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It is kind of a given that ballet got its start in Europe, like many art forms that coincide with it like symphonies and opera, although the far east has its own rich history in the genres.

While the world of ballet is almost too big on an international level to focus on at once, we decided to get a bit more precise. This little list is a compilation of ballet companies that hail from the continent of Europe.


Vienna State Ballet

This ballet company was derived from the original Vienna State Opera Ballet. The name was shortened on September 1, 2010. The opera house is where the ballet was first housed. This building dates back to the middle of the nineteenth century and is in the centre of Vienna, Austria.

It was at this renaming that the direction of the ballet company fell under Manuel Legris, a French born dancer of ballet. During his tenure there Legris had eight premieres. These productions included La Sylphide by Pierre Lacotte choreographed by Serge Lifar. He created revivals of Peter Wright’s The Sleeping Beauty, Boris Eifman’s Anna Karenina, and Rudolf Nureyev’s Don Quixote, which was choreographed by George Balanchine.

The company also produced Juwelen der Neuen Welt (Jewels of the New World), which was an acknowledgement of the contribution the United States made to world of dance in the twentieth century. This particular season closed with a grand event that honored Rudolf Nureyev, which is an annual celebration.

In 2011 Liudmila Konovalova, a ballerina hailing from Russia, was announced as the first soloist for this particular ballet company.


Royal Ballet of Flanders

This ballet company can be found in the Kingdom of Belgium in Western, Europe. Based in Antwerp, the capital of the province with the same name in the region of Flanders. As a company, the ballets they focus on fall into the genres of classical ballet, neoclassical ballet, and contemporary ballet.

The company today was first \ established in 1969 by the federal Ministry of Dutch Culture. This was following two other ballet companies that held professional status in Belgium; the Royal Ballet of Flanders and Ballet Royale de Wallonie.

Originally directing the artistic endeavors of the company was Jeanne Brabants, a dancer, choreographer, and teacher native to Belgium. Following her was Rus Valery Panov, who was born in Israel, and then Robert Denvers, a native to Antwerp.

Some of the ballets they have performed include, The Return of Ulysses, Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, Artifact, and Onegin. Shorter pieces produced by the Royal Ballet of Flanders in Belgium include Lacrimosa by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Revelry by Robert Hill, and Simulations by Jacopo Godani.


National Opera and Ballet of Bulgaria

European ballet from the National Opera & Ballet of Bulgaria

The National Opera & Ballet of Sofia, Bulgaria. © Apostoloff, 2009.

Hailed in Bulgaria as a national cultural institution, this ballet company and opera house is set in Sofia, the largest city and capital of Bulgaria. In 1890 Bulgaria founded its first opera company. It was a section of the Capital Opera and Drama Company. These two sectors would go different routes and eventually split. Then the entire thing was abandoned because there were no funds or help from the government.

Still, Bulgaria founded The Bulgarian Opera Society in 1908 and they were back on their cultural feet. In their first year they produced Pagliacci by Leoncavallo, as well as Siromahkinya by Emanuil Manolov, Kamen I Tsena by Ivan Ivanov and Václav Kaucky, Borislav by Georgi Atanasov, and Tahir Begovitsa by Dimitar Hadzhigeorgiev.

As time when by the cultural influences they were exposed to helped this company evolve. They now had a group that included a good number of soloists, a choir, orchestra, ballet, technical, and productions.

Their current building was designed in 1921 and a year later the company went national. They were renamed the National Opera and Ballet and they gave their full performance in 1928. Yet the building didn’t officially open until 1953.


National Theatre Ballet (Prague)

Founded in 1883, this ballet company is the oldest company we have discussed so far. Set in the Czech Republic its base is in Prague’s National Theatre, where they also house the drama and opera companies. While focusing primarily on works by Czech artists their repertoire includes many international pieces.

Václav Reisinger was the very first ballet master to call this company his home. His first production was Hashish in 1884. Reisinger’s successor was Augustin Berger, who would be the master twice at this company in his lifetime. Berger focused on creating a larger company by adding supporting dancers and insisting on a more expert model to strive for.

