In the early centuries between the 16th and 17th century in Italy and France, social dances had evolved into a primitive form of ballet which was more commonly known as Court Ballet. This was due to the fact that most of the dancing was held in the courtyards of noblemen. Moreover, this new form of dance was constantly changing as a result of the competition to out-do other neighbouring noblemen. Court ballet existed mainly for the wealthy people including royalty and had derived from various steps and rhythms of folk dancing. However, court ballet was much more elaborate in style.
The dancers in court ballet were not as refined or danced by highly skilled professionals as we see in modern contemporary ballet. It was mostly performed by nobles accompanying the king or queen while they adorn beautiful costumes and elaborate movable scenery. Often, it was a series of processions including poetry readings, music and of course, dancing. These were lengthy performances and it stretched on for hours at a time. Soon, these social dances developed into a choreographic form known as the ballet de cour.
Eventually, court dances moved to the stage, bringing a change in choreography, as the dancers were then seen from only one direction instead of three. Turnout began to gain more and more important. Costumes were elaborate and based on the fashionable court dress of the day though it was very restrictive to the dancer's movement. Port de bras evolved in order to show off the beauty of the costumes as dancers found that a slight turn of the body could spotlight certain details of their costumes. It was for the most part, to impress the spectators.
Although it may seem that court ballet may not have much to do with modern contemporary ballet today and might be view as the performers are "pea cocking" to impress, it is nonetheless an ancestral at of the modern contemporary ballet. In today's ballet, performers still use some of the dance movements which were used back in court ballet dance, but it is much more refined and technical where dancers have to train for years to master the steps. Moreover, modern contemporary ballet is opened to creativity as well as there is a freedom of movement to which the dancers could branch out to given that their costumes - if it could be called that - are made for flexibility and acrobatic movement which can be seen in the focus of Pointe work taken from classical ballet and not just for impressing the audiences.
However, modern contemporary ballet has taken its form from classical ballet and modern dance where it does not hold fast to the strict body lines set forth by schools of ballet technique. Instead, it includes floor-work and the turn-in of the legs which were regarded as not showing the full potential of the body line in classical ballet.
It can be said that over time, people break the boundaries of dance to accommodate to their personal taste which can also relate back to when noblemen outdid each other to be the best in the court ballet. As Jean Georges Noverre said in his Letter IV, "Acquire all the knowledge you can of the matter you have in hand. Your imagination, filled with the picture you wish to represent, will provide you with the proper figures, steps and gestures. Then your compositions will glow with fire and strength, they cannot but be true to nature if you are full of your subject. Bring love as well as enthusiasm to your art. To be successful in theatrical representations, the heart much be touched, the soul moved and the imagination inflamed."