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Styles and Methods of Ballet

Rachel Oommen ballerina, Ballet, Education, history, style 1 Comment

Ballet has evolved immensely over the course of the last 500 years. Starting off as court performances in Italy with basic technique, it is now performed  worldwide in various styles. Here’s a little history and background on the style variations in ballet.

In the 15th century, in the midst of cultural revival and transition to modernity in Europe, known as the Italian Renaissance, ballet was born in the regal courts of Italy. Since then ballet has adopted different methods and artistic variations. In today’s context dancers training to become professionals have to be equipped in both classical ballet and its derivatives.

What are the different styles of ballet?

Classical tutu

Classical tutu

Classical ballet:

Classical ballet is usually differentiated according to its geographic origin, examples of this are Russian, French and Italian styles of classical ballet. The classical style follows a specific training method with traditional technique and vocabulary. It set the foundation for the various styles and methods that emerged after the 16th century. Remarkable choreographers in their time, who are now considered ballet legends, were trained in the classical style. They created their own methods of training which are utilised even now in many professional dance schools. Choreographer George Balanchine and the Balanchine method, Italian dancer Enrico Cecchetti with the Cecchetti method and Russian ballerina Agrippina Vaganova with the Vaganova method are a few familiar examples.

Romantic style tutu

Romantic style tutu

Romantic ballet:

Emerging in the 19th century, romantic ballet varies from classical ballet in terms of its artistic movement. Though the genres follow the same system of steps and methodology, differences are seen the more soft and delicate quality of romantic ballet. A shift from the typical short, classical tutus that stand out to longer flowing tutus occurred in order to achieve this quality. Romantic ballets followed themes that emphasized intense emotion and focussed on a more aesthetic experience for the audience. This era also marks the emergence of pointe work and the dominance of female roles.

Neoclassical style - Apollo

Neoclassical style – Apollo

Neoclassical ballet:

Similar in the foundational technique and vocabulary to classical ballet, the neoclassical style deviates in its use of the abstract. This style often has no clear plot, costumes or scenery in its productions. This opens up far more possibilities for the choreographers to play with diverse shapes and patterns in their pieces. Neoclassical style also gives room for a diverse choice of music other than the typical orchestral form. A leading influencer of this style of ballet was George Balanchine, who was tagged as the face of Neoclassical ballet, his piece Apollo (1928) being the first of its kind.

Contemporary ballet:

Contemporary ballet opens the doors to any dance style while still incorporating and utilising the basics of ballet technique. The defining aspect of this style is that the piece must be performed with a  foundation of ballet that is evident in the movement. It allows for a lot of experimentation and a break from the formalities of the classical style, however if a dancer’s technique in classical ballet is not firm and established it is not considered contemporary ballet, but rather a style of contemporary dance.

What is ISTD ballet ?

Here at TLFCB we follow the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing standards and syllabus with our foundation deeply rooted in classical ballet. The ISTD is a registered educational charity based in London, England. It is an internationally recognized dance education and examination board. It provides courses for dancers to become certified teachers and provides training in various dance genres.


The ISTD created their first written syllabus on Imperial Classical Ballet, the syllabus followed by us at TLFCB, in 1913 with the intent of standardising classical ballet training. It was based on the teaching of the French School from the Paris Opéra. Since then they have continuously upgraded their syllabus in accordance with the evolving needs of ballet dancers in the dance world today.

System of teaching

ISTD follows a graded system of training and assessment in order to provide a progressive education in the technique and culture of classical ballet. This curriculum aims to help the dancer achieve their learning objects while preventing injuries and acquiring a basic knowledge of the structure of the body and its limitations.  The idea behind this system of training is that the dancer must develop a complete understanding of the theory behind the movement.

This awareness and understanding is what every dancer is expected to achieve along with sound technique and performance quality. Numerous professional dance colleges today employ this training method, such as the Royal Ballet School, the National Ballet School of Canada and the Australian Ballet School.


As an examination board, the organisation provides graded exams from beginner to professional levels for dancers all over the world. In 2016 TLFCB hosted our first ISTD examinations here in Bangalore, India. The results achieved by our students were tremendous and we have hope to see our dancers excel and give their very best in the exams this year as well.

What topics on ballet and it’s roots would you like to read on this forum? Let us know in the comment section.

One response to “Styles and Methods of Ballet”

  1. siandrozario says:

    More information on the technical aspects, movements, principles etc of the Russian ballet.

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