Natalia Osipova began dancing at the tender age of five | ©Guy Corbishley / Alamy Stock Photo
The rigour and determination of the ballerina is something to be celebrated. But who are the best and most famous ballet dancers the world has ever known? We round up the women who have risen to the pinnacle of their art and captivated global audiences with their elegance.
Misty Copeland broke barriers in the ballet industry when, in 2015, she became the first female African American principal dancer at the prestigious American Ballet Theatre. Despite starting her training late, at age 13, Copeland went on to dance lead roles for the company in ballets such as Coppelia, Le Corsaire and Swan Lake. The award-winning dancer also famously starred in a music video with Prince, and has taken on roles in Broadway shows and in Disney’s The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (2018).
Famous Russian prima ballerina Anna Pavlova was awarded a place at the St Petersburg Imperial Ballet School in 1891, aged just 10. Pavlova had to overcome significant physical challenges in her training, including thin ankles that needed extra support for pointe work. Even so, she became one of the principal dancers at the Imperial Russian Ballet and toured the world. She is remembered for her breakthrough role as the Dying Swan in Swan Lake, and it’s reported that Pavlova’s last words before succumbing to pneumonia in 1931 were, “Get my swan costume ready.”
Anna Pavlova was one of the principal dancers at the Imperial Russian Ballet | © SPUTNIK / Alamy Stock Photo
New York City dancer Violetta Komyshan came across ballet almost by chance, when scouts held auditions at her public school. She won a scholarship at age 11 to train with the American Ballet Theatre and later studied modern dance at LaGuardia High School alongside famous classmates such as Hollywood actor Ansel Elgort. Now a social media icon, Komyshan has danced for BalletNext and is scheduled to star in the Chicago Ballet Conservatory production of The Nutcracker.
The late Margot Fonteyn was one of the Royal Ballet’s most famous dancers. Appointed a prima ballerina assoluta by Queen Elizabeth II, the English icon was loved for her lyrical style and perfect lines. Fonteyn joined the Royal Ballet at age 16 and went on to star in classical roles in ballets such as Giselle, The Sleeping Beauty and Romeo and Juliet. It was her pairing with Russian dancer Rudolf Nureyev in the ’60s, though, that made Fonteyn an international sensation.
Margot Fonteyn was one of the Royal Ballet’s most famous dancers | © AF archive / Alamy Stock Photo
Tamara Rojo has danced with both the Royal Ballet and the English National Ballet, where she was appointed artistic director in 2012. She is one of the most enduringly popular and recognisable faces in modern ballet; today you’ll find her dancing at the English National Ballet as a guest artist. Rojo was born in Canada, although her parents moved back to Madrid, where she trained, when she was four months old. Over the years she has established a widely praised partnership with Carlos Acosta; the two were recently reunited in Derek Deane’s production of Romeo and Juliet, in which Rojo’s majestic movement and the intensity of her performance were critically lauded.
Moscow-born Natalia Osipova is a multi-award winning ballerina who began dancing at the tender age of five. She trained with the Mikhail Lavrovsky Ballet School and has since danced with the world’s leading companies, from the Bolshoi to the Mikhailovsky to the Royal Ballet, where she became a principal in 2013. She is also a guest dancer with a number of prestigious companies including the American Ballet Theatre. She has won the National Dance Awards award for Best Female Dancer three times, more than any other female star.
Natalia Osipova has won the National Dance Awards award for Best Female Dancer three times | © Guy Corbishley / Alamy Stock Photo
Daria Klimentová bowed out of professional ballet in 2014, after a 25-year career. She spent the last 18 of those years with the English National Ballet, where she became a principal in 1996. Born in the former Czechoslovakia, Klimentová studied in Prague after early training as a potential Olympic gymnast. She travelled widely in her dance career, from South Africa to Scotland, where she arrived in the early 1990s to join the Scottish Ballet.
Argentine dancer Marianela Núñez has been with the Royal Ballet for more than 15 years and has twice won the National Dance Awards title of Best Female Dancer. She has been praised for her interpretative choreography, which brings an emotional understanding to every step. Dancing has been a part of her life since she was three years old; at 15 she moved to London to join the Royal Ballet. Her career has been a lesson in determination and she has reaped the rewards; over the years she has danced all the major leading roles in classical and contemporary ballet, and created ballets herself.
