Tuesday Trivia: things you might not know about Ballet!

In the first of our Tuesday Trivia blog posts, we're taking a look back thorugh time top round up some trivia you might not have known!

Ballet began in the Italian renaissance courts of the 15th Century, later evolving through both Russia and France, notably assisted by Italian aristocrat, Catherine de Medici, who was Queen of France by marriage.

In it's earliest guise in the royal courts, ballet dancers wore large masks, heavy costumes and headdresses which, whilst beautiful to the eye, restricted movement drastically. Therefore the dancing itself consisted mainly of turns, hops, slides, curtsies and other gentle movements - much different to the athletism and artistry seen now!

Until 1681, female roles in ballets in France were mainly taken by young men - in fact - the famous dancer and choreographer Jean-Baptiste Lully often cast King Louis XIV in his ballets. King Louis had made his ballet debut as a boy and was widely noted for his 1653 performance as Apollo in Le Ballet de la Nuit.

The Loves of Mars and Venus was the first ballet created in Britain in 1717. English choreographer John Weaver created The Loves of Mars and Venus using dance, pantomime and movement to convey the plot, without relying on spoken or sung text. The ballet made its premiere at the Drury Lane Theater in London with the role of Venus played by Hester Santlow.

The first ballerina’s tutu appeared in 1832, designed by Eugene Lami, on Marie Taglioni in La Sylphide. Her skirt was cut above the ankle (Romatic style) to enable audiences to see more of her famous legwork, over time new styles of tutu emerged, reflecting both audience and artistic demands.

It was in 1795 that the first dancers went en pointe, using an invention by Charles Didelot. Dubbed the 'flying machine' it lifted dancers slightly, allowing them to appear to stand on their toes before totally leaving the ground for a short time. Incredibly popular with audiences, dancers and choreographers soon began to look for ways to incorporate pointe work much more practically into their work.

Interestingly, it is claimed (but it has never been confirmed) that the above mentioned Marie Taglioni was also the first dancer to truly dance en pointe.

The word ballerina did not find a place within the English language until the 1790's and the less popular ballerino (for a male ballet dancer) was not actually used in English until 1934.