Music and ballet intertwined right from the beginning of time. Without music, ballet is nothing more than the empty motions of a ritual. Without the movement and rhythm of the dance, music loses all vitality. Moreover, so, ballet as a doorway to human expression hinges on both music and dance.
Jean Baptiste Lully (1632-1687), the Italian-born French composer who founded the French national opera was not just a court composer to Louis XIV, but also a choreographer who produced court ballets for Moliere’s plays. Because of his work in music and choreographer, his productions never lacked an accompaniment. However, theater productions of the eighteenth century turned composers away from ballet and toward the music of ballroom dancing.
This phase sustained its self straight through the nineteenth century except for pieces by Russian classical composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) which include the Nutcracker, Swan Lake, and Sleeping Beauty.
In the twentieth century, however, ballet came back to the spotlight. Once again considered a respectable art form, choreographers looked to the works of classical composers such as Mozart, Bach, Vivaldi, Chopin, Brahms, and Handel to perform the art of ballet dancing too.
Many agree that dance owes its very existence to the likes of those who are both composers and choreographers. Because being musicians in nature, they naturally pay close attention to ballet following the rhythmic structure of its accompaniment precisely. One who does not understand music can easily create choreography that looks good that in of itself, yet at the mercy of a great classical piece the novice falls short of expressing the true nature of the piece. Instead, they turn the production into a form of movement that is devoid of both art and beauty. The experts instead know when it is appropriate to go against the grain of the accompaniment to heighten those dramatic periods which capture their audience’s attention and leaves them breathless.
As we dawn a new era of music and dance, it is undeniable that ballet will continue to change. However, just as music and dance have always been the best of friends, the ballet will continue to find its new identity in the evolving music of today.
Do you have a brass band and looking for new music to play at your next performance? Check out and purchase my arrangement of No. 5 Pas de deux From Act I from the Ballet Swan Lake Op. 20 by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky by clicking on the link.