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My Favorite Ballets - Part 1

Updated on July 2, 2012
Edgar Degas (1834-1917), the class of dance (ca. 1874). Musée d'Orsay, Parijs, Oil on canvas, 87 x 75 cm
Edgar Degas (1834-1917), the class of dance (ca. 1874). Musée d'Orsay, Parijs, Oil on canvas, 87 x 75 cm | Source
Edgar Degas (1834-1917) Dance Hall of the Opera in the rue Peletier
Edgar Degas (1834-1917) Dance Hall of the Opera in the rue Peletier | Source
Source

I have always loved the Ballet

I love the etymology of the word “Ballet.” “The word ballet comes from the French and was borrowed into English around 1630. The French word in turn has its origin in Italian balletto, a diminutive of ballo (dance) which comes from Latin ballo, ballare, meaning "to dance", which in turn comes from the Greek ballizo, "to dance, jump about". (Wikipedia)

When I was a little girl, my mother took me for ballet lessons. I did ballet for ten years and can highly recommend it as a dance/art form for girls and boys. It teaches discipline, wonderful poise and posture, co-ordination, appreciation of music, and builds the body into a wonderfully strong, lean, dancing machine. Ballet forms the basis of classical dance and lends itself to the telling of comedy and sweeping dramas from fairy tales, to Shakespeare and other classics.

I may not have been a wonderful ballet dancer, but the dance form lit up my imagination and I LOVED going to the Johannesburg Civic Theatre as a child, and becoming transported by the ballet. When I was old enough, I went with a few friends, back in the day when we still had double decker buses, and arrived at the Civic Theatre after a woman on the bus commented that we were “highbrow!” Her remark made me feel very grown up and important! I usually had tickets at the back of the auditorium and it was a thrill, when finally, as an adult, I could afford to sit in far better seats in the center of the auditorium, and not at the back.

Allow me to introduce one of my favorites first: The ballet is “Coppelia.” I participated in many dance shows and Eisteddfods as I grew up, because I learned various forms of dance, speech and drama, choral verse, and I sang in the choir from Grade 2 through Grade 12. One of the solo dances I did in a ballet Eisteddfod was the wind-up doll from Coppelia. I loved the costumes, the music, the story and the dance.

San Francisco Ballet's Coppelia - Interview

The Story of Coppelia

This ballet is a comedy which is somewhat unusual, with choreography by Arthur Saint-Léon and beautiful music by Léo Delibes. The ballet was based on two strange stories: “The Sandman” and “The Doll” by ETA Hoffmann. This ballet premiered in 1870 at the Théâtre Impérial de l’Opéra; and became the most popular ballet performed at Opéra Garnier.

George Balanchine choreographed a version of the ballet for the New York Ballet in 1974. Alexandra Danilova, who had danced the title role many times through her career, assisted him.

The story of Coppélia is about a toymaker, Dr Coppelius, who makes a dancing doll which is life-size. It looks so real, that a young villager, named Franz, falls in love with it, ignoring his real true love, Swanhilde. Swanhilde takes matters into her own hands, dresses as the doll and pretends to make it come to life, which ultimately saves Franz from a dubious end at the hands of the inventor.

PNB's Coppélia Imagery

Coppelia - Royal Ballet 2000

Swan Lake Ballet

Corps de Ballet
Corps de Ballet | Source

Swan Lake

Pyotr Tchaikovsky composed Swan Lake ballet, op. 20 in 1875-1876. The ballet, initially in four acts, was choreographed around Russian folk tales. It tells the story of a princess, Odette, who was turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer. The original choreography was done by Julius Reisinger. This ballet premièred at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow in 1877 and was initially called “The Lake of the Swans.” There are many different versions of this ballet, but most ballet companies use the choreography and music of Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov who revived the ballet in 1895. It was reintroduced for the Imperial Ballet at the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, and Riccardo Drigo (chief conductor and composer), revised Tchaikovsky’s score.

The story has been called a “national ballet” because the swans originate from Russian sources and many movements of the corps de ballet originated from Slavonic ring-dances. The libretto is based on “The Stolen Veil” by German author Johann Karl August Musäus and provides the general outline. Another possible source is the Russian folk tale, “The White Duck.” Tchaikovsky was most interested in the life of Ludwig II, the King of Bavaria, who became the inspiration for Prince Siegfried – the dreamer.

