At Jade Harrison School of Dance in North Tyneside, we love ballet. It is the foundation of our dance school but if you thought all ballet was the same, then think again! Just like acting and other arts, there are variations within a theme and while some parts may be the same, there are many distinct differences between them all.
First of all, there are 3 ballet styles: classical, neoclassical, and contemporary. On top of this, there are 6 techniques or methods (similar to the Stanislavski or Meisner methods in acting). How you learn is just as important as the style of ballet that you intend to focus on.
- Classical Ballet - This is the traditional style of ballet that is characterised by flowing movements and grace. It generally focuses on storytelling in a classical sense with performances such as the Nutcracker Suite and often involves elaborate costuming.
- Neoclassical Ballet - While classical ballet has a fairly rigid performance vocabulary, the 20th century saw the development of neoclassical ballet which was far less strict. There’s a sense of greater energy and speed in this style of dance and it lends itself to non-narrative performances particularly well.
- Contemporary Ballet - This brings in modern dance as an element of classical ballet and allows performers a greater variety and range of movement as well as more floor work.
1. The Vaganova Method: Developed in the 1920s, it draws on French and Russian influences and is characterised by precise dance movements and a focus on back strength to develop the core movements that often make dancers seem to fly in the air.
2. The Cecchetti Method: One for the purists, this method is more closely aligned to classical ballet and includes a specific focus on and understanding of anatomy. Compared to other methods it tends to be considered more scientific in its approach and the art of performing an individual movement perfectly.
3. Royal Academy of Dance Method: Developed in the 1920s, this brought together both the Vaganova and Cecchetti methods to encourage great technique combined with suppleness and softness of movement. A lot of time is spent on teaching beginners the basics before they move on to much harder moves and performances.
4. The French Method: Influenced by ballet great Rudolph Nureyev the focus is once again on precision but introduces more musicality and greater diversity. Dancers are more fluid, but this is one method that is not widely performed or taught outside of Paris, at least for the moment.
5. The Bournonville Method: Rather than just teaching the accepted ballet dance moves, this method combines romantic choreography, and everything starts with the shape of the arms and their softness. It’s often considered the method that delivers the height of musicality in performers, utilising harmony, and romance to tell the story of the ballet.
6. The Balanchine Technique: High-speed movements and deep plies are indicative of this method although it’s mostly confined to the US. It also draws on different popular genres like jazz and is characterised by plenty of energy and many moves confined within a short piece of music.
Each style and each method of teaching brings its own set of dance magic to the profession of ballet and helps contribute to the wide range of different performances we see today.