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Alice Chacon


Bettijane Sills
Special Ballet Fridays
What is Neoclassical Ballet?
“Neoclassicism is the revival of a classical style or treatment in art, literature,

architecture, or music” (Google). As there are many styles and forms of art and architecture, the
same is true for dance; and in this case neoclassical ballet is one of them. Neoclassical ballet is a
style of dance that took its first steps in the 1920s and throughout the 20th century. During the
1900s many artists were deciding to rebel against the Romantic Period for it being too
dramatized. Therefore, a simpler style in relation to the Classical Period was introduced, except it
was bolder and more assertive; this was neoclassical ballet. The one ballet choreographer who is
most associated with this style – and is said to have been the creator of it – is George Balanchine.
In Neoclassical ballet the movement is at much more extreme tempos and is more
technical. The focus on structure is the defining quality of neoclassical dance. Balanchine went
away from the norms of the Romantic period and this took away the huge sets, plots, elaborate
costumes, and anything else that would take away from the structure and technique of the
dancers – as well as their virtuoso quality. Within this style movement was increased and higher
legs and longer lines of the body were desired. Balanchine looked for taller dancers with longer
limbs, shorter torsos, and a thinner body shape. As Neoclassical ballets are called “plotless
ballets,” these ballets not only focused on the structure but as well as the combination of the
music and dance to create a theme or mood to showcase each dancers’ individual abilities.
These ballets were generally shorter in duration than full-length classical ballets. Usually an
audience would see three to four neoclassical ballets, rather than one long ballet split into two or
three acts, such as The Nutcracker and Swan Lake.
Balanchine's first major ballet that was of neoclassical elements was Apollon Musegete
and was set to a Stravinsky score. Unlike his later neoclassical works, this ballet told a story,

Alice Chacon

Bettijane Sills
Special Ballet Fridays

which shows that at the time, Balanchine has not yet broken from the norm and had not finished
molding his style of ballet. However, Balanchine did revisit this piece and in later versions
changed the sets and costumes to clean and simple ones. He even changed the ballet to just
Apollo. The transformation that Apollo went through is reflective of the transformation
Balanchine would then go through to reach the final stages of his style of ballet – along with
what kind of choreographer he would become. As Balanchine’s neoclassical style developed, he
produced more ballets that were “plotless: and were more musically driven. Large sets and the
traditional tutus were erased and replaced with open wide stages and plain leotards. This allowed
for the dancers’ movement to become the main focus, which is a huge factor of neoclassical
ballet. Other neoclassical ballets that Balanchine choreographed along with Apollo were
Serenade, Concerto Barocco, Symphony in C, Agon, and Jewels.
Neoclassical ballet is a groundbreaking style that removed the Romantic period’s norms
and built on the existing Classical period to increase it’s range and ability to get more out the
dancers and their virtuoso spirits. The combination of music and dance was never more
connected and interlaced along with the technique and vigor that the dancers displayed and
performed. Neoclassical ballet is a form of dance that is performed today and is a great joy to
watch for any of the world’s hungry dancers and aspiring performers.