Ballet variations are basically ballet dance solos.
A variation gives you an opportunity to break away from the rest of the troupe and have the spotlight shine on you.
It also adds variation to the display.
If you are a new ballerina, it is best to start with specific ballet variations for beginners.
They are more simplistic than most time-honored variations from prestigious ballet companies, so they are much easier to learn.
They can help you get in the habit of breaking the rhythm from the rest of the troupe and performing apart from them with no visible discrepancy.
Here are the best beginning ballet variations with which to get started.
Table of Contents
- 1 Ballet Variations For Beginners
- 1.1 Sleeping Beauty – Bluebird
- 1.2 Don Quixote – Basilio, Kitri
- 1.3 The Nutcracker – Sugar Plum Fairy
- 1.4 La Bayadere – Gamzatti, Nikiya
- 1.5 Le Corsaire – Medora
- 1.6 Related Questions
- 2 Beginning Ballet Variations: Final Thoughts
Ballet Variations For Beginners
Variations are hard. It’s a solo. It’s not designed to be easy. And all eyes are on the soloist.
Variations have varying degrees of difficulty depending on the dancer and the type of ballet. But any dancer should have a full year of practice in a variation before attempting it for an audience.
Gauge your (or your child’s) ability to follow instructions and understand your inherent skill level before attempting any variations. Based on our knowledge and dancer feedback, these are the best variations to start out with.
Sleeping Beauty – Bluebird
Sleeping Beauty isn’t just a Disney classic. It’s an old-school classical ballet from 1889 that was composed by Pyotr Ilyich, one of the greatest ballet composers of the late 1800s.
History states that Pyotr was actually addressed by the director of the Imperial Theatres for Sleeping Beauty first, before his later works of The Nutcracker and Swan Lake.
The Bluebird variation is often revered as one of the best beginner variations. Even so, it can take three to six months to get comfortable with it, and up to a year to actually claim mastery over this variation.
But it is definitely worth learning. The Bluebird is a variation that will continue to be hailed as we move into the next generation of ballet dancers for its simplicity and beauty.
Don Quixote – Basilio, Kitri
Ballet is strenuous on the body, but Marius Petipa wanted to extend what dancers were capable of. To that end, he made a three-act ballet in 1869 that included the Don Quixote variation.
As with many classical ballets, there is a more modern version. Hailing from 1900, it includes an even longer overall act. But the changes to the Don Quixote variation are miniscule at best. The modern style makes it easier for beginners to grasp the concept.
This variation has its own separate parts. You can practice them individually, and then focus on stitching them together, once you’ve got each part down separately.
The Nutcracker – Sugar Plum Fairy
Pyotr Ilyich also composed The Nutcracker, which is most known for its variation called the Sugar Plum Fairy.
It is a beginner-level variation that more experienced dancers can adapt to create a more intermediate version depending on whether you follow the classical style or the modern style of The Nutcracker.
The scene where this variation appears is a slow build. You have some time while waiting for your solo variation to come up, so you can get into a focused state.
Overall, the Sugar Plum Fairy is a good beginner variation. But remember that this vague term is different for every dancer. This ballet variation could be easy for one ballerina and difficult for another.
La Bayadere – Gamzatti, Nikiya
This Russian variation is one of the most revered in history. Hailed as a masterpiece by critics and dancers alike, it took place in 1877 during The Kingdom of the Shades, and is still celebrated.
It was a turning point in classical ballet history, but there are modern versions available from the Kirov Ballet production in 1941 that may be easier for beginners to grasp.
While the steps for this variation aren’t inherently difficult, it can be difficult to make them flow together. Diligence is the key.
Le Corsaire – Medora
Perhaps the most difficult ballet variation for beginners on this list, Le Corsaire is a three-act ballet with the Medora variation somewhere in the middle.
It was developed in 1856, and while there are modern versions, the original is often referred to as the best. There are just some classics you can’t mess with.
Oftentimes, this ballet is broken up into individual scenes, because they were just so brilliantly done. You can inject many individual scenes into other ballets, making Medora one of the best variations for creativity.
