Types of ballets

Types of Ballets.

Ballet is one of the oldest dance genres, as well as the basis of all choreography.

Ballet is a finished product, and the preparation for it is called classical choreography. Ballet is a prepared performance with a well-thought-out sequence of movements, staged according to a certain story, or even a book. Music, dance, painting, drama, and visual arts come together to build a well-coordinated performance that opens up in front of the audience on the theater stage.

In fact,

the word “ballet” means “dancing” in Italian.

What types of ballet are there?

Ballet and classical choreography are classified based on different criteria. We will look at the topic of ballet styles, genres, and techniques in detail below, as well as look at other existing classifications.

Styles of ballet

The most common and comprehensive is the categorization of ballets into styles based on their characteristics and time of origin.

Classical Ballet is the first and basic ballet style. When people say the word “ballet”, they usually mean the classical form.

Classical Ballet Type.

It is characteristic of classical dance:

  • Focusing on the story that the dancers tell through choreography, gestures, and facial expressions (although there are also classic ballet productions without a plot)
  • Classical ballet vocabulary and techniques
  • Performing the ballet to classical music composed by famous authors
  • Strict adherence to rules, techniques, and traditions
  • Literary and plot basis
  • Unity of dramaturgy and music
  • The classical ballet music is performed only by the orchestra
  • The movements tend to geometrical clarity aided by the eversion principle
  • The observance of specific legs position, arms, body, and head, and the precise adherence to the principles of the legs turning, the body verticality, and the isolation of its different parts

Brilliant examples of classical ballet are Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, and Sleeping Beauty.

As mentioned above, classical ballet is also geographically based. So, there are Russian, French, Italian, and English classical ballets. All of them have their own characteristics, traditional techniques and are known all over the world for their ballet “stars”.

Ballet in the classical sense of the word is directly related to classical choreography and dance, which is subject to strict regulations and rules. In this regard, classical ballet performances also have a very strict form and vocabulary.

But the main thing is that classical ballet is a sum of laws and a certain mindset that elevates the dance art to the level of a musical and stage performance.

Romantic ballet emerged during the Romantic era, when all European, and later American, culture began to reflect on the self-worth of man and his supreme purpose.

Romantic type of ballet dances.

Romantic ballet is characterized by:

  • Focus on the drama and emotionality of the stories being told
  • The appearance of original music
  • The increased role of music, which helped create the dramaturgy and gave figurative musical characteristics to the characters
  • Opposing the real world to the world of exoticism and fantasy (hence the spread of the mystical women image)
  • Keeping the strictness form and traditions of classical choreography
  • The airiness of movement
  • Pointe shoes and short white tutus appear
  • The cult of the ballerina as a central part of the performance and star ballet dancers appear
  • Active development and use of theatrical special effects (in particular, gaslighting)

The brightest examples are Sylphide and Giselle.


You can also read the piece about Ballet History.

Neoclassical ballet became widespread precisely in the United States, where it was possible to depart from the classical rules and create a completely unique dance.

Balanchine the pioneer of the neoclassical ballet style.

Apollo Musaget is generally considered to be the first neoclassical ballet, and George Balanchine the pioneer of the style. Although one cannot ignore the influence of Isadora Duncan and her free, easy and rule-free dance. She gave art this radically new perspective on the current state of affairs. After such daring oppositions to the classical form of dance, other popular bold, original and innovative dancers, choreographers, and directors emerged.

Neoclassical dance is characterized by:

  • Classical technique enriched with free dance and sports
  • The measured tempo of the music is replaced by rhythmic
  • Absence of scenery
  • The shift of the focus from the plot to the dancer’s skill
  • Saturation with complex choreographic elements
  • Lack of sumptuous and colorful costumes
  • Significant reduction in the length of the performance
  • Possible deviations from the classical form of lines and steps

The austere, clear, noble, and transparent form came to the fore in Apollo Musaget, and subsequently in other neoclassical ballets. The classical dance vocabulary, purged of decoration in plot, design, emotion, and gestures, became the ideal base for her.

Today, there are many things that fit the definition of “neoclassical,” or more precisely, anything that diverges from the usual image of “romantic ballet”.

Modern ballet differs greatly from classical ballet in its bolder costumes and free dance interpretation. Modern ballet does away with tutus and pointe shoes; they are replaced by loose, elongated garments worn by ballerinas to create an airy, sophisticated look. Many dancers begin to go on stage barefoot altogether.

Modern ballet.


  • The use of gymnastics and acrobatics elements
  • The blurring of genre boundaries, multi-genre
  • New original interpretations of classical ballets
  • Symbolism
  • Rejection of the main postulates of classical choreography: arms and legs positions, complicated twists, and intentional lengthening of arms and legs
  • The freedom of feelings and ideas, the departure from conservatism
  • The movements are based on the natural plasticity of the body which makes it possible to perform complicated movements
  • Experimentality
  • The scenic effects are of much greater importance in contemporary ballet

The movements can be taken from national dances, new trends in plastique, and ultramodern dance styles in contemporary performances. Interpretation is also done in a new way. Many directors try to make the audience look at the classic dance from a different angle. New readings are welcome, and the more original they are, the greater success awaits them.

