What is ballet? Here it’s everything you want to know about it.

I love ballet and want to share my passion with you. Are you a dancer? Or haven’t even you danced in your life but you like watching classical dance? It doesn’t matter. Anyway, this is the site for you. Everybody can enjoy ballet. As an enthusiast ballet fan, I want to tell you everything about it. So, welcome to my site balletlovers!

Story of your favourite Ballets

Don Quixote ballet: A joyful ballet with a Spanish touch.
Don Quixote ballet: A joyful ballet with a Spanish touch.
Swan Lake Ballet, the Most Iconic Ballet Ever
Swan Lake Ballet, the Most Iconic Ballet Ever
The Nutcracker Ballet: a Christmas Traditional Ballet for the Whole Family
The Nutcracker Ballet: a Christmas Traditional Ballet for the Whole Family
Romeo and Juliet Ballet: the Endless Love Story
Romeo and Juliet Ballet: the Endless Love Story
  1. Do you know what ballet is?
  2. Do you know the history of ballet?
  3. Which are the top ballet companies in the world?
    3.01. Paris Opera Ballet
    3.02. Mariinsky Ballet
    3.03. Bolshoi Ballet
    3.04. La Scala Theatre Ballet
    3.05. Colon Theatre Ballet
    3.06. The Royal Ballet
    3.07. American Ballet
    3.08. Cuban National Ballet
    3.09. The National Ballet of Canada
    3.10. The Australian Ballet
  4. Other important ballet companies

Do you know what ballet is?

Let’s start explaining what ballet is. Ballet is a scenic art that may include dance, orchestral music, choirs, actings… Everything depends on when was created and who was its author. It’s a choreographic –narrative spectacle. So, its argument is developed with the help of dance and music. “Ballet” is a French word that originated in the Italian word “Balletto”, since the first ballets were created in Italian palaces. But the first school was established in France; this is why we use French words in ballet. 

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The precision of dancers’ refined movements requires perfect control of the body and a highly specific technique. Because of that, professional dancers start training at a very young age. To sum up, “Ballet” means:

1) the technique we have to learn to dance it 

2) a musical piece composed exclusively to be represented through classical dance.

Do you know the history of ballet?

The history of ballet begins in the palaces of the 15th and 16th centuries. In the beginning, it was a form of court entertainment that took place in celebrations, especially weddings. But later in France, during the reign of Louis XIV, the necessity of professionalisation arose. So, in 1661 it’s created the first school:  Académie Royale de la danse. But the king was a devotee of ballet, so in 1669 he established the Paris Opera Ballet. The five ballet positions were codified there, and the technique was improving more and more. All of this explains why we use French terms. 

Ballet costumes history

The birth of the Romantic Movement in the 19th century is another milestone. It is at this time that the dancers begin to make ethereal and aerial movements. Besides, ballet on pointes starts to develop. On the other hand, the Paris Opera puts on the first performances: The Sylphide (in 1832) and Giselle (1841).

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However, in the second half of the 19th century, Russia begins to take more and more importance. So, the French choreographer Marius Petipa is invited to Russia to cooperate with the St. Petersburg Imperial Ballet in 1847. Petipa is also well-known for using Tchaikovsky music in his choreographies. This was the beginning of the most famous ballet works: The Nutcracker, The Sleeping Beauty and The Swan Lake

In the 20th century, classical dance starts its international expansion. At this time, many companies began to be born all over the world.

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Which are the top ballet companies in the world?

Though there isn’t an official ranking, I’ve rounded up the best classical dance companies in the world. I know, maybe I’m forgetting anyone. So, I apologise in advance if your favourite b company isn’t here. Also, I want to clarify that I listed the companies in chronological order.

Paris Opera Ballet

This is the oldest company in the world, founded in 1669 in the reign of Luis XIV. Pierre Beauchamp, this company’s first director, codified the five positions of the feet as well as the use of arms in ballet. What is more, in 1832 the company opened the era of Romantic Ballet by presenting The Sylphide. On the other hand, in the last years of the 20th century, Rudolf Nureyev was appointed director of the ballet. This marked a golden era for the company. Finally, among its most renowned dancers, we can mention Sylvie Guillem and Laurent Hilaire. 

Mariinsky Ballet

The first Russian ballet school was established in 1738. And a couple of years later, the ballet company would be founded in 1740. In those days, the Mariinksy Ballet was known as the Imperial Russian Ballet. But during the era of communism, the government changed its name to Kirov. Without a doubt, Marius Petipa was one of its most renowned choreographers. Thanks to Petipa, we can enjoy masterpieces such as The Nutcracker, The Swan Lake or Don Quixote. Besides, this ballet had the prestigious ballerina Agrippina Vaganova in its ranks. She also was an eminent ballet teacher who creates the Vaganova Method to teach dance. What is more, the Mariinsky gave birth to many of the most wonderful dancers ever. For example, Anna Pavlova, George Balanchine Rudolf Nureyev, Mijail Baryshnikov, Svetlana Zajarova and Eugenia Obratzova. In short, if I’d have to choose only one company, this would be my election!

