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Behind the Scenes
Before an audience sees any ballet many different people put in a large amount of work behind the scenes.
The Artistic Director
The Artistic Director is the person who makes all the artistic decisions for the company. He or she chooses which dancers, choreographers, designers, etc. will be hired by the company, selects which ballets will be performed and is actively involved in all aspects of company business.
The Ballet Master & Mistress
After the ballets to be performed have been chosen, they are taught to the dancers by the Choreographer, Ballet Master or Ballet Mistress of BalletMet. The process of teaching dance movements averages out at about 1 hour per minute of choreography but can take longer if the dance is particularly intricate. Once the steps are learned, then the real work of perfecting them begins. This process is actually never ending, as no matter how many times a ballet is performed, there are always new things to learn or discover about the piece.
The choreographer is the artist who creates the dance piece. The choreographer chooses the music, the steps, where the dancers will stand on stage, the order of the movements, and many other decisions. Choreographing a dance is like making a painting or composing music. Sometimes the choreographer tells a story with the movements but often the choreographer creates an abstract work that is beautiful or interesting to both the artist and the audience.
A dancer begins to train many years before seeking a job as a professional dancer and for strength, muscular control and flexibility. They must also perfect their movements so that they appear effortless, learn techniques to communicate stories and emotions without using words, and develop an awareness of music. They train in much the same way as an athlete does.
The Costume Shop Manager
Our resident staff usually constructs costumes for BalletMet. The Costume Shop Manager is in charge of not only the proper construction of the costumes but also keeping them clean, in good repair, and fitted to the different dancers who will wear them.
The Production Manager
The Production Manager is in charge of coordinating all the technical aspects of the performance, including lights, scenery and sound. Although much advance planning is necessary, the few days in the theater are very busy for the whole production team, as they must transform the bare walls of the theater into whatever magical setting the Artistic Director has in mind.
The Lighting Designer
The Lighting Designer has a very pivotal role in not only making sure that all the stage is suitably illuminated but can use their craft to draw the audience's attention to certain areas, create a sense of time of day or location and design a unifying look to all the elements on stage.
The Stage Manager
Once it comes time to coordinate all the activities on stage, it is up to the Stage Manager to take control. He or she is the person who makes sure that everyone is in their place to begin the show, tells the backstage crew when to execute their moves, lighting cues and sound cues, and takes responsibility should an emergency arise. It is definitely a high-pressure job.
Taking The Stage
BalletMet performs their exciting repertoire of dance productions ranging from the classics to contemporary work throughout the year. Not only do they perform in their own Performance Space, but at the Ohio Theatre and at the Capitol Theatre in the Verne Riffe Center in the Columbus community. When show week comes around the dancers have rehearsals at the selected venue on stage before the performance. No matter how well a rehearsal studio floor is marked out, the sense of dancing in a large open space like a theater is very different. Before a performance most dancers arrive about 2 hours before the show to prepare. Not only do they have to put on their make up and costumes but there is also the need to take a warm up class to prepare the body. As any athlete knows, nerves change performance, so mental preparation is also important.
The show is about to begin; the audience takes its seat to view the work of many professionals.
BalletMet dancers as well as audience members have expected ways of behaving or acting called etiquette.
What to Wear
Come dressed in casual but neat clothing. Although dressing up can be more fun! Usually, Opening Night of a performance is more formal that the other nights, since that is when the media and most loyal patrons attend.
Arriving at the Theatre
Arriving early and on time is very important and courteous. Late seating is sometimes not allowed. Make sure to use the restroom before the performance begins; it is improper to leave the theatre once the curtain rises. Talking should cease once the program begins, including whispering. Cell phones should be turned off before the performance begins. Use of cell phones is not allowed. Food and drink are not permitted in the theatre.
Before You Attend
Learn about those who will be dancing in the performance by reading the Dancer Biographies.
Except in cases of extreme injury, dancers' work very hard to perform exciting choreography no matter what occurs in the audience or on the stage. The audience is an important part of the show, creating a partnership with the dancers. Dancers love to know that the audience is enjoying themselves, so it is quite exciting to hear the audience clapping at appropriate times during the performance.
