The “grand ballet” is a term usually used to indicate ballet productions by Marius Petipa, Ballet Master and principal choreographer of the Imperial Ballet from 1871 to 1903. The creator of “La Bayadère”, “The Sleeping Beauty”, “Swan Lake” and dozens of other famous and not-so-famous ballets, Petipa composed his works in the shape of a multi-layered chocolate-covered cake.
Grand ballet’s structure is full of contrasts: pantomimic episodes are followed by vigorous dance sequences, character dance comes after classic ballet, and after serious acts come grotesque scenes. The show features every dancer in the troupe, often even trainees and students, and the prima ballerina is treated as the main star and the cause of this whole commotion.
Historical or ethnic accuracy has little importance in grand ballet: exotic themes in the shows (like “La Bayadère” or “The Pharaoh's Daughter”) are only implemented to make them even more flamboyant and grandiose. Therefore, it’s not only large ensembles and processions, but also luxurious costumes and accessories, impressive props and machinery that are essential attributes of grand ballet.