Ballet methods

It is important for dancers to pay special attention to strengthening the physical parameters of their bodies. Ballet dancers’ systematic training is based on scientific research and a historically established system of rules. The main methods of ballet training are the methods of Vaganova, Cecchetti, the Royal Academy of Dance, the French School, Balanchine, and Bournonville. The various methods, while quite independent, can also be complementary.

The Vaganova Method

Vaganova’s technique makes it possible to solve several choreographic problems at once: the future professional qualities diagnosis, the choreographic abilities education, the physical form maintenance, and the ballet aptitude evaluation.

Using a scientifically based system for choosing students and her personal experience, Vaganova was able to take the best from the French, Italian, and Russian schools of classical dance and create her own system of teaching.

Agripina Vaganova with her students, training according to the Vaganova method.

The main principle of Vaganova’s entire pedagogical activity was the struggle for clean movement performance without embellishment or carelessness, the desire to achieve great expressiveness of movements with little resources. Among the absolutely new principled positions that Vaganova brought into the process of training ballet dancers, it is worth mentioning the following:

  • Back positioning that allows the body to loosen up and become expressive
  • The arm movements have two roles: to create a spiritualized image and to help the dance
  • The positioning of the head and the direction of the gaze, which follows the movements of the arms and the body
  • Distinguishing between big and small poses
  • Careful elaboration of all movements

The teachers and jurors at classical dance competitions still pay the closest attention to compliance with these requirements.

It is worth noting

that modern ballet schools following the principles of teaching according to the Vaganova method are often rebuked by the public for their cruel, demeaning, and overly demanding attitude toward their students. The criticism is not unfounded: there is much evidence of an excessively strict focus on appearance and destructive criticism of ballerinas for allegedly failing to conform to the proportions of a ballerina. This often leads to further anorexia and bulimia among dancers. Teachers and ballet dancers are divided in their opinions. The former argue that ballet form requires desperate and hard work, so there is no room for self-pity in this art. On the other hand, others believe that it is the art of dance that should be taught, not how to shape one’s body.

The Cecchetti Method

Cecchetti’s pedagogical practice occupied a special place in the ballet art of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Cecchetti, having learned a great deal from Russian ballet masters, synthesized the best qualities of the two different dance schools in his teaching.

Enrico Cecchetti method.

The pedagogical method he developed specifically for Russian pupils was distinguished by its clear systematization: he worked out for each day of the week a certain series of combinations for both adagio and allegro. And each day was built on one dominant pas or type of pas for both parts of the lesson.

Cecchetti’s teaching principle had certain advantages. The teacher gave solid skills of dynamic rotations and chiseled stops, steady poses, and clear tempos. Movements of arms, trunk, legs acquired confidence and expression. Cecchetti’s class was rigorous, physically demanding, it developed breathing, leg strength, especially the feet. The rapid rotation was achieved by a sharp ” force” (simultaneously lifting on half-fingers and transferring the hands from the preparatory position to the pose of rotation) and the requirement to fix the gaze on one point during the rotations.

French School

The French Ballet School is not standardized by a single creator; it evolved from the court ceremonies of French monarchs many years ago and is considered the basis of all ballet dancer training. The French school was the one that developed the terminology of classical dance, which has been preserved to this day.

Smoothness, clarity, gracefulness, and purity of lines are characteristic of the French school of ballet. The épaulement and the port de bras are performed in a more rounded way than in the Vaganova method but less rounded than the Bournonville method. Another distinctive feature is the rapidity of the footwork.

Bournonville method

Bournonville’s technique is still part of Danish ballet practice. It appeared in European theaters as early as the nineteenth century, but August Bournonville’s ballets only became widely known outside of Denmark after World War II.

August Burnonville’s choreography is instantly recognizable. It is distinguished by its special style, characteristic only of this master. The secret of the choreographer is hidden in the vocabulary of his ballets, in the techniques and ways of applying binding pas, in the work of his hands with a special charm. The illusion of weightless lightness is the main thing that the choreographer has brought to classical dance.

The method requires the dancer to perform the most difficult movements as if they were by the way as if the dancer himself does not know what his feet are doing, in contrast to the French and Russian traditions, which distinctly highlight the culminating pas.

The Royal Academy of Dance method

The English methodology of teaching classical dance evolved to spread this art form throughout England. The main feature of the methodology is the idea that by learning the technique of simple steps accurately and cleanly enough, it will be easier for the dancer to learn more complex and technical things. Accordingly, this school assumes slow and very careful teaching of simple steps, gradually increasing the level of complexity.

Balanchine method

The Balanchine Method is a method of teaching dancers at the School of American Ballet (a school associated with ballet in New York City) and focuses on very fast movements combined with more open use of the upper body.

Balanchine’s method is characterized by intense speed, deep layers, and a strong emphasis on lines. Balanchine ballet dancers must be in good shape and very flexible. The method has many excellent hand positions and excellent and dramatic choreography.

Balanchine-method hand positions (often referred to as “Balanchine hands”) tend to be more open, less curved, and often “broken” at the wrist. The layers are deep and the arabesque positions tend to be uneven, with an open hip facing the audience to achieve the illusion of a higher arabesque line. Because of the extreme nature of the Balanchine method, injuries are common.

Balanchine Ballet method.

