Ballet & Pointe

Classical ballet is the foundation that almost all dance styles have developed from.  It requires strength, athleticism, technique, and grace.

Swan Lake from the Moscow City Ballet.

The Moscow City Ballet’s Swan Lake.

 Elements of Ballet:
  • Five positions: there are five basic positions of the feet and arms that compose ballet
  • Well-maintained posture, precision, and extension
  • Body alignment: legs rotate from the hips so that the feet are turned outwards (also known as “turnout”), arms are placed correctly, and upper-body is centered and upright
  • Complicated movement that require thinking quickly and memorizing patterns
  • Challenging steps such as leaps and turns
  • Graceful athleticism: strong, muscular physique combined fluid and graceful movements
Photograph of Alexander Mays.

For class and rehearsals, ballet has a strict dress code.  Female dancers are required to wear a leotard, often times black, with pink tights.  Certain ballet schools require dancers to wear uniform leotards, each level wearing a different color.  Dancers must keep their hair pinned back and out of their face, traditionally in a bun.  Men usually wear a solid white shirt and black tights to practice in.

Here is a tutorial of how to make a ballet bun.

Traditional ballet attire.

Female ballet dancers often wear pink, soft shoes made of leather or canvas material.  Male ballet dancers typically wear soft shoes that are black.  Dancers (usually female) who dance en pointe, or on their toes, wear pointe shoes.  The tip of the shoe is made of layers densely packed with fabric, cardboard, and paper hardened by glue.  The rest of the shoe is made of leather, cotton, and satin.  Dancers depend on their shoes to be extremely sturdy, as it holds all of their body weight on just the tips of their toes.  Each shoe is custom made and hand crafted to meet all of the specific needs of the dancer.

Pink canvas ballet shoes.


Pointe shoes. (Brand/Style: Bloch European Balance)


Image of what the feet look like inside of the pointe shoe.

In classical ballet, dancers traditionally wear tutus for performances.  These are hand crafted and embellished, and each is created differently to fit the qualities and characteristics of the ballerina’s role.  There are three different types of skirts that can form a tutu.  A classical tutu skirt is very flat, made of stiff net.  These are usually worn for classical, principal roles such as the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker and Odette in Swan Lake.  A bell shaped tutu skirt falls to the mid-thigh, and has a much softer appearance.  The tutu is in between a classical and romantic skirt, and can be made of a combination of tulle and net.  The bell shaped tutu skirt isn’t as popular as the classical tutu, but is still seen in some ballets such as La Bayadere.  Lastly, romantic tutu skirts range from mid calf to above the ankle, and is made of soft tulle.  Romantic tutus are common in ballets, one example being Giselle.  It is also popular that romantic tutus are worn by the corps de ballet, the group of dancers who aren’t solo artists, and are usually provided as a backdrop for the principal dancers.  

Classical tutu for the role of Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty.
Bell shaped tutu from The Flames of Paris.
Romantic tutu from La Fille Mal Gardee.

In ballet, dancers perform to classical music often played by an orchestra, without any words or lyrics.  They use expression and movement to tell a story.  Here is a pas de deux (dance for two people) of the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet, performed by the Royal Ballet in London.