Discover ballet

What is ballet?

ballet /ˈbaleɪ,-li/ noun

Ballet can be defined as ‘a type of dancing where carefully organised movements tell a story or express an idea, or a theatre work that uses this type of dancing’ (Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary).

But at The Royal Ballet School ballet is not just about dancing, ideas and stories –  it’s a way of life.

Beyond preparation for theatrical performance, our training gives students discipline and focus, it strengthens their minds and bodies and shapes their aspirations. It also gives them lifelong friendships.

Where did ballet originate?

Ballet developed during the European Renaissance (c 1400-1600), most notably in France, first at the court of Catherine de Medici (1519-89), and later at that of Louis XIV (1638-1715).

King Louis was an accomplished dancer; he famously portrayed the role of the sun-god Apollo in extravagant court ballets, becoming known as ‘The Sun King’. In 1661 he founded the world’s earliest ballet academy, where ballet technique was first codified. This is why ballet terms and expressions are in French to this day.

During the 18th century ballet was transformed from the formal (and formulaic) court ballets of the Renaissance into a more fluid and expressive theatrical art form, known as ballet d’action.

Since then ballet has developed and diversified: modern ballet encompasses a wide range of abstract and narrative forms, and many traditional, contemporary and fusion styles.

Today’s ballet dancers must still master the technical and stylistic requirements of the Classical repertoire; this solid grounding enables them to tackle the more overtly athletic and experimental demands of new works.

What age do professional ballet dancers start their training?

Some professional ballet dancers started their training as young as three years old, and others didn’t start until they were 15 or 16 years old. To be a successful dancer takes talent, energy, commitment, focus and above all passion, whatever your age.

Why do ballerinas dance on pointe?

Ballerinas first started pointework in the 1820s – it was designed to make them appear weightless and more elegant. It is a skill that looks effortless but is actually hard work and takes years of training and muscle-strengthening to perfect. At The Royal Ballet School, students start regular pointe work in Year 7 (aged 11).

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