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The Beauty of Ballet

Updated on April 23, 2013

The History of Ballet

Ballet originated in the Italian Renaissance period during the 15th century. Dancers provided elaborate entertainment by dancing for guests at aristocratic weddings, which were lavish celebrations.

Women danced in formal gowns as there were no such things as ballet slippers and tutus back then. The audience joined in the dance towards the end of the act.

Ballet began as a type of performance dance in Italy and further developed as a concert dance when its popularity spread into France and Russia.

Where does the word "Ballet" come from?

The word "ballet" comes from the Greek word "ballizo", which means to dance and jump about.

It was later adapted into the Latin word "ballo" meaning to dance, and had an Italian name of "balletto" - a diminutive of "ballo".

In 1630 the word "ballet" was borrowed from the French after its Italian origin and brought into the English language.

A Timeline of Ballet

  • 14th Century - Medieval Dance
  • 16th Century - Renaissance Dance, Intermedio (Italian court spectaculars with dance balettis), Ballet Comique de la Reine (sometimes called the "first ballet")
  • 17th Century - English Country Dance / Contredance
  • 18th Century - Baroque Dance, Opera Ballet, Ballet d'Action
  • 19th Century - Pre Romantic Ballet, Romantic Ballet, Classical Ballet (Russian Ballet)
  • 20th Century - Modern Ballet, Neoclassical Ballet, Post Structuralist Ballet,

Have you ever attended a ballet class?

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A scene from The Nutcracker
A scene from The Nutcracker | Source
Scene from Centre Stage (2000)
Scene from Centre Stage (2000)

Glossary of Ballet Steps


The position of the body supported on one leg, while the other leg is extended behind the body with the knee straight.


A position in which the dancer stands on one leg, while the other leg is lifted and turned out with the knee bent at a 90-degree angle.


Meaning "to chase". A slide forwards, backwards, or sideways with both legs bent, and then springing into the air with the legs meeting and straightened.


A jump from one foot to the other similar to a leap. One leg appears to be "thrown" in the direction of the movement.

Pas de valse

A "waltz step" - a travelling step done either straight or while turning.


A controlled turn on one leg, starting with one or both legs in a plié position and rising onto demi-pointe or pointe. The pirouette may return to the starting position or finish in arabesque or attitude positions.


Meaning "bent". A continuous and smooth bending of the knees. This can also be a grande-plié which is a bend into the deepest position.


A jump in which one lands on the leg from which is being pushed off after that leg travels around the other leg lifted to 90 degrees.

Famous Ballet Movies

Name of Movie
Main Dancer
The Turning Point
Shirley Maclaine
Jennifer Beals
Billy Elliot
Jamie Bell
Centre Stage
Amanda Schull
Save the Last Dance
Julia Stiles
The Company
Neve Cambell
Step Up 2: The Streets
Briana Evigan
Black Swan
Natalie Portman

Which is your favourite ballet movie?

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    • MelChi profile image

      Melanie Chisnall 5 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      @Cyndi10 - I've always found the idea of open ballet classes amazing. We don't have them hear, but hopefully one of these days we will. It's good to meet a fellow dance lover! Thanks for your comment :)

    • Cyndi10 profile image

      Cynthia B Turner 5 years ago from Georgia

      Hello MelChi, I absolutely love ballet! I dreamed of being a ballerina. The closest I came was dance classes in college and some classes after simply because I loved the dance so much. I the opportunity to practice on a couple of occasions with our smaller metro city's ballet troupe. Anyone from the public could join them. Great research and very well written. Great pics and good choice of video.

    • MelChi profile image

      Melanie Chisnall 5 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      Hi epigramman - so good to meet you too! There really are few things in life that are more beautiful than ballet, and it seems that this is one art form - luckily for us, that is is never going to die. Thank you for your warm wishes - and here's wishing you a great day from a cold and rainy Cape Town at 6:30am :)

    • MelChi profile image

      Melanie Chisnall 5 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      Hi Martie - so glad to meet you, and a fellow South African too! :) I couldn't agree with you more - ballet is truly fascinating. When I watch ballet performances, I get so lost in it and wish for it not to end. Thanks for your comment and vote! :)

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 5 years ago

      there is nothing more beautiful for me than the classical ballet which I simply adore - well hold on there's Martie up there and she is beautiful too - so nice to meet you and thank you for this world class presentation of images, music and video.

      sending you warm wishes and good energy from lake erie time ontario canada 2:14pm

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 5 years ago from South Africa

      Hi my fellow South-African! So nice to meet you. Ballet is an amazing, fascinating art - The mimicry of beautiful stories.

      Thank you for this highly interesting and informative article. It goes straight to my library.

      Voted up and awesome!

    • MelChi profile image

      Melanie Chisnall 5 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      Hi Vinaya - it really is a beautiful art in motion, isn't it? I haven't been to a ballet concert in years - I think it's time to change that! Thanks for your comment :)

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 5 years ago from Nepal

      I know nothing about ballet. I saw this live for the first time in my life when the Russians artists came to Kathmandu to perform ballet.

      Since then I'm quite in love with this wonderful dance form.

    • MelChi profile image

      Melanie Chisnall 5 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      Hi Johan - I am with you on that one, Flashdance was incredible and Jennifer Beal's performance was outstanding! Thanks for highlighting another great dance movie - I'm going to include it in the list right now. Thanks for stopping by and for the great comment! :)

    • Johan Smulders profile image

      Johan Smulders 5 years ago from East London, South Africa

      Loved your Ballet article and look forward to the rest. One of my favourite all time movies is Flashdance.

      Thanks for your comments and keep it up

    • MelChi profile image

      Melanie Chisnall 5 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      Hi Sue - great to meet a fellow ballet dancer! I'm also an ex-ballet dancer and really have a love for this art. Nothing could be more graceful or more beautiful. Thanks for the beautiful comment. I'm looking forward to reading your hub - in fact, I'm going to read it right now :)

    • Sue Adams profile image

      Juliette Kando 5 years ago from Andalusia

      This is a very well researched Hub that should bring many new ballet fans to the profession. Being an ex-ballet dancer, I thank you for that.

      b.t.w. did you know that "Ballar" is the Spanish verb for dancing?

      To read more about the influence of Ballet to culture at large, go to my hub:

      "What Can Be Learned From Dance And Dancers?"

      You might find it interesting.