Many Russian dancers have gone on to reach worldwide acclaim; notable Russian dancers include Mathilde Kschessinska, Olga Lepeshinskaya, Ekaterina Maximova, Anna Pavlova, Maya Plisetskaya, Svetlana Zakharova’; Maris Liepa, Vaslav Nijinsky, Rudolf Nureyev, Vladimir Vasiliev and many others.

Russia possessing rich national dance folklore and subjected to European cultural influences during the reign of Peter the Great turned to be fertile ground for the development of ballet theatre. The first school opened in 1738 and directed by J.B.Lande was known as the Imperial Ballet School, and later became known as the Vaganova St.-Petersburg Academy.

At the turn of the 19th century the hey-day of Russian ballet came. Russian composers started writing music for ballet. Melodramatic ballet became the leading genre. In the first third of the 19th century Russian art attained maturity and shaped as a national school. The authorities paid great attention to ballet development and provided it with governmental grants. The Bolshoi Theatre was opened in 1825.

It was Russian ballet that was destined to revive ballet art in a new quality. By the early 20th century Russian ballet took the leading part on the world ballet stage. The ballet master Michael Fokin renewed the contents and the form of the ballet spectacle. He created a new type of spectacle - a one act ballet driven by a through action, where the subject matter unfolded in the unity of music, choreography and scenography (Chopeniana, Petrushka and Shekherezada). The major co-authors of both the choreographers became not composers but artists. Fokin's spectacles were decorated by L. S. Bakst, A. N. Benua, A. Y. Golovin and N. K. Roerich; K. A. Korovin decorated Gorsky's ballets.

In 1909 Sergei Diaghilev, a wealthy Russian patron of arts, arranged the first Paris tour of the Russian ballet. The Russian Seasons or Ballets Russes at once attained recognition and popularity in Europe. They opened to the world the composer Igor Stravinsky and choreographer Fokin (Zhar-Ptitsa / Fiery-Bird, 1910; Petrushka, 1911) ballet dancer and ballet master V.F. Nijinsky (Holy Spring, 1913) and others and attracted famed musicians and artists to the ballet theatre.

After the revolution ballet remained being in the centre of nationwide art. The turning point came in the late 1950s with the appearance of a new generation of choreographers. Among the first were Leningrad ballet masters Y.N.Grigorovich and I.D.Belski who based their ballets on musical and dance dramaturgy that conveyed the spectacle meaning through dance. Forgotten genres were revived, such as one act ballet, ballet-poster, satirical ballet, ballet symphony and choreographic miniature.

New alternative forms of choreography go on developing nowadays.

Ballet Companies Nowadays

     Mariinsky Ballet (formerly Kirov ballet)
     Bolshoi Ballet

Other Russian ballet companies include:

     Ballets Russes, founded in 1909
     Moscow State Academy of Choreography, commonly known as The Bolshoi Ballet Academy, founded in 1773
     Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet, founded in 1738 as the Imperial Ballet School
     Saint Petersburg Eifman Ballet, founded in 1977
     Mikhailovsky Theatre Ballet, founded in 1930s
     Perm Theatre Ballet, founded in 1896
     Novosibirsk Theatre Ballet, founded in 1945
     Russian State Ballet of Siberia, founded in 1978
     Amande Concerts, founded in 1999