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The Bucket’s History of Ballet

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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

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.

Royal cat showing disinterest in ballet

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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About GOF

"Life is like a sewer. What you get out of it, depends upon what you put into it." (Tom Lehrer)

28 responses »

  1. GOF….since I’m a true Balletomane, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your version of ballet’s history! (LOL). And…..I had the wonderful opportunity to see the Australian Ballet dance at the Sydney Opera House when I was there in November 1998…..an experience I’ll always cherish!

    Reply
    • Thank you Elaine….as I was writing this “history” I thought that you would probably never want to talk to me again. 🙂
      I’ve never actually seen a live ballet but our free-to-air SBS TV channel regularly broadcasts ballet performances from dance companies all around the world, which gives me an appreciation of the skill and artistry involved.

      Reply
  2. I am in awe of your ability to come up with such stimulating drivel, GOF. The royal cat showing disinterest was a particularly nice touch. 😛

    Reply
    • Drivel LOM Drivel!!!?? 🙂 Thank you for the compliment my friend, and I’m glad you enjoyed the drivel and my disinterested pussycat.

      Reply
  3. I laughed a whole lot! All the way through, in fact. Christopher Columbusing…. a new verb is born.
    Between you with your piccolo and conductor’s baton between Miss Seacombe’s thighs, and Louis XIV and his cats, I didn’t know where or when to start or stop laughing.
    Thanks for the aerobic exercise, GOF. 🙂

    Reply
    • Thank you Lauri and you’re absolutely welcome……it makes the time I spend coming up with all this “drivel” worthwhile. 🙂

      Reply
  4. “Royal cat showing disinterest in ballet” made me spit my red gatorade all over my computer screen. I’m sending you the cleaning bill.
    (I never knew you also owned Primasoft leotards. Mine have zebra striping. Yours?)

    Reply
    • My computer-repair/cleaning stash of cash is empty this week after a rat pissed on the keyboard of my almost-new laptop last Sunday and I had to buy a new one on Monday. (laptop that is, not rat)

      My Primasoft leotards are a very pretty lollipop pink Rich which I last used in The Dance of the Sugar-plum Fairies, but I’d love to own a zebra-striped one. I’m sure some multinational ballet paraphernalia company will donate one to me in recognition of my services to International ballet.

      Reply
  5. I will now never be able to enjoy watching a ballet again without picturing the unfortunate end to your career.

    Oh wait, I never really enjoyed it that much anyway.

    Cane toad racing, you say? Now that sounds like something more up my alley. And you could still use your Grishko pointe shoes to prod the little buggers along!

    Reply
    • “I will now never be able to enjoy watching a ballet again without picturing the unfortunate end to your career.”

      If you don’t get immediate counselling GOM you’re gonna end up in the same place as Miss Myfanwe Seacombe. 🙂

      Cane-toad racing is big in pubs all around the Australian tropics….much cheaper to own a racing toad than a racehorse. Apparently.

      Reply
  6. The ballet you were in may have been the most interesting of all, GOF. Although, probably not for you!

    Reply
  7. Damn gravity. Those incompetent stage engineers clearly should be removed from their posts.

    Reply
  8. That’s a sassy cat you’ve got there. Hard to please about most things; hate to see her at breakfast!

    Reply
    • The Royal Cat had breakfast brought to her on a silver platter…..which pissed off the Royal Dog who was planning to have succulent cat for breakfast one day.

      Reply
  9. twin gifts of twinkle toes and extraordinarily productive light fingers – a prime example of fine Australian manhood!

    Reply
  10. Educational, incisive and with a piccolo playing dwarf – what’s not to like? Brilliant!

    Reply
    • Thank you Ginger. The dwarf thought me being impaled on his piccolo was funny.
      I’m still offended by his attitude and I don’t talk to little people any more.

      Reply
  11. After reading this post, I have come to the conclusion that the very essence of the true meaning of “disinterest” is the image of the Royal cat showing disinterest in ballet. In fact, I am so impressed, that I have now turned this image into a sign that I can use to wave in the faces of boring co-workers, supervisors and also customers, while I announce loudly and disdainfully, “The Royal Cat is disinterested!”

    I am confident that this will solve my problems with boring interactions at work, once and for all.

    Reply
    • I hope you are in better physical condition than the Royal Cat, Chris, but apart from that I am glad that you will now be able to interact better with your co-workers. 🙂

      Reply
      • Physical condition is fair to good these days, and after my employment of Royal Cat sign waving and disdainful shouting in the face of my supervisor, any and all employment issues are no longer relevant to me, until further notice, after receiving my final notice.

        Which I have often noticed in the past, is never really my final notice, since I always eventually find a way to get another one somewhere else. Lol 🙂

        Reply
        • Talent and genius will always be in high demand Chris….it’s just a matter of time waiting for a sufficiently intelligent employer to come along and recognize it.

          Apparently.

          I’ve never been on either side of this equation. 🙂

          Reply
  12. I loved this. I’ve never seen a performance in person but would love to someday. Of course you’re atop the list in case you ever make a rousing comeback.

    I didn’t know Columbusing was a word, nor that the use of “ballet” and “spanking” in the same post could have such a fantastic effect.

    Reply
    • Thanks Amelie…..I’ve never seen a live ballet performance either….mainly because it involves 2000 kilometres of travel to the nearest one.

      ‘Columbusing’ is now a word. 🙂

      Reply

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