There’s no better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than going to see a romantic ballet. Watching a love story play out through dance on the stage is an experience like no other. This list comprises three romantic ballets to see this Valentine’s Day—or any time you want to go see an iconic, dazzling ballet performance.
Swan Lake is one of the most iconic ballets in the world. From the world-famous score by Tchaikovsky to the feathery costumes and realistic swan-like movements, this ballet’s telling of a doomed love story is tragic but beautiful.
Swan Lake tells the story of Odette, a woman cursed to live as a swan queen by day, and Prince Siegfried, who falls in love with Odette and vows to break the curse by pledging his love to her and none other. The evil sorcerer Rothbart, who placed the curse on Odette and her swan maidens, has other plans. When he learns of Siegfried’s intention to break the curse, he transforms his daughter, Odile, into the spitting image of Odette and sends her to Sigfried’s ball. Siegfried dances with Odile and—thinking she is Odette—proclaims his love for her in front of all the guests. Instead of freeing Odette from her swan form, as Siegfried thought he was doing, his unknowing betrayal brings about her death. Prince Siegfried, in anguish, commits suicide to be with Odette. The power of their love breaks the curse for the swan maidens and Rothbart is defeated. In some versions, Siegfried and Odette are shown reunited in heaven at the end of the ballet.
This ballet is one of the most difficult ballets for a company to perform. The role of a swan is incredibly taxing, and the role of Odette is even more challenging. Because Odette and Odile are played by the same dancer, the ballerina has the challenge of switching between the mournful, brokenhearted swan and the dangerous seductress. Odette is soft where Odile is sharp; she is timid where Odile is assertive; and she embodies innocence and true love while Odile represents malice and seduction. Seeing the same ballerina perform both roles is a treat to watch.
Swan Lake has many other moments that never fail to amaze the audience. When the swan maidens enter the stage in Act II, they perform in perfect unison and flawlessly mimic the movements of real
swans. Later, a group of four of the smallest swan maidens perform the Dance of the Cygnets, where they entwine their arms and perform in perfect synchronization, including head movements. During Odile’s performance at the ball, she does a famously challenging sequence of 32 fouettés, or turns in place en pointe.
This ballet has sometimes been rewritten and performed to have a happy ending, where the lovers survive and defeat Rothbart. Despite Swan Lake most often ending tragically, it’s a gorgeous ballet that beautifully tells the story of true, enduring love.
The Sleeping Beauty
The Sleeping Beauty is a lighthearted classic about the love that blossoms between Prince Florimund and Princess Aurora and the adventure that ensues. It features several unique characters not seen in many film and play adaptations as well as glittering costumes and sets.
The ballet begins with the christening of a new princess, Aurora. Six fairies come to bestow their gifts,
but before the Lilac Fairy can give hers, the christening is interrupted by Carabosse, an evil fairy who is angry at not receiving an invitation. Carabosse curses the princess to die after she pricks her finger on a spinning wheel on her sixteenth birthday. The Lilac Fairy intervenes and gives her gift: Aurora will not die, but will sleep for a hundred years until woken by the kiss of a prince.
The next act takes place on Aurora’s sixteenth birthday, where she dances with her friends and is presented with several different suitors. Eventually, a disguised Carabosse appears carrying a spindle, which Aurora accidentally pricks her finger on and collapses. The Lilac Fairy appears to remind everyone that the princess is only sleeping, and she puts a spell over the whole kingdom to put them to sleep until Aurora’s spell is broken. One hundred years later, Prince Florimund is shown a vision of Aurora by the Lilac Fairy, and she helps him defeat Carabosse and awaken Aurora. The ballet ends with performances of many guests at Florimund and Aurora’s wedding.
There are several unique and memorable elements in The Sleeping Beauty. The Rose Adagio, which takes
place during Aurora’s birthday celebrations, is famously difficult. Aurora dances a slow adagio with each of her suitors, and at one point, she holds a derriѐre attitude in place while each of her suitors takes her hand, then gives it to the next partner. And in a fun twist, the guests who attend Aurora and Florimund’s wedding are fairy tale characters from other stories: Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf, Puss in Boots and his White Cat companion, and a Bluebird and his Princess Florine all make an appearance. Each pair has their own variation, with the Bluebird and Princess Florine dancing individual parts as well. The entire ballet is a sparkling display that delights viewers of all ages.
Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet is perhaps the most enduring love story of all time. Though it ends in disaster, the choreography and music make this ballet a performance not to be missed.
Romeo and Juliet opens in a busy marketplace in Verona, Italy, where a fight breaks out between two enemy families, the Montagues and Capulets. Later, the Capulets hold a ball, and Romeo and his friends—all Montagues—decide to join, wearing masks as disguises. There, Romeo first sees Juliet of the Capulet
family dancing, and they fall in love. Later that night, as Juliet thinks of Romeo on her balcony, Romeo comes to visit her and the two share a tender pas de deux. Soon after, the lovers are secretly married, but their bliss soon ends when Juliet’s cousin Tybalt Capulet kills Romeo’s friend Mercutio Montague. Convinced that their only hope to be together is to run away from Verona, Juliet seeks the help of Friar Laurence, who married them. The friar gives her a potion that will make her sleep but appear to be dead. The plan is for Juliet to be buried in the family tomb, where Romeo will sneak in as Juliet awakens so they can run away. Friar Laurence doesn’t make it to Romeo in time to tell him the plan before Romeo finds Juliet seemingly dead in the tomb. Mad with grief, he drinks a vial of poison and dies just moments before Juliet awakens. Seeing the dead Romeo, she stabs herself.
Set in Renaissance Italy to Prokofiev’s haunting score, there’s much to love about this ballet. The Dance of the Knights at the ball scene has simple choreography, but the music and costumes are rich, lavish, and unforgettable. Romeo and Juliet also share two beautiful pas de deux numbers on the balcony and in the bedroom. The choreography for these numbers is incredibly moving and poignant. And, of course, the final scene where the lovers discover one another’s death is touchingly heartfelt.
3 Romantic Ballets at SRB
Every spring, Studio R Ballet holds a performance composed of several excerpts from famous ballets as well as original works. Using the original choreography employed by professional companies, we have performed The Sleeping Beauty‘s Dance of the Maids of Honor, all of the Six Fairy variations, and many of the variations from Aurora and Florimund’s wedding. We have also performed the Entrance of the Swans, Dance of the Cygnets, and several of the swan variations from Swan Lake. Many of our original pieces are also set to music from these ballets and more. Whether you’ve seen Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, or Romeo and Juliet and can’t get enough, or have never seen any of these ballets but would like to, our Spring Soirée is the perfect way to see these beautiful works performed on stage.