Marianela Núñez is seen here performing with Thiago Soares in George Balanchine’s ballet Jewels | © REUTERS / Alamy Stock Photo
For nearly two decades, Agnes Oaks was the leading face of the English National Ballet, along with her husband and dance partner, Thomas Edur, whom she met as a child at the Estonian State Ballet School in Tallinn. Oaks is a leading proponent of classical ballet and, over the years, has starred in all the well-known productions. It was with Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon, which came relatively late in her long career, that she earned universal acclaim. She was awarded the Richard Sherrington Award for Best Female Dancer in her last season on the stage.
Two-time winner at the National Dance Awards, Leanne Benjamin has also been honoured with a De Valois Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of her contribution to dance. Born in Australia, Benjamin has danced all over the world, with the Deutsche Opera Ballet, the Royal Ballet and the Wheeldon Company in New York. She retired from professional dancing in 2013 after a career spanning more than two decades, during which she mastered all the main roles and created a few others. Benjamin flourished as a dancer into her forties, gaining recognition for her roles in contemporary productions and noted for a realism in her dancing which she describes as ditching the “tutu roles”.
Leanne Benjamin is seen here dancing the role of Cinderella, with Viacheslav Samodurov as her prince | © REUTERS / Alamy Stock Photo
Alina Cojocaru is best known for her role in John Neumeier’s Liliom with the Hamburg Ballet, which he wrote especially for her and which saw her become the only ballerina to win the Prix Benois de la Danse for a second time. The Romanian dancer left the Royal Ballet in 2013 after a rift with the company, in favour of a move to the English National Ballet, under the artistic direction of Tamara Rojo. The two came together to create a company of diverse brilliance in which Cojocaru is one of the principal stars.
Japanese dancer Miyako Yoshida OBE has taken to the stage with K-ballet in Japan, and as a principal guest artist of the Royal Ballet, during which time she was awarded the title of Best Female Dancer. She retired in 2010 and gave her last performance with the Royal Ballet in Tokyo, the city where she was born and trained. She reserved Romeo and Juliet for her final curtain call in Tokyo, after saying goodbye to London with a final, emotional performance of Cinderella. She is known for a precision of movement and an expressiveness that relied on choreography rather than facial contortions.
Zenaida Yanowsky was born in France to parents who were both dancers with the Lyon Opera Ballet. As a child, Yanowsky was accustomed to touring with the company, although she didn’t pursue ballet herself until the comparatively late age of 14. She went on to have a remarkable career with the Royal Ballet, which she joined in 1994, being promoted to principal in 2001. She is known for classical ballet roles, but has also created roles for a number of directors, including Queen of Hearts in Christopher Wheeldon’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which was well received by critics.
Zenaida Yanowsky had a remarkable career with the Royal Ballet | © Danilo Moroni / Alamy Stock Photo
Amy Blyth contributed additional reporting to this article.
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Prima ballerina assoluta is a title awarded to the most notable of female ballet dancers.Who is the best ballet dancer in the world in 2022? ›
Saburo Teshigawara, the Japanese choreographer and dancer, painter, sculptor and designer who created a new aesthetic with his highly personal quality of movement, is the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement in Dance 2022.Which ballet is the hardest? ›
Swan Lake. If you find a fouette challenging, the Swan Lake dance has 32 of them! Swan Lake has some of the most notorious steps in ballet repertory.What is the hardest style of ballet? ›
En Pointe. The “en Pointe” technique in classical ballet is one of the most challenging to execute. In this move, a dancer has to support their entire bodyweight on their feet, which are fully extended.What is the perfect ballerina height? ›
The typical height of a ballet dancer is 5'4″. Normally these girls are excellent at Adagio. Balanchine made room for even taller women with roles like The Siren in Prodigal Son, the Tall Girl in Rubies, and the Dark Angel in Serenade.What country has the best ballet? ›
Russia is renowned for its ballet, counting many of the world's greatest ballerinas, choreographers, and composers among their ranks.Which ballet is most popular? ›
Perhaps one of the most famous ballets of all time is the Nutcracker, which doubles as a classic Christmas tale. Initially written by E.T.A Hoffman, Alexandre Dumas Père adapted it, then set it to music by Tchaikovsky and choreographed by Marius Petipa, as well as George Balanchine.What is the best ballet school in the world? ›
Paris Opera Ballet School – France
Top of most lists of the greatest dance schools in the world is the Paris Opera Ballet School in the French capital – yet originally, this was not a school for children.
