Considered the most sophisticated and graceful form of dance, ballet has exerted a profound influence on the global dance industry. Several companies, with their creation, have left indelible marks on the history and development of ballet until now.
Here is a list of the best ballet companies in the world that you may be interested in as a balletomane. For each company, its brief history and how it made a unique impact on the ballet industry will be demonstrated.
Table of Contents
- Top 10 Best Ballet Companies In The World
- 1. Paris Opera Ballet – Oldest ballet company in the world (From 1669)
- 2. American Ballet Theatre – Best ballet company in America
- 3. The Royal Ballet – One of the most prestigious ballet companies in the world
- 4. Mariinsky Ballet
- 5. Royal Danish Ballet
- 6. La Scala Theatre Ballet
- 7. Dutch National Ballet
- 8. New York City Ballet
- 9. The Australian Ballet
- 10. National Ballet of Canada
- 11. Bolshoi Ballet – Best Russian ballet company
- 12. Joffrey Ballet
- 13. Cuban National Ballet (Ballet Nacional de Cuba)
- 14. Joburg Ballet
- 15. Alonzo King LINES Ballet
- Final Words
Top 10 Best Ballet Companies In The World
1. Paris Opera Ballet – Oldest ballet company in the world (From 1669)
The Paris Opera Ballet (POB) is one of the oldest, most famous, and iconic ballet companies on the planet. This Parisian company has a rich history and is the origin of the Romantic Ballet marked by the art of lustful and intimate choreography.
POB is the pinnacle and pride of French ballet culture that has been passed down since the reign of Louis XVI. Its birth dates back to the foundation of the Academie Royale de Danse in 1661.
Louis XIV loved ballet as a child and is famous for appearing in numerous productions. His nickname ‘Sun King’ comes from his appearance as the sun god Apollo in ‘Ballet de la Nuit’.
He founded the Royal Academy of Dance – the first dance institution in the West. At that time, the academy had 13 ballet masters selected by the king himself, including Pierre Beauchamp – the creator of the five basic positions of ballet. Thanks to this, ballet, which was merely court entertainment for the aristocrats, developed into a professional artist for the populace.
The company dominated the European ballet industry throughout the 18th century, but its leadership faded by the mid-19th century as ballet’s popularity spread, particularly in Russia.
In 1983, Rudolf Nureyev became the company’s director, reviving not only its reputation on the international stage but also the careers of several young dancers regarded as sacred monsters of dance, such as Sylvie Guillem.
Today, the Paris Opera Ballet consists of about 154 dancers and 17 of whom achieve the highest rank of a dancer as Danseurs étoiles.
2. American Ballet Theatre – Best ballet company in America
Based in New York’s Metropolitan Opera House, the American Ballet Theatre (also known as ABT) is one of the best ballet companies in America and a leading representative of classical ballet worldwide.
ABT was established in 1939 by co-founders Richard Pleasant and Lucia Chase. It goes on a tour throughout the United States every year and runs the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School. Despite its short history, the company is still recognized by the US Congress as a “National Treasure of America”.
From 2009 to the present, Alexei Ratmansky, who was formerly the artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet, has been working as an exclusive choreographer for the American Ballet Theatre.
The name of this company is synonymous with classics, beauty, and illustriousness. It produces some of the most stunning ballets of the twentieth century and never fails to bring the finest in dance to the international audience.
3. The Royal Ballet – One of the most prestigious ballet companies in the world
When it comes to the best ballet dance companies in the world, The Royal Ballet is also a household name. Legendary ballerinas Margot Fonteyn and Moira Shearer, choreographers Frederick Ashton, Robert Helpmann, Kenneth MacMillan, and John Cranko play a pivotal role in the tradition of The Royal Ballet.
Ninette de Valois, an Irish dancer and choreographer who worked as a soloist for Diaghilev’s ballet, organized the Vic-Wells Ballet and founded the North London “Sadler’s Wells Theatre” in 1931. In 1957, the British Royal Family allowed this private dance company to use the name “Royal Ballet” in recognition of its great contribution to the British ballet.
Currently, The Royal Ballet is based at the Royal Opera House in London’s gorgeous Covent Garden. Considered the representative ballet company in England, it is trying to differentiate basic skills by specializing in turns and jumps in ballet techniques.
Classic ballets such as “Swan Lake”, “Sleeping Beauty” and dramatic ballets like “Hamlet”, “Cinderella”, and “Romeo and Juliet” were successfully performed by The Royal Ballet and left the audience speechless.
4. Mariinsky Ballet
The Mariinsky Ballet, formerly known as the Kirov, is widely recognized as one of the biggest ballet companies in the world. This legendary company from Russia has amazed audiences across the globe with its stunning and powerful performances.
The company has got its fame for an extensive repertoire of both classic and contemporary ballets. And a core of dance artists has allowed it to dominate the stage for more than two centuries.
The Mariinsky dancers are professionals and students from some of Russia’s most prestigious academies, making it a unique combination that can’t be found elsewhere.
