62 Amazing Ballet Facts Revealed For Future Ballet Dancers

Akinwalere Olaleye
Oct 24, 2023 By Akinwalere Olaleye
Originally Published on Mar 11, 2022
Amazing ballet facts for aspiring dancers.

If you have watched the 2010 movie 'Black Swan,' you must be aware that ballet is a fantastic dance form.

Ballet is not merely theatrical dancing but also a significant part of European culture since time immemorial. They are typically performed by dancers who are specially trained in this type of dance.

A highly versatile dance form, each ballet piece is unique in itself and attempts to tell some story to its audience. In other words, a ballet performance is known to evoke so many emotions in you - sometimes all at once. You may find it narrative, expressive, magical, or even downright disturbing.

While you may think you know so much about ballets, you may be wrong. So, get your dancing shoes on because we are about to tell you some interesting ballet facts that you are surely going to love.

Origin And History Of Ballet

Most Americans believe that ballets originated in the States. Contrary to this popular belief, ballet was in fact, originated during the Italian Renaissance.

The term 'ballet' originated from a stem word of Italian origin, 'ballere,' which literally translates to 'to dance.' While ballet has a long history, the earliest account of ballets can be traced back to 15th century Italy which makes it unique.

Catherine de Medici of Italy, when married the French King Henry II, introduced this dance form to the French courts.

Traditionally, ballet dancers used to wear masks, layers of brocaded costumes, pantaloons, huge headdresses, and heavy ornaments, which made it difficult for a ballerina to move around.

This is why most dance steps in classical ballets are restricted in movements and have multiple gentle turns.

The authentic ballet shoes look entirely different from the contemporary ballet shoe we see today. Dancing ballet shoes were then had small heels that resembled formal dress shoes.

King Louis XIV was himself trained in ballet and perhaps one of the first male dancers of ballet. He used to perform many of the ballet dances of that time and even taught ballet classes.

As a dance form, ballets have significantly evolved over time while they spread across different parts of France and Russia.

By 1850, ballets become a popular mainstream dance form in Russia and other parts of Europe and are still very popular in Russia.

During the early 20th century, the Russian performer, Serge Diaghilev, created a group called the Ballet Russes.

This group, composed of many talented dancers, choreographers, designers, and singers, toured to different European countries as well as the United States. And that is how Americans were introduced to a wide range of ballet performances.

American ballet grew in popularity during the early 20th century, roughly around the '30s, when the artists in the Ballet Russes stayed back in the US to start their individual ballet careers.

San Francisco Ballet School is one of the first ballet schools in America, which trained students in the art of ballet dancing. Adolph Bolm, the first director of this school, is one of the key figures of classical ballets.

From ballets that are performed to narrate a story to ballets that have no storyline, there are different types of ballet to learn for those who are keen on taking ballet lessons. Two of the famous types of ballet are plotline ballets and plotless ballets.

Ballets that have a plotline and contain some sort of beginning and ending fall under the story ballets type. Characters are an essential element in story ballets.

Many artists have also translated classic stories and novels into ballets. Some of the famous novels that have been performed as a ballet include The Three Musketeers and The Great Gatsby.

Contrary to story ballets, plotless ballets do not contain any storyline. Without using any plot, the ballet dancers usually dance to the tune of music and leave it to their audience to make a subjective interpretation of the performance.

George Balanchine was a famous male dancer and choreographer accredited with creating many prolific plotless ballets.

In 1581, the first full-scale ballet was staged in Paris.

Types Of Positions In Ballets

Ballets are an amazing art form that is usually created by the movement of hands and feet. Ballets can be classified as traditional or contemporary based on the kind of positions and movements ballerinas make.

If you are new to this dance style, you may not be able to catch the subtle differences in body movement. But these awesome facts will help you see the difference next time you indulge in a ballet performance. If you are an aspiring female or male dancer, you will love these facts.

Also referred to as traditional ballets, here are some prominent features that you will notice in a classical ballet performance.

Classical ballets have graceful, flowing movements and have pointe toe work and turn-out legs, almost mimicking an arc.

Classical ballets are about symmetry and balance, and costumes are a huge part of the stage performance.

The majority of the story ballets are performed in the classical ballet styles as the classical form emphasizes elaborative sets and costumes.

Until the 19th century, classical ballets were not that mainstream. Russian artists are usually credited with playing a key role in catapulting the classic ballet scene.

Famous classical ballet choreographers from Russia like Lev Ivanov and Marius Petipa helped reach classical ballet at its mainstream height.

The introduction of pointework to the general audience was done by Amalia Brugnoli, a famous ballet dancer, in 1823.

Introduced in the 20th century with a slight manipulation in the classical style, here are some of the features of neo-classical ballets that distinguish them from other ballet styles.

Neoclassical ballets do not have a storyline and are often one-act ballets.

They are not as elaborative when it comes to sets and costumes

Unlike classical ballets, the ballet dancers here emphasize an off-balance feel with increased speed and energy.

George Balanchine is one of the famous neoclassical ballet male dancers.

A perfect blend of ballets and modern dancing, contemporary ballets have some unique features of their own.

Contrary to classical ballets that have turn-out legs, contemporary ballets focus on turn-in legs and involve a lot of floor work.

Pointe shoes are handmade, and while some contemporary ballerinas wear pointe shoes, contemporary ballets can also be performed barefoot.