Today, all of these techniques exist either independently or in combinations in ballet schools around the world. As a result of constant training, the dancer acquires an aesthetically beautiful body position, comprehensively developed and strong muscles, flexible ligaments, and a confident command of the body.

Ballet genres

The genre of the ballet can be:

  • Comic
  • Heroic
  • Folklore

Depending on the presence or absence of a plot, ballet can be:

  • Narrative – a classic narrative multi-act ballet.
  • Unplotted – symphonic ballet, mood ballet, miniature

By the number of acts:

  • Multi-act
  • One-act
  • Miniatures

According to the scripted basis of the ballet, there are:

  • Epic
  • Lyrical
  • Dramatic
  • Mixed (lyrical-dramatic, lyrical-epic, etc.)

Despite the fact that all these styles, genres, and types of ballet have much in common with each other, the fundamental differences in presentation, staging, and dance material still allow us to speak of completely different types of ballet.

Share which type you prefer, are you a fan of classical or contemporary ballet.

Let’s discuss together why you can love such a sophisticated and complex art form.

Ballet Movies

Ballet Movies.

We have collected 14 films and 1 series, which will tell you about the life of dancers much better than us. The list includes Hollywood-style feature films, dramas, and documentaries about ballet – the most stylish ballet films that are worth watching.

Enjoy watching!

A Ballerina’s Tale (2015)

A Ballerina's Tale 2015.

Misty Copeland’s been dancing since she was a kid. However, the teachers of the ballet school thought that at the age of 13 there was no point in starting ballet lessons. Despite the fact that an art-passionate teenager at the age of 15 won a prestigious contest, many openly hinted that the girl can not have a successful career – she has the wrong physique.

In a troupe of 80 people, she considered herself a stranger, and the directors were thinking, not knowing how to work with such a girl. The only way out was to give her a solo part.

The Red Shoes (1948)

The Red Shoes.

If you want to enjoy watching a ballet movie, this picture is hardly worth bypassing. “The Red shoes” is a model drama about art as a monster that destroys its children. The film is saturated with long dancing numbers and the participation of Leonid Myasin for authenticity. It still remains an exemplary movie to which all ballet directors are trying to look up to.

Billy Elliot (2000)

Billy Elliott.

“Billy Elliot” is the story of a boy who wants to be a famous dancer. His father, a miner, because of gender prejudices does not consider dancing a man’s pastime and categorically against his son’s passion.

In a serious, in a funny way, “Billy Elliot” does not want to tell another boring story of following his dream. But it tells about growing up and normal for every teenager’s desire to find the right place in life.

First Position (2011)

First Position.

A documentary film about many years of training in ballet classes just for a few minutes on stage. Recently watching documentary films about ballet is more interesting than fiction. Intrigues in them are no less, and the truth of life is much more dramatic than any fictional story.

Good dynamics, interesting protagonists, to the extent of drama and facts. The film is not boring, as can be expected of the documentary.

Ballet 422 (2014)

Ballet 422 (2014).

Another documentary tells the story of the debut of the young choreographer Justin Peck. The film tells the ups and downs of the creative process. In 72 minutes, viewers see how one man’s idea became a reality.

Darling (2017)


It is danish film about the relationship between the two ballet dancers. Darling is a world-famous ballerina, Frans is her husband and partner in ballet. Together they plan to stage the Royal Giselle Theatre, where Darling will have the main part. During the first rehearsal, Darling falls in pain – she can no longer dance. The film tells the story of how the ballerina copes with the acceptance of injury, and it is before one of the most important events in the life of any ballet dancer.

The film shows the reverse side of the ballet dancer’s life very truthfully. Moreover, the film reveals the crisis of transition from stage activities to teaching – that is, the moment when ballerina can no longer perform on stage.

The Turning Point (1977)

The Turning Point.

This film is worth watching at least because it received 11 Oscar nominations and was never awarded, thus becoming one of the most famous losers in film history. Despite this, it is very deeply immersive: secondary roles in it were played by dancers of the American Ballet Theatre. The choreography was created by the famous director George Balanchine.

The Company (2003)

The Company 2003.

A new creative season has begun. The promising commonwealth of young dancers gathers again under the wing of Alberto Antonelli, the ingenious director of the troupe, famous for his ruthless exactingness demand for artists. How much tension will the artists have to go through to create an unforgettable spectacle on stage one day?

“The Company” was filmed with the participation of the Chicago Joffrey Ballet. When watching it there is a feeling of almost documentary curiosity, although The Company is a feature movie. This film is not so much about the people in the ballet as about the ballet. Therefore, it is obligatory for all fans of ballet art to watch it.

Center Stage (2000)

Center Stage (2000).

The main characters are young and confident, incredibly talented and ambitious dancers. They are ready to do anything to achieve success and recognition. Dance is the meaning of their lives, and they spare no effort climbing the Olympus of fame. But in ordinary life, they are ordinary people, with their problems, sorrows and joys, problems and shortcomings. But how do you become a star and still be human?

The White Crow (2019)

The White Crow (2019).

A biographical drama about the legendary dancer Rudolf Nureyev and his difficult fate. The film is filled with the political context of the Soviet era, but it does not become less “dancing”.

