The Bolshoi Ballet is an internationally renowned classical ballet company, based at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, Russia. Founded in 1776, the Bolshoi is among the world's oldest ballet companies. It only achieved worldwide acclaim, however, in the early 20th century when Moscow became the capital of Soviet Russia. Along with the Mariinsky Ballet in Saint Petersburg, the Bolshoi is recognised as one of the foremost ballet companies in the world.
The earliest origins of the Bolshoi Ballet, can be found in the creation of a dance school for a Moscow orphanage in 1773. In 1776, dancers from the school were employed by Prince Pyotr Urusov and the English theatrical entrepreneur Michael Maddox, to form part of their new theatre company. Originally performing in privately owned venues, they later acquired the Petrovsky Theatre, which, as a result of fires and erratic redevelopment, would later be rebuilt as today's Bolshoi Theatre. The Bolshoi Ballet is a very hard place to get into. While some guest dancers come and go, from other very prestigious ballet companies—like from the Mariinky and American Ballet Theatre—many company dancers are carefully selected graduates of the academy. The first American ballet dancer to graduate from the Bolshoi Ballet Academy and to join the Bolshoi Ballet company, was Michael Shannon, in 1989.