Editorial Feature

Discover Ballet Companies From Around The World

Beautiful lines, beautiful shapes, beautiful costumes

Ballet, which stems from the Italian word for dancing, ballare, originated during the Italian Renaissance in the 15th century. When the performance style first began, dancers wore masks, layers upon layers of elaborate clothing and small-heeled shoes. These outfits didn't prove to be very easy to move in, and gradually the style changed to what it is known for today: streamlined costumes, tutus, ballet shoes, and unparalleled precision.

Over time the European tradition spread, and now there are renowned ballet companies based all around the world. Here are some you can explore on Google Arts & Culture.

The Australian Ballet

The Australian Ballet opened with Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake in 1962. The company claims to be the busiest ballet company in the world, giving around 200 performances a year. It's also the only company to have a woman chief conductor.

Artists of The Australian Ballet in George Balanchine's Symphony in C, 2016 (From the collection of The Australian Ballet)

American Ballet Theatre

This New York-based company performs an annual 8 week season at the Metropolitan Opera House every spring. The American Ballet Theatre is well known in the US for its televised version of The Nutcracker, which went on to become a festive broadcast classic.

Keith Roberts in The Rite of Spring, Photo by Rory Round (From the collection of The American Ballet Theatre)

The Bolshoi Ballet

The Bolshoi Ballet is one of the world's oldest ballet companies, having been founded in 1776. It is also one of the largest, including around 200 dancers - "bolshoi" means "big" in Russian. It has been based at The Bolshoi Theatre since 1825.

"Jewels: Diamonds" ballet, by Elena Zaitseva, 2012 (From the collection of The Bolshoi Theatre)

Ballet Hispánico

Specialising in more than just ballet, Ballet Hispánico performs dances that reflect the experience of Hispanic and Latino Americans. Founded by Tina Ramirez, the daughter of a Mexican bullfighter, it works to give contemporary hispanic culture a place in American dance.

Annabelle Lopez Ochoa's Línea Recta, by Paula Lobo (From the collection of Ballet Hispánico)

English National Ballet

The English National Ballet company was founded in 1950, then known as Festival Ballet. In 1958 they were the first major ballet company to tour to Israel, and due to the high demand for tickets, they performed Giselle in the Ramat-Gan Sports Stadium in order to fit in 18,000 people.

Le Corsaire, 2013 (From the collection of English National Ballet)

Scottish Ballet

Based in Glasgow, the Scottish Ballet works with strong, classical technique at the root of its pieces. It was the first dance company in Europe to offer live audio descriptions so the visually-impaired could also enjoy the ballet.

Dance Odysseys, by Graham Wylie, 2013 (From the collection of Scottish Ballet)

Houston Ballet

The Texas-based Houston Ballet consists of 51 dancers and produces over 75 performances each year. In 1995 they were the first ever full company to be invited to China by the government, where 500 million viewers watched the televised opening-night production of Romeo and Juliet.

Karina Gonzalez with Chunwai Chan in Petite Mort, Jiří Kylián and Photographer: Amitava Sarkar, 2014 (From the collection of Houston Ballet)

Paris Opera Ballet

The Paris Opera Ballet was founded in 1669, making it the oldest company in the world, and has origins in the court of Louis XIV. The company consists of 154 dancers, which includes 17 Danseurs Étoiles - the highest rank of dancer. They primarily perform at the Palais Garnier.

Carolyn Carlson, by Claude Lê-Anh, 1974/1980 (From the collection of Opéra national de Paris)

The National Ballet of Canada

Based in Toronto, the National Ballet of Canada was founded by Celia Franca and Julia Bondy in 1951. The company's repertoire includes works by the world’s most celebrated 20th and 21st century masters, such as Sir Frederick Ashton, Wayne McGregor and Rudolf Nureyev.

Rex Harrington and Gizella Witkowsky in FORGOTTEN LAND, by David Street, 1988 (From the collection of The National Ballet of Canada)

Prague National Theatre Ballet

Based in Prague National Theatre, the company has a long history of performing Czech works and international classics since its founding in 1883. It was the first company to stage Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake outside of Russia, and the composer himself attended the premiere.

Krabat, by Jan Kodet, 2014/2015 (From the collection of Prague National Theatre)
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