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The Waltz of the Snowflakes from Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker

Ballet is the name given to a specific dance form and technique. Dance works choreographed using this technique are called ballets and may include: dance, mime, acting and music (orchestral and sung). Ballets can be performed alone or as part of an opera. Ballet is best known for its virtuoso techniques such as pointe work, grand pas de deux and high leg extensions. Many Ballet techniques bear a striking similarity to fencing positions and footwork, perhaps due to their development during the same periods of history.

Domenico da Piacenza is credited with the first use of the term ballo (in De Arte Saltandi ed Choreas Ducendi) instead of danza (dance) for his baletti or balli which later came to be known as Ballets. The first Ballet per se is considered to be Balthasar de Beaujoyeulx's Ballet Comique de la Royne (1581) and was a ballet comique (ballet drama). 1581 also saw the publication of Fabritio Caroso's Il Ballarino, a technical manual on ballet dancing that helped to establish Italy as a major centre of ballet development.


History of ballet

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Engraving of a Ballet before Henri III and his Court, in the Gallery of the Louvre. (folio, Paris, Mamert Patisson, 1582.)

Ballet has its roots in Renaissance court spectacle in Italy, but was particularly shaped by the French ballet de cour, which consisted of social dances performed by the nobility in tandem with music, speech, verse, song, pageant, decor and costume. Ballet began to develop as a separate art form in France during the reign of Louis XIV, who was passionate about dance and determined to reverse a decline in dance standards that began in the 17th century. The king established the Acad魩e Royale de Danse in 1661, the same year in which the first com餩e-ballet, composed by Jean-Baptist Lully was performed. This early form consisted of a play in which the scenes were separated by dances. Lully soon branched out into op鲡-ballet, and a school to train professional dancers was attached to the Acad魩e Royale de Musique, where instruction was based on noble deportment and manners.

The 18th Century was a period of great advancement in the technical standards of ballet and the period when ballet became a serious dramatic art form on par with the Opera. Central to this advance was the seminal work of Jean-Georges Noverre, Lettres sur la danse et les ballets (1760), which focused on developing the ballet d'action, in which the movements of the dancers are designed to express character and assist in the narrative. Reforms were also being made in ballet composition by composers such as Christoph Gluck. Finally, opera was divided into three formal techniques s鲩eux, demi-caract貥 and comique. Ballet also came to be featured in operas as interludes called divertissements.

The 19th Century was a period of great social change, which was reflected in ballet by a shift away from the aristocratic sensibilities that had dominated ealier periods through Romantic ballet. Ballerinas such as Marie Taglioni and Fanny Elssler pioneered new techniques such as pointework that rocketed the ballerina into prominence as the ideal stage figure, professional librettists began crafting the stories in ballets, and teachers like Carlo Blasis codified ballet technique in the basic form that is still used today. Ballet began to decline after 1850 in most parts of the western world, but remained vital in Denmark and, most notably, Russia thanks to masters such as August Bournonville, Jules Perrot and Marius Petipa. Russian companies, particularly after World War II engaged in multiple tours all over the world that revitalized ballet in the west and made it a form of entertainment embraced to one degree or another by the general public.

Ballet also calls for a specific body type. The ideal dancer should be thin and strong with long muscles, have long legs, and sloped shoulders. The best type of foot for dancing is basically shaped like a rectangle, with all of the toes basically the same length. This provides the most support for going on pointe.

Ballet production

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Paloma Herrera as Sylvia (center) in American Ballet Theatre's production of Ashton's Sylvia. Photo credit: Gene Schiavone


Seminal (important) ballets include:

Ballet companies

A Ballet company is group of dancers who perform ballets. Famous ballet companies include;


Seminal artists involved with ballets include:


Jean Dauberval, Sergei Diaghilev, Robert Joffrey, Louis XIV, Jean-Baptiste Lully, Catherine De Medici, Marie Rambert, Ninette de Valois


Sir Frederick Ashton, George Balanchine, Pierre Beauchamp, Erik Bruhn, Mikhail Fokine, Lev Ivanovich Ivanov, Serge Lifar, Kenneth MacMillan, Leonide Massine, Vaslav Nijinsky, Bronislava Nijinska, Jean-Georges Noverre, Jules Perrot, Marius Petipa, Jerome Robbins, Filippo Taglioni, Anthony Tudor, Rudolf Nureyev Peter Darrell


Maria Alexandrova, Cyril Atanassoff, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Jeremie Belingard, Jean-Pierre Bonnefous, Erik Bruhn, Darcey Bussell, Jose Manuel Carreno, Fanny Cerito, Alina Cojocaru, Angel Corella, Anton Dolin, Aurelie Dupont, Fanny Elssler, Suzanne Farrell, Margot Fonteyn, [[Adeline Gen饝], Marcelo Gomes, Lucile Grahn, Carlotta Grisi, Sylvie Guillem, Melissa Hayden, Laurent Hilaire, Charles Jude, Karen Kain, Johann Kobborg, Johann Kobborg, Pierina Legnani, Manuel Legris, Nicolas Leriche, Agnes Letestu, Joaquin de Luz, Alicia Markova, Jose Martinez, Elisabeth Maurin, Patricia McBride, Vaslav Nijinsky, Rudolf Nureyev, Anna Pavlova, Elisabeth Platel, Laetitia Pujol, Rolando Sarabia, Yuri Soloviev, Ethan Stiefel, Marie Taglioni, Maria Tallchief, Emmanuel Thibault, Mel Tomlinson, Auguste Vestris, Gaetan Vestris, Svetlana Zakharova, Michael Vester,


Agrippina Vaganova, Enrico Cecchetti, Pierre Beauchamp, Thoinot Arbeau, Carlo Blasis, August Bournonville, Raoul-Auger Feuillet, Nicolai Legat, Domenico da Piacenza, Pierre Rameau, Attilio Labis, Cyril Atanassoff


Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Jacques Offenbach, Igor Stravinsky

Designers and scenographers

L鯮 Bakst, Christian B鲡rd, Georges Braque, Marc Chagall, John Craxton, [[Salvador Dal흝, Andr頄erain, Barbara Karinska, Barry Kay, Pablo Picasso, Pavel Tchelitchev, Maurice Utrillo

See also: Dance personalia

Ballet education



United Kingdom


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