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Ballerinas’ Story Telling

Ballet Term Glossary Vocabulary Terms Jacklyn Dougherty
Photo Credit Jacklyn Dougherty

How do ballerina dancers express the story without using verbal language?

Ballet is a Dance Style

Many people have used to tell and interpret stories from all over the world. While ballerinas do not speak on stage, they tell their stories through movements or pantomime. Like any other dance style, ballet can be just a random plot-less rhythm or a well-choreographed story ballet that tells a particular story. Such stories that have been famous over the years include the nutcracker and the sleeping beauty, written and choreographed in the 19th Century.

How to ballet dance Jacklyn Dougherty
Ballet Photo Credit Jacklyn Dougherty

The basic expression of the story is first seen through their dramatic and expressive movements. Started in the 18th Century by Jean Georges Noverre, the founding father created ballet d’action to show that ballet can effectively tell a story through the dancers’ movements (Woodard). As such, the body and floor movements in a narrative ballet are not just random. Instead, it is a well-choreographed affair whose audience can pick up the message from the movements displayed on stage. The ballerinas intentionally use creative steps and arm movements that show both rhythm for entertainment and a consistent storyline that can be seen as it develops, from the introductory part of the dance, the main body, and the conclusion (Hanna). Such is synonymous with narration in prose, just that ballerinas express it in artistic dance movements.

The Costume and Decor

The costume and decor are also other aspects of telling a story. The audience is treated to different lighting scenes, costumes, and backgrounds that evoke different feelings. Such differences can also be seen in the ballerinas’ facial expressions based on the costumes and background.

Jacklyn Dougherty How to Ballet Dance Glossary
Ballet Mine Photo Credit Jacklyn Dougherty


The audience can easily pick up on the facial expressions and connect with whatever else is going on the stage to understand the plot. Through facial expressions, the dancers can switch between different themes like happiness, anger, and desperation.

Works Cited

Hanna, Judith Lynne. “Dancing: A Nonverbal Language for Imagining and Learning.” Encyclopedia of the Sciences of Learning, 2012, pp. 905–908,, 10.1007/978-1-4419-1428-6_690.

Woodard, Meagan. Scholarly Commons Ouachita Scholarly Commons @ Ouachita Dance: The Universal Language of Storytellers Dance: The Universal Language of Storytellers. 2020.

For how to ballet dance, check out our Ballet Glossary page. May you reach your center stage.

Jacklyn Dougherty Technical Manual and Dictionary of Classical Ballet
Photo Credit Jacklyn Dougherty

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