The Polish National Ballet continues the traditions of the first Polish ballet group, His Majesty’s National Dancers, operating in King Stanislaus Augustus’ court in the 18th century. In the first half of the 19th century, the Warsaw ballet group, operating at the opera theatre was among the best European ballet groups. Some of the greatest artists of the Romantic period, including Maria Taglioni, appeared on the Warsaw stage and the group was led by Western ballet masters: Louis Thierry, Maurice Pion and Filippo Taglioni. The newest ballets of outstanding Italian and French choreographers with Polish music, were performed in Warsaw. One of Poland’s best ballet masters was Roman Turczynowicz. Initially the ballet group gave performances on the stage of the National Theatre at Plac Krasińskich, together with opera and drama groups. Since 1833, with a break during the 2nd World War (and the time of reconstruction), Warsaw ballet has operated in the Teatr Wielki building at pl. Teatralny. Until the 2nd World War the ballet was directed by: Hipolit Meunier, Virgilius Calori, Pasquale Borri, José Mendez, Raffaele Grassi, Enrico Cecchetti, Piotr Zajlich and Jan Ciepliński and others. After the 2nd World War the ballet was directed by: Leon Woizikovsky, Stanisław Miszczyk, Raissa Kusnetsova, Maria Krzyszkowska and Emil Wesołowski. Since March 2009 the group has been directed by Krzysztof Pastor. On 29 April 2009 the Minister of Culture separated the ballet from the theatre and promoted it to the rank of Polish National Ballet. The group has obtained full artistic autonomy.
Most famous soloists: Barbara Bittnerówna, Witold Gruca, Witold Borkowski, Olga Sawicka, Maria Krzyszkowska, Stanisław Szymański, Wojciech Wiesiołłowski (Woytek Lowsky), Feliks Malinowski, Zbigniew Strzałkowski, Elżbieta Jaroń, Bożena Kociołkowska, Janusz Smoliński, Wacław Gaworczyk, Gerard Wilk, Andrzej Ziemski, Helena Strzelbicka, Renata Smukała, Ewa Głowacka, Barbara Rajska, Anna Białecka, Anna Grabka, Elżbieta Kwiatkowska, Anita Kuskowska, Izabela Milewska, Dariusz Blajer, Waldemar Wołk-Karaczewski, Ireneusz Wiśniewski, Łukasz Gruziel, Janusz Mazoń, Andrzej M. Stasiewicz, Sławomir Woźniak, Maksim Wojtiul.
Most important classical works presented by the ballet: La fille mal gardée (by Frederick Ashton), Cinderella (by Frederick Ashton), La Sylphide (by Bournonville/Ralov), Giselle (by Coralli, Perrot/Petipa), La Gitana (by Filippo Taglioni/Lacotte), Grand pas de quatre (by Perrot/Alicia Alonso), Swan Lake (by Petipa, Ivanov / Sergeyev and others), Sleeping Beauty (by Petip/Grigorovich and others), The Nutcracker (by Glegolski and others), Don Quixote (by Glegolski), Les Sylphides (by Fokin), The Graduation Ball (by Lichine), Bayadere (by Petipa/Makarov).
The Warsaw ballet has presented performances of Polish choreographers including: Leon Wójcikowski (Leon Woizikovsky), Stanisław Miszczyk, Jerzy Gogół, Eugeniusz Papliński, Witold Gruca, Witold Borkowski, Jerzy Makarowski, Teresa Kujawa, Zofia Rudnicka, Andrzej Glegolski, Emil Wesołowski, Waldemar Wołk-Karaczewski, Marek Różycki and Krzysztof Pastor.
Moreover, the ballet has presented the choreographies of foreign choreographers, such as: Françoise Adret, George Balanchine, Maurice Béjart, John Butler, Birgit Cullberg, Aleksey Tchirchinatze, Mats Ek, Antal Fodor, Jiri Kylian, Joseph Lazzini, Serge Lifar, Hans van Manen, Lorca Massine, Alberto Méndez, Asaf Messerer, John Neumeier, André Prokovsky, Alfred Rodrigues, Erich Walter, Oleg Winogradow, Ed Wubbe and Yuriko.
Guest actors who have performed in the Warsaw ballet include: Carlota Grisi, Virginia Zucchi, Matylda Krzesińska, Pierina Legnani, Cecilia Cerri, Olga Preobrazenska, Vera Trefilova, Anna Pavlova, Tamara Karsavina, Natalia Biessmiertnova, Natalia Dudinska, Eva Evdokimova, Margot Fonteyn, Carla Fracci, Marcia Haydée, Doris Laine, Maja Plisiecka, Ludmila Siemieniaka, Raissa Strutchkova, Paolo Bortoluzzi, John Neumeier, Konstantin Sergeyev, Michael Somes, as well as: Anne Adair, Johanna Björnson, Laura Connor, Wendy Ellis, Gigi Hyatt, Ann Jenner, Lubov Kunakova, Ana Laguna, Lilla Pártay, Nadiezda Pavlova, Malika Sabirova, Anna Seidl, Eglé Spokaité, Marion Tait, Miyako Yoshida, Paul Chalmer, Marat Daukayev, Imre Dózsa, Wayne Eagling, Clint Farha, Viacheslav Gordeyev, Maximiliano Guerra, Stephen Jefferies, Nicholas Johnson, Irek Muchamiedov, Christian Musil, Anders Nordström, Roland Price, Faruk Ruzimatov, Reda Sheta, Arne Villumsen, Jurij Vasiuchenko, Konstantin Zaklinski and other foreign dancers, and recently also: Maria Eichwald, Alina Somova, Filip Barankiewicz, Denis Matvienko, Rubi Pronk and Jan-Erik Wikström.