Home: Ballet: Golden Years

To understand the popularity of Ballet in the late 19th Century, you have to first learn about all of Ballet, where it started. The First ballet began all the way back in 1581 when Catherine De Medici brought in entertainers from Italy to perform at the wedding of her son's favorite friend. The name of the first ballet was Le Ballet Comique de la Reine (The Comic Ballet of the Queen). Ballet became an elegant pastime for the Monarch and his court. This was considered to be the beginning of when Paris was considered the dance capitol of the world.

When ballet began, dancers wore masks as part of their costumes, and all the roles were danced by men. When there was a feminine role a smaller man or boy wore the woman's costume and danced character in the ballet. Since the dancers all consisted of men, there was no elegance or taste, ungraceful, stiff movements of muscles.

In 1681, women began to dance in ballet and about this time ballet became a professional art instead of amateur entertainment. Still the female dancers were taught to imitate those stiff muscular movements that the men were practicing. It was not until July 23rd, 1827 when a change in this practice began.

That day is recognized by many as the mark of the beginning of the golden age of Romantic Ballet in Paris. A dancer by the name of Marie Toglioni made her professional debut in front of a gaslit stage of the Paris Opera for the first time. Toglioni loosened the legs, softened the muscles and gradually changed the practice of routine. The picture on the left is of Carlotta Grisi, Toglioni, Lucile Grahn and Fanny Cerito in the Pas De Quatre in 1845.