Ballet Evolved: How ballet class has changed over the centuries

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Ballet Evolved: How ballet class has changed over the centuries 5

From its origins at the French court, the ballet class has evolved through the centuries. Join Ursula Hageli as she explores this ballet tradition with dancers of The Royal Ballet.

Modern ballet class starts with increasingly complex exercises at the barre before the dancers move into the centre. It’s a format that has remained more or less unchanged since ballet technique first began to be codified in the early 19th century, by the influential teacher and dancer Carlo Blasis. But the exercises themselves have changed quite a bit, as former ballet mistress Ursula Hageli explains in this Ballet Evolved Insight.

Ursula is joined by six Royal Ballet dancers to demonstrate how exercises have changed from Blasis’s era through the late 19th century and right up to the modern dancer: ‘we’re going to see side by side how the dancers have got much more supple and movements have got bigger’.

One fundamental change in ballet since Blasis’s day is the dancers’ turn-out, which has ‘increased from 45 degrees to 90 degrees, which is actually a very difficult thing to do – we have to do that by holding onto the muscles at the top of the leg. However, when all this turn-out started it wasn’t quite as well thought through, so they had a vice to turn out the feet – which must have been excruciatingly painful’.

An obvious difference to the class itself is the length of exercises. Class today at The Royal Ballet lasts about 90 minutes (45 minutes each at the barre and in the centre) and covers a wide range of movements. In Blasis’s day ‘the barre used to last just 15 minutes, because they just did two or three exercises and that was it. Today’s dancers are doing more exercises but of shorter duration’.

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💬 Comments on the video
Author

The 'plastic poses' had me in stitches. NO, MOM I'M NOT BEING DRAMATIC, IM JUST DOING MY STRETCHES!

Author — Anne Katrine Kamper

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Present day ballerina casually puts her foot in a giant rubber band and bends her back like 180 degrees. Yup, seems normal.

Author — Jaina Solo

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i don't know how i got here but this is super interesting

Author — The Lemon

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Oh man the 1820 plies are so slow, I woulda died of frustration if I was doing those

Author — Maddie Fishblob

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I swear I thought she said Donald Trump.

Author — Onigbajamo

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Whoever decided men should wear tights was an absolute genius.

Author — Eugene Danker

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I did ballet for several years, but I never stayed with one class, so I just did beginner's ballet for ten years. Long story short, I'm really good at stretches not so great at dancing
XD

Author — themelonsoup

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my ballet class is doing everything the 1880s way haha

Author — hanah

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Donald Trump is a ballerina now?!?!?!!?

Author — Tarkeria Gough

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That was completely fascinating. I want another hour of that, minimum.

Author — katie kawaii

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Marcellino is adorable and what a handsome man!

Author — 1veggiemonster

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I wanted to learn ballet but I never had the money to when I was little, now I'm 19 and never took a dance class in my life can i still sign up for classes even though my age?

Author — Mariel ME

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I enjoy these historical comparisons because I'm interested in ballet from a general fitness/movement perspective so its nice to see how things started; the plastic poses and slow movements are more isometric strength training, compared to some of the fast small movements you see in the modern dancers.

Author — Karl Toth

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I would have liked this to be zoomed out the entire time so it's easier to really compare, still I found this very informative and interesting.

Author — Isolde van der Meulen

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Who else thought that she said donald trump😂😂😂😂

Author — Marschmallow Girl

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'90 degree turnout is hard to achieve' *laughs in joint hypermobility*

Author — Slated

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different types of "batmans" w/ French accent.

Author — jaydel3

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I can feel the pain of a 16 count grand plié through my screen

Author — Lyla Harris

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The 1820 girl looks like Brooklyn or Bailey from B&B

Author — Shannon Lai

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got distracted cos marcelino so hot *o*
anyway this is so informative

Author — krnstrong