In the early 19th century, the
Age of Reason gave way to the age of the imagination and the
Romantic Movement . Young artists, writers, poets and dancers wanted the freedom
to express themselves in a spontaneous and individual way. Rejecting
the classical ideas of order, harmony and balance they turned
to nature as a source of inspiration. As people left the countryside
and agriculture for the growing urban industries and factory work,
the Romantic vision was partly a plea for a return to a ‘natural’
life, and partly escapism.
Although most ballets were created by men, the male dancer was
no longer an equal star. In the following decades dance became
an unacceptable career for a man. Male roles were often taken
by women dressing
en travestie . Men only appeared in character roles.
By the 1840s women had become the great ballet stars, and ballerinas
wore the familiar bell shaped dress with cap sleeves, low cut
bodice and long skirts. If you look at
fashion plates of the period you can see that their costumes developed
from fashionable dress of the time. Ballerinas also learned the
art of dancing on the very tips of their toes, known as pointe
work. There were no stiffened pointe shoes and dancers darned
the toes of their slippers to give additional support.