The school associated with the company was founded far before the actual ballet company. Since 1835 a formal ballet school was started in the Estates Theatre but the school of the National Theatre wasn’t established until 1883, the same year as the company.


Royal Danish Ballet

One of the best European ballet schools is located in Denmark.

The Royal Danish Ballet. © Axel Kuhlmann, 2012.

This company and school boasts some of the most acclaimed French and Italian choreographers and dancers to date. Founded in 1771 this company is even older than the last. The original plan was to provide a school and outlet for dancers native to Denmark.

Primarily a company of classical ballet, they are housed at the Royal Danish Theatre in Copenhagen. IN fact, this is one of the world’s oldest ballet companies and was actually started In 1748 but was not official until 1771.

The man they consider their father and founder is Vincenzo Galeotti, who was born in Italy but considered a Danish dancer. Galeotti served as ballet master from 1775 until 1816. He also initiated the use of ballet d’action, which is a form of dancing that involves expression of emotion through facial cues and body movements.

His insight would prepare this company for the beginning of romanticism in ballet. Galeotti is also the master who choreographed Armos og Balletmesterens Lunar, or The Whims of Cupid and the Ballet Master, which is still performed in its original version today.



This ballet company is housed in a theatre of the same name in Tartu, Estonia, a city that is considered the hub of intellect and culture for Estonia. First founded at the Vanemuine Society, or Vanemuise Selts, on June 24, 1865, this construction was the idea of Johann Voldemar Jannsen, a poet and journalist native to Estonia.

Not much is known about when the ballet company came into being but the original building was destroyed by fire in 1903. That’s when Armas Lindgren, an architect from Finland, was called upon to design a new building.

Opening three years after the first building burned down the new theatre moved to a location on Aia street, which is now known as Vanemuise street. This is when the theatre was officially considered a professional theatre of Estonia.

Unfortunately, this building burned down as well in 1944 as a casualty of WWII. At that time the company moved to a location once used for the Tartu German Theatre. Now this part of town is known as “little house.”

In 1967 a new building in the old location, known as “big house” opened with six hundred and eighty-two seats. In 1970 they opened a concert hall. Fire seems to be their curse as the “little house” burnt down in 1978 but was rebuilt in 1991.


Paris Opera Ballet

European ballet: Paris Opera has one of the best ballet companies in the world.

The grand salon of the Palais Garnier, 2008.

This ballet company is the oldest national ballet company in the entire world. It is from here where many European and international ballet companies can look back to when thinking of their origins.

The opera portion of this company was founded in 1669 while the ballet and dance troupe was not established until 1673. At that time, it was titled the Académie Royale de Musique but this company has gone through many name changes as time went by.

The ballet company of the Paris Opera presents their works and dances at the Palais Garnier, which seats a staggering nineteen hundred and seventy-nine people.

The origins of Paris Opera Ballet can be traced all the way to the courts of Louis XIV, who first introduced ballet to the French culture. The most important choreographers to move through this company are Pierre Beauchamps and Jean-Baptiste Lully.

The school associated with the company was not established until 1713 and while composer Christoph Willibald Gluck was associated with it he held the standards for the dancers at an all-time high. Masters have moved their ways through the halls, so many that there are too many to list here. The Paris Opera Ballet moved their performances to the Palais Garnier in 1875 and has not used another venue since.


Stuttgart Ballet

Our final European ballet on the list is based in Germany. In fact, this company is the leading ballet company in Germany. Starting in the courts of the dukes of Württemberg in 1609 but the contemporary company we know today was reestablished by John Cranko and is famous for their interpretation of full-length narrative ballets.

In 1981 the Stuttgart Ballet was given the Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance. Following Cranko as leader of this company was Glen Tetley and then Marcia Haydée. Since 1996 Reid Anderson has held the position of artistic director for the Stuttgart Ballet.

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