Ballet is a type of dance that originated during the Italian Renaissance in the fifteenth century. A performance dance, ballet developed into a concert dance in both France and Russia. Extremely technical, ballet requires years of training to achieve superior performance. There are ballet schools world-wide and the best ballet companies have achieved world-wide acclaim.

Although ballet originated in the courts of Italy, it quickly spread to France where it continued to be refined. Among its earliest supporters in France was Catherine de’ Medici. Ballet in the classical style, as it continues to be performed today, originated during the reign of Louis XIV. The French king danced ballet himself as a youth and the art form reached a pinnacle during his reign. Although ballet declined in popularity in France somewhat during the nineteenth century, it remained popular elsewhere in Europe. By WWI, the influence of the Ballets Russes reinvigorated the dance around the world with its captivating Russian style.

During the course of the twentieth century, the choreographer George Balanchine brought changes to the dance form in the U.S. that led to the development of neoclassical ballet. As modern dance styles influenced ballet, other ballet styles emerged like contemporary ballet. Both modern and classical styles are performed today. Over time, many choreographers have left their mark on the evolution of this dance.

In the course of the dance’s history, there have been many celebrated dancers, dance companies, and ballets. Some of the world’s best-known classical composers achieved fame by writing the music for ballet and directing the orchestras in their performance. Classical ballet is an art form that depends upon the support of music. Elaborate sets and costuming are also a significant part of ballet performance. Although ballet began among amateur dancers, it soon became highly formalized and is, today, regarded as a professional pursuit.

Some of the most celebrated classic ballets include Swan Lake (music by Pyotr Tchaikovsky), The Nutcracker (music by Pyotr Tchaikovsky), The Rite of Spring (music by Igor Stravinsky), Cinderella (music by Sergei Prokofiev), The Sleeping Beauty (music by Pyotr Tchaikovsky), and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (music by Felix Mendelssohn). Some of the most revered ballet companies include The Paris Opera Ballet, the Bolshoi Ballet, La Scala, the Mariinsky Ballet, The Royal Ballet, and the New York City Ballet. While there have been many famous ballet dancers over history, some of the most renowned include Anna Pavlova, Marie Taglioni, Margot Fonteyn, Vaslav Nijinsky, and Rudolph Nureyev.