- Ballet en Pointe. The Pointe technique in classical ballet is perhaps one of the most difficult moves to execute. ...
- Synchronized Swimming. ...
- Capoeira. ...
- Aerial Dance. ...
- Can-Can. ...
- Sayaw sa Bangko (Dance on Top of a Bench)
Ballet requires a great deal of strength, flexibility, and control. This activity is as difficult as any sport, and in many cases is even more challenging.
In fact, a 1975 study ranked ballet as the number one most physically and mentally demanding activity. Like athletes, proficient dancers need to be extremely strong, but they also need to be very flexible and have the ability to quickly apply corrections and pick up on new choreography.What is the easiest dance to perform? ›
The Waltz is the easiest because it is a slow, smooth dance and only uses four steps. It has a distinctive ¾ timing with a flowing style. Once you can add a rise and fall with your body expression, you will definitely impress on the dance floor!What body type is best for ballet? ›
Ballet has typically favored the body type of a girl who is thin, usually thinner than what is deemed to be healthy, with long, lean limbs, an extremely flat front side, and little to no curves throughout the body other than a small waistline.How much should a 5'5 ballerina weigh? ›
This “look” is said to have the ability to create perfect, balletic lines and expressive movements on stage. The average height of an American ballerina is about 5 foot 2 inches to 5 foot 8 inches. In correspondence to height, weight would ideally range from 85 to 130 lbs.Does ballet change your body? ›
Ballet improves flexibility
Ballet stretches muscles in all parts of the body; legs, arms, torso, back, neck, feet… the list goes on. Through increased stretching with body weight exercises (which are all ballet exercises by the way), muscles become longer, stronger and more resistant to tearing or strain.
Vaganova Ballet Academy
As in all world-renowned schools, it is very difficult to get a place. Their training is so complicated too and among thousands of people who access, less than 30 complete the eight years of training. Teachers such as Marius Petipa, Jules Perrot, Enrico Cecchetti have taught at this school.
The height requirements of dancers are really designated by the ballet companies hiring. Most ballet company's average height for a female is approximately 167cm. However, in Europe some companies require females to be no taller than the traditional 165cm, while others have a minimum height of 173cm.Who invented ballet? ›
A court musician and choreographer named Balthasar de Beaujoyeulx devised Ballet comique de la reine (1581; “The Queen's Comic Ballet”), which inaugurated a long tradition of court ballets in France that reached its peak under Louis XIV in the mid-17th century.Is ballet the hardest type of dance? ›
Said to be the most difficult genre to master, ballet is a rigorous style of dance that is the foundation of most forms of dance training. It is usually set, but not limited to, orchestrated music and is often the first dance style a child will experience as they begin their dance classes.What is the most beautiful ballet? ›
- Swan Lake. The music of Swan Lake by Tchaikovsky has a graceful innocence. ...
- Cinderella. ...
- The Nutcracker. ...
- Sleeping Beauty. ...
- Romeo and Juliet. ...
- Firebird. ...
- Giselle. ...
Interestingly enough, the average age of ballet dancers is 20-30 years old, which represents 61% of the population.Who is No 1 in dance? ›
Prabhu has performed and designed a variety of dance styles and won billion of hearts from his popular songs in the early 90s.
India is the country with the best dancers in the world. Indian dancers account for the largest percentage of the best dancers in the world.Who is the most famous girl dancer in the world? ›
- Marie Taglioni 1804 – 1884. Marie Taglioni. ...
- Fannie Elssler 1810 – 1884. ...
- Lola Montez 1821 (or 1818?) ...
- Colette 1873 – 1954. ...
- Isadora Duncan 1877 – 1927. ...
- Ruth St Denis 1879 - 1968. ...
- Anna Pavlova 1881 – 1931. ...
- Martha Graham 1894 – 1991.
