From the dazzling tutus and glittering tiaras of the big ballet classics to the modernised works of flesh-coloured leotards and soft ballet shoes, the world’s favourite ballets appear to be changing rapidly. Arguably as a result of the viral nature of social media and the innovative experimentation that is taking place in studios all over the world.
The Royal Ballet
Despite the modernisation that ballet is undergoing, for example as a result of Wayne McGregor of Random Dance’s instatement as Resident Choreographer of The Royal Ballet in 2006, it is clear that the classics of the ballet world will always win the hearts of audiences all over the world. McGregor’s influence over twenty-first century dance is undeniable, and whilst his work is technically outstanding and completely compelling, the repertoire of the Royal is also made up of works that have resided there for centuries. Classics such as Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker are three of a number of well-known and loved productions which are presumed to stay within ballet repertoire for years to come.
Classical ballet was once seen as a high culture, rather than a popular one, yet this is also changing. The Royal Ballet LIVE was screened online earlier this year, providing dance-lovers and non-dance fans alike with the opportunity to take a peek into the working lives of professional ballet dancers and marvel at their strength and artistry. The iconic film production Black Swan (one of our favourite films of that year) starring Natalie Portman also took the ballet world by storm, depicting a violent and manipulative ballet environment, but ultimately extending ballet’s reach to wider audiences, increasing its popularity.
The London 2012 Olympic Games also demonstrated a cultural shift, with ballet proving to be an influence in more than one area. Team GB swimmer Liam Tancock revealed that regular ballet classes were involved in his cross-training, and Birmingham Royal Ballet’s principal Matthew Lawrence created a routine for the five times British champion gymnast Frankie Jones for the Rhythmic Gymnastics British Championships ahead of the Games.
Linked to both The Royal Ballet and the London 2012 Games, Darcey Bussell twinkled her ballet shoes and contributed to the shift of ballet to becoming a more accessible and widely enjoyable art form by soaring into the Closing Ceremony strapped to a phoenix. With Bussell’s entrance and the dancing that followed being one of the most anticipated parts of the ceremony, it is clearly demonstrable that ballet is continuing to win the hearts of the world, and now through new methods whilst not forgetting its roots within the great classical ballets of the art world.