Modesty prevents me from blowing too much rhetorical wind up my own tutu, but please allow me to establish my credentials to author this concise history of ballet.
What might a six-foot-plus streak of misery bereft of significant musculature who has lived his entire life in the Australian and New Guinea bush have to offer the world of cultural refinement?
I’m very glad you asked that question.
Just as a manta ray, incompetent and clumsy on dry land, becomes a graceful performer in his natural underwater environment, so also do I metamorphose into a thing of extraordinary beauty and grace when I step into my Primasoft leotards and Grishko pointe shoes.
I was biologically blessed for the world of ballet with the twin gifts of twinkle toes and extraordinarily productive light fingers.
Few who saw it will ever forget my final leaping grand jeté as premier danseur in Etudes at the Sydney Opera House in 1981.
Because of an incompetently designed stage, it terminated with me plummeting down into the orchestra pit, firstly impaling myself on the piccolo being played by a bald-headed dwarf, closely followed by the conductor’s baton. Fortunately I finally came to rest on the floor quite comfortably (despite a fractured tibia and punctured lung) cushioned between the First Violinist’s rather ample and sumptuous stockinged thighs.
Unfortunately Miss Myfanwe Seacombe never fully recovered from what happened that night, and despite 31 years of being institutionalised and medicated she still has sporadic bouts of looking skywards and grimacing is if expecting some sort of heavenly horror to descend upon her.
Anyway, enough of my achievements. I understand that you are here with a higher intellectual purpose.
The History of Ballet
This style of theatrical entertainment originated in Italy 500 years ago at roughly the same time that Christopher was Columbusing around on the high seas looking for America. It combined for the first time the elements of dance, music, pantomime, poetry and drama.
The word ‘ballet’ was not coined until 100 years later in France from the Italian ballo ….a dance.
King Louis XIV of France (1638 – 1715) was a bit of a hoofer like me, especially when he wasn’t busy organising all of his wars against the Spanish and Dutch. He loved nothing more than to spend time prancing around his court and kicking up his heels in the brand spanking new Palace of Versailles.
This activity often occurred to the dismay and physical distress of the many royal cats who used to lounge around the corridors taking full advantage of all the plush scatter rugs and underfloor heating ducts.
Louis would glide around the corners, a picture of ballet line and form purity, then use the cats as takeoff-point markers to improve the technical virtuosity of his flying leaps, or suddenly cleave one unsuspecting pussy to his chest as a pretend partner to rehearse segments of Romeo and Juliet, a ballet in which quite frankly the cats had very little interest.
The King created the Royal Academy of Dance in 1661 which in turn became the Paris Opera Ballet School where, in 1681, Mademoiselle Lafontaine was elevated to the position of prima ballerina.
(Which one of you cynics once said that you don’t learn anything useful from my History Tutorials.)
So there you have it.
Ballet rapidly gained popularity in Russia, then all over Europe wherever the Diaghilev Company toured and spread it’s influence.
Even eventually to Australia, where it is well placed on the scale of popular entertainment after football, cricket, darts, quoits and cane toad racing.
We all love the Sydney Opera House which hosts many of our most magnificent ballet performances………..
…….except for Miss Myfanwe Seacombe who really remains quite ambivalent about it.
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Tutorials covering the entire curriculum may be accessed at
The Bucket History Academy.
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