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March 22, 2017

25 Gorgeous Vintage Photographs of Ballet Dancers From Between the 1910s and 1950s

Ballet originated in the Italian Renaissance courts of the 15th century. Noblemen and women were treated to lavish events, especially wedding celebrations, where dancing and music created an elaborate spectacle.

In the late 17th century Louis XIV founded the Académie Royale de Musique (the Paris Opera) within which emerged the first professional theatrical ballet company, the Paris Opera Ballet. The predominance of French in the vocabulary of ballet reflects this history. Theatrical ballet soon became an independent form of art, although still frequently maintaining a close association with opera, and spread from the heart of Europe to other nations.

In the 20th century styles of ballet continued to develop and strongly influence broader concert dance, for example, in the United States choreographer George Balanchine developed what is now known as neoclassical ballet, subsequent developments have included contemporary ballet and post-structural ballet, for example seen in the work of William Forsythe in Germany.

The etymology of the word "ballet" reflects its history. The word ballet comes from French and was borrowed into English around the 17th century. The French word in turn has its origins in Italian balletto, a diminutive of ballo (dance). Ballet ultimately traces back to Italian ballare, meaning "to dance".

A scene from the film Melba, 1953. (Hulton Archive / Getty Images)

Lubov Tchernicheva, Alice Nikitina, Alexandra Danilova, Felia Doubrovska, and Serge Lifar during a production of Apollon Musagetes, 1928. (Sasha / Getty Images)

Madame Lubovska teaching students from the National American Ballet School, 1924. (Hulton Archive / Getty Images)

A performance in London, 1943. (Fred Ramage/Keystone Features / Getty Images)

A scene from the ballet Protee, 1938. (Baron / Getty Images)

Dancers of the Festival Ballet performing Etudes, 1955. (Baron / Getty Images)

Christianne Gaulthier, 1955. (Serge Berton/BIPs / Getty Images)

Nora Kaye and Nicholas Magallanes in The Cage, 1951. (Baron / Getty Images)

Anna Pavlova and a fellow dancer, 1920. (James Abbe / Getty Images)

Vera Nemchinova and Anton Dolin in a production of Revolution at the Coliseum in London, 1928. (Sasha / Getty Images)

Ida Rubinstein, 1915. (Hulton Archive / Getty Images)

Anna Pavlova in Autumn Leaves, 1920. (James Abbe / Getty Images)

Margot Fonteyn, 1939. (Baron / Getty Images)

Alexandra Danilova, 1925. (Joan Craven/Evening Standard / Getty Images)

Tanaquil Le Clercq in Bourree Fantasque, 1950. (Baron/Hulton Archive / Getty Images)

Cynthia Maugham at the Arts Theatre in London, 1928. (Sasha / Getty Images)

Anna Ludmilla and a fellow dancer in Intimate Revue, 1930. (Sasha / Getty Images)

June Brae and Robert Helpmann in Dante Sonata at the Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London, 1939. (Baron/Hulton Archive / Getty Images)

Anna Pavlova surrounded by her ballet shoes in her dressing room at the Theatre des Champs Elysees in Paris, 1927. (James Abbe / Getty Images)

Alice Nikitina and Serge Lifar performing La Chatte, 1927. (Sasha / Getty Images)

Marjorie Tallchief and George Skibine of the New York City Ballet in Concerto Barocco, 1948. (Baron / Getty Images)

Tamara Toumanova in Swan Lake, 1948. (Baron / Getty Images)

A performance of Giselle at Drury Lane in London, 1937. (Baron / Getty Images)

Anna Pavlova, 1920. (James Abbe / Getty Images)

Vera Nemchinova and Anton Dolin in Rhapsody in Blue, 1928. (Sasha / Getty Images)


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