Top Five Romantic Ballets

rose heartValentines day is right around the corner, romance is in the air, and no one does romance like the ballet! Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Swan Lake – name a ballet and you can almost always find an amazing love story.

But there are so many ballets to choose from, so where do you start?

Here is our top five list of romantic ballets. Guys, if you’re looking to impress, buy your girl tickets to the ballet. One of these five is a great place to start. And girls, if your guy does buy you tickets to the ballet, hold onto him – that’s some fella!

_DSC7774 5) Dracula

We know you’re probably saying, “Really? Isn’t that a horror story?”

Yes, it is. But there are not one, but two great romance stories buried in amongst the horror.

In case you didn’t know the story, Dracula tells the tale of a young legal counselor, Jonathan Harker, who arranges for Count Dracula to move from Transylvania to England. When the Count arrives, preparations are being made for Jonathan’s marriage to Mina Seward.

Of course there is the obvious romance between Jonathan Harker and Mina. The two tell a traditional tale of love and marriage – with a little vampire hunting mixed in. Their tale of romance, however, is not the interesting one. The real spice of the ballet is the romance between Count Dracula and Mina’s best friend, Lucy van Helsing.

You see, Count Dracula is a powerfully charismatic man, and he always gets what he wants. With his sights set on Lucy, he begins visiting her, wooing her, and feeding on her. In the end, Lucy succumbs to the feeding, dies, and rises again as a vampire. The twisted romance between the Count and Lucy becomes eternal . . . at least for now.

The dark twist on romance is oddly captivating. Add on top of that the more traditional romance between Jonathan and Mina, and you have an amazing story of light versus dark, constructive versus destructive, and conducive versus abusive.  This is why Dracula earns a place on our top Romantic Ballets list.

_DSC88774) Cinderella

Everyone loves the story of Cinderella, how can you not? It’s a story of achieving your dreams, finding true love, discovering your soul mate. The classical ballet version, with music by Sergei Prokofiev, does a beautiful job of blending romance, drama, and comedy into a wholesome and fun experience.

We probably don’t need to recap the story of Cinderella. It’s a timeless tale of a young woman who, with the blessing of her fairy godmother, captures the heart of a prince after dancing with him at a grand ball. Of course, she must run when her godmother’s magical blessing begins to fade at midnight, but just enough magic survives to allow Prince Charming to find one of Cinderella’s famed glass slippers. The prince scours the kingdom for his true love, and through perseverance and heart is eventually reunited with his little cinder girl.

If you haven’t experienced this tale made famous by the Mouse as a ballet, you haven’t even begun to experience Cinderella’s romance at its fullest. This universally loved tale is one of the few in classical ballet with a happy ending, thus ensuring its place as number four in our top five.

_DSC3141 tutu edit 3) Swan Lake

Swan Lake is the quintessential ballet. Anyone who knows and/or loves ballet has seen it at least once. It’s story is singular, and particular to classical dance. You will be hard-pressed to find Swan Lake in any form other than ballet. It’s story of romance is one of enchantment, sorcery, duplicity, and love against all odds.

Swan Lake follows Prince Siegfried as he goes on a hunt one night to forget his woes. He follows a flock of swans to a nearby lake, takes aim with his crossbow, and is astounded when the bird transforms into the most beautiful woman he has ever seen. Well, it’s love at first sight, and the Prince cannot help himself as he soon finds himself dancing with the young woman. He discovers that she and her friends are all under a powerful spell by the sorcerer Von Rothbart. If she can discover true love, the spell will be broken.

Learning of the Prince and his feelings for the Swan Queen, Odile, Rothbart decides to challenge the Prince’s love by bringing his daughter, Odette, to the palace disguised as the prince’s true love. Convinced that the black swan is in fact his love, Siegfried declares his fidelity to the imposter – realizing only too late that he has been duped.

Despairing, the prince returns to the lake to find the real Odile trying to drown herself in the lake. She discovered Rothbart’s ruse and cannot bare to live without Siegfried. The prince begs Odette’s forgiveness for his mistake. Rothbart arrives, trying to kill the lovers as they embrace. Siegfried fights the sorcerer and wins, breaking the spell and winning his true love for all time.

Words alone cannot properly convey the story, as it was meant to be told through dance. If you want to truly experience the romance of Siegfried and Odile, there is no other way than to see the ballet in it’s extravagant splendor. The plot, in all its complexity, was tailored to classical ballet. This is why it ranks number three in our top five.

