What is Ballet?

Five Things About Ballet

  1. Ballet dancers must train for many years and learn a very specific technique before they are ready to perform onstage for audiences.
  2. Ballet has been around for a very long time! It began around the year 1500 in Italy.
  3. Classical ballet was formed in the court of King Louis XIV in France in the 17th century, who was named the Sun King based on a role he danced. 

  4. King Louis XIV created the first ballet company and called it Paris Opéra Ballet. It still exists today!
  5. The formula for traditional classical ballet: Dancing + Drama + Décor + Music = Classical Ballet. 

What to Know About Pointe Shoes

  • Developed in the early 19th century, pointe shoes are worn by ballet dancers so they can dance on the tips of their toes. 
  • Pointe shoes look just like slippers and are made from layers of canvas, glue and hard leather to help support the foot. The outside of the shoe is covered with pink satin that is sometimes dyed to match the dancer’s skin or the design of the costume. 

  • To keep the shoe on tightly, dancers sew satin ribbons to it and tie them securely around their ankles.
  • Sweat and body heat soften pointe shoes and, at a certain point, they can no longer be used. Dancers can go through one pair of pointe shoes in a single performance! 
  • Male dancers do not usually wear pointe shoes, However some ballets such as Sir Frederick Ashton’s The Dream, require male dancers to wear them. 


What is Stage Hair and Makeup?

  • Dancers wear stage makeup to enhance their facial features or turn them into a specific characters.
  • Dancers can wear wigs, false noses, eyelashes and moustaches to get into character.
  • At The National Ballet of Canada, the dancers learn to apply their own makeup before every performance. 
  • In some cases, hair and makeup can take up to 2 hours to apply!

Where Do Tutus Come From?

A tutu is a special kind of skirt the dancers wear. The first tutus were floor length gowns with heavy decorations worn in the royal courts in the 15th and 16th centuries. But these were very big and heavy, making it hard for the dancers to move. 

In the early 1800s, with the introduction of the pointe shoe and the creation of many fairy tales about nymphs and other worldly creatures, the Romantic tutu became popular. This tutu comes just below the dancers’ knees and is dreamy and ethereal but also allows them to move more freely. 

As ballet technique developed, becoming more complicated and challenging, the tutu was shortened to just above the knee. This bell-shaped tutu is known as a Classical tutu. It was much easier for dancers to perform in and the audience could see the positions of the legs and the dazzling footwork.


Choreographers and costume designers in the 21st century now choose costumes which best suit the purpose of their ballets. This means that depending on the ballet, you may see a Romantic tutu, a Classical tutu or no tutus at all!


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