Sunday, January 15, 2006



Ballet began 500 years ago in Italy as a form of court entertainment and later spread to France. The first full-scale ballet was staged in Paris on October 15, 1581. Written for the court of Henry III of France, this lavish entertainment included songs, speeches, mimes, and dances and lasted almost six hours! Today ballets are much shorter.

The Artistic Director of a company is in charge of staging a ballet. The Dance Master is the main choreographer who arranges a ballet's dance movements and teaches them to the dancers.

There are four levels of dancers in a ballet company. At the bottom is the largest group, called the corps de ballet, which performs as one dancing unit. Next are the corphees who lead the corps de ballet and sometimes dance the ballet's smaller parts. Above them are the soloists, who dance alone. At the very top are the principals who dance the lead roles. Great principal ballerinas are often referred to as prima ballerinas; great male dancers are called premier danseurs.

The so-called “Baby Ballerinas”: Atiana Riabouchinska, Irina Baronova, and Tamara Toumanova all of whom are principal ballerinas
Frederic Franklin, a premier danseur

This is a history of two ballet companies, both using the Ballet Russe in their names (thus the reason the movie title is plural) that dominated the world of ballet during most of the 20th Century from 1932 to 1962. The archival footage is kept to a minimum, presumably so those who are not devotees of ballet do not become bored. The story is told from the perspective of the many dancers who took part with an update on their current involvement with dance.


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