Women in dance
The important place of women in dance can be traced back to the very origins of civilization. Cave paintings, Egyptian frescos, Indian statuettes, ancient Greek and Roman art and records of court traditions in China and Japan all testify to the important role women played in ritual and religious dancing from the start. In the Middle Ages, what has become known as ballet had its beginnings in Italian court festivals when women frequently played the parts of men. It was however in late 17th-century France that the Paris Opera produced the first celebrated ballerinas. While women began to dominate the ballet scene in the 18th century, it was with the advent of Romantic ballet in the 19th century that they became the undisputed centre of attraction with stars playing the leading roles in the works of Marius Petipa, appearing in theatres across Europe from Milan's La Scala to the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg. More recently, women have played a leading role in developing various forms of modern dance including flamenco and expressionist dance.