The Royal Ballet has a charming YouTube series demonstrating how ballet technique has changed between the early 1800s and present day. As dancers and dance-lovers continue to debate the virtues of contemporary technique, it's especially interesting to see how things have evolved.

While it might be standard knowledge that extensions are higher and turnout is flatter than ever before, I had no idea that a class in the 1820s would have featured a 15-minute barre. The dancers approach each exercise with extreme deliberation, warming up in a different way than they would during today's 45-minute barre. With this video, we can see the principle behind the different methods. While a class modeled after something from the 1820s wouldn't properly prepare dancers for the choreographic and stylistic demands placed on them nowadays, the slow and steady approach has merit.

But, though it's an oft-repeated lament that today's dancers have traded artistic presence for high kicks, I doubt most audience members would want to go back to a time when ballerinas barely went on pointe and layers of fabric obscured their legs. Check out the video and tell us which approaches you think are best, from each time period.

 

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