What is Ballet? Learn Ballet at Your Own Pace, Anywhere

Dance Culture

What is Ballet? Learn Ballet at Your Own Pace, Anywhere

Raoul Suarez
January 23, 2024
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There is really something breathtaking about ballet, isn’t it?

Simple movements become mesmerizing. Even the stillness of a Relevé gives off elegance. A ballet performance is like poetry in motion. In fact, IT IS poetry in motion.

It’s more than a dance - it’s an art form.

Maybe that’s why most people are intimidated by ballet. I am one of these people. I have this thought that to learn this dance, you have to start when you are 5 years old. have never been so wrong.

I discovered that you could learn ballet even if you are in your 30s, 40s, or even 80s!

Yep, you heard it right.

If you want to, you can learn ballet. At any age and anywhere. Even at home!

This article will talk about ballet, its origins, and how and where you can learn it.

But first…

What is Ballet?

Ballet is a theatrical dance that features highly formalized steps and movements. It uses body movements, music, and stage scenery to speak emotions, a story, an atmosphere, or a theme.

The term ballet traces its name roots in the Italian word “balleto”, which is a variation of another Italian word, “balle”, which means “dance”.

Oxford Languages dictionary even traces it up to its Latin name root, “ballare”, meaning, “to dance”.

Ballet History

If it sounds like a really old dance form, that’s because IT IS an old dance form.

Classical ballet originated in Renaissance Italy, back when it was still used as court entertainment. It was taught to Italian noblemen and women at a time when dancing and music were an important part of the festive and extravagant celebrations of the royalty. 

This dance form came to France in the 16th Century when an Italian noblewoman named Catherine de Medici married King Henry II, who was an avid patron of the arts. The royal couple funded ballet in the French court, which marked the start of its development.

Around the 17 century, King Louis XIV further popularized the dance when he founded the Académie Royale de Danse ballet school.  He assigned Jean-Baptiste Lully as the director of the Paris Opera, which eventually led to the creation of the Paris Opera Ballet.

By 1681, the first ballerinas made their debut on stage. 

The art of ballet caught on, and Europe did not hesitate to welcome it.

It spread to Russia and Denmark, and other European countries. The introduction of ballet to Russia gave birth to famous performances like Swan Lake and the Nut Cracker, which were seen on the stages of Russian theaters.

The influence of ballet continued to grow.

What started as a dance form fully dependent on aristocratic money transformed into a mesmerizing artistic performance that is not dependent on royal courts anymore.

As different countries and cultures embraced ballet, it developed different types, each having its own unique identity.

Types of Ballet

1. Classical Ballet

Full Orchestra? Check.

Story-type narratives? Check.

Intricate costumes and set design? Check.

This is classical ballet and more.

Classical ballet is one of the earliest - if not the earliest - types of ballet. A classical performance usually features a full orchestra, accompanying set design, elaborate costumes, and story-driven dance narratives. Some of the most well-loved performances, like Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, and The Nutcracker, are classical ballets.

2. Romantic Ballet

Don’t we all love tutus?

Well, this is all thanks to the Romantic Ballet.

Birthed in the Romantic era in the 19th century, Romantic Ballet highlights intense drama, emotions, and lyricism in its performance. If you love to see pointe work and the popular tutus costumes of ballerinas, you should know that these notable ballet aspects were popularized by this type of ballet. An example of this is La Sylphide.

3. Neoclassical Ballet

Tired of overly-dramatized ballet performances?

Neoclassical ballet may just be your thing.

It started in the 1920s, and it was born as a reaction to romanticism. It was primarily introduced by George Balanchine, a renowned ballet master. While the classical and romantic ballets emphasized intense dramatic performances and well-adorned costumes and stages, the neoclassical type has no formal costumes, scenery, or plot. It does away with the formality of traditional ballet so that you can incorporate modern choreographies, techniques, and music. 

The result?

Strong performances highlighting athleticism.

Here is George Balanchine’s Serenade:

4. Contemporary Ballet

Combine classical ballet techniques with modern experimental styles and what do you get?

Contemporary ballet.

Contemporary ballet is related to the neoclassical ballet style since they both involve faster tempo and much athleticism. The brainchild of this style is William Forsythe.

With contemporary ballet, dancers usually perform barefooted, and dance styles involve more leg turn-ins and floor work.

Here is William Forsythe’s The Second Detail:

Besides these four types, there are also unique training methods that evolved out of these styles.

Ballet Evolution: The 4 More Technical Training Methods

  1. The Vaganova Method

The Vaganova method combines the French ballet romantic style, the Italian ballet athleticism, and the Russian ballet dramatic flair. A dancer trained in the Vaganova method executes a strong, clean, and soft performance.

  1. Cecchetti Method

This method of training was developed by Enrico Cecchetti, an Italian ballet dancer. It highlights anatomy and maximizes the use of the whole body when dancing. Dancers of the Cecchiti method follow a rigorous exercise regimen to execute perfect balance and poise while still maintaining soft and fluid movements. 

  1. The Bournonville Method

Developed by Royal Danish Ballet Company choreographer August Bournville, this method of training screams romantic style. The movements are very technical but appear effortless to the eyes. The Bournonville Method emphasizes musicality and fluidity combined with romantic expressions. 

