When appreciated, ballet is an art without words (Lawson, v). A ballet dancer expresses everything through the movement of his body (v). His body is like a fine instrument, carefully tuned and maintained to perfection so when played, represents a work of absolute beauty. Mikhail Fokine, one of the great Russian ballet masters of the 20th century, once said that if it were necessary to "read a libretto before the ballet [could be] understood,"" then the choreographer had failed (v). In the 1900's, the Russians became a driving force in the art of ballet. Much of Europe, and even America, was greatly influenced by the Russians' superb skill and their innovative ideas and techniques. They began a dance revolution that not only impacted ballet in the 20th century, but also the 21st century's standards for all forms of dance. .
Yet, before one can understand why the Russian Ballet changed 20th century dance for all of Western Civilization, there first must be a basic knowledge of the history of ballet. Ballet can't be traced to, nor was it necessarily invented by, one person (Parsons, 2). Rather, ballet has evolved from the cultures within different time periods throughout the ages (2). The initial use of body control and choreographed movement began in the most likely originated in the comedies and tragedies of early Greek theatre (Lawson, 1). Over time, this style now seen as dance was passed through the Romans and thus continuously passed down throughout the generations. Even after the fall of the Roman Empire, this primitive ballet survived hundreds of years and into the Renaissance (9). During this long expanse of time, ballet was kept alive by traveling entertainment troupes and the religious plays of the courts in the European countries (10-11). In fact, Leonardo de Vinci designed several of the "scenic devises- for one of the first staged ballets in Europe (11). In the early 1500's, ballet moved into France and Italy where academies were beginning to be created to fine-tune ballet into a true art form.