Character dancers play an important part in classical ballet. Before the nineteenth century, rôles such as peasants and sailors were considered character dancers and often were part of Commedia dell'arte. Since the early part of the nineteenth century, the word "character" has become associated with folk dance.
In many classical productions, character dancers play important parts, such as von Rothbart in Swan Lake and Drosselmeyer in The Nutcracker. Some of the Divertimento parts in the original production of The Nutcracker by Marius Petipa were performed by character dancers, and to this day Mariinsky Ballet preserves the tradition.
Character dancers do not dance en pointe, and instead wear character shoes with heels or soft ballet slippers. Being a good character dancer means to have great understanding of fine elements of various cultures as well as having stamina and passion.