World Ballet Day 2019: Five dancers who shaped the industry

Last updated at 05:59
ballerinas practicing arabesqueGetty Images

Wednesday 23 October is World Ballet Day.

It launched in October 2014 as a day to celebrate this popular form of dance, with major dance companies from around the world coming together to mark the occasion.

British dance companies involved are the Royal Ballet, Royal Academy of Dance and Birmingham Royal Ballet - to name just a few.

To mark the day, Newsround is taking a look back at five ballerinas who have shaped the industry.

Misty Copeland - American Ballet Theatre superstar
Misty-Copeland.Getty Images

In 2015, Misty was the first African American principal dancer for her school, the American Ballet Theatre. It was the first time this had happened in the school for 75 years.

Misty was "en pointe" within three months of her first dance class. Within just one year, she was performing professionally - something which is almost unheard of for a classical dancer.

She was cast as the lead ballerina in 2018's Disney film The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, alongside Mackenzie Foy, Keira Knightly, Helen Mirren and Morgan Freeman.

Dame Darcey Bussell DBE - ballet star to Strictly judge
Dame-Darcey-Bussell.Getty Images

Many will know Darcey for her appearance as a judge on Strictly Come Dancing, for which she was on the panel from 2012 to 2018.

However, before joining the show, she had a hugely successful career as a ballerina. The former dancer was a student at the Arts Educational School where she studied all forms of stage craft. It was when the late Kenneth MacMillan noticed her talent that the rest became history.

Although she retired from ballet in 2007, she is still regarded as one of the greatest British ballerinas of her time.

In 1995, she too was awarded an OBE for her services to ballet. But following this, she gained a CBE in 2006 and became a Dame in 2018.

Rudolf Nureyev - company director of the Paris Opera Ballet
Rudolf-Nureyev.Getty Images

Russian dancer Rudolf had an extensive career in ballet and is regarded one of the greatest ballet dancers of his generation.

He was also the company director at the Paris Opera Ballet, holding the position from 1983 to 1989. During his time in the role, he introduced the company to innovative choreographers and teachers.

Despite being known for his talent on the stage, he has also been praised off the stage for being generous to dancers at the start of their careers.

Natalia Osipova - principal at The Royal Ballet
Natalia-Osipova.Getty Images

In 2013, Natalia Osipova joined The Royal Ballet. Now, she is a principal for the company.

The acclaimed dancer went on to appear in productions of The Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker and Swan Lake.

Dancing since the age of five, Natalia has gone onto win many prestigious awards, including the Critics' Circle National Dance Awards. She was awarded Best Female Dancer in 2007, 2010 and 2014.

Christopher Wheeldon OBE - International ballet star to acclaimed choreographer
Christopher-Wheeldon.Getty Images

The British-born dancer Christopher Wheeldon has gained international attention not just for being a ballet dancer, but also for his work as a choreographer.

An acclaimed dancer, he is well-known for his striking performances on stage, including 2011's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, which was the first full-length ballet created at the Royal Ballet for over 20 years.

In 2016, he was awarded an OBE for "services to promoting the interests and reputation of British classical and theatrical dance worldwide".

Which ballerinas do you admire? Let us know in the comments below!

Your Comments

Join the conversation

4 comments