Polina (2016)


In 2017, the American wide box office released the film “Polina”, telling about a Russian ballerina who moved to Paris in the hope of becoming famous. She does not want to engage in classical ballet in conservative and joyless Russia, but in contemporary dance in advanced Europe.

The main character of the film has devoted her life to ballet. She goes through grueling training, and through love difficulties, not without intrigue. The viewers see the story of the evolution of talent, tenacity, and real ballerina, who goes through many difficulties.

Dancer (2017)


The film “Dancer” directed by Stephen Kantor tells about the life and work of the famous ballet dancer Sergei Polunin, who became widely known after the release of the clip Hozier – Take Me To Church directed by David LaChapelle.

The film is about the biography of the performer. Polunin was accepted into the Royal Ballet Company of London at the age of 17. Two years later he became the youngest premier in the company’s history. However, the film tells not a classic success story, but tells about the emptiness that a person meets on top – and how to start life again, but by its own rules.

Center Stage: On Point (2016)

Center Stage- On Point (2016).

It is musical drama about the modernization of classical ballet and the fight against stereotypes in the dance art. The story is about a girl whose talent is darkened by her older sister, a brilliant ballerina. The film shows the young girl’s struggle for deserved recognition of her talent and her own dance vision.

The film is not without love stories and typical plot turns. This is another story of a dancer, whose path is accompanied by defeats and victories. But from that should not be considered bad – in this film will be a lot of dance, music and extravaganza, which is sure to please the youth audience.

Black Swan (2010)

Black Swan.

“Black Swan” is a modern story about ballet dancer Nina (played by Natalie Portman), whose life is changing as she gets the main role in Swan Lake. The film shows well the daily hard work of ballet dancers, tells about the strained relations between “ballet mom” and children-dancer. The life of the main character is inseparable from her professional activities because ballet and getting her starring role in the legendary ballet production – became the meaning of her life.

“Black Swan” should please not only fans of classical dance, but also those who love drama stories about self-reflection, which sometimes leads to schizophrenic tendencies.

But it should be noted that in this tape could not maintain a balance between acting and ballet. There are very visible cuts, understudies, misconstructed classes, the inability of the protagonists to dance professionally. Yes, Natalie Portman is good, but she is definitely not a ballerina and the montage could not disguise it.

Pina (2011)


The film is not quite about classical ballet, but rather about modern dance – Art Nouveau. But we can’t ignore mentioning it in this list. Wim Wenders’ documentary is about the legendary German dancer and choreographer Pina Bausch, who passed away in the summer of 2009. While watching the film you understand where this or that “chips” and the movements of the contemporary dance appeared in due time.

Series «Flesh and Bone»

Flesh and Bone.

The series, something similar to the “Black Swan”: also about paranoia, mistrustfulness, and manic aspiration for absolute perfection, which, as you know, does not happen. There is a lot of dancing – though not as much as one would like – but even more ballet and melodramatic clichés, from which one even enjoys: and the choreographer, without a shadow of shame seducing young dancers, and drugs, and categorical tyranny. In short, behind every performance of Swan Lake, there is always an unpleasant inside.

We are sure that the list can be completed for a very long time!

Please write in comments if you think this list is incomplete because there is no film about the ballet you’ve watched.

Or let us know if you’ve had an interesting time watching one of these films.

Feedback will be welcome!

Ballet History

Ballet History.

Ballet is an art quite young. It is believed that the first mention of ballet dates back to the 15th century - it is just over 400 years old.

It is not known whether the name of the ballet comes from the Latin "balle" (dancing) or the French "balleto". But it is known where such an elegant form of art first appeared. On the history of the emergence, development, and popularization of ballet - below in the article.

Origin - 16th century

It is known that ballet originated during the Renaissance in Italy. The first mention of the word "ballet" is attributed to the court dance teacher Domenico da Piacenza. It was he who first proposed to combine several dances into one, perform them with a solemn finale and call them ballet.

The progenitor of classical dance is those forms of dance that were performed by hired dance masters for the nobles and princes at their celebrations. It was at such events that the original choreographic forms, the splendor of the spectacle, and the elements of drama in dance performances were born. Who would have thought that the usual entertainment of sovereigns would over time turn into art that millions of people around the world enjoy today?

A history of ballet.

However, as a genre of art, the ballet took shape a little later. As we said earlier, ballet originated in Italy, but the first ballet production of The Queen's Comedy Ballet was presented not in Italy, but in France in 1581. It was staged at the court of Catherine Medici of Italy, wife of the French King Charles VIII. It was she who brought fashion for curious court ballets to France. The production was directed by the famous Italian choreographer and violinist Baltazarini di Beljoyozo from Italy. Since then, the ballet has moved to a professional stage where it occupied a certain place in opera and dramatic productions.

Mid 17th - 18th centuries

The next round of development of classical dance took place almost a century later. On June 7, 1654, Monarch Louis XIV was crowned in France. He not only loved ballet but also took part in productions himself. When the monarch was 12 years old, he first performed in the "Cassandra Ballet" in 1651. Even his nickname Sun King came from one of his roles - the Rising Sun in "The Royal Ballet of the Night". This love of dance art was embodied in the fact that the monarch in 1661 established the Royal Academy of Dance. It then included 13 of the best dance masters. They were to preserve the dance traditions. Pierre Boschant, a royal dance teacher, was appointed director of the Academy, a man who later defined five main positions of classical dance.

