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 ballet types 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.