The Beauty and Mystique of Ballet

THERE is no doubt that everyone loves a celebrity, and ballet dancers always seem to hold a special mystique in the eyes of the public. Even those who are not interested in dance will have heard of the great ballerinas Anna Pavlova and Margot Fonteyn and dancers like Nureyev.

Why do ballet dancers seem to enchant the public? Maybe it’s because they come from a completely different world – where strange and magical things are possible, the women are always beautiful, the men gallant and the clothing simply exquisite. It’s an escapist world where the dancers seem to achieve the impossible by creating awesome beauty by moving in unimaginable ways. They are a rare breed and quite special.

Dancing is not a phenomenon new to the modern ages of man. Throughout history, people have danced as part of religious ritual and social celebration, but ballet, in a form recognisable today, was the ballet de cour (court ballet) which evolved in the 1500s in France. It rose from the belief that man was the focal point of the universe and could control his existence though the arts and sciences.

During the 1700s, ballet moved from a courtly arrangement to a performance art in its own right ultimately resulting in costuming and choreography which was more liberating to the dancer while also opening the door to pointe-work. The era of Romanticism in the early 1800s saw ballet more focussed on emotions, fantasy and spiritual worlds and it was during this period that the ascending star of the ballerina eclipsed the presence of the poor male dancer, who in many cases was reduced to the status of a moving statue, present only in order to lift the ballerina!

However, this was redressed by the rise of Nijinsky and the Russian Ballet in the early twentieth century. Ballet as we know it today had truly evolved by this time with all the familiar conventions of costume, choreographic form, plot, pomp and circumstance firmly in place.

Today, there is a great enthusiasm, by young girls especially, to study ballet, but evidence shows that this initial enthusiasm tends to wane after ten or eleven. There are fewer people joining dance companies, so one wonders, is ballet still relevant today?

While researching this column I was amazed to find that in Cyprus, there are no fewer than 120 ballet schools enrolled with the Cyprus Dance Association. President, Mrs Annita Hadjieftychiou, who is also Director of ‘The Dance Studio’, said that in Cyprus, the ballet situation is “very difficult and a rather sad situation for up and coming ballet dancers. They study, work hard and put so much effort into their art and then have nowhere to continue. It’s a cycle which goes nowhere. For years, we have tried to address the situation of a ballet company to bring back all our dancers we have lost, and to give some future for those still here, but somehow despite numerous requests to the ministries, we don’t seem to make progress.

“It is a venture which needs financial and personnel to research it, and for it to be done properly, we need the assistance and support from the Ministry of Education and Culture. It feels sometimes as if we are hitting our heads against a wall, but you can’t just quit.”

She continued that “there are many talented Cypriots, who have left the island to pursue their careers – some are in the Bolshoi Ballet, New York and dotted elsewhere around the globe.”

A young and extremely talented ballerina, Natalia Grekou who was a student at The Dance Studio under Oxana Zdanova Petrou, is currently in her final year at the Bolshoi Academy of Ballet. She is a petite (don’t forget that 45kg is regarded as the norm for a ballerina with weight being uppermost in their minds – and lunchtime consisting of no lunch!), softly spoken girl who says that ballet is her life and I realise from the way she speaks, that she automatically acknowledges and accepts that she will never dance in her home country.

“I was 15 when I left Cyprus. It was very difficult to study abroad, it wasn’t so much the stress of the studies, that’s my life and the language of ballet is universal wherever you are, but the practical aspects like having to learn Russian because none of the girls could speak to me, the very cold weather and missing my family and friends was difficult. But, the dream of dancing is greater than all the obstacles in front of me.”

And that’s her message to other aspiring ballerinas “Follow your dream, pursue it and don’t let it go.”

