audio Terms and Definitions" is the audio software package. This section offers a search and find feature that enables you to find any ballet term and learn its corresponding meaning. For each exercise, dance step, position, and/or pose, all you have to do is point and find. The reader also learns the correct French accents for specific terms - it is that detailed. After you click on the term you can hear the correct definition, it is a great feature! This is exactly like hearing a dance teacher give instruction in the classroom.

Section 3 - "Video Demonstrations" is a collection of over 60 videos on ballet technique. That's right, 60 videos, that is equivalent to 60 different classes. If you actually had to pay for 60 dance classes you can imagine the cost you would incur. Now you can put on your dance shoes and follow along in your living room. Being able to watch and imitate is an invaluable tool that The Ballet Bible offers!

Now all the positives being said of course there are the cons.

Being in a dance class with an experienced, qualified teacher is irreplaceable. With an ebook the "hands-on" aspect of dance is non-existent to say the least. You don't have the teacher physically correcting you and manipulating the student's body into the correct positions. This is something you can only get in a classroom. But the alternative is nothing at all.