Louis XIV made the ballet stand out during his reign as a separate form of performance, different from balls. It was then that the division of dancers into amateurs and professionals appeared.


Before 1681 only men danced in ballet. The first ballerina was the legendary dancer La Fontaine.

Then costumes and music were more important during performances than the dance technics. Girls danced in high heels wearing heavy dresses and masks. The costume of a man, although it was a little lighter (hence the greater grace and ease of movement), was still far from the clothes in which you could dance easily and freely.

The first to free the dancers from the shackles of these inconvenient costumes was a real reformer in the world of ballet art - the French ballet master Jean Georges Nover. He banned masks and gave the actors the opportunity to wear light suits that did not stiffen movement. Each innovation made dance more meaningful, and dance technique - more complicated.

Towards the end of the 17th century, court ballet achieved some success: it was fully funded by the authorities, which used it to exalt their own greatness. Gradually, the ballet completely separated from the opera and turned into an independent art.

One of the successful followers of Noverre became Jean Doberval, who in 1789 staged the ballet "Futile Precaution". A simple story about the unhappy love of a young peasant and a village girl was presented on stage. The absence of stories about the adventures of the gods, majestic masks and corsets made the production natural, and the dance free.

Dance class in opera 1872. Edgar Degas (1834-1917).

Romanticism - late 18th - early 19th centuries

The strongest influence on ballet was the direction of romanticism, which erupted in the late 18th century. In a romantic ballet, the female dancer first began to wear pointe shoes. Maria Taglioni was the first to do so, completely changing the previous ideas about ballet. In the ballet "Sylphide" she represented a fragile creature from the other world. The success was overwhelming.

Romanticism brought into the ballet the image of an incorporeal spirit - a ballerina who hardly touches the earth. In the same period, the roles of dancers are changing. Men turned into moving statues, which existed only to support the ballerina. Then the rising stars of female ballet completely and successfully overshadowed men.

Ballet history fact!

By the way, this situation was slightly corrected by the rise of the Nijinsky star from the Russian Ballet in the early 20th century. By this time, traditional for us ballet costumes, choreography, stage sets, props had already developed, in a word, everything had become almost what it is now. Eventually, it was a Russian ballet that started the revolution in ballet art.

Over time, the peak of the popularity of romantic ballet had already passed, and Paris, as the center of classical dance, began to fade away.

Russian ballet and its influence on world classical dance

The popularity of classical dance in Europe had an impact on ballet in Russia. Over time, this country will become the center of development and innovation in the art of ballet.

Ballet History Timeline.

The first ballet school in Russia was opened in 1738 (now the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet). At the same time, Peter I made dancing the main part of court etiquette, so the court youth was obliged to learn dancing. Thus, for example, the dance became a compulsory lesson in the Schlyakhet Cadet Corps in St. Petersburg. Since then, cadets have started to participate in ballet dances.

The dance instructor in the corps was Jean-Baptiste Lande. He understood that the nobility would not devote their lives to the art of dance. Therefore, in September 1737, Lande filed a petition in which he justified the need for a new special school where girls and boys of simple origin would be trained in choreography. Soon, such permission was given. From that moment on the training and development of dancers, for whom the ballet was a real profession, began.

At the beginning of the 19th-century Russian ballet art reached creative maturity thanks to the work of French ballet master Charles-Frederic-Louis Didlot. Didlot strengthens the role of the corps de ballet, the connection between dance and pantomime, asserts the priority of female dance. Russian dancers have brought expressiveness and sublimity to the dance.

The music of the legendary composer P. Tchaikovsky was the impetus for a new stage in the history of Russian ballet. Swan Lake, staged to Tchaikovsky's music in 1877, gave rise to the fact that music for ballet began to be taken seriously. It was in the composer's work that the romantic ballet became established. Tchaikovsky paid special attention to music, transforming it from an accompanying element into a powerful instrument that helps the dance to subtly capture and reveal emotions and feelings. Before that, music was considered just an accompaniment to dance.

Ballet Swan Lake as a revolution of Russian classical dance.

20th century

The beginning of the 20th century is characterized by an innovative search, the desire to overcome stereotypes and conventions of the academic ballet of the 19th century. One of the main innovators of this period in Russia is Sergey Diaghilev. In 1908, the annual performances of Russian ballet dancers in Paris began, organized by Diaghilev. The names of dancers from Russia became known throughout the world. But the first in this row is the name of the incomparable Anna Pavlova. Also, under his leadership in 1911, the ballet company was first organized.

Anna Pavlova.

Diaghilev's seasons - especially the first ones to include the ballets Firebird, Petrushka and Sacred Spring - played a significant role in popularizing Russian culture in Europe and helped establish a fashion for everything Russian. Thus, the passion of Europeans for traditional Russian costume gave rise to the new fashion. It was then, under the influence of Russian artists' skill, that the western ballet took a second breath.

