Theatrical dance in which a formal academic technique (the danse d'école) is combined with music, costume, and stage scenery. Developed from court productions of the Renaissance, ballet was renewed under Louis XIV, who in 1661 established France's Académie Royale de Danse, where Pierre Beauchamp developed the five ballet positions. Early ballets were often accompanied by singing and incorporated into opera-ballets by composers such as Jean-Baptiste Lully. In the 18th century Jean-Georges Noverre and Gasparo Angiolini separately developed the dramatic ballet (ballet d'action) to tell a story through dance steps and mime, a reform echoed in Christoph Willibald Gluck's music. Significant developments in the early 19th century included pointe work (balance on the extreme tip of the toe) and the emergence of the prima ballerina, exemplified by Marie Taglioni and Fanny Elssler. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Russia became the centre of ballet production and performance, through the work of innovators such as Sergey Diaghilev, Anna Pavlova, Vaslav Nijinsky, Marius Petipa, and Michel Fokine; great ballets were composed by Pyotr Tchaikovsky and Igor Stravinsky. Since then, ballet schools in Great Britain and the U.S. have elevated ballet in those countries to Russia's level and greatly increased its audience. See also American Ballet Theatre; Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo; Ballets Russes; Bolshoi Ballet; New York City Ballet; Royal Ballet.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.For the full entry on ballet, visit Britannica.com.
What made you look up ballet? Please tell us what you were reading, watching or discussing that led you here.
Take our visual vocab quiz
A quick quiz about stuff worth knowing
The commonly misspelled words quiz
The Vocab Quiz Game for iPhone & iPad
"Incredibly fun and addictive. And informative!" User Review, iTunes