Top Ballet Cities in Europe

December 27, 2010

Ballet lovers can take their pick of cities in Europe to visit to see their favorite dancers and productions in historic opera houses. Beyond having a long history developing the art of ballet, these top ballet cities in Europe are home to some of the finest dance companies, ballet training institutions and star performing artists.

Undoubtedly, Paris holds a special place in the hearts of ballet lovers. And it's easy to see why. The French monarch Louis XIV was the first to establish a formal ballet school. Then there's the jaw-dropping Palais Garnier opera house, which is normally the first stop on the ballet lover's itinerary. The lavish building showcases the performances of the Paris Opera Ballet and the occasional touring ballet company such as Hamburg Ballet and the Bolshoi.

There's a museum at the opera house with costumes and set designs on display. And if you need more convincing that Paris is among the top for ballet, dance schools throughout Paris offer open classes for adults.

Home to the world's premier opera house, La Scala, Milan can also count its ballet company as one of its artistic treasures. The ballet company of Teatro alla Scala dates to the 18th century when ballet was first seen in the Renaissance courts of Milan, at the palace of the Sforza family.

Enrico Cecchetti, director of the ballet school at La Scala in the early 20th century is credited with the Cecchetti method of training which is still practiced in institutions worldwide.

A number of famous dancers hail from Milan. Milanese dancer Carlotta Brianza was the first to dance Sleeping Beauty in 1890. Pierina Legnani was the first Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, with its stunning 32 fouett?s. Also, Carla Fracci, now?director of Balletto dell'Opera di Roma, ?Prima Ballerina Assoluta Alessandra Ferri, and Roberto Bolle all had their start at La Scala's Ballet School.

Though Vienna is known mainly for its classical music scene, it's also a great place for seeing first-rate ballet performances. At its two opera houses, the Volksoper and State Opera, dancers who have graduated from prestigious ballet schools around the world, many from Russia, perform regularly throughout the year.

Manuel Legris, former principal dancer with the Paris Opera Ballet, directs the Vienna State Ballet company.

Dance in London is a wonderful mix of classical and modern dance. First, you have the Royal Ballet featuring British and international stars at the Royal Opera House. The opera house offers many opportunities to go behind the scenes to view company classes and explore special exhibits.

London also has other treats for ballet lovers from the English National Ballet at the London Coliseum to Sadler's Wells, which presents mostly contemporary dance works and touring companies. Open dance classes are offered at many schools throughout London.

Of course, there are many other ballet companies in Europe: Prague State Opera Ballet, Dutch National Ballet in Amsterdam, The Hamburg Ballet and Stuttgart Ballet in Germany and many, many others.

See also: Travel Packages for Ballet Lovers

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