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Ballet In Italy

  • BV Events
  • Saturday, 03/Jan/2015
Italy is the country where dance became an art. This happened in the fifteenth century, when the Italian courts (which were more and more devoted to arts thanks to the Renaissance humanism) hired the first dance teachers.
The documents of that period show that – already since the beginning - two forms of dance were practiced: a calmer, slower type of dance (“bassadanza”), in which jumps were avoided, and a quicker, livelier type (“ballo”).
The word “balletto” in lieu of “ballo” was first used at the beginning of the sixteenth century, when dancers organized the first performances totally devoted to the new art.

In 1547, Florentine noblewoman Caterina de’ Medici married King Henry II of France. She brought some dance masters with her. One of these masters organized, in 1581, a five-hour-show that can be considered the first official ballet ever: the Ballet Comique de la Reine. Thus, the word “ballet” comes from the Italian word “balletto”. The Ballet Comique was so successful that, although an Italian art, Paris became the ballet’s world capital.
It took centuries before ballet was regularly performed in theaters, rather than in royal courts. Romanticism sped this process.

In 1832, with the ballet La Sylphide performed at the Opera, written by his father Filippo, Italian ballerina Maria Taglioni introduced some innovations that characterize ballet even today: the tutu, instead than a long skirt, the dance on tiptoes (“en pointe”) and the “à bandeaux” hairstyle. Romanticism was also the period in which the predominance of men in ballet finished in favor of performances by women (who sometimes even danced disguised as men).

At the end of the nineteenth century, Russia rose as the new place to be for ballet. Choreographer Marius Petipa moved from France to the Russian court and - with the aid of the Bolshoi Theater dance corps - he created masterpieces that are danced still today, as Giselle, The Sleeping Beauty, La Bayadère, The Nutcracker, and Swan Lake.
It Italy, the most prestigious ballet company is the Corpo di Ballo del Teatro alla Scala (La Scala Theater Ballet). It was founded the same day of the inauguration of La Scala opera house, in 1778.
poster of ballet performance at La Scala

Notable Italian dancers whose career revolved around La Scala are listed below:

Enrico Cecchetti (1850–1928)

Enrico Cecchetti was a dancer, mime, choreographer, and teacher. In his thirties, he was considered the greatest dancer in the world. When his dancing career was over, Cecchetti invented a new method for teaching ballet, which is still used today. Cecchetti never detached himself from ballet and died while giving a dance lesson at La Scala.

Pierina Legnani (1863–1930)

Pierina Legnani was the first ballerina to be awarded the title prima ballerina assoluta (absolute prima ballerina) at the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg. After studying at La Scala, she moved to Russia, where choreographer Marius Petipa wrote her unforgettable roles in Cinderella, Swan Lake, and Carmargo. When her dancing career ended, she went back to La Scala to work until the end of her life.

Carla Fracci (1936–)

Carla Fracci graduated from La Scala in 1954. From that day, her star has never stopped shining. She is best known for her interpretation of Giselle and has danced with virtuosos such as Rudolf Nureyev, Mikhail Baryshnikov, and Roberto Bolle.

Luciana Savignano (1943–)

Luciana Savignano studied both at La Scala and at the Bolshoi school. She became the prima ballerina at La Scala in 1972 and the étoile in 1975. Choreographer Maurice Béjart created roles for her in various productions. She founded her own dance school in 1998 and is still active in the world of ballet.

Alessandra Ferri (1963–)

Alessandra Ferri is the first Italian ballerina who received the prima ballerina assoluta title after Pierina Legnani. She began studying dance at La Scala but was transferred to the Royal Ballet House in London. Famous dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov convinced her to join the American Ballet Theater. After that, she joined the ballet of La Scala. Her farewell performance was Romeo and Juliet, where she danced opposite famous danseur Roberto Bolle.

Roberto Bolle (1976–)

Roberto Bolle joined La Scala at eleven. He was soon spotted by Rudolf Nureyev, who chose him for the role of Tadzio in Death in Venice. He was awarded a principal dancer role at La Scala at twenty, but at the age of twenty-one, he started a freelance career that led him to dance with the most important companies in the world: the Royal Ballet in London, the Vienna State Opera, and the Berlin State Opera. In 2007, Alessandra Ferri invited Roberto Bolle for her farewell show at the American Ballet Theater. Americans fell in love with Roberto Bolle’s technique. In 2009, he became the first Italian male dancer who joined the ABT Studio Company as a principal dancer. In 2012, Roberto Bolle, for his support to the Italian culture, was even appointed Cavaliere dell’Ordine al Merito della Repubblica (Italian knight by merit) by Giorgio Napolitano, the president of Italy.

All these prima ballerinas, danseurs, and étoiles continue to work at La Scala. To avoid being left out of the best shows, book your tickets with BV Events!

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