Jump to content
Ballet Talk for Dancers

Dances "within" ballets


Recommended Posts

I really don't know where to post this and I apologise if this is in the wrong area. I wasn't sure if it fitted in history or music or where exactly...

Technically, this is a split topic from one about ballet class music in the adults' student forum.


In my understanding, there are musical forms/styles and possibly steps, originating from court or folk dances, which have been incorporated into ballet(s) over the last five hundred or so years, even if only in terms of ballet music. I would like to understand the origins of these music styles/dance steps, but I also want to understand them on a musical level. What I'm talking about here are things like: mazurkas, polkas, polonaises etc.


so, a little google work got me this far:


A mazurka is a Polish folk dance in triple meter in a lively tempo where the accent is usually on the 2nd or 3rd beat of the bar.

A gigue is a lively baroque dance, usually in compound time, is often contrapuntal and often has the accents on the 3rd beat of the bar.

A polka is a lively dance presumably of Czech (or thereabouts) origin, in 2/4 time.

A polka-mazurka is a Swedish dance form similar to the mazurka and/or waltz (in 3/4 time) where the accent is on the 1st beat of the bar (as opposed to the last 2 beats, as in a waltz)

A polonaise is a slow dance of Polish origin in 3/4 time.


Those are just simple explanations of those, but it's a start. If there are any inaccuracies that anyone notices, please say so!

Now, what other dances are there, what am I missing? It's been a long time since I studied the Baroque suite, for example, so my mind is not so good on these...

Can anyone define:

A boléro?

A rondeau?

Link to comment

Sounds like a semester's worth of Music History!


Simply put, a bolero (the accent is still a matter of controversy) is a dance in 3/4 time with the second beat being accented, and notated as a triplet. Ravel's "Boléro" follows this general rule, but "pure-music" use of the term has come to mean something along the lines of "kind of like, you know, Spanish". The dance dates from the last quarter of the 18th century as either a solo or a dance for a couple. What Ravel wrote could also be construed as a passacaglia.


A rondeau/rondo is any musical or dance structure which, letting A be the first theme and B be the second theme, and so on, is written A-B-A-C-A-D..., etc. It's found often in the formal cotillion in 18th century ballroom dance, where the A theme is a particular footing and figuring, and is alternated with other steps and figures between the repeats. It's astonishing how much material can be memorized this way. The first time I was taught a cotillion (which is a circle dance) we did 21 repeats of A!

Link to comment
Sounds like a semester's worth of Music History!


Yep, really interesting music history! (Okay, maybe I'm just a nerd :thumbsup:) My university is silly though, so unless you are studying a music degree, you cannot take music history. I can understand that you would need some kind of musical knowledge (e.g. being able to read music, some ideas of form etc) to study music history, but for those of us who have a musical background, why can't we study it as an elective part of our (other) degree?


Thank you for explaining those to me, Mr Johnson. Things are starting to come back to me now...


Now, this is slightly off-topic, but is there a particular musical form that ballets or parts of ballets (e.g. a grand pas de deux) take? I mean, similar to a musical form like the "sonata form" (exposition, development, recapitulation, coda)?


And next: do you have any recommendations for books on music-history-in-ballet? I mean, fairly "beginner" level stuff, but just somewhere to start on this.


Another dance:

A "czardas"? (may have acute accents on both "a's")

Link to comment
  • Administrators

One of my favorites is Czardas! It is a Hungarian folk dance, in 2/4 or 4/4. It usually starts slowly, and then gets fast. Very elegant and strong music, and elegant and strong dance!

Link to comment

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...