Sequence of Actions in a Classical Ballet Performance

Sequence of Actions in a Classical Ballet Performance

Anastasia Isaeva, a prima ballerina and IngoDance author, continues to acquaint readers with the basics of the fine art so that your understanding could be more conscious.

Classical ballet is based on unbreakable rules and forms, knowing which you can perceive what is happening on stage more clearly. One of these components is the ballet performance sequence - it always remains the same, regardless of any changes in the plot or content.

Beginning of a performance

A classical ballet usually begins with a general action - an exposition, in which a lot of different characters take part. This can be exemplified by the waltz scene in the prince's castle in Swan Lake; in The Nutcracker, we see the characters coming to visit. This is how the audience gradually "enter" the performance, get to know the characters.

The main characters appear

The moment when the main character takes the stage is always emphasized by music, it defines the character, gives them depth and richness.

 For example, when Princess Aurora appears in The Sleeping Beauty, all other characters go to the sides at first, giving the center of the stage to the main character, which is typical for all classical ballets. You can hear in the music how the princess descends the stairs, then the personality of the character is brought out though the synthesis of dance and music.

 In the ballets by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, you should listen to the music especially carefully as in them it manifests itself most vividly as a way to define a character. This approach helps get a more complete perception of the whole action, and this is one of the reasons why Tchaikovsky's ballets are considered genius.

 The moment the main character appears is not just a beautiful solo dance, the character is also responsible for "leading" the line of the performance. The character uses pantomime to talk about their feelings, worries or desires. Therefore, you should always carefully watch what the characters "say" to each other.

The main characters meet each other

Such parts can vary: from a small scene to an adagio. Adagio is a slow dance, in which characters reveal their feelings or some element important for unravelling of the plot, for example, the White Adagio in the first act of the second picture in Swan Lake.

The end of the act and the culmination

At the end of the act, the plot is set, the conflict that will be fully revealed in the next act comes to the fore.

An important element of any classical ballet performance is the pas de deux, which is translated from French as a “step of two”. A pas de deux includes an adagio (sometimes there is also an entre), variations of male and female solo dances and a joint coda. It may well be called the center of the performance, and sometimes even its pearl. Pas de deux is not only a demonstration of the dancers' technical abilities but also a significant moment in the performance: for example, the wedding of the prince and the princess in The Sleeping Beauty, or the dance of Prince Siegfried and Odile at the ball in Swan Lake, after which he breaks his oath. The pas de deux is followed by the plot denouement or its culmination.

 As in all arts, this sequence is, of course, variable. But knowing the structure of a classical performance will help you better navigate in the things you see on stage. Watching contemporary productions, you will immediately realize which canons the choreographer departed from, or, on the contrary, what he was inspired by.