In 1929 Diaghilev died. Over time, his troupe broke up. One of its members - George Balanchine - was developing ballet in the USA and founded the New York City Ballé company. He became one of the most influential choreographers of the 20th century. In his dances, Balanchine strove for classical completeness of form, for impeccable purity of style. In many of his works, there is virtually no plot of any kind. The choreographer himself believed that the plot in the ballet is absolutely irrelevant, the main thing being the music and the movement itself. Today Balanchine's ballets are performed in all countries of the world. He had a decisive influence on the development of twentieth-century choreography, not breaking with tradition, but boldly renewing it.

Another protege of Diaghilev, Serge Lifar, led the Paris Opera Ballet Company and for a long time was the most influential figure in French ballet.

The second half of the 20th century

In the 1950s, the dramatic ballet was in crisis. Strengthening the entertainment and pomp of performances, choreographers made futile attempts to preserve the ballet genre. Until the end of the 1950s, there was a breakthrough. Choreographers and dancers of a new generation revived the forgotten genres - one-act ballet, ballet symphony, choreographic miniature. And since the 1970s, ballet troupes have emerged that were independent of opera and ballet theaters. Their number is constantly growing, among them, there are studios of free dance and modern dance. But today the academic ballet and the school of classical dance are still relevant.


Contemporary ballet history where it started?

Ballet history started in Italy in the 15th century. It is the time of first mention of the word “ballet”. But the starting point is 1581, the year of the first ballet production The Queen's Comedy Ballet.

Who were the 8 main figures who influenced the history of ballet?

  1. Catherine Medici;
  2. Louis XIV;
  3. Jean Georges Nover;
  4. Jean Doberval;
  5. Jean-Baptiste Lande;
  6. P. Tchaikovsky;
  7. Sergey Diaghilev;
  8. George Balanchine.

What is the history of ballet?

  • 16th century – the origin of ballet, first ballet production.
  • Mid 17th century – appearing the division of ballet dancers into amateurs and professionals.
  • The end of 17th century – ballet is favourite authorities form of art, it funded by authorities.
  • 18th century – abandoning lavish costumes, the dance becomes freer and more professional, start of Russian ballet.
  • 18th - early 19th centuries – the era of romanticism in ballet, the female dancer first began to wear pointe shoes.
  • 1877 – to the music of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake ballet was staged.
  • the beginning of the 20th century is characterized by an innovative search, Sergei Diaghilev's ballets are becoming popular throughout the world.
  • In the 1950s, the dramatic ballet was in crisis.
  • And since the 1970s, the rebirth of ballet as we know it today begins.

What monarch reigned during the rise of professionalism in ballet history?

What monarch reigned during the rise of professionalism in ballet history?

William Forsythe: a Revolutionary Look at Classical Dance

William Forsythe dance.

Improvisation and choreography are equal partners in a dance. Improvisation is the most important direction of choreographic thinking, it organizes the form of dance and the specificity of dance performance. One of those who made a serious contribution to the art of improvisation as a method of searching for choreographic vocabulary and a tool for developing creative thinking is William Forsythe.

Researchers of modern dance rank Forsythe’s improvisation as postmodern improvisation, or the art of dance performance. Forsythe system has been shaped and honed for 15 years. And in 1994, it was designed in a specialized video manual “Technologies: A Tool for the Analytical Dance Eye”, which is still used for training new dancers of Forsythe’s troupe and is also a part of training professional dancers of modern dance in Europe and the USA.

About William Forsythe’s work and his influence on modern dance – read below.

Life and Career

William Forsythe is a ballet master, a specialist in the field
of modern dance, a researcher of the specifics of human body movement and improvisation. He was born in New York in 1949. He got his choreographic education in Florida. He got at the first dance class at the age of 17 with his roommate by accident, having absolutely no idea what the lesson will be.

In 1971 he joined the Joffrey Ballet (a company famous for the works of contemporary choreographers). It was there that Forsythe first saw Balanchine’s ballets on the stage of the New York City State Theater, which undoubtedly contributed to his development as a researcher of dance and choreography.

Since 1973 W. Forsythe has been working in Germany as a performer in the Stuttgart Ballet. Already in 1976, he was appointed ballet master of the company. For this company, he created his first neoclassical miniature – “Urlicht” – a duet to music by Gustav Mahler.

In 1984 William Forsythe became the head of the legendary Frankfurt Ballet and continued to be so until its closure in 2004. At Frankfurt Ballet, the choreographer worked on productions such as Artefact (1984), Steptext (1985), In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated (1987, Paris Opera), Impressing the Czar (1988), Limb’s Theorem (1990), Loss of Small Detail (1991), ALIE/NA(C)TION (1992), Eidos:Telos (1995), Endless House (1999), KAMMER/KAMMER (2000), and Decreation (2003).

His productions are part of the repertoire of the world’s major theatres, including the New York City Ballet, London’s Royal Ballet, Paris Opera, National Ballet of Canada and the Netherlands Dance Theatre.

This period of the ballet master’s work is characterized by a special radicalism: he puts on performances that are completely different from classical ballet, transforms the aesthetics of classical dance, proclaims freedom in dance from any canons and narratives.

In 1994, the program “Technologies: A Tool for the Analytical Dance Eye” was developed and released.

