By Robin Rinaldi
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Additional info for Ballet (World of Dance)
Petipa put this formula in place and added the last necessary element: great music. Up until Petipa’s time, most ballet music was given only secondary consideration to the dancing. The Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky changed that. By composing scores that were complex and symphonic as well as danceable, he added another dimension of beauty to the art. His scores for Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, and The Nutcracker are famous compositions even for non-balletgoers. Tchaikovsky’s music and Petipa’s choreography brought ballet to new heights and secured Russia’s place in the history of classical ballet.
Comparisons between the earthy, sensual Elssler and the heavenly, refined Taglioni soon became the talk of Europe, and ballet’s second great female rivalry was born. In more technical terms, the two ballerinas embodied two very different but essential characteristics of ballet. Taglioni displayed exemplary ballon—the ability to jump seemingly with ease and, for a moment, to even hover in the air. A modern (though not balletic) example of someone with terrific ballon is former NBA star Michael Jordan.
The ballet ends with a short fourth act. Based on a German folktale, the ballet has a first act set in the court of Prince Siegfried. It is his birthday, and his mother, the Queen, presents him with the gift of a crossbow while reminding him that his time has come to choose a bride. Though he dances with several women, he remains distracted, even melancholy, and when the partygoers leave (after performing various group waltzes and a pas de trios, or “dance for three”), he takes his crossbow to a nearby lake to hunt.