The history of ballet dates back to Italy during the 15th century when rich princes hired professional dancers to give luxurious performances that would impress their noble guests. In the 17th century choreographers in Italy, France and England strived to revolutionize ballet and create new innovative possibilities of dance techniques.
At the time, Russia was rich in national dance folklore and open to European cultural influences due to the reign of Peter the Great. This created a desirable atmosphere for the development of ballet theater, initially tought by instructors from Italy and France. One of the first ballet instructors that came to Russia was Jean Baptist Lande, whose students impressed Empress Anna and inspired her to start a ballet school in Russia. The school was opened in 1738 and directed by J.B.Lande was known as the Imperial Ballet School. More schools started opening in Moscow, as well as imperial and private theaters.
In the 18th century, Russian ballet was a reflection of the European classicism found in French and Italian ballet. However, at the end of the 19th century it was evident that specific characteristics and features were being brought to Russian ballet, differentiating it slightly from ballet practiced in its countries of origin. Russian composers started writing music for ballet for example, Onegin by Alexander Pushkin, and melodramatic ballet became the leading genre.
As Russian ballet started taking its unique form and increasing in popularity, special privilege was given to ballet performances as well as governement grants dedicated to the development of ballet. The Bolshoi Theatre was opened in 1825 and is now amongst the oldest and greatest ballet companies in the world. Russian ballet blended in with the romanticism born in Western Europe and the performances shined with splendour, eurhythmy and topnotch artistry.
Even though the original purpose of the ballet in Russia was to entertain the royal court, many theaters started to open to anyone who could afford a ticket. A seating section called a “rayok” was introduced, made up of simple wooden benches and cheap tickets so that the poorer social classes could experience the beauty of Russian ballet. This triggered a national frenzy over ballet and as more people could afford it, going to the ballet was incorporated in Russian culture.
In 1956, Russian ballet companies such as the Bolshoi Theatre performed in Western countries for the first time. Russian ballet proved to have a huge impact on the West due to the intense dramatic feeling and technical virtuosity of the Russian ballet style. Russian influence on ballet continues today, as Russian ballets and dancing styles are performed all around the world. The tradition of going to the ballet has remained prominent in Russian society, as Russians enjoy traditional ballets in major ballet companies in St. Petersburg and Moscow.
Do you want to get a taste of a true Russian tradtion while staying at one of our apartments in Moscow? Well get your nicest evening wear on for a night at the Bolshoi Theatre, where you will witness the beauty of Russian ballet!