Paris Opera Ballet
The Paris Opera Ballet is the oldest national ballet company
Ballet company
A ballet company is a group of dancers who perform ballet, plus managerial and support staff. Most major ballet companies employ dancers on a year-round basis, except in the United States, where contracts for part of the year are the norm...

 in the world, and many European and international ballet companies can trace their origins to it. It has always been an integral part of the Paris Opera
Paris Opera
The Paris Opera is the primary opera company of Paris, France. It was founded in 1669 by Louis XIV as the Académie d'Opéra and shortly thereafter was placed under the leadership of Jean-Baptiste Lully and renamed the Académie Royale de Musique...

, which was founded in 1669 as the Académie d'Opéra (Academy of Opera), although theatrical dance did not become an important component of the Paris Opera until 1673, after it was renamed the Académie Royale de Musique (Royal Academy of Music) and placed under the leadership of Jean-Baptiste Lully
Jean-Baptiste Lully
Jean-Baptiste de Lully was an Italian-born French composer who spent most of his life working in the court of Louis XIV of France. He is considered the chief master of the French Baroque style. Lully disavowed any Italian influence in French music of the period. He became a French subject in...

. The Paris Opera has had many different official names during its long history but since 1994 has been called the Opéra National de Paris (Paris National Opera). Currently the company presents ballet primarily at the Palais Garnier
Palais Garnier
The Palais Garnier, , is an elegant 1,979-seat opera house, which was built from 1861 to 1875 for the Paris Opera. It was originally called the Salle des Capucines because of its location on the Boulevard des Capucines in the 9th arrondissement of Paris, but soon became known as the Palais Garnier...



The Paris Opera Ballet had its origins in the earlier dance institutions, traditions and practices of the court of Louis XIV of France. Of particular importance were the series of comédies-ballets
Comédie-ballet is a genre of French drama which mixes a spoken play with interludes containing music and dance.-History:The first example of the genre is considered to be Les fâcheux, with words by Molière, performed in honour of Louis XIV at Vaux-le-Vicomte, the residence of Nicolas Fouquet, in...

 created by Molière
Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, known by his stage name Molière, was a French playwright and actor who is considered to be one of the greatest masters of comedy in Western literature...

 with, among others, the choreographers and composers Pierre Beauchamps and Jean-Baptiste Lully. The first was Les fâcheux in 1661 and the most important, Le bourgeois gentilhomme
Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme
Le Bourgeois gentilhomme is a five-act comédie-ballet—a play intermingled with music, dance and singing—by Molière, first presented on 14 October 1670 before the court of Louis XIV at the Château of Chambord by Molière's troupe of actors...

in 1670. Many of these were also performed by Molière's company at the public theatre of the Palais-Royal in Paris, which was later to become the first permanent home of the opera company and the opera ballet.

Also in 1661 Louis had founded the Académie Royale de Danse
Académie Royale de Danse
The Académie Royale de Danse, founded by letters patent on the initiative of King Louis XIV of France in March 1661, was the first dance institution established in the Western world...

 (Royal Academy of Dance) in an effort "to improve the quality of dance instruction for court entainments". Members of the academy, as well as the dance teachers who were certified by it, and their students, participated in the creation of the ballets for the court, Molière, and later the opera. In 1680 Beauchamps became the chancellor (director) of the Académie Royale de Danse. Although the Académie Royale de Danse and the Opera were closely connected, the two institutions remained separate, and the former disappeared with the fall of the monarchy in 1789.

Founding and early history

On 28 June 1669 Louis granted a privilege
Letters patent
Letters patent are a type of legal instrument in the form of a published written order issued by a monarch or president, generally granting an office, right, monopoly, title, or status to a person or corporation...

 to the poet Pierre Perrin
Pierre Perrin
Pierre Perrin was a French poet and librettist.Sometimes known as L'Abbé Perrin although he never belonged to the clergy...

 giving him a monopoly to form a separate academy for the performance of opera in French. The first production of the company founded by Perrin, the Académie d'Opéra (Academy of Opera), was Pomone
Pomone (opera)
Pomone is an opera in a prologue and five acts by Robert Cambert with a libretto by Pierre Perrin. It has been described as "effectively the first French opera." It was first performed in Paris at the Jeu de Paume de la Bouteille theatre belonging to Cambert and Perrin's Académie d'Opéra on 3...

, which was first performed on 3 March 1671 and included ballets choreographed by Pierre Beauchamps.

