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In the 1440s, Domenico da Piacenza, a court dancing master, created the first written choreography making it possible for future dancers to understand the past. Dancing masters also directed members of court on proper etiquette and dress. Among choreographic forms that developed in the Renaissance and Baroque period were the ballo, which had frequent music and rhythm changes and the intermezzi, an Italian dance created for intermissions during plays. A more complex 16th century dance was the balletto, which is very similar to a modern pas de duex.

Thoinot Arbeau, a canon in the Roman Catholic Church, wrote an instruction book of standard dances of the French nobility. His book emphasized correct dance technique, and is the first record of turnout. It only shows very slight turnout in the illustrations.
Louis XIV, king of France, was himself a dancer and brought ballet into a new age. Louis danced for more than eighteen years, and was a strong patron of the arts. He appointed Jean-Baptiste Lully as the court composer. Lully gradually, because of his talents was granted more and more control of court dances.

In 1661, Louis created the Academie Royale de Danse. Pierre Beauchamps, a prominent choreographer became the director of the dancers' academy. Ballet became more theatrical, it was moved from the court floor to a raised stage. Dancers began to rely more on agility and design rather than symbolic formations. Louis XIV had Beauchamps write a method of notating dance movement to preserve choreography.

In the eighteenth century stage dancers were professionals, females began doing choreography, cumbersome costumes and masks to portray characters were abandoned, allowing for better technique and style.

The romantic era brought forth ballets focused on mixing realism and fantasy. Carlo Blasis illustrated 180 degree turnout in his writings, and E. A. Theleur wrote the first book picturing women on pointe. In 1822 Marie Taglioni debuted on stage, and popularized pointe with her skills. Females began to dominate the ballet stage, and ballet became popular all over the world.

The Diaghilev Ballets Russes debuted in 1909, giving rise to a new era in ballet. The program was many short pieces offering different things instead of one long performance. In the 1940s George Balanchine founded the School of American Ballet, later renamed the New York City Ballet. The American Ballet Theater, established in 1940, works with classic ballets and contemporary choreographers.

The traditions of Balanchine and the New York City Ballet continue to strongly influence technique today as ballet grows and changes.

Ballet history information acquired from Sarah Noll Hammond's "Ballet Basics."