Ballet was first introduced to the world in the fifteenth century Italian Renaissance courts. Years later, a wealthy Italian woman, Catherine de Medici, wife of King Henry II of France, became a huge fan of the art form. She began to finance the ballet in the French court. It quickly grew in popularity, and now it is one of the most refined art forms found throughout the world. Cities around the world revere their ballet schools, theaters, and companies.
Unfortunately, in such a competitive space, only some can be called the best and here they are…
PS: this month of March is Women’s History Month! Join us as we honor women’s accomplishments in the performing arts with 3 select shows to stream – and for only $1 each! Learn more here.
#12 – Royal Danish School of Ballet – Kongens Nytorv, Copenhagen, Denmark
Operating for more than two centuries, the Royal Danish Theatre Ballet School is one of the longest-standing ballet schools Europe has to offer. Still, with all those years behind it, the Royal Danish School of Ballet never grows stale. Every new year sixty to seventy young and gifted ballet dancers train for an elite education in ballet. Most of the dancers in the Royal Danish Ballet are from the school so it stands to reason that the competition would be steep. This school was founded under the direction of Pierre Laurent, the French ballet teacher in 1771.
#11 – The Sunhwa Arts High School – Seoul, South Korea
Founded in 1974 this Asian dance school has been producing international ballet stars on a regular basis. So much so it earns a spot higher than a school founded nearly two hundred years earlier. The high standard this high school imposes on its students is the reason why so many of its graduates excel. While the ballet school is based in South Korea, they utilize Russian techniques mixed with extreme stretching. Many of their female graduates dance with an associate company of the Universal Ballet of Korea.
#10 – The Juilliard School of Dance – New York, New York, United States of America
Playing host to some of the most talented youth in the world, Juilliard first opened its doors in 1905, and since then its name has become synonymous with excellence in artistic achievement. Founded by Dr. Frank Damrosch as the Institute of Musical Art. Dr. Damrosch wanted to ensure American musicians an opportunity to study in an advanced setting without having to leave the country. The response was tremendous and the first year’s enrollment exceeded their expected numbers five times over. Unable to hold all those students the school expanded and moved in 1910 toward Columbia University. In 1924, when Augustus Juilliard passed on, he left his textile fortune to the school, and thus the Juilliard Graduate School was founded in 1924. The dance division was not established until 1951. Since then Juilliard has maintained its reputation as one of the world’s finest musical institutions.
#9 – National Ballet of Canada’s School (NBS) – Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Betty Oliphant and Celia Franca founded this ballet school in the northernmost country in North America in 1959. It has become one of the world’s leading schools for those who desire a life of ballet dancing or teaching ballet. They boast themselves as the only ballet school in Canada with an internationally influential training program. National Ballet of Canada’s School is the finest ballet training Canada has to offer and the institution churns out graduates who almost always wind up dancing in ballet companies across the globe. Primarily they move on to the National Ballet of Canada.
#8 – San Francisco Ballet School – San Francisco, California, United States of America
Founded in 1933 the San Francisco Ballet School is the oldest in the United States. It was established along with the San Francisco Operatic and Ballet School. Adolph Bolm was the founding director, and he opened the doors to offer an education in ballet, tap, modern, and interpretive dance. Originally located in the William Taylor Hotel some classes were held in Berkeley, Burlingame, Oakland, and other surrounding areas. Since its inception, San Francisco has consistently been considered the ballet hub of the West Coast. For some time now the San Francisco Ballet School has been training some of the world’s best ballet dancers. Many famous ballet dancers have attended their summer intensive program.
#7 – The Australian Ballet School – Southbank, Victoria, Australia
Dame Margaret Scott founded this ballet school in 1964 as a part of the Australian Ballet Centre located in the Melbourne Arts Precinct. This school is the first step for any Australian that would like to dance the ballet with the Australian Ballet Company. This school celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in 2014. Their mission is to “be at the forefront, internationally, as providers of unique, professional dance training” programs. According to their website, they not only focus on excellence in ballet and dance but hold their students to a high moral standard as well.
