History of Classical Ballet

Royal Academy of Dance

Learning ballet requires patience and continual study over time. It is recommended that the commitment for students studying for a Graded examination or Presentation class should be a minimum of one class a week with extra coaching in the period leading up to the examination, particularly as the student progresses towards the higher levels.

The Graded Examinations in Dance Syllabus consists of three dance disciplines:

  • Ballet – the foundation and the most important part of the syllabus
  • Free Movement – it has been influenced by and incorporates movements in common with other dance styles such as Natural Movement, Contemporary and Classical Greek Dance
  • Character – the theatrical presentation of national dance using original ethnic dance and music which has been freely adapted for the theatre. The three styles — Hungarian, Russian and Polish — were selected because of their historic importance

in the development of the nineteenth century full-length classical ballets.

Study for these examinations provides students with:

  • an increasing ability to demonstrate practical knowledge of the above disciplines with the appropriate technique, musicality and performance qualities
  • a graduated measure of attainment against specific criteria
  • increased self-confidence through the learning, memorising and performing of prescribed sequences of movement, studies and dances
  • awareness and understanding of working with others
  • an appreciation, through practical experience, of three contrasting dance disciplines and their accompanying music

Graded examinations are numbered progressively in order of complexity, from Primary to Grade 8 Award. The Entry Requirements show which grade your candidate can be entered for.

The types of assessment are:

  • Class Awards conducted by the teacher and assessed by an RAD Examiner
  • Candidates receive an Assessment Report, a Certificate, and a Medal from the RAD
  • Examinations
  • Presentation Classes, based on Graded Examinations are also offered. These are performed in front of an RAD examiner and conducted by the teacher. The candidates are rewarded with a certificate of participation.

Graded: entry requirements

Candidates are eligible to take Graded examinations, Presentation classes or Class awards as long as their age meets the minimum age requirement below.

There are no upper age limits.

Examination or Presentation class level.                        Minimum age requirements:

Pre-Primary in Dance Primary in Dance:

Grade 1                                                                                                         5 years and over

Grade 2                                                                                                        6 years and over

Grade 3                                                                                                        7 years and over

Grade 4                                                                                                        7 years and over

Grade 5                                                                                                         7 years and over

Grade 6                                                                                                        11 years and over

Grade 7                                                                                                        11 years and over

Grade 8 Award                                                                                           11 years and over




The Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing (ISTD) is one of the world’s leading dance examinations board. From Ballet to Ballroom, we cover the full spectrum of genres and for more than 100 years we have provided training for dance teachers and examiners, enabling them to enter their students for examinations, develop new techniques and spread the joy of dance.

As a registered educational charity, the ISTD’s mission is to educate the public in the art of dancing in all its forms, to promote knowledge of dance, to provide up-to-date techniques for our members, and to maintain and improve teaching standards. We support and train our members through a wide variety of courses, summer schools and congresses, updated teaching syllabi and techniques upon which to train dancers for the profession.

Many of our members are leading figures in the dance industry around the world, from esteemed West End choreographers and legendary teachers, to up-and-coming stars of the future.

250,000 dance examinations globally each year

Multiple styles of dance with 12 different faculties

Dance courses, teacher training and qualifications

Publications, CDs and DVDs available in person, online or by phone


Syllabi with the latest techniques

ISTD2 Dance Studios in central London

Comprehensive library with more than 5,000 volumes 7,500+ members in more than 75 countries around the world


The ISTD’s chief objective is: “to educate the public in the art of dancing in all its forms”. To achieve this, we work in four main ways:

  • to promote knowledge of dance.
  • to maintain and improve teaching standards.
  • to qualify, by examination, teachers of dancing in the ISTD’s specialist techniques taught by our 7,500 members in schools of dancing throughout the world.
  • to provide, through our syllabi, techniques upon which to train dancers for the profession.

History of Classical Ballet


Ballet originated in the Italian Renaissance courts and was brought to France by Cathrine de Medici in the 16th Century.11 During ballet’s infancy, court ballets were performed by aristocratic amateurs rather than professional dancers.11 Most of ballet’s early movements evolved from social court dances and prominently featured stage patterns rather than formal ballet technique.

In the 17th century, as ballet’s popularity in France increased, ballet began to gradually transform into a professional art. No longer performed by amateurs, ballet performances started to incorporate challenging acrobatic movements that could only be performed by highly-skilled street entertainers.m In response, the world’s first ballet school, the Academie de Dance, was established by King Louis XIV in 1661J 1 The Academic’s purpose was to improve the quality of dance training in France, and to invent a technique or curriculum that could be used to transform ballet into a formal discipline. Shortly after the Academie was formed, in 1672, King Louis XIV established a performing company called the Academie Royal de Musique de Dance (today known as Paris Opera), and named Pierre Beauchamp the head dancing- masteiv While at the Academie Royal, Beauchamp revolutionized ballet technique by inventing the five positions of ballet, which to this day remain the foundation of all formal classical ballet technique.111


There are several standardized, widespread, classical ballet training systems, each designed to produce a unique aesthetic quality from its students. Some systems are named after their creators; these are typically called methods or schools. For example, two prevailing systems from Russia are the Vaganova method (created by Agrippina Vaganova) and the Legat Method (by Nikolai Legat). The Cecchetti method is named after Italian dancer Enrico Cecchetti. Another training system was developed by and named after August Bournonville; this is taught primarily in Denmark. The Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) method was not created by an individual, but by a group of notable ballet professionals. Despite their associations with geographically named ballet styles, many of these training methods are used worldwide. For example, the RAD teaching method is used in more than 70 countries.

American-style ballet (Balanchine) is not taught by means of a standardized, widespread training system. Similarly, French ballet has no standard training system; each of the major French-style ballet schools, such as the Paris Opera Ballet School. Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique et de Danse, and Academie de Danse Classique Princesse Grace (Monaco) employs a unique training system.

-Anna Pavlova in Giselle, wearing a Romantic tutu