These beginning variations above are a good starting point. If nothing else, you can find examples of these variations for your dancer to watch and inspect, so they get a better grasp of what will be happening.
Even if it just ends up being for viewing pleasure, everyone can benefit from the artistic beauty of these variations.
What’s The Best Age To Start Ballet?
Three years old is the best time to start. While there is some information out there saying that age two is good, it’s hard to keep a two-year-old’s attention for long enough.
Apart from that, two-year-olds are still in the process of developing their smaller bones into larger bones (at birth, children have more bones than adults, before they fuse together).
A three-year-old should have enough attention to focus for short intervals of time. They are also generally more limber than two-year-olds.
They spend a lot of time focusing on hand-eye coordination through playtime and roughhousing. The additional year of development is crucial if you want them to do anything graceful, like dance.
How Long Does It Take To Become Good in Ballet?
On average, it takes approximately a full decade—ten years of consistent and constant practice. A dancer’s body is far different from even your average athlete’s body.
Dancers train different muscles and they are more flexible than most people. They need to constantly use that flexibility, otherwise they can lose it.
However, this also depends on the age at which you begin ballet. Dancers starting fresh at the age of three won’t be any good under they’re around sixteen to nineteen years old. They can learn how to do a dance turn in ballet at a young age, but they won’t be able to perform it perfectly until they are older.
This means a fifteen-year period in most instances. It takes that long, because the body is still growing and the ability learn moves is limited. There is also a limit to how often children can practice.
At age three, one class per week is sufficient. You then upgrade to two classes per week, then three, and so on. By the time a dancer is fifteen years old, they could be taking two classes per day just to stay on top of their training, especially if they dance at one of the famous ballet companies.
That’s an average of sixty classes in a single month, or over seven-hundred in a year. You need to do a lot of intense work, before you can really be a pro in ballet.
What Kind Of Equipment Do Beginners Need?
Any new ballet dancer will need a few things to begin their ballet journey. Here is what you should have ready so that you or your child can get started, regardless of age.
We didn’t list any equipment you find in a dance studio, but getting a good portable ballet barre so you can practice at home is always a good idea.
Leotards are coverings that allow dancers to move in all necessary positions without causing injuries. In fact, they were invented for this purpose—to prevent dancers from being injured when trying out new, out-there moves. Leotards and tights are the two most iconic pieces of clothing that any dancer will wear.
Without tights, a dancer is left with less motion. Tights help with compression (which helps blood flow to the muscles), and they help the body stay warm where larger, baggy clothing actually doesn’t.
Tights also offer some of the best mobility, which beginners should get used to from the start. Usually, the tights are worn over the leotard.
Ballet shoes help train your feet and ankles in the way they’re supposed to be for ballet at later stages in life. This gets worked into muscle memory from this point onward, so it’s important to start off with the right shoes. The also help you avoid potential serious long-term negative effects of ballet on the body.
If you or your young one have longer hair, you should get in the habit of having tied-back hair during ballet. This won’t matter as much in the beginning since you’ll be doing a lot of tumbling and slower movements, but it’s just a good habit to get into for when you move on to more intense moves or full ballet variations.
Not all ballerinas wear leg warmers and they only wear them during practice, but they are a good idea. Read “Why Do Ballerinas Wear Leg Warmers?” for more.
Beginning Ballet Variations: Final Thoughts
The truth is, there is no perfect way to learn variations.
It’s called a variation for a reason—it deviates or varies from the original composure, giving you the creative freedom and expression to make it work on your own.
Depending on the moves, music, and choreography, you can do anything with variations so long as it flows. As a beginner, it can be difficult to come up with your own. Starting with the beginner variations presented here will help you get your feet wet, until you are ready to really get creative.
And if you are researching for your child, it may take some time for little ones (around age three to five) to really appreciate everything that goes into ballet variations.
But with due diligence, you’ll be able to help them grow their love of ballet from the ground up.