Ballet plots can be RIDICULOUSLY convoluted… but that doesn’t mean they have to be complicated. Here are fifteen of the greatest ballets of all time, boiled down into two sentences each. I mean, it’s really all you need to know!
A peasant girl falls in love with a disguised (and already betrothed) nobleman who, unsurprisingly, breaks her heart, so she goes crazy and dies. A band of supernatural revenge-seeking lady ghosts rouse her spirit, and despite her pleas to spare the bastard, they get payback.
2. Swan Lake
A depressed prince sets off to hunt some swans, but then one of them turns into a hot babe (turns out they’re beautiful women under an evil spell that can be broken if a man who has never loved another falls in love with them). Too bad the guy who put the spell on them also tricks the prince by switching out his daughter (the evil black swan!) for the heroine, and this of course ruins everything, so the lovers have to kill themselves to be together.
3. The Nutcracker
A magician/toymaker shows up at a Christmas Eve party and gives his goddaughter an enchanted nutcracker, which, of course, magically turns into a life-size prince at the stroke of midnight and leads a battle of the toys against a bunch of giant mice and their king. With the scoundrels defeated, the prince whisks the girl off to his castle in the land of sweets, where the Sugar Plum Fairy and a ton of other random and adorable characters perform dances in their honour.
4. Sleeping Beauty
After not getting invited to the christening, an evil fairy puts a curse on a newborn princess that she will prick her finger on a spindle and die when she turns 16 (harsh!); luckily, another benevolent fairy softens the spell and makes it so that the princess won’t die if that happens – she’ll just fall asleep… for 100 years, until a kiss awakens her. Of course, this all happens – and a handsome prince does come along to kiss the princess, wake her up, and marry her at the mother of all royal weddings.
5. Romeo & Juliet
Surely you know this one… two teens fall in love (but shouldn’t, because their families hate each other) and secretly get married, but then there’s a bunch of inter-family duelling, and he ends up killing her cousin. He gets exiled, she’s told to marry this other guy, so she takes a sleeping potion to avoid it… except, whoops, Romeo thinks she’s dead, so he kills himself, then she wakes up and obviously does the same.
6. Don Quixote
A crazy-but-lovable nobleman who thinks he’s a knight is on a quest (with his hilarious sidekick) to defend chivalry and find the ideal woman he has dreamt of. On his journey, he comes upon a situation in a town where two lovers want to be together, but her father wants her to marry a lame older guy, so naturally there’s all kinds of escaping and convincing and suicide-faking until it all gets happily resolved, and the “knight” continues on his way.
7. Le Corsaire (The Pirate)
A ship of pirates (who, surprisingly, are the good guys) arrives in a foreign land to rescue the hottest pirate’s girlfriend, who has been taken hostage by a slave trader. They save her and the other slave girls, but then pirate-infighting ensues, and a real jerk takes the babe back to the slave trader… until her man (in disguise this time) saves her AGAIN.
8. La Bayadere (The Temple Dancer)
A temple dancer in ancient India rejects the head honcho guy who loves her because she’s in love with this other guy – so, naturally, the rejected big shot vows to kill her lover. Too bad he gets betrothed to someone else, and then she gets murdered-by-snakebite… so, naturally, the gods take vengeance at his wedding, and the two are reunited in death (yay?).
A mad scientist doctor and his mysterious “daughter” show up at a town festival, then two lovers – intrigued by the girl – go to the guy’s house and discover that she’s actually a mechanical doll. The doctor tries to put the young man’s spirit into the doll, and he thinks he has succeeded… except that it’s just the young lady tricking him, which breaks his heart, but who cares, let’s all have their wedding party!
A beautiful, impulsive girl falls in love with a dashing student, so they decide to elope to Paris; but, she’s torn between love (for him) and comfort (with this other older, way way richer guy that her brother wants her to marry). She comes up with a plan to have her cake and eat it, too, by swindling the old guy while loving the young guy… but then she gets arrested as a prostitute, gets deported to America, and just when her lover comes to save her, she dies of exposure in the Louisiana swamp – c’est la vie.
11. La Fille Mal Gardee (The Poorly-Guarded Daughter)
Two young people are in love (a common theme!) but the girl’s mother promises her to a very dumb, very rich guy who for a while, fortunately, gets carried away by his umbrella in a storm (yes, seriously – it’s a comedy). The greedy mom tries to lock her “poorly-guarded daughter” in her house to await her marriage to umbrella-man, but then the girl’s young lover sneaks in and get’s stuck in there as well, surprising everyone who shows up for the nuptials and expects her to be alone… huzzah!
An Austro-Hungarian prince is supposed to marry a Belgian princess, but he’s not really interested, so he spends his wedding flirting with other girls and fighting with his parents before eventually giving in and threatening his bride with a gun before forcing himself on her. He continues to lose his mind as Hungarian separatism looms large, and keeps trying to convince women to join him in a suicide pact, before eventually just killing one of the who is in love with him, then killing himself… oh, what light, frothy fun.
13. La Sylphide (The Sylph)
A betrothed Scotsman is entranced by a sylph (like, a beautiful fairy/spirit) and kisses her, and his best friend sees it and rats him out to his fiancé (rude!)… but they proceed to the wedding anyway, only to be interrupted by the sylph, who steals the ring and puts it on her own finger before fleeing to the woods (with the hot Scot in hot pursuit). A witch gives the Scot a magic scarf to bind the sylph so she won’t fly away, he does, she dies, then it turns out she didn’t die… but he does – oh, and his ex-fiancé marries his best friend, and for some reason, everyone thinks it all turned out right (it’s all clearly very straightforward).
A gypsy dancer entrances an officer’s son, so he agrees to travel with the gypsies for two years to win her affection… but while they’re on the road, a real beeyatch in one of the towns also falls in love with him, he rejects her, so she tries to frame the gypsies for theft. A fight ensues, the young man kills someone, and both lovers end up in jail… but then, whoa!, it turns out the girl is nobility, stolen from her family by the gypsies, and since her lover is also actually a nobleman, they get set free for some reason and have a lavish wedding with her newly-found family.
A prince finds a magical Firebird in the forest (who looks a lot like a ballerina, but whatever) and wants to keep her, so to get her freedom, she gives him one of her feathers and says he can use it to call on her if he needs help. Well, duh, turns out he does when he finds twelve maidens imprisoned by an evil magician, so he calls on the Firebird to help free the one he falls in love with (and the other ones, too, I guess) – so she appears, works some dancing magic, and helps the prince destroy an egg that contains the magician’s soul so that they all can go free.
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