If you’ve decided to take ballet classes, congratulations, you’ve made a very wise choice. It’s not only an excellent full body workout, and a terrific way to reduce stress. By participating in ballet, you’re part of a continuum, an artistic tradition that crosses oceans of time and spans continents.

The ballet was birthed during the Renaissance, the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, in Italy. The Italian noblewoman Catherine de Medici encouraged the spread of ballet at her court while she was the Queen of France. It was in France that ballet truly flowered, and the form of ballet that’s recognized today was popularized by Louis XIV, who was a dancer in his youth. In the year 1661, he founded the Academie Royale de Danse (Royal Dance Academy). Its mission was to certify dance instructors and properly establish standards for ballet. Soon after, the Paris Opera Ballet was formed, which is why commonly utilized terms for ballet are usually French words.

As the centuries went on, ballet fell out of fashion. It might have been permanently lost to history if not for the Russian company Ballets Russes, run by Sergei Diaghilev. After the Bolshevik Revolution, Diaghilev’s company became a popular destination for dancers looking to escape famine and instability in Russia. After being instructed, dancers would either return to their homes or travel beyond to spread the resurgent art form. As a result, ballet found its way to Germany and the United States, where it evolved into recognizable but unique styles.