Ballet is one of the many types of dance but within the category there are also different types of ballet. Some are defined by certain dances, by the eras they come from or by particular things featured within the dance. Here are some of the different types of ballet and what makes them unique.
When people talk about ballet, they are often referring to classical ballet. This is the early styles of ballet that became most popular in the 19th century in places such as France and Russia. These ballets are very story-focused and have an orchestra as well as a big focus on costumes and sets to emphasise the story. Dancers are graceful with much pointe work and symmetry.
Classic ballet examples include Swan Lake and The Nutcracker.
Romantic ballet started in the 19th century and focused greatly on the drama and emotion of the stories being told. Female dancers were dominant in these ballets with much pointe work and flowy costumes. There was a great focus on conflicts such as good and evil, beauty and ugliness and spirit and flesh.
Romantic ballet examples include Coppelia and La Sylphide.
As the name suggests, neoclassical ballet evolved from classical ballet into something a little different. It tends to be more abstract than story based with a big focus on the athletic abilities of the dancers and sometimes a little risqué physicality. Music tends to be from the same era and includes from musicians such as Stravinsky.
Neoclassical ballet examples include Astarte by Robert Joffrey.
Contemporary ballet is the point where ballet incorporates elements from other types of dance such as jazz. With bigger and swifter tempos and athletic dancers, it takes neoclassical ballet and adds acting and story lines. There are two main aims – the power of movement and the aesthetics of the body. It is often performed barefoot.
Contemporary ballet examples include ‘In the Middle’ by William Forsythe.
Technical ballet styles
As well as ballet types based on the overall style of the production and the elements in it, ballets can also be separated by the technical side of the dance. These are often associated with specific areas or places. Some examples include:
- French Method: Modern Codified Technique – has its roots in the 17th century academy created by Louis XIV, it features a lot of technical precision, gracefulness and fast footwork
- Italian style: Cecchetti Method – this developed in the early 20th century and was driven by the understanding of anatomy and its resilience and how this applies to ballet. The aim was for all parts of the body to move together to create graceful, beautiful lines
- English style: Royal Academy of Dance Method – dating to the 1920s, includes 10 grade levels to move through to complete training.
- Russian style: Vaganova Method – 20th century style that combines many elements of other styles with Romantic ballet.
- American style: Balanchine Method – focus more on the dance rather than the story or plot.
Types of ballet
Knowing the different types of ballet can help you as someone wanting to watch a production and also as someone learning the dance. Then you can find a favourite and enjoy more of the same!