How Much Do You Know About…Ballet?

March 26, 2019

ballet1. Where did ballet originate?
A) France
B) Germany
C) Russia
D) Italy

Answer: D – Italy. Ballet, as we know it today, began during the Renaissance around the year 1500 in Italy. In fact, the terms “ballet” and “ball” as in “masked ball,” come from the Italian ballare, to dance. When Catherine de Medici of Italy married the French King Henry II, she introduced early dance styles into court life in France.


2. In which language is most ballet terminology?
A) Italian
B) Russian
C) French
D) English

Answer: C – French. The official terminology and vocabulary of ballet was gradually codified in French over the next 100 years, and during the reign of Louis XIV, the king himself performed many of the popular dances of the time. The very first academy of ballet was opened in 1661 in France, thanks to King Louis XIV, and was called the “Académie Royale de Danse.”  Pierre Beauchamp, the king’s dance teacher, created the five basic positions of ballet for the feet and arms.

3. Tutus and pointe shoes have always been a mainstay in ballet costume? True or False?

Answer: False. At first, the dancers wore masks, layers upon layers of brocaded costuming, pantaloons, large headdresses, and ornaments. Such restrictive clothing was sumptuous to look at but difficult to move in. Dance steps were composed of small hops, slides, curtsies, promenades, and gentle turns. Dancing shoes had small heels and resembled formal dress shoes rather than any contemporary ballet shoe we might recognize today.

4. What is the average lifespan of a pointe shoe?
A) 10 hours
B) 50 hours
C) 100 hours
D) 250 hours

Answer: A – 10 hours. Pointe shoes look dainty, but they really aren’t. The tip of the shoe is a rigid box made of densely packed layers of fabric, cardboard and/or paper hardened by glue. Depending on her experience level, a dancer’s pointe shoes will last anywhere from a few hours up to 12 hours of dancing. A professional ballerina can dance through 100-120 pairs of pointe shoes in one season!

5. Which country popularized the “classical ballet” in the 19th century?
A) France
B) Germany
C) Russia
D) Italy

Answer: C. Russia. During the latter half of the 19th century, the popularity of ballet soared in Russia, and, Russian choreographers and composers took it to new heights. Marius Petipa’s The Nutcracker, The Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake, by Petipa and Lev Ivanov, represent classical ballet in its grandest form. The main purpose was to display classical technique — pointe work, high extensions, precision of movement and turn-out (the outward rotation of the legs from the hip)—to the fullest. Complicated sequences that show off demanding steps, leaps and turns were choreographed into the story. The classical tutu, much shorter and stiffer than the romantic tutu, was introduced at this time to reveal a ballerina’s legs and the difficulty of her movements and footwork.

6. Who is considered responsible for bringing ballet to the United States?
A) Jerome Robbins
B) George Balanchine
C) Adolph Bolm
D) Vaslav Nijinsky

Answer: B – George Balanchine. In the early twentieth century, the Russian theatre producer Serge Diaghilev brought together some of that country’s most talented dancers, choreographers, composers, singers, and designers to form a group called the Ballet Russes. The Ballet Russes toured Europe and America, presenting a wide variety of ballets. Here in America, ballet grew in popularity during the 1930′s when several of Diaghilev’s dancers left his company to work with and settle in the U.S. Of these, George Balanchine is one of the best known artists who firmly established ballet in America by founding the New York City Ballet. Another key figure was Adolph Bolm, the first director of San Francisco Ballet School.