If you take an interest in ballet, you will quickly run across the term ‘ballet company’. In fact, some of the most famous performances around the world are put on by a particular ballet company. But what does the term really mean, and which are the best around the world?
Ballet company basics
A ballet company is a group of dancers along with their managerial and support staff that tend to operate on a year-round schedule. Each company tends to have a home theatre where most of their performances are held and also tour around different locations. Many ballet companies also have training schools where they prepare the next generation of ballet dancers.
The head of the company is called the artistic director. These are often former dancers who choreograph some of the productions and is in charge of deciding what productions the company will offer. Alongside the director will be a support staff. There are also usually ballet masters or mistresses who oversee the daily coaching of the dancer and there may also be a resident choreographer.
Top ballet companies
Some of the most famous productions around the world are associated with certain ballet companies and the theatres that they use. Here are some of the most famous.
The Bolshoi Ballet is one of the most well-known ballet companies based in the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. It was founded in 1776 and is one of the oldest in the world. It is also one of the largest with over 220 dancers ranked in a hierarchical system that is common in many older ballet companies.
Paris Opera Ballet
The Paris Opera Ballet is the oldest national ballet company, founded in 1669, and is one of the four top companies around the world. There are over 150 dancers performing around 180 dances a year, mostly at the Palais Garnier.
Cuban National Ballet
The Cuban National Ballet was founded in 1948 by Alicia Alonso, the countries prima ballerina abbsoluta. It is based in the Alicia Alonso Great Theatre of Havana and incorporates a uniquely Cuban dance style.
The Australian Ballet is a company founded in 1962 by British dancer Dame Peggy van Praggh. It is based in the Primrose Potter Australian Ballet Centre in Melbourne. The company performs around 200 times a year and is one of the busiest companies.
La Scala Theatre Ballet
La Scala Theatre Ballet company is the classic ballet company based in la Scala, Milan. It was founded in 1778 and has many famous dancers associated with it including Mara Geleazzi and Carla Fracci.
The Royal Ballet
The Royal Ballet is the largest of the UK’s four ballet companies and is based in the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, London. It was founded in 1931 by Dame Ninette de Valois and was granted royal charter in 1956.
National Ballet of Canada
The National Ballet of Canada was founded in 1951 by Celia Franca and Julia Bondy. It is based in Toronto in the Four Seasons Centre.
Local Ballet Schools
One thing all these ballet companies have in common is that all their dancers at one time of another started to learn to dance in a local ballet school, often one with good links to performance opportunities so dancers can hone their skills. Jade Harrison School of Dance in North Tyneside is one of these types of ballet schools, offering excellent ballet lessons along with a range of opportunities to perform and build on those ballet skills.