corps de ballet

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The term originally referred to the entire body of dancers within a ballet company, although nowadays it refers to the dancers who regularly perform together as a group, as opposed to soloists, principals, or character artists. On stage the dancers of the corps de ballet may act as a frame for the soloists but some of the greatest classical choreography is for the corps de ballet alone, as the complex patterns created by two or three dozen dancers create their own visual, musical, and dramatic poetry. Famous examples include the hallucinatory Kingdom of the Shades scene in La Bayadère, in which the dancers of the corps enter the stage one by one, repeating the same phrase of movement until the stage is filled with their massed presence; also Acts II and IV of Swan Lake and Act II of Giselle.

Subjects: Dance.

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