Rea Madella Ioannidou, scriptwriter, choreographer and ballet producer is this year bringing the Israel Ballet to Cyprus with a production of Giselle as part of the Kypria 2006 festival. She feels a very important part of her work, is to foster future audiences, and give Cypriot ballet students the opportunity of international exposure to foreign companies who visit Cyprus. So, in addition to their performances, the Israel Ballet will give master classes for intermediate and advanced students at “The Dance Studio” on September 30.
The Israel Ballet was founded in 1967 by Berta Yampolsky and Hillel Markman with a group of six dancers. They developed the company, which is now regarded as the most important cultural institution in Israel with the attached Classical Ballet Centre for students.

The company has dancers from all over the world and has a rich and varied repertoire including the great classical ballets The Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and Giselle. In 2000, the Israel Ballet was awarded the Minister of Culture’s Prize for the high artistic and technical level achieved by the dancers of the company.

Paphos runs a hugely successful opera festival, can the Ministry of Education and Culture together with the Cyprus Tourism Organisation not devise something similar for ballet in Cyprus? Let us move forward with our cultural education – for our sake and our children’s. We need support from grass roots level as well as the final prestigious results of years of hard work from everyone. We have to start somewhere!!

Performances: September 27 and 28, Rialto Theatre, Limassol, 8.30pm;
September 29, Strovolos Municipal Theatre, Nicosia, 8.30pm. Tel: 77-777-181

Giselle: the plot
Prince Albrecht disguises himself as a commoner and presents himself as a rival to the suitor Hilarion for the hand of a common girl, Giselle. Albrecht promises his love to her and the two lovers dance joyfully. Giselle’s mother reminds her not to exert herself too much, as her health is delicate. After a short time, Albrecht is unmasked and it’s revealed that he has already promised to marry another noblewoman. Giselle loses her mind and dies.
In the second act, the bereaved Albrecht goes to Giselle’s grave. Despite the disguise he was sincerely in love with her. The ghost of Giselle rises from the grave, transformed into a Willy. Willies are unhappy spirits of young girls who were abandoned and died before their wedding day. They leave their graves during the night to look for revenge. Albrecht wanders into the enchanted woods where they meet, but any mortal that invades this supernatural domain is condemned to death. The Willies try to make Albrecht dance until he dies of exhaustion, but Giselle intercedes and saves the prince’s life.


Send an email to [email protected] with an answer to this simple question, and win 4 tickets to a performance of your choice – either in Limassol or Nicosia. Please include your telephone number.

What is the title of the ballet to be presented by the Israel Ballet in Cyprus?


What do you get if you cross a computer with a ballet dancer?
The Netcracker Suite
What is a dancer’s number one priority?
To always get right to the pointe!
What is a pig’s favourite ballet?
Swine Lake


“The amoun
t of money one needs is terrifying…”
– Ludwig van Beethoven


Cadenza: Initially an improvised cadence by a soloist, later becoming an elaborate and written out passage in an aria or concerto, featuring the skills of an instrumentalist or vocalist.

Oboist Emmanel Rey
Emmanuel Rey was born in France. He began piano studies at six, and the oboe at eight. While studying at the Paris Conservatoire for three years,
Emanuel obtained his Premier Prix and the prize for chamber music. He
continued his post-graduate studies in Geneva with Maurice Bourgue. Simultaneously, he began working with the Philharmonia of the Nations Orchestra as Principal Oboe and toured the world. During those six years, he also participated in the recordings of over 25 CDs with the orchestra. Before being appointed principal Cor Anglais with the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra in Kuala Lumpur, Emmanuel was invited to join other orchestras including the Orchestra Internazionale d’Italia, Bilbao Symphonic Orchestra and Opera National de Paris. Since October 2004, he has been Principal Oboe of the Cyprus State Orchestra.
Emmanuel’s musical diversity has led him to record film music including
the soundtracks for Agent Secret and Oliver Stone’s Alexander and to work with artists such as Charles Aznavour.

EMAIL ME: [email protected]

Do email me your comments and/or suggestions, major forthcoming events or even your humorous musical adventures.

* Giselle will be broadcast in full on Monday night 25 SEPTEMBER 2006 on Classical Path 10pm on Channel 2 preceded by a discussion about the ballet by Scriptwriter and Choreographer Mrs Rea Ioannidou.

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