In 1672 Lully purchased Perrin's privilege and also obtained new letters patent limiting the use of musicians and dancers by other French companies. With Beauchamps as choreographer and Carlo Vigarani
Carlo Vigarani
Carlo Vigarani was an Italian scenic designer who worked as "ingénieur du roi" and then "intendant des plaisirs du roi" at the court of the French king Louis XIV until 1690. He is best known for his design of the Salle des Machines at the Tuileries Palace in Paris....

 as stage designer, Lully's company, now called the Académie Royale de Musique, produced Les fêtes de l'Amour et de Bacchus in November 1672. This work consisted primarily of excerpts from Lully's prior court ballets connected with new entrees created by Beauchamps. A crucial difference, however, from the previous court ballets was that the members of the court no longer participated, and all of the dancers were professional.

The next production, Cadmus et Hermione
Cadmus et Hermione
Cadmus et Hermione is a tragédie en musique in a prologue and five acts by Jean-Baptiste Lully. The French-language libretto is by Philippe Quinault, after Ovid’s Metamorphoses. It was first performed on April 27, 1673, by the Paris Opera at the Jeu de Béquet.The prologue, in praise of King Louis...

(27 April 1673), the first tragédie lyrique, with a libretto by Philippe Quinault
Philippe Quinault
Philippe Quinault , French dramatist and librettist, was born in Paris.- Biography :Quinault was educated by the liberality of François Tristan l'Hermite, the author of Marianne. Quinault's first play was produced at the Hôtel de Bourgogne in 1653, when he was only eighteen...

, was received ecstatically by Louis XIV. Lully, Quinault, and Beauchamps continued to collaborate on a series of successful productions, in the process creating a new genre of French opera in which dance interludes played an important part in the musical drama.

Initially the dancers of the Paris Opera Ballet were all male. Mademoiselle de la Fontaine (1665–1738) became the first professional ballerina
A ballerina is a title used to describe a principal female professional ballet dancer in a large company; the male equivalent to this title is danseur or ballerino...

 when she danced in the premiere of Lully's ballet Le Triomphe de l'Amour on 21 January 1681. Pierre Beauchamps continued to collaborate with Lully at the Paris Opera until Lully's death in 1687.

Later history

The 18th century saw the creation of an associated school, now referred to as the Paris Opera Ballet School (French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

: École de Danse de l’Opéra de Paris), which opened in 1713. The operas of Rameau, and later Gluck, raised standards for the dancers. Jean-Georges Noverre
Jean-Georges Noverre
Jean-Georges Noverre was a French dancer and balletmaster, and is generally considered the creator of ballet d'action, a precursor of the narrative ballets of the 19th century...

 was a particularly influential ballet master from 1776 to 1781. He created the ballet Les Petits Riens which used music by Mozart in 1778. Maximilien Gardel
Maximilien Gardel
Maximilien Gardel was a French ballet dancer and choreographer of German descent .He débuted at the Académie royale de Musique in Paris in 1759 and...

 was ballet master from 1781, with his brother Pierre Gardel
Pierre Gardel
Pierre-Gabriel Gardel was a French ballet dancer and ballet master. He was the brother of Maximilien Gardel....

 taking over after Maximilien's death in 1787. Pierre Gardel survived the Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

 creating ballets such as La Marseillaise and Offrande à liberté. He remained the ballet master up to 1820 and continued to work up to 1829.

In 1820 Pierre Gardel was succeeded as ballet master by Jean-Louis Aumer, who was however highly criticized for using too much mime and failing to use choreography which furthered plot or character. In 1821 the company moved to a new house, the Salle Le Peletier, where Romantic ballet
Romantic ballet
The Romantic ballet is defined primarily by an era in ballet in which the ideas of Romanticism in art and literature influenced the creation of ballets. The era occurred during the early to mid 19th century primarily at the Théâtre de l'Académie Royale de Musique of the Paris Opera Ballet and Her...

 was born.

In 1875 the company moved to the Palais Garnier
Palais Garnier
The Palais Garnier, , is an elegant 1,979-seat opera house, which was built from 1861 to 1875 for the Paris Opera. It was originally called the Salle des Capucines because of its location on the Boulevard des Capucines in the 9th arrondissement of Paris, but soon became known as the Palais Garnier...

 where it continues to perform.

The Paris Opera Ballet School has become one of the most preeminent in the world. Its former pupils have won a record of 18 Benois de la Danse
Prix Benois de la Danse
The Benois de la Danse is one of the most prestigious ballet competition. Founded by the International Dance Association in Moscow in 1991, it takes place each year on or around April 29 and is jury-based in its judging...

 awards since 1992. The school will celebrate its tercentennial
An anniversary is a day that commemorates or celebrates a past event that occurred on the same day of the year as the initial event. For example, the first event is the initial occurrence or, if planned, the inaugural of the event. One year later would be the first anniversary of that event...

 in 2013.