Some of the famous contemporary ballet choreographers are Twyla Tharp, Dwight Rhoden, William Forsythe, and Paul Taylor.

Know more about ballets, lessons, tutus, and how each ballet style is different from the other.

Why is ballet so popular?

Well, there are plenty of reasons that make ballets so popular among ballet dancers and audiences alike. First, we will give you our top five reasons that make this dance form so popular and likable.

A lot of people take up ballet; however, becoming a ballet master is very difficult. Even so, if you love tutus and ballet, read ahead!

With lots of costumes and set elaborations, ballets and ballerinas are a treat to your eyes. Not only do they pique your curiosity with their amazing storytelling, but ballets also allow you to make an interpretation of your own about the dance performance.

Ballets are very magical and enticing. They can also be disturbing and thought-provoking at the same time. There are only a few dance forms that can evoke all sorts of emotions in you.

To perform ballet, you need to work out your muscles and be flexible with your hands and feet. This means it is also a healthier and more fun form of exercise.

Getting trained in ballet equips you with some special talent that may come in handy in other spheres of your life, such as coordination, balance, and attention to detail.

Last but not least, ballet is a part of history and culture. And whether you are watching or getting trained in ballet from a ballet master, you cannot help but feel closer to this centuries-long historical tradition when you associate yourself with these timeless performances.

Famous Ballets

Given that this art form has survived for so long and is a living history, we can establish that the popularity of ballets isn't going anywhere. For centuries, ballet has been perfected and modified through various ballet performances. Here are some of the famous ballets that may make you take some ballet lessons to give your own ballet performance.

This ageless ballet is a beautiful ballet performance that everyone might have heard of. Composed by Tchaikovsky and choreographed by Reisinger, 'Swan Lake' was originally created in 1875 and later premiered at the Bolshoi Theatre, Russia, in 1877.

'Swan Lake' narrates the story of a beautiful young woman, Odette, who is Swan Queen during the day and a human at night.

Another excellent composition by Tchaikovsky, 'The Nutcracker,' is a story of Clara, who shrinks to the size of a rat, and her nutcracker toy wages war against the villainous Mouse king.

This ballet was choreographed by Petipa and Ivanov in 1892 at the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg.

Premiered at the Salle Le Peletier in Paris in 1841, 'Giselle' is an interesting story about a girl named Giselle, who dies of a broken heart after she learns that her lover is a nobleman and they do not have a future together.

This famous ballet was composed by Adolph Adam while Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot choreographed it.

Ludwig Minkus collaborated with Marius Petipa to compose this beautiful ballet performance inspired by the famous story of the same name written by Miguel de Cervantes.

This ballet tells the story of Don Quixote, who decides to escape from reality and live in a fantasy world where he is searching for his lover Dulcinea.

Tchaikovsky and Petipa together delivered some of the best performances in ballet history. First premiered in 1890 at the St. Petersburg's Imperial Mariinsky Theatre, 'The Sleeping Beauty' takes its inspiration from the tale by Charles Perreault.

The story revolves around a 16-year-old princess, Aurora cursed by the evil fairy Carabosse to die. The death curse is fortunately altered by a noble fairy, causing the princess to rather fall asleep than die.

The list of famous ballets cannot end without including 'Romeo and Juliet.' This ballet was composed by Sergei Prokofiev in 1938. Ivo Vana-Psota choreographed the 1938 version of Romeo and Juliet, and since then, various choreographies have been created to appeal to ballet lovers.

Did You Know...

Ballet is undoubtedly an interesting dance form. Over the years, the dance has evolved so much- both in its style and narration. Here are some of the random ballet facts that you also might like if you are planning to enroll in a ballet dance class. Scroll down to read some more interesting facts about this dance.

We have all seen ballet slippers. Marie Camargo, a French Opera Ballet Dancer, invented these beautiful dance slippers in the 1730s.

A ballet pointe shoe takes about 90 hours to make one tutu and making a single tutu can cost its designer up to $ 3000.

Hairstyling, a ballerina, is as much time-demanding as getting trained in ballet lessons. Ballerinas style their hair with a unique bun, which takes about 400 hours of styling.

Pointe shoes add uniqueness to the overall performance of any ballerina. On average, England's royal ballet troupe is known to have worn over 15,000 pairs of pointe shoes in a single year.

A male ballerina is referred to as 'danseur.' In Italy, however, they are termed as 'ballerino.' A male dancer lifts about one and a half tons over the span of his performance.

In ancient times, a majority of ballerina used to be royalty, including King Louis XIV.

King Louis XIV inaugurated the first Royal Dance Academy in France to provide formal ballet classes and establish ballet standards.

Some centuries ago, professional dancers were only male dancers. Women were not allowed to become ballerinas until 1681.

A ballet dancer can pick up three times her body weight on the tip of her big toe.

The first ballet dancing master was Domenico da Piacenza.

The main purpose of court ballet was to glorify the monarch.

The word 'releve' in ballet means raising up.

The hardest ballet move is considered to be fouette or whipped throw.

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Written by Akinwalere Olaleye

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature

Akinwalere Olaleye picture

Akinwalere OlaleyeBachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature

As a highly motivated, detail-oriented, and energetic individual, Olaleye's expertise lies in administrative and management operations. With extensive knowledge as an Editor and Communications Analyst, Olaleye excels in editing, writing, and media relations. Her commitment to upholding professional ethics and driving organizational growth sets her apart. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature from the University of Benin, Edo State. 

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