Russian Ballet History

Did Ballet Originate in Russia?

Russian Ballet History & 7 Facts You Never Knew

Ballet is one of the most graceful art forms in the world. It combines storytelling, music, and dance to create an amazing experience. While many people know the amount of dedication and skill it takes to perform ballet, there are a lot of aspects that you might not be as familiar with. For example, did ballet originate in Russia?

Ballet first started as an art form in France. However, it rose to prominence in Russia in the 17th Century. Since then, Russia has been at the forefront of developing the techniques associated with ballet, helping to advance the evolution of the dance.

There are dozens of interesting facts about the history of ballet that you might not know. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most interesting parts of Russian ballet history.

1. Ballet Was Brought To Russia By Peter The Great

Peter the Great was responsible for bringing the ballet to Russia, after seeing it performed in France. The new art form was designed to elevate Russia’s standing in the European community, by improving their cultural contribution.

Many people wonder who introduced ballet to Russia. The answer is Peter the Great, who wanted to improve Russia’s cultural standing. The best way to do this was to impress the aristocracy. These were wealthy people who had a lot of cultural power. Increasingly, the aristocracy was looking for new forms of entertainment.

Ballet proved to be something that they had never seen before. The style of dance and compelling storytelling proved to be a hit. People wanted to experience the elaborate costumes and moving performances that dance could provide. As a result, ballet quickly became a hit.

2. Elena Andreianova Convinced Marius Petipa To Join The Bolshoi company

After a dispute with the Paris Opera, Elena Andreianova was able to convince famed male dancer Marius Petipa to join the Bolshoi company. This would prove to be a significant decision, as Petipa would go on to become a renowned choreographer, helping create several popular ballets.

In 1846, the Bolshoi company was touring around Europe. This tour included a range of exciting exotic locations, like Milan and Hamburg. However, things took a turn for the worst when the company arrived for their performance with the Paris Opera.

The owner of the Paris Opera refused to pay Elena Andreianova for her performance. In fact, they were insisting that she paid them a fee, as they were giving her the opportunity to perform. This caused a big dispute.

Soon, though, the Paris Opera would come to regret their decision. While in Paris, Andreianova met Marius Petipa. He was a dancer for the Paris Opera. Andreianova recognized his talent and was able to convince him to come to Russia.

Petipa agreed, leaving France for Russia. There, he would go on to have a distinguished career. He was the First Ballet Master of the Imperial Russian Theatre. He would also prove a talented choreographer. He would create over 50 ballets, including popular performances like the Nutcracker, Le Talisman, Sleeping Beauty, The Pharaoh’s Daughter, and Don Quixote.  

3. The Nutcracker Is Over 125 Years Old

The Nutcracker was first performed in the 1890s. When it first made its premiere in Russia, the production was considered a failure. Since then, though, it’s gone on to become one of the most popular ballets in the world.

The Nutcracker has become a timeless classic, watched by millions of people during the festive season each year. However, when it was first shown in Russia, the show was considered to be a failure. Sadly, famed conductor Tchaikovsky died a year after the ballet premiered. This meant he never got to see the cultural impact the production has achieved.

After it was first performed, it was dismissed as something that only children would enjoy. It wasn’t until it was staged again in 1954. Today, it’s regarded as one of the most popular holiday ballets of all time.

4. Elena Andreianova Wasn’t Always Popular

Elena Andreianova is one of the most talented ballerinas of all time, performing with the world-renowned Bolshoi ballet company for 15 years. However, when she first moved to the company, audiences took a while to accept her. They threw a dead cat onto the stage during one of her first shows.

While Elena Andreianova might be admired for her talents today, she wasn’t always so popular. When she first moved to the Bolshoi company, the audience was upset that Andreianova had taken the part of their favourite ballerina, Ekaterina Sankovskaya. They were so angry that they threw a dead cat onto the stage.

Though things might have gotten off to a rocky start, Elena Andreianova soon found her place in the Bolshoi ballet company. Even the biggest fans of Ekaterina Sankovskaya would soon come to recognize the talent that Andreianova was showcasing. Elena Andreianova would stay performing with the Bolshoi company for 15 years, earning her place as one of the most talented female ballerinas of all time.

5. Prisoner of the Caucasus Was The First Play Based On A Russian Text

The Prisoner of the Caucasus was one of the first plays to be performed that was based on a Russian text. Until this point, it had all been based on prominent European texts. This groundbreaking ballet was created by Diedlot.

One of the most important evolutions in Russian dance. At this time, the plays were al based on prominent works from foreign composers and outside tales. This changed with Charles Diedlot, who created a performance based on the popular poem Prisoner of the Caucasus by Alexander Pushkin. This was the first time that a Russian ballet had been based on a Russian work.

Today, this ballet is still performed occasionally, remembered for its contribution to the development of Russian ballet.

6. The First Russian Ballet School Was Founded In 1738

Since it was first introduced to the country in the 17th Century, ballet had been a popular attraction. To cater to students, the first ballet school was introduced in 1738. This would soon grow in popularity, occupying a significant cultural role by the 1800s.

 As we mentioned, ballet has a long history in Russia. Since it came from Italy and France, it grew increasingly popular with the people, who were entertained by the storytelling and costuming. Because of this, the first school was established in 1738. The Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet was first known as the Imperial Ballet School.

As more people started to learn the craft, it grew in popularity. Today, Russian ballet is regarded as one of the most popular forms of dance in the world. But why is ballet so important in Russia? Many believe that it’s a matter of national pride. Russians love to see their talented dancers impress the rest of the world with their technical skills and flexibility. They also place a lot of value on their skilled dancers, in the same way, that Hollywood takes pride in their skilled actors.

7. The Most Popular Classical Ballets In The World Come From Russia

Nutcracker was started in Russia. Tchaikovsky also wrote the music for the hugely popular Swan Lake. The ballet Romeo and Juliet also originated in Russia.

Today, there are many different ballets for performers to choose from. However, some works have enduring popularity. The most well-known ballets in the world come from Russia.

As we mentioned, Nutcracker is a holiday tradition, one of the most popular festive ballets of all time. Also, Swan Lake and Romeo and Juliet came from Russia. The ballet Cinderella and Don Quixote also originally started in Russia. So, if anyone asks is Russia known for ballet, simply point them to this impressive list of Russian ballets.

Final Thoughts

The history of Russian ballet is filled with exciting stories and important pivotal events. It continues to evolve, as new ballets are created, and new talents come to the forefront. However, one aspect that has never changed is the grace and beauty of this art form. Ballet remains one of the most expressive, poignant forms of dance. It’s also easy to learn. If you want your children to learn Russian ballet from a professional teacher, get in touch with us today.