#6 – La Escuela National de Danza – Havana, Cuba
One of our newer schools this ballet academy was founded in 1998 under the direction of Alicia Alonso. Today their instructors are members and professors from the National Ballet of Cuba. Their mission is to allow their pupils to strengthen their practice of classical techniques and other styles and incorporate them with the passion of Cuban ballet. They put a huge emphasis on Latin American culture in this particular ballet institution.
#5 – The John Cranko School – Stuttgart, Germany
In 1961 John Cranko settled in Stuttgart with the idea to start a ballet institution. He dreamed of a place where the gifted youth of the world would study with the Ballet Company of the State Theatre Stuttgart. In 1971 the John Cranko school opened up to accept its first pupils. This German dance school is considered one of the best places to train in ballet in the whole world. This is where dancers go after a big win to sharpen their skills. Once their training is complete, they move on to the Company of the State Theatre or other prestigious ballet schools and companies.
#4 – The School of American Ballet – New York City, New York, United States
George Balanchine founded this famous ballet school in 1934. He brought with him the dedication to perfection he learned at the Imperial Ballet School when he trained there. Balanchine also knew that any successful ballet academy had to be closely associated with a prestigious ballet company. He felt it was time to create a chief ballet troupe in the United States. That is how the New York City Ballet was formed. The initial intention of The School of American Ballet was to train dancers for the ballet company.
#3 – Royal Ballet School – London, England
Dame Ninette de Valois founded this ballet-training program in 1926 as the Academy of Choreographic Art. Like the others before, she was inspired to start a ballet company and an accompanying school so she could train dancers for the company. She partnered up with Lilian Baylis who obtained the Sadler’s Wells Theatre, and the school took up residence in the theater in 1931 where it was dubbed The Vic-Wells Ballet School that would feed dancers into the Vic-Wells Ballet Company. In 1939 both were renamed Sadler’s Wells Ballet School and Company respectively. Finally, in 1946 the ballet moved to the Royal Opera House. Since its inception, Royal Ballet School in London is considered one of the top three schools to obtain the most excellent training in the art of ballet.
#2 – The Vaganova School – St. Petersburg, Russia
This Russian school dates back to 1738 when it was established as the Imperial Theatrical School. Jean-Baptiste, a French master of ballet, was the first director. Their first year of enrollment consisted of twelve boys and twelve girls. Again, this school was started, like the others, to create a professional dance company in Russia. Famous dancers of the 19th century that either trained there or became teachers include Mikhail Fokine, Jules Perrot, and Charles Didelot.
Once Lenin died in 1924, St. Petersburg became Leningrad, and the Imperial Ballet School was closed by order of the new government. They also disbanded the Imperial Russian Ballet. A new company was born under the name of Soviet Ballet. In 1957 the Leningrad State Choreographic School, which was established in 1920, was renamed Vaganova School for Agrippina Vaganova who was influential in the expansion of contemporary Russian Ballet. This school has a long history of producing top-notch ballet dancers.
#1 – The Paris Opera Ballet School – Paris, France
In the 1713 Louis XIV founded the ballet institution that deservedly holds the top position of our list. At first, children were not meant to attend, it was a school strictly for adults. That soon changed, seven years later they formed the first regulations that would enable children to learn ballet at the school. Four years after that Louis XVI enlarges the school’s repertoire-allowing enrollment of children under the age of twelve. His belief was that the younger dancer start, the better they can hone their abilities for the ballet company. By the end of the Romantic period, the school was struggling. Still, Parisians realized how important the school was and it remained intact due to generous donations. This ballet school has been educating the world’s finest ballet dancers for more than three centuries. It supplies dancers to the world oldest ballet company, The Paris Opera Ballet. It has remained in the top three slots as best ballet education in the world and from what we can tell; it isn’t going down anytime soon.