Choreographers associated with the Paris Opera Ballet and works created for the Paris Opera Ballet are:
  • Jean Dauberval
    Jean Dauberval
    Jean Dauberval, a.k.a Jean D’Auberval, , was a French dancer and ballet master...

    : La fille mal gardée
    La Fille Mal Gardée
    La Fille mal gardée is a comic ballet presented in two acts, inspired by Pierre-Antoine Baudouin's 1789 painting, La réprimande/Une jeune fille querellée par sa mère...

  • Pierre Gardel
    Pierre Gardel
    Pierre-Gabriel Gardel was a French ballet dancer and ballet master. He was the brother of Maximilien Gardel....

    : Télémaque (1790), Psyché (1793), Le jugement de Pâris (1793), La dansomanie (1800)
  • Philippe Taglioni: La Sylphide
    La Sylphide
    La Sylphide is one of the world's oldest surviving romantic ballets. There were two versions of the ballet; the version choreographed by the Danish balletmaster August Bournonville is the only version known to have survived....

  • Jules Perrot
    Jules Perrot
    Jules-Joseph Perrot was a dancer and choreographer who later became Balletmaster of the Imperial Ballet in St. Petersburg, Russia...

    : Giselle
    Giselle is a ballet in two acts with a libretto by Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges and Théophile Gautier, music by Adolphe Adam, and choreography by Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot. The librettist took his inspiration from a poem by Heinrich Heine...

  • Jean Coralli
    Jean Coralli
    Jean Coralli , born Jean Coralli Peracini, was a French dancer and choreographer and later held the esteemed post of First Balletmaster of the Paris Opera Ballet...

    : Giselle
    Giselle is a ballet in two acts with a libretto by Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges and Théophile Gautier, music by Adolphe Adam, and choreography by Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot. The librettist took his inspiration from a poem by Heinrich Heine...

  • Carlo Blasis
    Carlo Blasis
    Carlo Blasis was an Italian dancer, choreographer and dance theoretician. He is well known for his very rigorous dance classes, sometimes lasting four hours long.Blasis was born in Naples...

  • Arthur Saint-Léon
    Arthur Saint-Leon
    Arthur Saint-Léon was the Maître de Ballet of St. Petersburg Imperial Ballet from 1859 until 1869 and is famous for creating the choreography of the ballet Coppélia.-Biography:...

    : Coppélia
    Coppélia is a sentimental comic ballet with original choreography by Arthur Saint-Léon to a ballet libretto by Saint-Léon and Charles Nuitter and music by Léo Delibes. It was based upon two macabre stories by E. T. A. Hoffmann, Der Sandmann , and Die Puppe...

  • Louis Meranté
    Louis Mérante
    Louis Alexandre Mérante was a dancer and choreographer, the Maître de Ballet of the Paris Opera Ballet at the Salle Le Peletier until its destruction by fire in 1873, and subsequently the first Ballet Master at the company's new Palais Garnier, which opened in 1875...

    : Sylvia
    Sylvia (ballet)
    Sylvia, originally Sylvia, ou La nymphe de Diane, is a full-length ballet in two or three acts, first choreographed by Louis Mérante to music by Léo Delibes in 1876. Sylvia is a typical classical ballet in many respects, yet it has many interesting features which make it unique...

  • Serge Lifar
    Serge Lifar
    Serge Lifar ; 15 December 1986) was a French ballet dancer and choreographer of Ukrainian origin, famous as one of the greatest male ballet dancers of the 20th century.-Biography:Lifar was born in Kiev, Ukraine, then part of the Russian Empire...

    : Les créatures de Prométhée (1929), Icare (1935), Istar (1941), Suite en blanc (1943)
  • Kenneth MacMillan
    Kenneth MacMillan
    Sir Kenneth MacMillan was a British ballet dancer and choreographer. He was artistic director of the Royal Ballet in London between 1970 and 1977.-Early years:...

    : Métaboles (1978), Les quatres saisons (1978)
  • Rudolf Nureyev
    Rudolf Nureyev
    Rudolf Khametovich Nureyev was a Russian dancer, considered one of the most celebrated ballet dancers of the 20th century. Nureyev's artistic skills explored expressive areas of the dance, providing a new role to the male ballet dancer who once served only as support to the women.In 1961 he...

    : Raymonda
    Raymonda is a ballet in three acts, four scenes with an apotheosis, choreographed by Marius Petipa, with music by Alexander Glazunov, his opus 57. First presented by the Imperial Ballet at the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre on in St. Petersburg, Russia...

    (1983), Swan Lake
    Swan Lake
    Swan Lake ballet, op. 20, by Pyotr Tchaikovsky, composed 1875–1876. The scenario, initially in four acts, was fashioned from Russian folk tales and tells the story of Odette, a princess turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer's curse. The choreographer of the original production was Julius Reisinger...

