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Russian Ballet

Russian Ballet

While France was highly influential in the development of early ballet, other countries and cultures soon adopted and embraced ballet as well. Most notably did Russia that turned it into part of its tradition and thus made it part of its history. During the second half of the 19th century, just when Ballet began to decline in popularity in France, Russia began to delve deeper in it and made it flourish.

Like many other countries that had been touched by Ballet, Russia shaped the established motions of this art form and made it its own. At first though most of the professionals who practiced Ballet were mere buffoons of the Czar, these, one must admit were quite talented in their skills with it. Although it took centuries for Ballet to transform into a talent that fit to the taste of large audiences and turn into a performance art, Russia was highly involved in the development of Classical Ballet.

The development of Ballet in Russia is tightly related to that of the theatrical arts; ever since Ballet was introduced from the European countries, norm dictated that all theatrical displays should be finished with the theatrical dance, that which was back then known as Ballet. So it was, that the first professional theater of Russia was created under the supervision of German Pastor Johann Gregory. The Kremlin Theater gathered only male professionals and in true biblical norm, commanded that only male executors played the roles, even those of lady-like nature. Acquiring such professionals however proved a hard task indeed.

The first Ballet performance recorded in Russia dates back to February 1673 for the court of the Czar Aleksey Mikhaylovich, it was organized by Nikolai Lima, a foreigner of great expertise on the art of ballet. After his first demonstration for the Czar's court Nikolai Lima became the head, teacher and master of an arising ballet group. He passed on his knowledge to the petty-bourgeois children and organized the first presentation of ballet as a performance dance in the Kremlin Theater.

It wasn't until the influential Jean Baptiste Lande, founder of the first ballet company (St Petersburg Imperial School of Ballet), that Ballet was properly developed in Russia proving that this country had been included into the European culture. By 1730 under Anna Ioanovna's court in Petersburg, Ballet became in vogue. Not only regular presentations were arranged by notable artists like J.B Lande, Ballet had become part of Opera and the nobility youth had been obliged to take classes in true military style training welcoming back the female gender into the practice.

However, women wouldn't outshine their male counterpart until they stopped being hindered by the heels and corsets proper of the time. When the infamous tutus became part of their wardrobe for performance, females would take the lead roles in Ballet presentations.

Thanks to characters such as Marius Petipa in the second half of the 19th century, Ballet attracted the attention of the masses and broadened its audience with the revival of the Sleeping beauty and The Nutcracker.

After the exile of Russian Revolution Sergei Diaghilev brought back Ballet in full force with the creation of Ballet Russes, the greatest company of Ballet of the 20th century that travelled around Europe featuring artists of great renown, like Mikhail Fokine, Bronislava Nijinska, Vaslav Nijinsky, Léonide Massine, and the would-be pioneer of Neoclassical Ballet, George Balanchine.

Under the Soviet Rule, Ballet continued to develop in Russia. However few talents remained in the country, they were enough to continue the legacy and grow a new generation of Ballet performers, who would come to scene after the stagnation of the 1920's. It was then, that the infamous school of Agrippina Vaganova (Ceccetti and Petipa's Pupil) created the Vaganova Ballet Academy that enforced the infamous technique that would then be known as the Vaganova Method.