In general, ballets come to life from the musical notes to the feet of the dancers as they flow beautifully from one edge of the stage to the other, never missing a beat. The following 10 worldwide-famous ballets are some of the most commonly performed ones. Check if you missed any.

Top 10 Ballets of All Time


Swan Lake

Music by: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Choreography by: Julius Reisinger

This is perhaps the first ballet that will come up in our mind when we talk about famous ballets. Written as Tchaikovsky’s first ballet, “Swan Lake” is now a long standing classic that has held audience captive for over a century. Its story follows a young prince who sees a beautiful swan, which soon turns into a woman, Odette. She tells the prince of a cursed spell holding her captive as a swan. A true tale of the power of love, the music follows the prince as he attempts to rescue and then marries the princess Odette. Although not immediately received in its late 1800’s debut, “Swan Lake” continues to make its four-act presence known every year.


The Nutcracker

Music by: Pyotr Tchaikovsky

Choreography by: Petipa and Ivanov

Written as one of his last ballets yet during the height of classical ballet music, “The Nutcracker” has now become a staple during the Christmas holidays. In fact, “The Nutcracker” outperforms any other play during the month of December due to its holiday popularity. The ballet follows a young girl and her journey with a nutcracker from Christmas eve to Christmas morning, showing how she experiences the magic of the Christmas season. Be warned, however, as “The Nutcracker” has a wide variety of interpretations; if you wish you are seeing the classic, be sure to read reviews before purchasing your own tickets.



Music by: Adolphe Adam

Choreography by: Coralli and Perot

After its first performance in the mid 1800’s, the ballet continues to show a young girl, Giselle, is tricked into falling in love with a nobleman who is already betrothed to another. Despite her weak heart, Giselle desires to dance for joy with the love she feels, only later to be found distraught and dying of a broken heart because of the nobleman’s trickery. Despite a sad ending, “Giselle” is most sought after because of the grace and poise of the title character.


A Midsummer’s Night Dream

Music by: Felix Mendelssohn

Choreography by: George Balanchine

Originally, Felix Mendelssohn wrote the music for the play adaptation of William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, which has been proved to be one of the most popular and famous ballets in the world. Years later, in the early 1960’s to be precise, Balanchine finally presented the ballet production of the play, which used Mendelssohn’s music but with several additions to create a wholly choreographed ballet. Meant to replicate the Shakespearean classic, the ballet is just as humorous and witty as the original play, but with the inclusion of expertly written music and perfectly choreographed ballet dance sequences.


Sleeping Beauty

Music by: Pyotr Tchaikovsky

Choreography by: Marius Petipa

Although known as Tchaikovsky’s first successful ballet, it received little attention at first. However, the music and performances quickly changed critics’ views, leading to it being performed approximately fifty times within three years of its initial debut. The ballet itself tells the story of baby princess Aurora being christened, but only to be cursed and die the day she turns eighteen. Fortunately, the Lilac Fairy dampens the curse to cause Aurora to sleep for a century until awoken by a prince. The role of Aurora is also sought after by both ballerinas and audience goers as the ballerina must possess near perfect skill and technique.



Music by: Sergei Prokofiev

Choreography by: Rostislav Zakharov

The story of Cinderella and her journey from rags to riches has been retold a thousand times, but seeing Prokofiev’s musical interpretation of the story is a sight to behold, earning its spot in classical performances. Although not as popular as many of the other classical ballets performed, “Cinderella” holds truth to its beautifully crafted musical score and a slightly humorous tone. Despite the wide variations now present in our world, the original was performed in the mid 1900’s in Russia’s capital, Moscow. Since then, it has only increased in popularity and is worth seeing in the story’s most unique format—a ballet.


Don Quixote

Music by: Ludwig Minkus

Choreography by: Marius Petipa

Originating out of Moscow, the ballet “Don Quixote”, which is directly based on Cervantes’ novel, follows Don Quixote on his incredible adventures as he attempts to become a knight himself by battling evil and doing good for those he meets. Unlike many other ballets, the title character is typically played by an older dancer, since Don Quixote was an aging man when his adventures first began, and the ballet also does not spend as much time with the title character as the other famous ballets. Additionally, this famous ballet is known as Petipa’s best choreographed work, especially the wedding dance of the lovers Kitri and Basilio.


Romeo and Juliet

Music by: Sergei Prokofiev

Choreography by: Leonid Lavrovsky

Another ballet based on a Shakespearian classic, “Romeo and Juliet” made its early 1900’s debut in Czechoslovakia, only to be revised before a new opening in Russia. Beginning the journey of creating ballets for Shakespearian plays, this ballet follows the tale of two doomed lovers who were meant to be but sadly never would. The ballet has gained many positive reviews for its excellent pairing of music with movement, and it is considered as Prokofiev’s greatest ballet, possibly the greatest ballet to date. The beauty of this ballet cannot easily be expressed in words and must be seen to be believed.


La Bayadere

Music by: Ludwig Minkus

Choreography by: Marius Petipa

Considered by some to be the best choreography ever done by Petipa, “La Bayader” was originally performed in the late 1800’s in Russia. Recreating a classic love triangle scene, this famous ballet follows the love and jealousy expressed by multiple parties, quickly followed by anger and death because of the jealousy. For those wishing to see this ballet, the most memorable and not to be missed scene is that the extraordinary kingdom of the shades, which begins with just over 30 women dressed in white dancing in unison—truly a sight that one would never forget.


Peter Pan

Music by: Philip Feeney

Choreography by: Jerome Robbins

With the original story over a century old, it’s only a matter of time before this classic children’s tale would be adapted for the ballet stage. A simple retelling of J.M. Barrie’s story, this relatively new ballet is just as colorful and innovative as the story it tells. While it is not choreographed traditionally as many famous ballets are these days, this ballet allows directors and ballerinas alike to become a little more creative. If you wish to see a ballet unlike any other, then this ballet is a perfect choice for you.


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