Royal Ballet Trailer

Bolshoi Swan Lake - Pas de Quatre Small Swans

Swan Lake is a great classic

Prince Siegfried is out hunting and spots a beautiful swan. As he takes aim, to his amazement, the swan turns into a beautiful woman. Her name is Odette, and she tells the Prince that she has fallen under the spell of an evil sorcerer. During the day, she is doomed to swim in a lake of tears, but at night, she is transformed from a swan, back into human form. The spell can only be broken if a virgin Prince professes his eternal love for her, otherwise she will remain a swan forever.

Prince Siegfried is that virgin prince and falls madly in love with Odette. The evil sorcerer, however, introduces a black swan, Odile, to Prince Siegfried at a royal ball. Siegfried believes her to be Odette and proposes to her. Odette feels betrayed and throws herself into the lake. Siegfried is horrified at the mistake and drowns himself with her. In a heartfelt climax to the story, they both are transformed into lovers in the afterlife. Swan Lake is one of the best known and most classical of all the ballets and has held audiences spellbound for over a hundred years!

Black Swan pas de deux

© This writing is the work of Sue-Lynn Grace.

Thank you for reading my hub, dear Reader.

I hope you enjoyed it, and if so, I would love to read your comments below. I always respond, so I invite you to return and find my response to your feedback.

Your votes would be doubly appreciated too. Please feel free to share on Facebook, Pinterest and the like, or by emailing my link to your friends.

I appreciate your time and interest greatly. Many thanks.

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    • Suelynn profile image
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      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Vinaya Ghimire: I have found the Russian artists to be outstanding in this dance form and you're lucky to have seen them. I agree about Ballet, of course and appreciate your comments. I hope you enjoyed the videos. The music is more than enough to make me smile, and the ballet makes the enjoyment that much more complete. :)

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 5 years ago from Nepal

      The only ballet performance I have ever watched live was when Russian artists came to perform in my country. Ballet is a wonderful dance form. Thanks for this comprehensive hub.

    • Suelynn profile image
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      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Hi fpherj48,

      I was sure I had responded to your comment, yet I find it here unapproved. How odd. I remember remarking that I had not heard of Maria Tallchief and that I would certainly get to your hub about "Women's Hall of Fame" as soon as I can. Thanks so much for your interest and responses - they are greatly appreciated, as are your votes. :)

    • Suelynn profile image
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      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Marisa Wright: I am, nevertheless, still impressed! :) BRAVO!

    • Marisa Wright profile image

      Marisa Wright 5 years ago from Sydney

      Actually Suelynn, I'd hate you to think I danced it professionally! I had only just started learning pointe, and should categorically NOT have been dancing en pointe at home, without supervision! But I had seen it a few times, and I had the music, and it was the scene where she tries to attract Coppelia's attention as she sits on the balcony - which has fairly simple choreography.

    • Suelynn profile image
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      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      How awesome, MelChi! I would have LOVED to actually BE in a performance, but enjoyed it all from the audience... I think once one has danced ballet, the appreciation of the skill and dexterity and sheer discipline is far more greatly appreciated. I thank you so much for your comments and for your votes! :)

    • MelChi profile image

      Melanie Chisnall 5 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      Lovely article Suelynn, and a beautiful tribute to ballet! Swan lake is one of the most graceful and captivating ballet performances I have every seen, and I was privileged enough to participate in a performance when I still did ballet. Thanks for sharing this, voted up, beautiful, awesome and interesting! Lovely! :)

    • Suelynn profile image
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      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Hi Marisa Wright: It is such a delightful ballet and I'm impressed that you used to dance Swanilda! I see that you are a dancer and have trained in quite a few disciplines! I did ballet, modern and tap and did try Spanish for a little while but was doing too much. I took one belly dancing class once and loved it, and LOVE latin American and ballroom, but my life went in a different direction at that point. I look forward to popping in to your hubs soon. :)

    • Marisa Wright profile image

      Marisa Wright 5 years ago from Sydney

      Coppelia is one of my favourites too - I used to dance Swanilda's opening dance in the lounge room!

    • Suelynn profile image
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      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      b. Malin: Thanks so much for your comments... I think Ballet is a wonderful art for children to participate in, no matter whether we are good or not so much! Ballet always lived in my imagination and being a part of it was food for my soul as well as great exercise for my body. Being in concerts is definitely a highlight - getting dressed up and having make-up applied, and having one's hair pinned up - was always so exciting. I couldn't agree more. Thank you so much for your votes - they are really appreciated. :)

    • b. Malin profile image

      b. Malin 5 years ago

      Wow Suelynn, what a Treat to read and See all those Wonderful Ballets. Such rich History behind each one. Of course "Swan Lake" is a Favorite, world wide. I remember as a Kid taking Ballet lessons, and being in the Concert at the end of the year. I too wasn't that good, but I loved the costumes that we got to wear. Thanks for sharing. My Votes of UP & Beautiful go to you!

