Ballet History, Movements, Styles, Companies & Dancers Ballet History, Movements, Styles, Companies & Dancers

Ballet History, Movements, Styles, Companies & Dancers

story by Danceus Staff for


Ballet Dance has its roots in the Italian Renaissance. During the 15th and 16th centuries, Ballet began as a celebration and collaboration of dance, music, poetry and art as dancers performed in large banquet halls. There are even records of some of these performances being directly based on the menu being served. The dancers pulled their movements from the social dances of that era.

The Academie Royale de Musique

The dance form thrived, and spread to the court of France. It was here that the first known professional Ballet company was established during the 17th century. The Academie Royale de Musique was founded by Louis XIV, which eventually transformed into the Paris Opera Ballet

During the 1740's, both the Imperial Ballet in Russia and the Royal Danish Ballet were established. Ballet continued to grow, although it really took off midway of the 1800s. The 1900s saw Ballet companies firmly established in America, Australia, Canada and India. 

Although Ballet began in Italy, there is a strong French influence through its language. The word ballet itself is French. However, the French term is connected to ballare, an Itallian verb which means to dance.


Ballet is highly technical, and although some of basic movements have been slightly altered over time, there is still a clear link to their beginnings. Among the simplest of Ballet steps are the five positions. Every Ballet step will begin and end in one of them. Arm positions are also integral, as is turn out. Naturally, dancing on pointe is also a strong characteristic of Ballet dance.


Ballet in general has many styles, the most well-known being Romantic Classical Ballet. This is the style of Ballet that relies heavily on the female ballerina taking to pointe in a gleaming tutu. Also known as Ballet Blanc, this style is full of precise and acrobatic movements showcasing the picturesque figure of the ballerina.

George Balanchine and Sergei Diaghilev are known for stripping the heavy theatrics from Ballet, and introducing neoclassical ballet in the 1920s. William Forsythe brought post-structural ballet and contemporary ballet into the German spotlight. These dances utilize both Ballet and Modern Dance elements. 


The Ballets Russes in France

There have been numerous famous and influential Ballet troupes throughout history, one of which was the Ballets Russes in France. This particular company disbanded in the latter part of the 1920's, but is still known for its lasting impact on Ballet. Others are from around the globe including the New York City Ballet, the Bolshoi Ballet, the American Ballet Theater, the Nederlands Dans Theater and the National Ballet of Cuba.



The list of notable Ballet dancers is extensive, but at the top of the list are such legends as Anna Pavlova, Mikhail Baryshnikov, George Balanchine, Twyla Tharp and Paul Taylor.

Although having had its beginning centuries ago, Ballet is still seeing exemplary, young dancers reaching their full potential. For instance, the Royal Ballet boasts Marianela Nunez and Alina Cojacaru who are both notable ballerinas. The American Ballet Theatre presents Paloma Herrara, one of their talented principal dancers. YuanYuan Tan is a well-known principal dancer from the San Francisco Ballet.


As with most forms of dance, Ballet is heavily tied to the composers and orchestras that create its music. Among the most notable pieces are Tchaikovskys The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty and Coppeila. Others include Mendellsohns A Midsummer Nights Dream and Warbecks Peter Pan.


Ballet competitions in the United States and around the world are prevalent. Among them are the World Ballet Competition, The International Dance Challenge and the Dance World Cup.

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