Bolshoi Ballet

This famous ballet was founded in 1776. Though Bolshoi and Mariinsky are both Russian ballet companies, their styles are totally different. The Mariinsky is classic and refined, whereas The Bolshoi is more audacious and colourful. Some outstanding dancers who were born here were Ekaterina Maximova, Natalia Osipova, Artem Ovcharenko and the prima ballerina assoluta Maya Plisetskaia. On the other hand, the celebrated dancer and choreographer Yuri Grigorovich directed the Bolshoi Ballet for many years. (1964-1995; 2008-until today). To sum up, it established the leadership of Russian classical dance everywhere in the world.

La Scala Theatre Ballet

Do you remember that ballet was born in Italian courts? Of course, we can’t forget to raise an Italian company. Located in Milan, it was founded in 1778. Carla Fracci, Alessandra Ferri and Roberto Bolle are some of its most renowned dancers. Also, this is one of the oldest and most prestigious ballet companies in the world. So, many noted choreographers such as Roland Petit and Maurice Béjart collaborated with the ballet in the last century. Worldwide acclaimed artists like Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev danced here too. Moreover, the French Manuel Legris is currently the director of this Italian ballet. 

Colon Theatre Ballet

At the beginning of the 20th century, Argentina received many European migrants, especially Italians. This fact influenced definitely Argentina culture. So, the Colon Theatre was established in 1908. In the first years, ballet performances of the Theatre Colon were given only by Russian dancers. But ballet was increasing in popularity in Argentina, and it was impossible to bring Russian dancers very often. Then, the theatre decided to create an Argentine ballet company in 1925. So, this is the oldest ballet company in South America. What is more, many famous dancers were born here, such as Julio Bocca, Herman Cornejo, Iñaki Urleazaga, Paloma Herrera, Ludmila Pagliero and Marianela Nuñez. 

The Royal Ballet

This is the first ballet company of the United Kingdom, created in 1931. It’s located in the Royal Opera House, in Covent Garden, London. The renowned Sir Frederick Ashton was its first choreographer too. Moreover, its ballet dancers delighted with their elegance. Among them, we can mention stars like Margot Fonteyn, Darcey Bussell and Lauren Cuthbertson. Besides, its corps de ballet is famous for including the best dancers from all over the world. For example, Marianela Nuñez (Argentina), Natalia Osipova (Russia) and Fumi Kaneko (Japan).

American Ballet

This company, located in New York, was founded in 1939. It had the privilege of having the famous Mikhail Baryshnikov as a dancer and director. The Don Quixote of 1983 was one of the most unforgettable productions ever. Baryshnikov as Basil and Cinthia Harvey as Kitri performed this incredible version of Don Quixote. Finally, many outstanding stars were born here, such as Gelsey Kirkland, Cynthia Harvey, David Hallberg, and the current Principal Dancer Misty Copeland.

Cuban National Ballet

The prestigious Cuban ballerina Alicia Alonso founded this ballet company in 1948. The critic has widely acclaimed it. It has developed a program of international tours, having delivered outstanding performances all over the world. Lastly, its most renowned dancers are Alicia Alonso, Xiomara Reyes and Carlos Acosta. 

The National Ballet of Canada

This ballet company was founded in 1951. It ranks as one of the world top international dance companies. This prestigious company has been touring all around the world. The critic has widely acclaimed it. For example, the Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail said, “a company that can perform classical and contemporary ballet with equal aplomb.”Besides, many ballet stars have been dancing here, such as Karen Kain, Frank Augustyn, Guillaume Côté and Jurgita Dronina.

The Australian Ballet

The Australian Ballet is one of the world’s premier ballet companies. It was founded in 1962. According to the Huffington Post, “the Australian ballet is a company of the highest calibre.” Also, this company tours internationally, and the critic have acclaimed its presentations all around the world. It gives about 200 performances per year. In 2021, the famous American dancer David Hallberg became the artistic director of this ballet. Last but not least, its most renowned dancers are Amy Harris, Amber Scott and Kevin Jackson, among many others.

Other important ballet companies are:

  • English National Ballet 
  • San Francisco Ballet  
  • New York City Ballet 
  • Dutch National Ballet 

What do you think? Which are your favourite companies? If you believe I should include other companies, let me know in the comments. 

Tips for improving ballet positions and steps

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