Some of the world-renowned choreographers that can be named here are Marius Petipa, George Balanchine, and Mikhail Fokine. This makes the Mariinsky Ballet to be one of the greatest ballet troupes in existence.
Whether you’re a fan of classical or contemporary ballet styles, you’re sure to appreciate the sheer artistry and creativity that Mariinsky brings to every performance.
Some classical ballets of the Mariinsky Ballet company are Apollo, Carnaval, In the Night, Symphony in C, etc.
5. Royal Danish Ballet
Founded in 1748, the Royal Danish Ballet is one of the oldest and most famous ballet companies in the world.
It has inspired generations of dancers and choreographers, as well as had a major influence on the development of classical ballet. It is based out of the famed Royal Theater in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Audiences can enjoy an amazing variety of repertoire that showcases the exquisite technical skill and artistry of its world-class dancers.
The Royal Danish Ballet is best known for preserving traditional works by acclaimed choreographers like August Bournonville. Also, it performs commissions from new voices like John Neumeier. Its prestige continues to attract talented dancers from around the globe, making it a must-see for any ballet fan.
Some classical ballets of the Royal Danish Ballet are Giselle: Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, The Sleeping Beauty, etc.
6. La Scala Theatre Ballet
La Scala Theatre Ballet is an Italian-based company. It is known as one of the best European ballet companies and has been entertaining audiences for over 240 years.
Its productions showcase some of the finest dancers in Europe with a season that features both classical ballet and modern works.
La Scala boasts a grand theatre with three levels – orchestra, dress circle, and third tier – that provides an elegant venue for the performances.
In addition to its finely-honed technique, La Scala caters to audiences with exquisite costumes, set pieces, and ambiance that capture the audience’s imagination. The company performs all year round, making it easy for you to see some truly amazing shows without going too far from home.
Some classical ballets of La Scala Theatre Ballet: Giselle, Swan lake, The Taming of the Shrew, Carmen, Onegin, Theme and Variations, etc.
7. Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Ballet was founded in 1961 by dancer/choreographer Toer van Schayk. It has entertained millions throughout Europe and beyond for generations, with several hundred works from classic to contemporary productions.
The ballet company provides its national and international audiences with an extraordinary experience. This has become synonymous with unique theatrical moments and inspiring artistic discovery.
Acclaimed soloists like Beazaar Maureen Mooren, Timothy van Poucke, Chiara Tocca, and countless others make up the highly trained ensemble of dancers. They consistently impress with their dramatic ability and intricate choreography.
Thanks to those outstanding talents and meticulous art direction, the Dutch National Ballet remains one of the world’s best ballet companies to this day.
Some classical ballets of Dutch National Ballet: Ballet Bubbles, Messa Da Requiem, Swan Lake, Back To Ballet, Etc.
8. New York City Ballet
New York City Ballet (NYCB) is an iconic part of the Big Apple, bringing some of the world’s most breathtaking and innovative classical ballet to audiences since its formation in 1948.
NYCB never fails to leave audiences breathless. It has over 90 dancers, a live orchestra, and routines that range from neo-classical works by George Balanchine to pieces created by today’s up-and-coming choreographers.
NYCB is one of the highest-paying ballet companies in the world. Its extensive roster of dancers enjoys competitive salaries. At the top end, principal dancers can earn more than $200,000 a year, in addition to benefits such as health insurance, vacation and travel expenses, and access to state-of-the-art training and rehearsal facilities.
Some classical ballets of New York City Ballet: The Sleeping Beauty, Symphony in C, The Nutcracker, etc.
9. The Australian Ballet
The Australian Ballet is a classical ballet company based in Melbourne, Australia. It was founded in 1962 by artistic director Dame Peggy van Praagh – the predecessor of the Borovansky Ballet which follows the flow of Russian ballet. This is the only ballet company to own a woman chief conductor as well.
In comparison with prestigious ballet companies with over 200-year history like the Paris Opera Ballet and the Bolshoi Ballet, the Australian Ballet is a relatively new name. However, it is one of the busiest ballet companies with around 180 performances on an annual basis.
Today, it has up to 80 exceptional dancers and mainly performs at the Melbourne State Theater and the Sydney Opera House. In addition, the Australian Ballet’s performances also take place in Paris, London, and international cities like New York, Moscow, Athens, Prague, Singapore, Tokyo, Taiwan, and Shanghai.
The attitude of “respecting tradition but not afraid of challenges” led to the company’s innovative hybrid stages that combine classical ballet with modern commissions while the original Australian style is still maintained.
10. National Ballet of Canada
The National Ballet of Canada is another familiar name to ballet enthusiasts. Founded in 1951 in Toronto, Ontario, the National Ballet of Canada is a world-class ballet company inspired by the Royal Ballet in England.
The founder of the company is Celia Franca – one of the great ballerinas who performed as a prima donna on stage until the age of 60. It tours in Canada and internationally with the most powerful expansion by strengthening human exchange, guest directing, and interactive performances.
Currently, the National Ballet of Canada is the only company in Canada that performs various traditional full-length classics. The company’s repertoire comprises productions by the most celebrated masters in the 20th and 21st century, such as Rudolf Nureyev, Frederick Ashton, and Wayne McGregor.
