Ballet History and Facts

Ballet History

Some of these facts and terms are still debated today. I have done my best to put together what is generally agreed upon – at least to some degree.

  • Some people believe the very beginnings of ballet to have started in Italy as court dancing during the 1400 or 1500s, but the classical technique itself developed in France after King Louis XIV established the Académie Royale de Musique et de Danse in the year 1661.
  • The1800s brought in the Romantic Era of ballet and saw the introduction of more fairytale-like stories. Famous ballets from this era include La Sylphide(1832), Giselle (1841), Sleeping Beauty (1890), and Swan Lake (1877/1895).
  • Pointe dancing also began during the Romantic era, though it was quite different than pointe dancing today. Marie Taglioni is credited with being the first person to dance on pointe.
  • Russia’s status in ballet began to grow the most during the 1800s. They have since been a major force in the ballet world.
  • Ballet within the United States saw the biggest growth beginning in the 1900s, greatly due to the founding of the American Ballet Theatre in 1939 and Balanchine cofounding the New York City Ballet, as it is now known, around the same time.


Main Ballet Technique Methods

Note that there are also specific teaching methods, such as RAD in London, that are based upon one or more of these techniques.

  • French Technique– Began sometime in the early 1700s (Grant, 58). The technique developed in this school is the foundation of all classical ballet techniques and is the reason why ballet terms are in French.
  • Russian Technique– A Russian school was started in 1738 by French dancer Jean-Baptiste Landé (Grant, 105). Sometime after 1885, the Russian school began to form their own technique as a mixture of French and Italian techniques. In 1921, Russian ballerina Agrippina Vagonava began to develop a system of teaching known Vagonava method.
  • Italian Technique– Began in 1812 (Grant, 62). One of their most famous teachers, Enrico Cecchetti, developed his own teaching method based on the Italian school’s technique. This teaching method, known today as the Cecchetti method.


Well-Known Ballet Styles

Some people also consider these to be unique ballet techniques.

  • Bournonville – The ballet style of the Danish ballet in Denmark. Developed sometime after the early 1800s and named after August Bournonville who worked with the Royal Danish Ballet.
  • Balanchine – A style developed by George Balanchine which is generally considered to be neoclassical. Balanchine taught from the early to late 1900s.



Main Reference: Gail Grant, Technical Manual Dictionary of Classical Ballet, 3rded. (New York, Dover Publications, Inc.), 1982.