After 20 years at the Frankfurt Ballet, William Forsythe founded his Forsythe Company troupe in 2004. In addition to appearances at the main venues in Dresden and Frankfurt, the artists were active on tour. Forsythe has staged such ballets for the new company:

  • Three Atmospheric Studies (2005);
  • You made me a monster (2005);
  • Human Writes (2005);
  • Heterotopia (2006);
  • The Defenders (2007);
  • Yes we can’t (2008/2010);
  • I don’t believe in outer space (2008);
  • The Returns (2009);
  • “Sider” (2011).

He worked as a director and ballet master until 2015 in the troupe. As the reason for Forsythe’s resignation, the need to reduce workloads due to health reasons was reported. However, Forsythe has remained a consultant for the company, a guest lecturer and teacher, one of the co-directors and teachers of the European Dance Students’ Network program. The directorship of the Forsythe Company was taken over by Jacopo Godani under a new name The Dresden Frankfurt Dance Company”.

Forsythe produces and participates in the creation of a large number of architectural and performance installations. The installations have been exhibited at the Louvre, the Venice Biennale, and other important venues. His short film “Solo” was presented in 1997 at the Whitney Biennale.

The choreographer has also received special recognition in the field of fine arts, organizing amazing installations, whose viewers themselves become participants in the action.

Today Forsythe regularly holds lectures and seminars at various universities and creative organizations. He lives and works in Vermont.


Special attention we should pay to Forsythe’s work in the fine arts. The project “Choreographic Objects” includes various installations, including interactive ones. Over the past few years, they have been shown in many museums.

Some of its current* interactive installations:

  • The Fact of Matter (Brisbane, Australia) – December 7., 2019 – April 26., 2020;
  • Acquisition/Körperschaft (Hasselt, Germany) – March 14. – May 10., 2020;
  • Aufand, Doing and Undergoing (Besançon, France) – until April 26, 2020;
  • City of Abstracts, Human Writes Drawings, Backwords (Essen, Germany).

* Expositions are temporarily closed due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

“City of Abstracts” is scheduled to be shown in Essen at Art Basel on September 17-20, 2020.

Forsythe’s Technologies of improvisation

In 1994 the computer program “Technologies: A Tool for the Analytical Dance Eye” was presented. Until now, it is actively used in the process of training dancers of different levels. This work deserves detailed consideration because its importance for the dance world is immeasurably great.

Improvisation technologies basically use the geometrical approach, working with lines, arcs, corners which form a body of the dancer. It was important for Forsythe to use what his dancers already knew. Since they were graduates of ballet schools, they were used to working with lines in body and space. This approach allowed the dancers to forget “how to move” and focus on the inner part of the movement, to overcome “numbness” in improvisation.

Forsythe Dancer.

The choreographer shows simple movements and techniques in the program. The main purpose of his training is to teach the mind of a dancer to analyze movement in geometrical categories, corresponding parts of his body in space.

It’s useful!

Check out the program, even not only for ballet dancers. You will definitely learn a lot about your body.

For example, here are a few techniques from Forsythe’s technology. In his video lessons, the choreographer shows how to work with lines. For example, you can create an imaginary line with body parts and “move” that line in space, or you can create the same line with one of your body parts. You can also create a line by “pulling” it out of a point, or you can stretch not just a point but an entire line and create an imaginary plane. You can extend the line by unbending a joint, for example, an elbow. You can work in the parterre by building movements along imaginary lines on the floor. The technique of getting into the line is to find a way that you can “get” into the imaginary line by a part of your body.

William Forsythe’s New Ballets

After leaving Forsythe Company in 2015, the choreographer has staged several ballets:

  • «Blake Works 1» for the Paris Opera Ballet;
  • «Playlist [Track 1, 2]»;
  • «A Quiet Evening of Dance»;
  • «Playlist (EP)» – the work for Boston ballet company;
  • «Artifact Suite».

Influence on modern dance

With the death of George Balanchine, the era of great discoveries in ballet was coming to an end, and few people believed in the possibility of a new revolution in dance. Nevertheless, the postmodern era has made its mark and proclaimed in dance freedom from any canons. The improvisation and value of the moment “here and now”, the study of the movement and limits of the human body, the importance of the process rather than the final product of art – all this became the basis of contemporary dance. It was William Forsythe who brought ballet into the realm of marginal art, making it speak about contemporary ballet.

The avant-garde Forsythe has pushed back the boundaries of what is generally accepted: while in classical dance the position of arms and legs is fixed, Forsythe gives freedom to both arms and legs, and head. This also applies to his methods of working with dancers. Improvisation – the main method of working with dancers – requires not only freedom to own their own body in space, but also freedom of thought. In this case, the intellectuality can be called one of the most precise characteristics of the specificity of W. Forsythe’s works.


Forsythe is a new turn. It’s basically a classic, but as if turned from a different angle… It’s as if you look at it through some special optics – and you get Forsythe.

At the same time, despite this release of thought and body, William Forsythe’s approach to choreography is surprisingly algorithmic. Through systematic exploration of the boundaries of space and time, the potential of the body and the mechanics of movement, the choreographer has developed his own author’s method of dance geometry and thus gives rise to a characteristic Forsythe’s style of movement.

