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Ballet is a type of performance dance, that originated in the Italian Renaissance courts of the 15th century, and which was further developed in France and Russia as a concert dance form. The early portions preceded the invention of the proscenium stage and were presented in large chambers with most of the audience seated on tiers or galleries on three sides of the dance floor. It has since become a highly technical form of dance with its own vocabulary. It is primarily performed with the accompaniment of classical music and has been influential as a form of dance globally. Ballet has been taught in ballet schools around the world, which use their own cultures and societies to inform the art.
Ballet dance works (ballets) are choreographed and performed by trained artists, include mime and acting, and are set to music (usually orchestral but occasionally vocal). It is a poised style of dance that incorporates the foundational techniques for many other dance forms. This genre of dance is very hard to master and requires much practice. It is best known in the form of late Romantic ballet or Ballet Blanc, which preoccupies itself with the female dancer to the exclusion of almost all else, focusing on pointe work, flowing, precise acrobatic movements, and often presenting the dancers in the conventional short white French tutu. Later developments include expressionist ballet, neoclassical ballet, and elements of modern dance.
A ballet shoe, or ballet slipper, is a lightweight shoe designed specifically for ballet dancing. It may be made from soft leather, canvas, or satin, and has flexible, thin soles. Traditionally, women wear pink shoes and men wear white or black shoes. Tan colored slippers—which are unobtrusive and thus give the appearance of dancing barefoot—are worn in modern ballets and sometimes modern dancing by both men and women.
All ballet dancers wear soft ballet slippers for the main part of the ballet class. More advanced female dancers may change into pointe shoes for centre work and performance.
Ballet shoes must fit very closely to the foot, for safety and to retain maximum flexibility.
Ballet shoes traditionally have a leather sole which does not reach all the way to the edges of the shoe. A modern development is the split sole, which provides greater flexibility. They are usually made from soft leather, canvas or satin. Leather shoes are long-lasting. Canvas shoes are less expensive but wear faster than average leather ballet shoes. Satin shoes are worn only for performance as they wear out very quickly.
Shoes are secured with the use of elastic, most often with a single band across the arch of the foot, or with two bands that cross in an "X" shape at the top of the arch. In the case of double band shoes, some ballet slipper manufacturers will attach one end of each band to the shoe as part of the production process, and leave it to the purchaser to attach the free ends of the bands for optimal fit.
Women began to dance in ballet in 1681, twenty years after King Louis XIV of France ordered the founding of the Royal Academy of Dance. At that time, the standard women's ballet shoe had heels. Mid 18th century dancer Marie Camargo of the Paris Opéra Ballet was the first to wear a non-heeled shoe. After the French Revolution, heels were completely eliminated from standard ballet shoes.
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