The company cherishes the classical works, but it also encourages the creation of new ballets, as well as focuses on local choreographers. Myriads of the audience come to admire brilliant ballet dancers that make up this premier dance company of the whole country.
11. Bolshoi Ballet – Best Russian ballet company
“Bolshoi” is a Russian word meaning “big” or “grand”. Established in 1776, the Bolshoi Ballet is one of the oldest ballet companies worldwide. It is based in the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, Russia.
Russian ballet is highly regarded around the world. Ballet, which started in Italy, was reborn as a large and dynamic art in the United States, but in Russia, it was reborn as a sophisticated and beautiful art.
The best repertoire of the Bolshoi Ballet with a tradition of 240 years is “Swan Lake”. Russian composer Tchaikovsky created a number of prima donnas and made it a pillar repertoire of the Russian ballet.
Leading with a colorful and bold performance style, the Bolshoi Ballet remains one of the most sought-after ballet companies in Europe and the world.
Outstanding dancers who can perform numerous domestic and international performances are mainly produced through the Moscow State Academy of Choreography affiliated with the Bolshoi Ballet.
Among the Bolshoi members who are presenting high-level thoughts, emotions, and actions to the Soviet people and ballet fans around the world, many of them received the title of “People’s Artist” – the highest honor as a Soviet artist, making the name “Bolshoi” even more popular and shining.
12. Joffrey Ballet
Joffrey Ballet is one of the principal American dance companies, based in Chicago, Illinois. It was originally founded in 1956 as a tour dance company and based in New York before moving to Chicago in 1995.
This company regularly performs both classical and modern ballets, such as “Romeo and Juliet” and “The Nutcracker”. It is also famous for reconstructing Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” in 1987 by reconstructing the choreography at the premiere of 1913 which was said to have been lost.
In addition to the founders Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino, many choreographers namely Twyla Tharp, Paul Taylor, and George Balanchine have contributed works to Joffrey Ballet.
With a history of over 50 years, the company has built up a uniquely American dance style. Not only does it embrace both classic and modern dance but it also cultivates a group of gifted dancers regardless of body type and race.
The Joffrey Ballet has made ballet more accessible to the American public as the first dance company to perform at the White House, the first classical dance company to make use of multimedia, and the first to appear on American television.
13. Cuban National Ballet (Ballet Nacional de Cuba)
The Cuban National Ballet stands out in contemporary Spanish culture. The strict artistry and technique of the dancers and the breadth and diversity of the choreographer’s aesthetic concepts gave the company an important status.
The company was founded in 1948 when the legendary prima donna and choreographer Alicia Alonso was still active. From an early age, her artistic lines began to be about romantic and classical traditions. She respectfully stimulated the creative work of choreographers who searched and laid out lines along with the country.
The advent of the revolution in 1959 marked a new beginning for Cuban ballet. That year, as a new cultural program, the company was reorganized under the name of National Ballet of Cuba and has spawned a diverse repertoire since then.
It is a craze that promotes the development of new dancers, choreographers, professors, and other creators. While preserving the traditional repertoire elaborately, the most important works of contemporary dance encourage an active dance movement.
14. Joburg Ballet
Joburg Ballet may be among the youngest ballet companies on this list, but it is the leading representative when talking about ballet in Africa. Previously referred to as the South African Ballet Theatre, Joburg Ballet is Johannesburg’s professional ballet company.
It was established in 2001 when six dancers gathered to build a company and present performances. Despite being a registered charity institution because of lack of funds, Joburg Ballet is still a dreamland for ballet lovers.
Joburg Ballet is based at the Joburg Theatre and possesses permanent, exceptional dancers who are proficient in both classical ballet and contemporary dance. Originally based at the State Theatre Pretoria, it embarked on a long and arduous road to becoming an active part of the country’s culture.
The company made its name for developing young dancers regardless of background and approaching classic ballet in a modern way. With the aim of adding South African flavor to the classics, it has created innovative productions and received much love and affection from the audience.
15. Alonzo King LINES Ballet
Founded in 1982 and named after its founder Alonzo King, Alonzo King LINES Ballet is at the forefront of artistic innovation in ballet. Unlike most companies on the list that earn their reputation for classical ballets, this San Francisco-based company is a contemporary ballet one.
The choreographer Alonzo King understands ballet as a science with its own principles, so he used its classical forms and techniques to cultivate a new language of movement, to transcend traditional ballet.
Furthermore, he actively collaborated with artists from various cultures and disciplines, which complies with the company’s dedication to exploring movement from a global perspective.
Today, this company offers a professional training program, a joint BFA program with an affiliated university, and other educational pursuits.
Most of these greatest ballet companies have been around for ages. They all celebrated diverse aspects of ballet and play a vital role in helping ballet grow in prominence over the years.
If you want to become an excellent ballerina or simply among millions of audiences to enjoy world-class ballet performances, we hope that this list may give you much inspiration.
2 thoughts on “Top 10 Best Ballet Companies In The World”
I was expecting to see the Mariinski on this list.