Saturday, 25 March 2017

A New Interactive Resource: Royal Ballet School's Ballet History Timeline

Bridge of Aspiration between the Royal Ballet School and the Royal Opera House
Photo Edward
Source Wikipedia
Copyright released by the author

The Royal Ballet School has recently compiled a magnificent resource for anyone who is interested in the history of dance in the United Kingdom called the Ballet History Timeline. It consists of nearly 750 images of items held in The Royal Ballet School Special Collections together with commentary written by the School’s Manager of Special Collections, Anna Meadmore. There is a useful introductory video on YouTube which states what is in the collection and how to use it.

At present. the Timeline covers the period between 1862 (the year in which Marius Petipa was appointed chief ballet master of the Maryinsky Ballet) and 1956 (the year in which the Royal Ballet received its royal charter and, also incidentally, the year in which the Bolshoi made its first appearance in the United Kingdom). However, the intention is to go back much further and also to advance to the present time.

Readers can access this resource at There are at present 6 introductory chapters:
  • "Prologue: Marius Petipa and the Imperial Russian Ballet 1860–1897
  • The Birth of Modern Ballet: the Diaghilev Ballets Russes 1898–1919
  • Early British Ballet: foundations and pioneers 1920–30
  • Early British Ballet: building a repertoire 1931–38
  • World War Two: a national ballet for Britain 1939–46
  • Formative Years: The Royal Ballet 1947–56".
Users can either click on those or use the search facility.  

I have already had a lot of fun with this resource. I started by searching for "Petipa" and found references to him recurring in just about every chapter. The last of those references was:
"1862 – Marius PetipaBallet Master of Imperial Russia"
I clicked on the hypertext link and came across a page headed with that title bearing a splendid photo of Petipa in a costume from the ballet The Pharaoh's Daughter.  The introductory text states:
"Marius Petipa (1818–1910) was a French dancer and choreographer; he was chief Ballet Master of the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg for more than 40 years (1862–1903). The repertoire and style of Imperial Russian Classicism is exemplified by the enduring ‘ballet classics’ that Marius Petipa and his assistant, Lev Ivanov, created to the glorious ballet scores of Pyotr Tchaikovsky."
More information can be obtained by clicking "Read More". There is also a short biography and a page of drawings, photos and an interesting lithograph of Arthur Saint-Leon's dance notation on a page headed "Gallery".

One of the pleasures of taking up ballet again very late in life is the awareness that one is participating albeit in a very small way in a glorious artistic tradition. It keeps me going when my legs ache and right foot screams out in agony. It motivates me to drive to Truro and back to see a youth ballet and, above all. to keep this publication going.

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