The imagery and abstractedness of Forsythe’s ballets deserve special attention. After all, not every spectator is ready for a Forsythe’s form of interpretation, hence the complexity of perception. We can state the mechanical or geometrical style of dance plastics, but certainly not the lack of content. Forsythe is simply not interested in stories and characters that are important in classical ballet. What is more important in these works is the emotional dynamics of the performers, the way the change in body movement determines the changes in a person’s emotional state. An abstract stage reality is formed on stage, within which a multivariate narrative of philosophical content is performed.


Dance critic Roslin Sulkas highlights the following features in the work of William Forsythe:

  • the presence of so-called “flickering movement” (based on elusive points of presence), performed by dancers with classical training, that is professionally developed in the aspect of ballet plasticity;
  • the use of the principle of inclusiveness – the possibility of including elements of absolutely any kind in the dance, both on the technical and conceptual sides;
  • approach to the realization of a complete work on the basis of the concept of “one theatrical universe”, where each element is a significant part of the multidimensional structure of the dance;
  • the development of a plastic language based on personal ideas of movement, where each element is endowed with volume.

We can’t help but mention the improvisational inserts in Forsythe’s ballets. Certain parts of the composition are performed by dancers in accordance with the concept of dance at their own discretion based on their own vision. Thanks to this, each display of a dance piece becomes unique and each broadcast gives a new reading to the work.

By its nature, modern dance is “dance of the head”, i.e. choreography that stimulates thinking tone not only of the dancer but also of the viewer in the process of perception of dance. Such mutual work of the ballet master and the viewer gives the necessary body and emotional contact. Then the viewer leaves with a huge plume of emotions and thoughts after the performance.

William Forsythe does not like to repeat himself, he always speaks to the viewer through his work in different ways. And no one knows what this choreographer will present to the public next time…


Doesn’t matter whether we call Forsythe by The New Balanchine or The Classic of the Ballet Avant-Garde, many today consider him one of the most important choreographers working today. Having traversed in his life from a dictatorship of ballet to a free of contemporary, William Forsythe has struck the ballet world with radicalism and experimentation. He has transformed and continues to transform the aesthetics of classical dance, has led to a rethinking of the importance of dance improvisation and has made an invaluable contribution to the training of dancers around the world.


Ballet Moves for Beginners

Ballet Moves for Beginners.

Are you dreaming about a career as a ballerina or just want to try classical dance for yourself? These simple (ha-ha) exercises will help you understand what ballet is and is it fits you.

Are you ready? There are 9 ballet movements that tone the muscles of the whole body. Let’s go.


Plié in the first position is one of the basic elements of ballet. Stand in the first position and start bending your knees slowly until your knees are over your thumbs. Hold on to this position for a second and then return smoothly and quickly upwards. Complete the movement in the first position.

Plié should be performed in all 5 main ballet positions. There are two types of pliés: demi and grand.


The Grand Plié also performs from the first position, but unlike the Plié, you sit much lower, tearing your heels off the floor.


Releve is a basic movement that almost all newcomers learn. To perform a simple releve, take the first position and hold the ballet barre with one hand. Tension the caviar muscles and pull up to be on your socks. Transfer all the weight to the part of the foot that is under your fingers. This position is called the demi-pointe. Then gently fall down.

Try to do single-leg releve as well. This exercise is good for strengthening the back surface of the hip and calf.

Over time, you try to connect the plié and the releve. First, make a plié and then climb up in the releve using the strength of your feet on climbing.


Batman tendu is an exercise in which the working leg is either pulled aside and then returned, or bent and unbent. There are several different types of batman with which you can practice the ability to correctly move your leg back to the original position, bend and stretch the leg, pull it out and lift it to any height in any direction and at any speed.


In this exercise, the working leg moves in three directions: forward, to the side, back and again to the side. But the sock is detached from the floor every time. The leg is raised to the position in which it will make from the other about 45 degrees. After making the whole chain of movements, repeat the jete from the other leg.


Push your right foot forward without tearing your sock off the floor. Smoothly, drawing a semicircle, move it to the side and then back. Return to the original position, repeat 6 times with each foot.


Lower into the demi-plie by bending the supporting left leg and leading the sock to the right of the ankle stone. Unbend the supporting leg and pull the right one forward. Return to its original position. Repeat the movement by pulling the right foot to the side, but then lower into the demi plié, leading the right foot behind the shin with the left foot. Straighten the supporting leg by pulling the right foot back. Move the side again and return to the original position. Perform the exercise 4 times from each leg.


Saute is a jump with no position change. It is convenient for learning the mechanics of jumping with novice students. Its study is started separately, with pauses before each jump. Saute consists of three main points: half-sitting (preparation for the jump), the jump itself and landing (half-sitting). The jump is made by jumping with the pushing of heels from the floor.

During the jump, the legs in the air are stretched in the knees to the limit, toes are stretched too, and the body is straight, no tension, the legs in the air retain the given position. When landing after the jump, the socks touch the floor first, then the whole foot is lowered and a half-squat is made evenly on both feet. Keep the body straight.


Get in fifth position. Push your right foot forward as in a batman tendu, but then raise it, straight, to the parallel with the floor. Go back to the fifth position and also through the batman tendu lift the foot to the parallel with the floor to the side. Then make the same move back, again to the side and return to the original position. Repeat with the other leg.

So, are you ready to wake up the ballerina inside of you?