Deciding this list was as hard as choosing my Top 15 Ballet Dancers.
Although I do love watching many ballets and choreographic masterpieces, there are five classics I enjoy watching the most.
What I love about these ballets is that every time I watch them, I end up noticing or learning something new. This can also be due to the fact that I love watching the different approaches every dancer has to the characters as well as the different productions out there.
Moreover, I think these ballets go with my personality. I go along with the romantic stories. I am more of an Odette than an Odile, more of a Giselle than a Kitri and definitely more of an Aurora than a Gamzatti.
5. Pugni's Grand Pas de Quatre
This is a historical masterpiece.
Maybe you already saw on my Gene Schiavone photo shoot how much I love this romantic ballet... The Grand Pas de Quatre is rarely known by the young generations of today, and it is something I could still not understand because both the choreography and the story behind this piece are genius.
Joining the four most famous and big ballerinas of the era and creating a choreography that shows the best of their abilities is quite a masterpiece. Yes, the ballet might be old or boring for many, but we have to understand that 1845’s abilities were not the same as the millennials’ and that, after all, this ballet has a huge reputation in ballet history.
Numerous turns and large extensions were not a big thing on Taglioni, Grahn, Cerrito, and Grisi’s era; instead, delicate port de bras, low arabesques, romantic poses and petit jumps were the novelties.
Prokofiev’s music tells the whole story by itself.
Cinderella is one of my favorites, and mostly because I got the opportunity to dance the principal character. When I was 11 years old, the time to play Clara at the Nutcracker was coming. But instead, I got into knowing this ballet from within when I got cast as Cinderella.
There are many versions I really want to get into (future homework): Ashton’s, La Scala de Milan’s, and Christopher Wheeldon's. Prokofiev created the piece between 1940 and 1944, and it was first choreographed for the Bolshoi Ballet in 1945. It has indeed inspired so many new choreographers to create brilliant productions and take you beyond the Disney Cinderella we all know.
3. Swan Lake
Swan Lake had to be on the list.
Not only because it is widely known by ballet and non-ballet audiences, but also because its story is simply beautiful and Tchaikovsky’s score gives you goose-bumps. I still cannot believe that this music and ballet was a failure at its premiere, but when the four acts were revised by Petipa and Ivanov it was finally performed at the Mariinsky Theatre in 1895.
This romantic tragedy steals my heart every time. If I ever dance Swan Lake as a principal dancer, it would be easier for me to interpret Odette rather than Odile. The second act is my favorite, but the fourth is heartrending. When I hear the music, I just want to perform it all over again.
[Read my experience in My First Swan Lake (with 15 years old)]
Out of all romantic ballets, Giselle is my favorite.
The contrast between the two acts is stunning, especially if we talk about the huge role the principal dancer gets into with a character like Giselle. Heart-weak and delicate, Giselle is the peasant that steals not only Albrecht or Hilarion's heart but also the audience's.
The Mad Scene is another challenge for the ballerina, showing how Giselle is devastated, heartbroken, driven into madness, and finally dead due to Albrecht's betrayal. The second act, dominated by Mirtha and her Wilis, is a scene I could watch over and over again. I consider Mirtha a powerful character. Giselle changes, but not completely: she still wants to protect the man that betrayed her, and this is what makes the ballet stand out. She maintains her feeling even though she turned into a Wili. Genius!
1. The Sleeping Beauty
Sleeping Beauty? Yes!
Aurora's story is my No. 1 favorite ballet and a dream role of mine. Sleeping Beauty, I consider, is the perfect classical ballet. Everything has to be technically impeccable, thus there is not a particular style that this ballet possesses: it is pure.
Presented in three acts and a prologue, Sleeping Beauty shows the traditional ballet pieces: numerous variations, pas de deux, and corp de ballets all in one. Moreover, Tchaikovsky's music is perfect and powerful, and after Swan Lake's music, it is my favorite score from him. The Overture, The Rose Adagio, the Wedding Pas de Deux's coda, and Lilac Fairy's score are a few pieces of music that give me chills.
There is no escape to this ballet's classicism, and this is what makes it so special. It will always have a special place in my heart. If you want to watch a pure classical ballet, this fairy tale will never disappoint you.