AND THE OSCAR GOES TO… the top 10 ballet companies in the world

With the Oscars around the corner, it means it is time for a Ballet Education’s award season. With that about to happen, after two years of hesitantly writing a list of actual top ten companies… I have given in.

top ten ballet companies
A lot of you have asked if I could rank the top ten ballet companies in the world… And so, because I am so obliging to your requests, sure, why the hell not. I have postponed this post because a lot of things get factored in when looking at a company:

The Caliber of Dancer: where they have trained, artistic merit, technical achievements.
The Size of the Company, good things come in small packages sometimes, a lot of the times. Larger companies though employ more dancers, so from a financial or economic standpoint, that is a factor.
The Repertory, both current and old. Repertory feeds the dancer’s soul and sells tickets. Is the company innovating?
Going on tour: Is it a home company or touring company? That is a significant factor too. Touring companies have a lot of worldwide recognition, and home companies have a stable audience.
Does the company have a school that feeds the company creating a lasting relationship between the young community and the current ballet audience?
What is good ballet? That is probably the most subjective… but that can always be defined by the real question of, “What is Ballet… Today.”

So… if we look at what ballet is today, it is isn’t this rigid fairytale designed by composers and directors. It has evolved so much more than that. Nowadays, ballet is encompassed by what can be defined as neo-classic, and a lot of contemporary (as in works being done today) works. The current ballet vocabulary is expanding, and because ballet vocabulary has always set the standard for dance… Thanks to the codification of ballet in France… It has always been that way… But now, the language of dance is melding with cultural references and different genres, it is exploring new depths of music or the lack thereof, and the ability to transpire a new quality of dancing.

If by definition of the art form, classical ballet is the art of constraint.
Then neoclassical ballet would be that of the 20th century, so Balanchine, DeMille, Graham, Robbins
And if current or contemporary ballet is that of Tharp, Forsythe, Kylian, Neumeier, Wheeldon, Ramatansky, Elmo, etc
And if the future of ballet is being defined by Peck, Thatcher, Simkin and Cirio then we can classify these companies quicker.

But unfortunately, there are really only five ballet companies that set the tone of the ballet world and here is the reason why:

The Paris Opera Ballet: they set the tone for turnout and the foundations of technique. Paris Opera employs 150 dancers and takes residency between Palais Garnier and the Bastille Opera House.

The Bolshoi Ballet (or interchange it with any random Russian company that hires from Vaganova School): they set the tone for Adagio and body type. The breeding ground for Russian superstars, the feeder school to Bolshoi is BBA but the rivaled Russian companies are fed by Vaganova Academy.

The Royal Ballet: they set the tone for technical powerhouses, turns/jumps. Prix winners go there to build a name for themselves. Takes residency at the gorgeous Covent Garden.

The New York City Ballet: they set the tone for musicality, speed and new works. Residing at Lincoln Center, the only American Company that resembles and performs as much as a European home company.

Nederlands Dans Theatre: they set the tone for innovation and new ways to move. Between the first and second companies, the two employ 46 of the most fundamentally interesting dancers in the world. Originally founded by Jiri Kylian and now under the Artistic Directorship of Paul Lightfoot, this company is always pushing the edge of innovation. (A lot of you might think to switch out Nederlands Dans Theatre with Stuttgart, and you could be right. I just believe that Nederlands pushes innovation more while Stuttgart offers a more diverse repertory.)

These five companies are also ridiculously accessible these days. With Social Media being the new innovator and the new audience, ballet companies like these five are creating the trends for ballet. With repertory to die for, these companies set the look and feel of ballet, but without a doubt– these companies border between classical and neo-classical companies. I don’t see Nederlands of City Ballet attempting to take on say: The Little Humpback Horse or the full length Raymonda… There are companies who truly are classical, and their schools reflect that as well. I think that these companies have had to expand their repertory because of the demand for new works by both the dancers and the audience.

