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Paris Opera Ballet

The Ballet de l’Opera de Paris as it is known in France, has been going for 354 years and is the oldest national ballet company in the world. It all began in the 1660’s when Louis XIV wanted to improve the quality of dance in court entertainment.

In the beginning, all the dancers were male with the first professional ballerina taking to the stage in 1681.

If a dancer wants any chance of being in the Paris Opera Ballet, it is almost compulsory for them to first be a student at the Paris Opera Ballet School which has been going since 1713 and is said to be one of the world’s best dance schools.

After years of study, all the students leave the school with the Professional Diploma in Dance and the Baccalaureate in literature. But just to get into the dance school is difficult with more than 90 percent of the people who audition not passing the entrance exam and 20 percent of the pupils who are admitted in the school, fail the very competitive yearly exams. Only five to 20 percent of the ballet school graduates are accepted into the Paris Opera Ballet and this is initially on a trial.

To remain a member of the Paris Opera Ballet, the dancers must also pass an annual exam every year. At the beginning a dancer in the Paris Opera Ballet is classed as “Quadrille”, which is the fifth and lowest rank in the Ballet. The dancer can get a promotion to the next rank depending on their success in the annual exam which is done in front of a group of judges. To achieve the highest rank as Danseur Etoile, the dancer must perform in leading roles for many years before being nominated due to their outstanding excellence.

In 1983, Rudolph Nureyev, regarded as one of the greatest classical dancers ever, was appointed director of the Paris Opera Ballet. During his time as director, he set a very high standard and promoted younger dancers in the Ballet as well as continuing to dance and choreograph.

The Paris Opera Ballet has been performing in the Palais Garnier since 1875 and today there are 154 dancers who put on 180 performances each year. It is regarded as one of the most prominent ballet companies in the world!

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