  1. Royal Academy of Dance Method (RAD)

This combines Danish, French, Russian and Italian methods. It originated from the Royal Academy of Dance, a ballet school in England. It has heavy influences from the classical type of ballet and highlights poise and perfection.

How to Learn Ballet Dance

Want to learn ballet dance?

Well, at least you don’t have to be an aristocrat before you can do a Pirouette!

Now, you can practice ballet basics whatever your age and wherever you are.

Here are tips if you want to start dancing ballet:

  1. Choose an area where you can freely dance.

Before learning how to ballet dance, you have to make sure that you can practice in an area where you can freely move.

Believe me when I say that the last thing you want is bumping your toe on a leg table. Remove any items that can hinder your movements. So if you are going to dance in the living room, make sure to move the chairs and coffee table.

  1. Find something sturdy to lean as a ballet barre alternative.

The only time that you need a chair or a table around in your practice area is when you need a ballet barre when practicing your movements. Not everyone can afford to buy a ballet barre, so a sturdy table or a wooden chair propped against a wall can be great alternatives.

  1. You don’t have to buy pointe shoes yet.

Beginner in ballet? Don’t get those pointe shoes yet!

If you are still learning how to ballet dance, you just need your ballet shoes at first. You will be doing basic poses and a lot of barre work, so you can put your pointe dreams away for now.

  1. Start with the basics.

Before you go ballet pro in a snap. You have to learn the basics first.

Start with basic feet positions. Learn basic ballet arm positions for beginners. Remember, before you can do that, Rose Adagio, you first have to do a lot of basic feet and arm movements. And I mean, A LOT. Practice makes perfect, right?

  1. Enroll in ballet classes.

It’s the 21st century, people!

It’s the time when you can learn anything Online - ballet included.

There’s no stopping you from enrolling in ballet classes or learning independently. 

Where to learn ballet dance, you may ask? Here are some options you can check out:

  • Local Studios

If you want to learn ballet, going to a local studio near you seems to be the most logical thing to do. 

If you are the type who prefers a face-to-face tutorial with a group, this is for you. But learning this in a local studio comes with a price - literally. If you are doing ballet as a hobby, dance studios charge anywhere around $20 - $40 per session. For pre-professional lessons, the tuition fee can go as high as $500 to $6000.

  • Private Lessons

If learning one-on-one gives you peace of mind and allows you to learn faster, you can opt for a private ballet lesson instead. 

Ballet teachers charge by the hour, and you can spend around $50 / hour or more depending on the level of expertise of your instructor.

  • Youtube Classes

If you are just interested in knowing the bare basics, you can practice ballet moves with everyone’s favorite online instructor - Youtube. 

Youtube is also a useful resource if you want to find videos on what to prepare before starting ballet.

Here are some useful Youtube Videos classes you can check out if you want to learn ballet dance:

Online Ballet Class by the Dutch National Ballet

60-minute Ballet Class by Pacific Northwest Ballet

Ballet Class by the English National Ballet

  • Enroll in online dance studios

If you don’t have the budget to enroll in a formal dance studio, you can start by attending online dance studio classes.

Online dance studios allow you to learn ballet at your own pace, anywhere. That means you can practice those graceful ballerina moves at your own pace at home or anywhere. 

When looking for an online dance studio, choose one that can help you set your dance goal, give you guided classes, and offers reputable instructors.

Get an online dance studio that makes learning easier. We are here to help. STEEZY Studio - an online dance platform, gives members the option to rewind tutorial videos and even set them to slow speed so learners can follow each move. 

Ballet Choreography Videos

Ready to test out your ballet moves?

Here are some recommended choreography videos for beginners that you can try.

  1. Sugar Plum From the Nutcracker

Want to dance to Sugar Plum from The Nutcracker? Then get excited!

In this video, you can learn the choreography of Sugar Plum using basic ballet steps:

Intro to ballet

About Brittany: Brittany Cavaco is the lead ballet instructor in STEEZY Studio’s Ballet Program. She is an American Professional Ballet Dancer affiliated with the English National Ballet, LA Ballet, and The Washington Ballet. When not teaching ballet classes at STEEZY Studio, Brittany is busy inspiring people of all ages to start their own ballet dance journey.

  1. Disney Themed Playlist

Have you dreamed of dancing ballet to your favorite Disney songs? You’re in for a treat!

Show off your elegant basic ballet moves as you dance along to some beloved Disney songs.

Disney Themed Playlist Balley Class

  1. Aurora’s Wedding - Act III

If you are a beginner, dancing to an act from Sleeping Beauty can be intimidating. The good news is, you CAN do it!

Learn how you can dance Aurora’s Wedding - Act III in this video:

Aurora's Wedding - Act III Ballet Class

About Katie: Katie Rose Cunin is a ballet dancer and passionate instructor from San Francisco, California. She has experience in coaching students at the EDGE Performing Arts Center, Millennium Dance Complex, and AMDA College and Conservatory. Want to see another side of Katie? See her on MTV's Awkward and Scandal!

Ballet is For You!

Yes, you can learn ballet today.

You’re just a click away from doing the ballet performance of your dreams.

We invite you to come to join us and sign up with STEEZY’s Ballet Dance Class now.