    • Suelynn profile image
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      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Hi Paula, absolutely correct - I couldn't have said it better myself. I am so glad you brought Maria Tallchief to my attention and look forward to reading about her in your hub. Thanks so much for your wonderful comments and votes... they are greatly appreciated. :)

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Suelynn....Ballet is, without a doubt, lovely and so graceful....Performers are extremely athletic and agile and very focused. From all I have heard and read, the hours of practice and self-discipline are far beyond that of any classic dance form.

      Being an avid fan of ballet, I wonder if you are familiar with the life and career of Maria Tallchief? I included her short bio in my Hub on the "Women's Hall of Fame." I was so impressed with her accomplishments.

      Very well-written and enjoyable hub, Suelynn......UP+++

    • Suelynn profile image
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      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Hi Jools99: Thank you so much for reading and sharing - I love your comments. Wouldn't it be fun to go to the ballet together and compare notes? Coppelia is such a delightful ballet and I so like the lighthearted aspects, never mind the fabulous music. :)

      I was very fortunate to see the Bolshoi ballet in London in 2007. What an outstanding performance. I will be hubbing about that so no spoilers. :) Swan Lake is one of those quintessential ballets that I think it would be difficult for someone not to like. Thanks so much for your votes and sharing... I greatly appreciate it. :)

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools99 5 years ago from North-East UK

      SueLynn, I am not a dance fan to be honest but I did have to study Coppelia when I was in secondary school and I absolutely loved the story and the music so I could be converted if I went to a ballet with someone who knows the ropes.

      Amazing to think of the Bolshoi doing Swan Lake a year after Tchaikovski wrote it! I do listen to classical music occasionally and I love Swan Lake,

      Voted up and shared.

    • Suelynn profile image
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      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Hi Susan, I love seeing you pop up here. You really should join Hub Pages - you have such a wonderful sense of humor and really SO much to write about! :)

      I greatly appreciate your comments and thank you for the thumbs up! :)))

      Please consider writing too.... you have so much to contribute.

      xx

    • profile image

      Susan 5 years ago

      I have been revisiting ballet this week and last. This report of yours was wonderful. Really enjoyed your perspective of the classical dance form. The videos included were fabulous. I especially enjoyed the rehearsal of the struggle.

      Thumbs up, all the way!

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Log in once there!

    • Suelynn profile image
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      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Hi Deb: Thank you so much for saying! I have been wanting to stop by your hubs for days now and keep getting distracted. I'm about to prepare for Canada... woohoooo! Waiting for the work permit now.... Lovely to see you and wanna pop over to your place and read!!!

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Wonderful material, Suelynn. I enjoyed this a great deal.

    • Suelynn profile image
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      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      'Tis true, TT... but some of those costumes are just gorgeous! Men in tights.... hmmmm.... I remember those days well...Rudolf Nureyev... Mikhail Baryshnikov... those Russians sure had the stamina and strength! :)))))) I'm so glad you enjoyed the hub and the videos really do speak for themselves! Lots more to come... :D

    • TToombs08 profile image

      Terrye Toombs 5 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

      Isn't ballet that weird, uppity dancing where people dress up in tights and tutus and jump around in the air? :) Seriously, Suelynn, great hub and I love all the videos! VUM. :)

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Relax! :-)

    • Suelynn profile image
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      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Thanks, midget38! Got so much to do, my head is spinning like the ballerinas doing fouettes....

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Wow. Good luck with the move...we could work on it once you are all settled in. One thing at a time!

    • Suelynn profile image
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      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      ABSOLUTELY includes Mozart!!! I must just say here that I am about to pack up and move to Canada... to let you know that I'm not sure how much time I will have available to write.... it's so frustrating.... xx

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Would it include Mozart? a hub on him would be great - he died too unacknowledged!

    • Suelynn profile image
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      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      I can tell you some of my favorites... it's a rather long list.... (all classical I must add)

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Two heads better than one - we could work on it. Let's think about some great composers we can work on!

    • Suelynn profile image
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      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      That sounds great - I had never thought of a collaboration, midget38! :) GREAT IDEA!

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      That we do! We can collaborate on a classical music hub!

    • Suelynn profile image
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      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Thanks so much for your vote and your feedback, midget38. Much appreciated. I would say we share similar taste in the arts! :)

      Tchaikowsky ROCKS!

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Hey, Suelynn, you seem to love dance! Swan Lake has always been my perennial faves...again, one of the first I learned on the piano! Simple romantic battle between good and evil...never fails. Voted up!