Dancing on the toes or ballet on point began around the beginning of the 1800s, though only brief time was spent on the toes. Ballet shoes were reinforced with extra stitching around the toe, though they’re not nearly as supportive as pointe shoes today.
The romantic period of the early to mid-1800s was dominated by female dancers and gave us the well-known ballets Giselle and Coppelia. It was also the founding period of the white tutu that is now so strongly affiliated with ballet dancing and seeing ballerinas performing ballet on point.
Ballet in France was declining during this period, though in Denmark, August Bournonville (1805 – 1879) the Danish ballet master and choreographer was gaining acclaim for his equal use of both male and female dancers. His ballets, including La Sylphide, are still performed today.
During the late 1800s, Russian ballet was flourishing. Chief choreographer of the Imperial Russian Ballet Marius Petipa (1818 – 1910) commissioned Tchaikovsky to compose the scores for Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake. He is best known for the full-length story ballet combining set dances with mimed scenes.
Ballet on Point in the Twentieth Century
In 1909, founder of the Ballet Russes, Sergei Diaghilev (1872 – 1929) was invited to bring his ballet to Paris. His company included Anna Pavlova and the show was immensely successful, bringing ballet back into fashion in France. The Ballet Russes developed a style that made ballet more popular with the general public, where previously it had been enjoyed solely by an aristocracy.
During the 1920s and 1930s, modern dance was developing throughout America and Germany. Dances were more reflective of modern life and more expressive movement styles were incorporated.
From the 1960s, ballet became admired for its athleticism and skill. Ballet today is enjoyed by many and incorporates an amalgamation of classical and modern dances that are appreciated for the expressive art form that began several centuries earlier.