James Devine is a three-time World Champion Dancer and is officially certified by the Guinness World Records as “The Fastest Dancer in the World” with 38 taps per second. James has starred in popular Irish dance shows from a young age, including 'Lord of the Dance' and 'GaelForce.Who hugged the dancer? ›
The dancer was hugged by her younger sister.
The dancer got startled with the gesture and wailed at her sister for crushing flowers in her head.
- Michael Flatley Net Worth. $288 Million.
- Derek Hough Net Worth. $8 Million. ...
- JabbaWockeeZ Net Worth. $5 Million. ...
- Karina Smirnoff Net Worth. $3 Million.
- Justine Ezarik aka iJustine Net Worth. $2 Million.
- Benjamin Millepied Net Worth. $900 Thousand.
- Cheryl Burke Net Worth. ...
- Mark Ballas Net Worth.
Ballet VII is the highest level for advanced dancers. Girls have weekly variations class. Teachers prepare students for the most challenging work in the classical repertoire, with a focus on correct technique and artistry.What country is ballet popular in? ›
While France was instrumental in early ballet, other countries and cultures soon adopted the art form, most notably Russia. Russia has a recognized tradition of ballet, and Russian ballet has had great importance in its country throughout history.How many hours a day do ballerinas train? ›
While training, students will dance between six and seven hours a day. In most professional companies, a morning class at 10 starts the day, and they could rehearse through until 6pm, with breaks. This punishing schedule is usually done up to six days a week.
A ballet master (also balletmaster, ballet mistress [increasingly archaic], premier maître de ballet or premier maître de ballet en chef) is an employee of a ballet company who is responsible for the level of competence of the dancers in their company.What is the best dancer called? ›
He is known as the world's greatest ballet dancer, and he was an artistic director of American dance Ballet Theater. His professional debut was in the "peasant Pas de Deux" of "Giselle" in New York City in 1974.
In the United States ballet dancers in a professional company are divided into three ranks: corps de ballet, soloist, and principal.What is the highest level of ballet? ›
Ballet VII (ages 14 and up)
Ballet VII is the highest level for advanced dancers. Girls have weekly variations class. Teachers prepare students for the most challenging work in the classical repertoire, with a focus on correct technique and artistry.
In addition to different training styles (our training is based on the Vaganova style at Les Petits Ballets), there are also different styles of ballets which were dependent on the era in which they were choreographed. These are Romantic, Classical, Neoclassical and Contemporary.What are the 6 styles of ballet? ›
There are six widely used, internationally recognized methods to teach or study ballet. These methods are the French School, the Vaganova Method, the Cecchetti Method, the Bournonville method, the Royal Academy of Dance method (English style), and the Balanchine method (American style).How much is the salary of a ballerina? ›
The average Ballet Dancer salary in the United States is $33,577 as of October 27, 2022, but the salary range typically falls between $27,670 and $40,996.How much does a ballerina get paid? ›
Most ballet dancers' salaries fall between $14,500 and $36,500. The average salary is about $1,326 per week. Many ballet dancers work their whole life to be a part of a prestigious company. Below, there is a breakdown of a ballet dancer's salary at each career stage and how to making money as a ballet dancer.Which gender is a better dancer? ›
Previous research has found that women are rated as better dancers when their fertility is high versus low, and that female lap dancers make higher tips when they're ovulating.What do you call a girl dancer? ›
It's more common to call a female dancer a "ballet dancer" than a ballerina these days. Historically, the term ballerina was saved for the very best female solo dancers in a ballet company, similar to the word diva in opera.
The average height of an American ballerina is about 5 foot 2 inches to 5 foot 8 inches. In correspondence to height, weight would ideally range from 85 to 130 lbs.What age do ballet dancers retire? ›
At what age do most dancers retire? Most dancers stop dancing between 35 and 40 years old. Sometimes a dancer may have a specific injury that has forced them to stop dancing and sometimes their bodies are just tired from all the physical strength that is required for ballet.What is the ideal height for a ballerina? ›
The typical height of a ballet dancer is 5'4″. Normally these girls are excellent at Adagio. Balanchine made room for even taller women with roles like The Siren in Prodigal Son, the Tall Girl in Rubies, and the Dark Angel in Serenade.