Yvonne and Cross 2) Giselle

Giselle is known for being the most challenging role a ballerina can hope to dance during her career. It’s technically demanding and dramatically challenging. The ballet itself is a dramatic centerpiece of the classical world. It tells the story of a love triangle, madness, spirituality, and revenge. Pretty heavy stuff, isn’t it?

When you first meet Giselle, the young peasant girl is already frail of health. A local prince, Albrecht, is in love with the maiden and presents himself to her in disguise as a villager. He has to contend with another villager, Hilarion, who also is deeply in love with the girl. The love triangle ends up being disastrous for the maiden. When Hilarion realizes who Albrecht really is, he tells Giselle, who refuses to believe him. It isn’t until Albrecht’s betrothed appears to claim him that Giselle accepts the truth – and it drives her insane! She tries to stab herself with Albrecht’s sword, but her heart gives out and she dies.

Not a good start for a romance, is it?

Hilarion, grieving for the death of the girl he loved, goes to Giselle’s grave at midnight. He is tormented by apparitions of Wilis – ghosts of betrothed girls who died before their wedding day. The queen of the Wilis, Myrtha, summoned the spirits who drive Hilarion to his death in a lake.

Albrecht enters the woods, bringing flowers to Giselle’s grave, only to discover the maiden has risen as a ghost. Myrtha decides the prince must be punished for his duplicity and forces him to dance with her Wilis until he dies from exhaustion. Giselle cannot allow this, and uses her own strength to sustain the prince until dawn, when the Wilis’ power is broken. In her final act of love, Giselle saves the prince and bids him a somber farewell as she returns to her grave.

Love is all about sacrifice, and Giselle certainly learned that the hard way. If you could save the life of the person you love, no matter the consequence, wouldn’t you? Giselle is a dramatic masterpiece through movement which shows that the grave is no bar to true love. For that, we rank it number two.

R&J 1) Romeo and Juliet

Of course the number one romantic ballet would have to be the Immortal Bard’s classic romantic tragedy. Warring houses, star-crossed lovers, doomed romance. If you are looking to have your heartstrings pulled, this is the ballet to see!  Prokofiev’s score is gorgeous, and ballet lends itself spectacularly to portraying the two lovers’ embrace.

We probably don’t have to tell you what this ballet is about, so we’ll be brief. Romeo Montegue and Juliet Capulet come from two feuding families. They fall in love after Romeo sneaks into a Capulet masquerade ball. Hiding their love from the two families, the young couple marry in secret.

Yet, the warring between the families will not subside. During a duel, Romeo’s friend Mercutio is slain. In a rage, Romeo proceeds to kill Juliet’s cousin. In the wake of the duel, Romeo is exiled and must flee the city. Juliet devises a plan to fake her death so that she may join her husband in exile. She takes a sleeping potion, is taken for dead, and is entombed.

Romeo comes to the tomb, having discovered his beloved’s death. Not knowing that she is only in a deep sleep, and unable to cope with her loss, he takes his life. When Juliet awakens, she finds Romeo dead in her tomb. Realizing her fatal mistake, she decides to join him in death and takes her own life.

Now, that’s true love. These two kids loved each other so fiercely that neither could live without the other. The scene in the ballet that best portrays their love for each other is undoubtedly the balcony scene. It is one of the most gorgeous pas de deux in the ballet repertoire. No matter of the company, rendition, or interpretation, this pas de deux continues to top all others for sheer romantic power. That’s why Romeo and Juliet places number one on our Romantic Ballet list.

There you have it! Of course, this list is purely subjective, but it’s a great starting point for anyone looking for an evening of romance at the ballet! These stories, when paired with dressing up for the theater and a nice dinner beforehand, make for a perfect evening.

Take note gentlemen: live theater is the place to be on a romantic night out!

With three ballet companies, a symphony, the opera, and countless theater companies in San Diego, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find some good live entertainment. If you are interested in any of the above ballets, they are all in the California Ballet Company repertoire.

edit 2 We will also be performing Cinderella this May, and tickets are on sale now. So guys, go ahead and CLICK HERE to buy those tickets as a last minute Valentines present for your lady.

Oh, and those other ballets listed? There’s a good chance that one or two of them may appear on the California Ballet stage next year.

Happy Valentine’s Day from California Ballet!

Here’s a clip from and interview with California Ballet Company Principal Dancers Carlo Di Dio and Bernadette Torres. They are a real-life ballet romance who share the stage!

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