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Ballet Talk for Dancers

What is ballet theatre?


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I hope this is not a too basic question to ask. I'd like someone to enlighten me on what is meant by "ballet theatre". Is ballet theatre different from ballet? I thought at first that it meant something that emphasises the visual "entertainment", the "show" aspect, the narrative of a story,but perhaps is low on the ballet, both in quality and quantity? My teen dancer daughter assumed it meant there was dialogue in the performance. I just don't understand why a ballet company would call itself ballet theatre - I think of musical theatre, or dinner theatre, a mish-mash of things. After all, you don't hear of opera companies calling themselves opera theatre, I think. Or is it simply a matter of marketing in an attempt to pull in an audience who wouldn't necessarily want to see "elitist" ballet?

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Not a bad question, really. "Ballet theatre" isn't a separate genre of performing art. It just means "ballet company". The earliest use of it I can think of is 1940, when Lucia Chase and Richard Pleasant, with Oliver Smith joining them very early on revived and revised the old Mordkin Ballet, and formed "Ballet Theatre". The company changed its name to American Ballet Theatre in 1956.

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Thank you! You have resolved a long-standing dispute between my teenager and me, who refused my offer of tickets to see a company with the tag of "ballet theatre", insisting it could not be proper ballet!

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Thank you so much for the history, Mr. Johnson! Always love those tidbits!


My daughter had a much esteemed instructor who would refer to the company she is most known for dancing with as "Ballet Theater." She'd say things like "Well, at Ballet Theater, they do things this way" or "when I was at Ballet Theater..." As a result, when I hear "ballet theater," I immediately think ABT. Now I understand the history behind that. :D

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