Dance in History

Dancein History

Dancein History

Thefirst country that comes to mind when someone mentions ballet isRussia. The Ballet Russes set an example based on the entrenchedinterest by most Westerners regarding ballet (Palmer, 2013). TheBallet Russes became the first company in Russia to play ballet underthe leadership of Serge Diaghilev. The company attracted many balletenthusiasts who congregated to watch the dance. Today, most peoplevisit arts centers and opera houses to watch the uniqueness of Balletfrom diverse traditions. Ballet is a dance that portrays Russia’snational identity.

Theballet was introduced in Russia in the 17th century by foreigners.Tsar Alexis Mikhailovich, the second Romanov monarchy in Russiaintroduced the dance for his wedding celebrations (Palmer, 2013).Moreover, Tsarist isolationism and control in Russia ensured that theWest does not influence ballet. Another Tsarist named Peter the Greatgained interest in ballet and allowed Western influence. He alsoparticipated in the dance too. His courtiers learned the dance in theprocess through the assistance of Swedish officers.

Significantsocial and cultural conditions resulted in the rise of major changesin ballet. In the 18th Century, the nobles who lived far away fromurban centers introduced ballet groups that often comprised of serfstaught at the Imperial School (Palmer, 2013). The officialcommencement of Russian ballet is traceable in 1737 in a letteraddressed to Empress Anne (1693 to 1740) by a gymnastics teacher fromthe Imperial Cadet School. The tutor requested the Queen for 12children: six boys and six girls to form theater dancers and balletsusing 12 serious characters and comic persons. The tutor promised theQueen to produce proficient and professional dancers within threeyears. Palmer (2013) maintains that the Queen granted an applicationby Frenchman Jean Batiste Lande to start the first dancing school inRussia on May 15, 1798. In 1774, Catherine the Great opened a balletschool and selected Filippo Beccari as the director andchoreographer.

In1801, Charles-Louis Didelot (1767 to 1837) introduced the firstballet period, hence the label “father of the Russian ballet”(Palmer, 2013). His first productions played at the St. PetersburgBolshoi Theatre. Didelot crafted the Prisoner of the Caucasus usingAlexander Pushkin’s poem and laid the original foundations ofballet in Russia. Russian ads promoting ballet performances in the19th century involved foreigners as well.

TheWest could not understand Russian ballet, although their tours inRussia brought about many great teachers and dancers because of theadvanced salaries and beautiful theaters. Some of the famous teachersand dancers who swamped the Russian market included Fanny Elssler,Louis Duport, Lucile Grahm, Arthur Saint-Leon, Carlotta Grisi, JulesPerrot and Jean-Batiste Lande. A new breed of ballerinas flocked theRussian market in the 20th Century, namely Mikhail Fokine, SergeiDiaghilev and Ballets Russes, Anna Pavlova, Natalia Goncharova andRudolf Nureyev (Palmer, 2013).

Themost notable ballet techniques in Russia includes the Vaganova methodintroduced by a Russian ballerina called Agrippina Vaganova (Peggy,2002). The technique facilitates the movement of the whole body,whereby the ballerina pays equal attention to the feet, legs, and theupper body.

Inconclusion, Russian ballet portrays the country’s nationalidentity. The dance acted as a recreation activity for the audienceand as a source of income for the dancers. Nevertheless, the originalRussian ballet did not have any Western influence until Peter theGreat incorporated significant influences in the 17th Century.Regardless of the changes, Russian ballet remains synonymous withmost traditional and modern Russians.


Palmer,B. (March 7, 2013). Why Do Russians Love Ballet So Much. Retrieved onOctober 6, 2016 from

Peggy,W. (2002). Agrippina Vaganova (1879–1951): Her Place in the Historyof Ballet and Her Impact on the Future of Classical Dance. Lewiston,New York: Edwin Mellen Press.