Ballet is a popular form of entertainment, and has been for a very long time; it’s something that has been enjoyed since way before the time of movies and television.
As part of the theatre, ballet is an art form. No one can deny the beauty of its all-encompassing and seamless blend of music and dance to tell a story. Ballet performances are extremely powerful and inspirational for people to watch. Their visually appealing and musical nature amplifies the emotions of the performance, letting the story resonate even more in your mind.
We take a look at some of the most famous and most commonly performed ballets worldwide that should not be missed…
Composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in the 1870s, Swan Lake has come to be known as one of the most famous and most popular of all ballets. When people are discussing ballets, it’s unlikely that Swan Lake will go without mention. Capturing our hearts for almost a century and a half, it’s certainly a must-see classic.
The story follows young Prince Siegfried who one day, sees a beautiful swan that transforms into a woman in front of his very eyes. That woman? The infamous Swan Queen Odette, of course. She tells him of the terrible spell that a sorcerer cast over her and her companions; by day they are turned into swans and only at night do they return to human form.
Throughout, Swan Lake tells a tale of love and betrayal, but ultimately proves the power of good over evil. It’s a performance that is comprised of both visual beauty and impressive music that renders high emotion and awe, proving it to be a ballet that far exceeds its time.
The Nutcracker is another timeless classic that will undoubtedly be mentioned when talking about different ballets, and it’s another one by Tchaikovsky too. Based on the book ‘The Nutcracker and the Mouse King’ by ETA Hoffman and composed a little later than Swan Lake in the 1890s, it’s grown to be one of the most performed ballets in the modern era.
Mostly associated with the festive season, The Nutcracker outperforms any other ballet in the month of December, and makes for a fantastic Christmas treat for the entire family. Its magical performance features stunning dances and captivating songs that both children and adults will enjoy – and not to mention, it will get them excited for Christmas!
The story of The Nutcracker revolves around a young German girl who embarks on an exciting yet tumultuous journey with the Nutcracker. From Christmas Eve through to Christmas morning, young Marie Stahlbaum witnesses a battle between the Nutcracker and the Mouse King, is whisked away to magical kingdom populated by dolls, and meets the Sugar Plum Fairy. But, is it all a dream?
Known as one of the greatest romantic ballets worldwide, Giselle tells a tale of the power of love. However, it’s not all easy and breezy for the characters in this story.
The ballet is about a peasant girl called Giselle who dies of a broken heart after finding out the man she loves is getting married to another woman. She is summoned from her grave by The Wilis, a group of supernatural women who use the power of dance to kill men, with the aim of her lover’s death. But Giselle’s love conquers, and frees him from their deathly grips.
The music of this ballet is as magical as the storyline, composed by the infamous opera and ballet composer, Adolphe Adam. And there’s the choreography to match! With such a mixture of magic, drama and musical talent, it’s all too easy for Giselle to cast its supernatural powers over you.
Romeo and Juliet
This ballet was composed by Sergei Prokofiev in 1935, and it tells the tragic love story, originally written by William Shakespeare, through the art of dance. We know the play is a popular and well-known one, and the ballet is too. Almost every ballet company in the world will have a production of Romeo and Juliet under their belt.
The tale of the two star-crossed lovers is brought to life by Prokofiev in four acts and ten scenes, with 52 separate dances in total. Romeo and Juliet depicts all of the classic topics of Shakespearean plays: love at first sight, revenge, and death. Its dramatic storyline is certainly one of the very best tragedies to date, and is not one to be missed.
Sleeping Beauty is one of the first successful ballets that Tchaikovsky composed, along with the infamous and aforementioned Swan Lake. Whilst it’s not quite the Disney movie, it follows the story of Princess Aurora, from her christening through to the day of her marriage.
However, it’s not all a happy story for the Princess. On the day of her christening, Aurora is cursed to prick her finger on a spinning wheel and sleep for 100 years. The only way she can be saved is true love’s first kiss, and that she gets. The ballet ends with a happily ever after, with Aurora marrying the handsome prince that awakened her from her deep slumber.
Known as one of the most beautiful ballets in terms of music and dance, it comes as no surprise that the role of Aurora is one that is sort after by many ballerinas. It doesn’t come without its challenges though; the role demands real strength and talent, as well flawless technique.
The wonderful thing about ballet is that there are so many shows out there that are enjoyable for the whole family – for the young and old alike! Coppelia is one of those ballets, without a doubt. It was composed by Delibes and choreographed by Arthur Saint-Leon, originating in the 19th century: the golden age of classical ballet.
It tells an enchanting tale of a toymaker named Dr Coppelius and his marvellous creation of Coppelia, the doll. Dr Coppelius was quite clueless to the stir he’d cause by placing this beautiful doll on his workshop balcony…
Coppelia portrays the contrast between idealism and realism in a story that is filled with a little bit of magic, a little bit of love and a little bit of confusion. It’s a light-hearted performance that everyone can enjoy.
Don Quixote is a historical ballet, based on the epic modern novel by Miguel de Cervantes with the full title Don Quixote de la Mancha. First performed in 1869 in Moscow, Russia, the show has gained reputation for one of the greatest ballets to date.
Following the character of Don Quixote and his quest to become a knight, the story sees a series of adventures for the protagonist. He slays mythical beasts and does all the good he can for anyone he meets in his bid for chivalry.
Often considered to be quite different from other ballets, this performance requires an older dancer to play the main character as he begins his adventures later on in life. That said, it’s a performance filled with fun, great music and some incredible choreography. Don Quixote has a charm that won’t fail to impress.