During the Show
Clapping is welcome when the conductor enters, at the end of each piece, at some exciting moments during the performance, and of course at the finale! Booing is unacceptable at any performance. Taking pictures with cameras and/or camera phones can be harmful to the dancers. Videotaping is not allowed as well. Most importantly ENJOY the experience!!
Brief History of Ballet
The art of dancing Ballet has a rich history beginning during the 16th and 17th centuries.
During the Middle Ages period, the church in Europe claimed that dancing was sinful, but when the Renaissance began in the 1400s, dancing became popular once again. It is in the European courts of the 16th and 17th centuries that the true origins of ballet are found.
Why are so many ballet terms in French?
Is the word 'ballet' French as well?
The First Ballet
In 16th century France and Italy, royalty competed to have the most splendid court. The monarchs would search for and employ the best poets, musicians and artists. At this time, dancing became increasingly theatrical. This form of entertainment, also called the ballet de cour (court ballet), featured elaborate scenery and lavish costumes, plus a series of processions, poetic speeches, music and dancing. The first known ballet, Le Ballet Comique de la Reine, choreographed by Balthasar de Beaujoyeulx, was performed in 1581 at the wedding of the Queen of France's sister.
The First Professional Dancers
At first, ballets were performed at the Royal Court, but in 1669 King Louis the 14th opened the first opera house in Paris. Ballet was first viewed publicly in the theater as part of the opera. The first opera featuring ballet, entitled Pomone, included dances created by Beauchamp. Women participated in ballets at court, but were not seen in the theater until 1681. As the number of performances increased, courtiers who danced for a hobby gave way to professional dancers who trained longer and harder. The physical movement of the first professional dancers was severely hindered by their lavish and weighty costumes and headpieces. They also wore dancing shoes with tiny heels, which made it rather difficult to dance with pointed toes.
Early in the 18th century, the ballerina Marie Camargo, shocked the audiences by shortening her skirts - to just above the ankle. She did this to be freer in her movements and to allow the audience to see her intricate footwork and complex jumps, which often rivaled those of the men. At this time, female dancers also began to dominate the stage over their male counterparts. Ballet companies were established in France to train dancers for the opera performances. The first official ballet company was based at the Paris Opera and opened in 1713.
Almost all contemporary ballet companies and dancers are influenced by Diaghilev's Les Ballets Russes. The first visit by this company to North America in 1916-17 stimulated great interest in ballet. Dancers from the Ballets Russes were instrumental in furthering this new interest in ballet. For example, dancer George Balanchine came to the United States and founded the New York City Ballet (originally the American Ballet). The United States proved to be fertile ground in the development of Modern dance. Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey and Charles Wiedman were pioneers in the field whose work has had major impact on the world of dance. Today, American choreographers and dancers create just as much interest and excitement in other parts of the world as we in America derive from developments in other countries.
Contemporary vs. Classical Ballet
A classical ballet has certain rules that must be followed but a contemporary ballet has none. In a contemporary ballet there might not be music, costumes, scenery, story or footwear. A classical ballet has five specific ingredients that must be included.
1. It must tell a story – often a fairytale involving a boy/girl plot with a problem to be resolved by the end.
Ballet dancers use french terms for the names of the steps. Learn the words and try a few steps yourself!
Á Terre – on the ground
Port de bras – movement of the arms
In general most Ballet classes follow a particular order. Some instructors may give time for students to warm-up during the class, while other instructors may ask students to take the time to warm-up before class time. Class begins with a series of exercises done at the Barre. Each exercise works on a particular skill. These exercises help the dancer to not only warm up their body but work on the elements or details that they will have to use in combinations without the barre. After barre work, many classes will have Adagio (slow, balancing movements) in the center of the room as well as other exercises such as turns. The students then move to lines at the side of the room so that they work on Petit Allégro, Grand Allégro (small and larger jumping movements) and traveling exercises across the floor. Towards the end of class the teacher will give students a fast paced coda or combination and finish with a short Reverence.