What is it?
Ballet (pronounced "ba-lay" is a type of dance performed on stage to classical music. Classical Ballet is very strict and formal and takes lots of training and practice. Ballet may tell a story, express a mood, or it can just reflect a piece of music. The person who decides what steps the dancers do is called a choreographer. An example of a famous choreographer is Martha Graham who had Aaron Copland compose music for her dancers.
Here are two ballet dancers talking about their work.
Types of Ballet
Classical ballet is very graceful. Dancers have to perform many movements which are unnatural and difficult for their bodies, but they make them look natural and easy. Dancers must be able to float through the air, jump high and spin on the tips of their toes.
Here is an example from Tchaikovsky's ballet, "Swan Lake"
Neo- classical ballet usually includes faster movements, simpler costumes and sets and doesn't necessarily tell a story.
This example by famous choreographer, George Balanchine, is danced to music by Bach.
Contemporary ballet is influenced by modern dance. In contemporary ballet the body moves differently and sometimes the dancers don't even wear shoes.
This example is from the show "So You Think You Can Dance"
Many composers have written music specially for ballet. Three of the most famous composers of ballet music are Russian - Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Igor Stravinsky and Sergei Prokofiev. Many composers also included music for ballet in their operas. Today dancers create ballets to almost any type of music.