So the top 10 Classical Ballet Companies in the world would be, in no particular order… Again NO PARTICULAR ORDER, before you all go crazy:

1. Paris Opera Ballet – COMPANY WEBSITE
2. National Ballet of Cuba – COMPANY WEBSITE
3. Bolshoi Ballet/ Kirov/ Mariinsky –BOLSHOI WEBSITE
4. Royal Danish- Bournonville technique- WEBSITE
5. The Australian Ballet – Website
6. Het National Ballet/Dutch National Ballet-WEBSITE
7. American Ballet Theatre- WEBSITE
8. Teatro La Scala – COMPANY WEBSITE
9. National Ballet of Canada –WEBSITE
10. The Royal Ballet – COMPANY WEBSITE

The top 5 Neo-Classical Ballet Companies would be:
1. New York City Ballet
2. Nederlands Dans Theatre
3. Stuttgart Ballet
4. San Francisco Ballet
5. Eifman Ballet
Now my personal list of top 10 companies in the world, the list that really matters:
1. New York City Ballet
2. Paris Opera Ballet
3. Bolshoi Ballet
4. Alonzo King’s LINES
5. San Francisco Ballet
6. Pacific Northwest Ballet
7. American Ballet Theatre
8. Australian Ballet
9. Dance Theatre of Harlem
10. Ballet Black

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The Germans are coming… well leaping. (The German Companies)

Germany isn’t the first place that comes to mind when you think ballet, or dance in general. But since the 60’s German companies have risen, and have produced some of the most amazing works, or choreography today. Particularly, there are two companies in Germany that have risen to the occasion establishing them among the best: the Hamburg Ballet, and Stuttgart Ballet. In edition a baby ballet company in their 8th season has risen and made quite the splash in the ballet world: the Dreseden Semperoper Ballet.

Stuttgart Ballet (Company): Housed at the Opera House in Stuttgart, and founded by John Cranko, and now headed by Reid Anderson, the Stuttgart Ballet employs 65 dancers. Why is this so relevant? John Cranko has made numerous contributions to the world of ballet by extending the classical ballet repertory and mentoring: Jiri Kylian and John Neumeier. His two biggest contributions to the “classical” repertory have been the Prince of Pagodas (Royal Ballet) and Eugene Onegin.

Hamburg Ballet (Company):Reinvented by John Neumeier in 1973, the Hamburg Ballet has flourished. Their website boasts that under his direction of 40 years, over a 180 new ballets have been presented, 421 dancers have been employed, and their list of accomplishments goes on. The Hamburg Ballet has made huge contemporary contributions to the world of dance, one of the most noted is John Neumeier’s Little Mermaid.

hamburg ballet dancers

Then there is the new comer to German Ballet, the Semperoper Ballet. Starting their ninth season, Semperoper Ballet is making their splash in the dance world. Most of their dancers are extremely flexible, and very technical, and have gathered dancers from numerous international schools. For a company in their 9th season, they have recruited some of the best talent out there. In addition their exposure on social media has been growing, especially from their men. With dancers from across the globe Semperoper is definitely starting to make a name for themselves, and their creation of Nutcracker video Via Youtube is pretty cool as well.

In addition another young company is slowly making it’s way into the limelight: The Forsythe Project.. After the close of Ballett Frankfurt, the Forsythe Project was created to lead a group of individuals with innovative choreography. The project has paid off well, and for those of you who are in America who would be dying to work with William Forsythe, he joins the faculty at USC for the 2015-2016 school year in their new dance department. (Good time to be going to college.) In addition, it seems that the Germans are all about premiers, pushing the boundaries of innovation, choreography, music and lighting. With a strong number of choreographers, it seems that we will now be looking to Germany for the next standard repertory. (This being that eventually we will replace the Balanchine Repertory with the German Repertory, which will either be replaced by Ramatsky, Wheeldon, Millpied, Justin Peck, Myles Thatcher.)

More German companies are making appearances in the US, as Hamburg Ballet and San Francisco have created a strong bond between Europe and the States. As Southern California this season is bringing in companies from all over, it will be nice to see how everyone compares. especially to our home companies.