Ballet is a paradox: much loved but little studied. It is a beautiful fairy tale; detached from its origins and unrelated to the men and women who created it. Yet ballet has a history, little known and rarely presented. These great works have dark sides and moral ambiguities, not always nor immediately visible. The daring and challenging quality of ballet as well as its perceived 'safe' nature is not only one of its fascinations but one of the intriguing questions to be explored in this 2007 Companion. The essays reveal the conception, intent and underlying meaning of ballets and recreate the historical reality in which they emerged. The reader will find new and unexpected aspects of ballet, its history and its aesthetics, the evolution of plot and narrative, new insights into the reality of training, the choice of costume and the transformation of an old art in a modern world.