  • Maurice Béjart
    Maurice Béjart
    Maurice Béjart was a French born, Swiss choreographer who ran the Béjart Ballet Lausanne in Switzerland. He was the son of the French philosopher Gaston Berger.- Biography :...

    : Arepo (1986)
  • William Forsythe
    William Forsythe (dancer)
    William Forsythe is an American dancer and choreographer resident in Frankfurt am Main in Hessen. He is known internationally for his work with the Ballett Frankfurt and The Forsythe Company...

    : In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated (1987)
  • Angelin Preljocaj
    Angelin Preljocaj
    Angelin Preljoçaj is a French dancer of Albanian origin and choreographer of contemporary dance.-Biography:His choreographic work is steeped in his writing of the history of classical ballet, but is resolutely contemporary...

    : Le parc (1994), Annunciation (1996), MC/14-22 (Ceci est mon corps) (2004), Le songe de Médée (2004)


There are five ranks of dancers in the Paris Opera Ballet, from highest to lowest they are:
  • étoiles

  • premiers danseurs

  • sujets

  • coryphées

  • quadrilles


  • Agnès Letestu
    Agnes Letestu
    She decided to start ballet when she saw her first ballet on TV . Then she had the opportunity to start ballet as a hobby, and her teacher, Mr. Bertin, persuaded her to audition for the Opéra Ballet School which she joined when she was 10. She was a shy but graceful pupil and was destined to be at...

  • Aurélie Dupont
    Aurelie Dupont
    Aurélie Dupont is a French ballet dancer who performs with the Paris Opera Ballet as an Étoile. She began her career in dance at the age of ten when she entered the Paris Opera Ballet School after giving up her hopes of being a pianist...

  • Benjamin Pech
  • Clairemarie Osta
  • Dorothée Gilbert
  • Émilie Cozette
  • Hervé Moreau
  • Isabelle Ciaravola

  • Jérémie Bélingard
  • Karl Paquette
  • Laëtitia Pujol
  • Marie-Agnès Gillot
  • Mathieu Ganio
  • Nicolas Le Riche
    Nicolas Le Riche
    Nicolas Le Riche is a French ballet dancer. He entered the Paris Opera Ballet school at age ten and joined the corps de ballet six years later; his first ròle was in Gsovsky's Grand Pas Classique. He was promoted to sujet in 1990 and premier danseur in 1991...

  • Mathias Heymann
  • Stéphane Bullion
    Stéphane Bullion
    Stéphane Bullion is an Etoile dancer of the Paris Opera Ballet.Stéphane Bullion started dance at age eleven and entered the Paris Opera Ballet school at age fourteen . He joined the corps de ballet in 1997...

former dancers

  • Delphine Moussin
  • Élisabeth Platel
    Élisabeth Platel
    Élisabeth Platel is a French ballet dancer, born in Paris on 10 April 1959.-Career:After studying at the conservatoire in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, she entered the Conservatoire de Paris in 1971, graduating with First Prize, which allowed her to complete her studies at the École de Danse de l'Opéra...

  • Emma Livry
    Emma Livry
    Emma Livry was one of the last ballerinas of the Romantic ballet era and a protégée of Marie Taglioni...

  • Freya Monroy
  • José Martinez
    José Martínez
    José Orlando Martínez Peña is a retired Salvadoran football player, who most prominently played as a forward for Luis Ángel Firpo.-Club career:...

  • Kader Belarbi
  • Lelia Haller

  • Marie Taglioni
    Marie Taglioni
    Marie Taglioni was a famous Italian/Swedish ballerina of the Romantic ballet era, a central figure in the history of European dance.-Biography:...

  • Michel Descombey
    Michel Descombey
    Michel Descombey is a French ballet dancer, choreographer, and director.Descombay studied dancing in Paris, and debuted as a professional dancer of the Ballet de l'Opéra National in 1947. In 1959 he became premier danseur, then ballet master, and official choreographer and at last director of the...

  • Patrick Dupond
  • Sylvie Guillem
    Sylvie Guillem
    Sylvie Guillem CBE is a French ballet dancer. She was the top-ranking female dancer with the Paris Opera Ballet from 1984 to 1989, before becoming a principal guest artist with the Royal Ballet in London. She is currently performing contemporary dance as an Associate Artist of London's Sadler's...

  • Yvette Chauviré
    Yvette Chauviré
    Yvette Chauviré is a French prima ballerina who was born in Paris. Her dancing career was from 1937 to 1972. She celebrated her 90th birthday in 2007. She was the étoile of the Paris Opera Ballet, and later its director. She is also the holder of the Légion d'Honneur...

External links

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