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Watch: 6 of the most romantic ballets

We've scoured the repertory in search of the most romantic ballets for Valentine's Day.

By Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media)

13 February 2017 at 9.32am | 12 Comments

It's the time of year when card shops, chocolatiers and florists go into overdrive. Valentine's Day is here. To celebrate we've picked out our favourite romantic ballets, famed for their passionate pas de deux and amorous adagios:

Romeo and Juliet

Ultimately doomed, yes, but Kenneth MacMillan's stunning adaptation of William Shakespeare's iconic play deserves its place at the top of any Valentine's Day ballet list, such is the allure of (possibly) the greatest love story ever told. A lesser choreographer might struggle to reflect the passion and lyricism of the Bard's writing in movement, but in creating moments like the intensely tender Balcony pas de deux, MacMillan's Romeo and Juliet is as vital and thrilling as the play it was based upon:

The Sleeping Beauty

Marius Petipa's iconic Sleeping Beauty offers up an enchanted world of princesses, fairy godmothers, magic spells and a charming prince, the ballet includes many memorable moments including technically demanding choreography such as the famous - and influential - Rose Adagio. But for heartwarming romanticism, few moments beat the Awakening scene, in which dashing Prince Florimund breaks Aurora's spell-induced slumber:

Don Quixote

Packed full of sunny Spanish flair, Don Quixote shifts the focus from bumbling knight Don Quixote - as in Cervantes's 17th-century novel - to the sparky relationship between young lovers Kitri and Basilio. Ludwig Minkus's score incorporates some appropriately Iberian touches, including seguidilla and habanera rhythms, and the clack of castanets, as seen in this pas de deux from Act II:

La Fille mal gardée

Frederick Ashton's pastoral ballet may appear whimsical on first glimpse, but La Fille mal gardée packs a virtuoso punch, featuring some of its creator's most brilliant choreography. Inspired by Ashton's love of the Suffolk countryside, it contains a series of energetic pas de deux for Lise - the wayward daughter of the title - and her farmhand lover Colas. Chief among them is the pas de ruban, a ribbon dance that captures the elan of young love:

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

The most recently-created inclusion on this by no-means-exhaustive list, Christopher Wheeldon's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is largely faithful to the source material of Lewis Carroll's much-loved novel. One addition in the balletic adaptation however, is the inclusion of a love interest for Alice, who is depicted as a teenager instead of the younger girl of Carroll's original text. Jack (otherwise known as the Knave of Hearts) is on the run for stealing the Red Queen's tarts and sweeps Alice off her feet, culminating in a tender, loving pas de deux in the penultimate scene:


Something of a wildcard (to put it mildly) in this list, MacMillan's intense adult drama Mayerling is an exploration of the darker side of love based on the true story of Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria-Hungary, who, following a downward spiral of drug abuse and violence, committed suicide with his mistress Mary Vetsera in 1889. The Prince's emotional decline is charted through a series of shocking, highly-charged pas de deux, which push the limits of classical ballet:

Which are your favourite romantic ballets?

The Sleeping Beauty runs until 14 March 2017. Tickets are sold out but the performance will be broadcast to cinemas on 28 February 2017.

Mayerling runs 28 April–13 May 2017. Tickets are still available.

This article has 12 comments

  1. Jacob Christiansen responded on 14 February 2015 at 9:32am Reply

    Dear ROH Social Media Team,

    Thank you for sharing these links, and thank you also for your continuous brilliant effort promoting the outstanding work of your colleagues from The Royal Ballet!

    In respect of such work, may I question that the wording " creating moments like the intensely tender Bedroom pas de deux, MacMillan's Romeo and Juliet is as vital and thrilling..." is followed by a video of the Act 1 Balcony pas de deux rather than the Act 3 Bedroom pdd?

    As for romantic ballet moments, my one personal favorite (together with the R&J Balcony pdd) has to be the Mirror pdd from Onegin Act 1, which I was privileged to see the other week danced sublimely by Marianela Nuñez and Thiago Soares. Watching their interpretation of Tatiana's dream was literally like a dream.

    My other favorite is the White Swan pdd from Swan Lake Act 2, and I can barely wait to see it performed by Ms Nuñez and Mr Soares on the 14th March!

    Best wishes,

    • Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media) responded on 14 February 2015 at 9:56am

      Hi Jacob,

      The error has now been corrected. Thanks for sharing your favourite romantic ballet moments.

      ROH Content Producer

  2. Maurice Crutchlow responded on 14 February 2015 at 12:44pm Reply

    What about Ashton's"The Two Pigeons" which actually had its first performance on St Valentine's Day,1961?
    It's final pas de deux is the most emotional of all.

  3. Amy Growcott responded on 14 February 2015 at 1:04pm Reply

    Some of my favourite romantic ballets would have to be (in no particular order):

    Swan Lake - two young people in different circumstances find what they have both been longing for in each other. The lakeside PDD aka the Love Duet between Siegfried and Odette is one of the most romantic moments in all of ballet.

    La Bayadere - two people, whose love is forbidden, swear eternal love and fidelity to each other, but one unwittingly betrays the other, she is still willing to die for their love. The most romantic moments have to be the Act 1 PDD between Solor and Nikiya outside the temple, Nikiya's dance of heartbreak and sorrow, when Solor searches for his beloved Nikiya in the Kingdom of the Shades and the apotheosis when the lovers are forever reunited in the afterlife.

    The Sleeping Beauty - A young prince who pines for love finds what he has been looking for in a princess that he may have considered to be elusive and only someone who exists in dreams. Prince Desire's (Florimund) longing for Princess Aurora in the second act pas d'action is a wonderfully romantic moment of yearning for love.

    Romeo and Juliet - one of the world's greatest love stories. No one brings Shakespeare's tragedy of the young star-crossed lovers to life in ballet better than Sir Kenneth MacMillan!

    Giselle - there is nothing stronger than love that transcends everything, even death.

    La Esmeralda - a young gypsy girl loses her heart to a handsome young captain, only to have it broken when she discovers he is engaged to another woman. However, that broken heart is later mended. Even moments of heartbreak can be the most romantic and the famous La Esmeralda Pas de six in which Esmeralda dances in heartbreak and sorrow at the betrothal celebrations for the engagement of her beloved Phoebus is by far one of the most heart-capturing moments in ballet.

    Raymonda - a young countess awaits for the return of her beloved knight-in-shining armour. The visions scene in which Raymonda and Jean de Brienne dance together in the fantastically illuminated, magical garden surrounded by glory, knights, cupids and celestial maidens is probably every couple's dream place of romance.

  4. jojo responded on 14 February 2015 at 2:59pm Reply

    What a treat on Valentines Day to hear the music and see the beautiful pas de deux from Romeo & Juliet. My favourite. Fabulous.

  5. Love and dance always make a good combination to create a beautiful ballet! Very good choices to symbolize the Valentine's day. So sorry for my english, it's so badly!

  6. Gillian Hodgson responded on 14 February 2017 at 3:48pm Reply

    These tasters were so perfectly beautiful it
    made Valentines Day very special for me.
    Please continue to encourage audiences with similar publicity, Thank you very much.
    From Gillian Hodgson.

  7. Barbara Manning responded on 14 February 2017 at 4:31pm Reply

    Not full length I know, but A Month in the Country takes a lot of beating for romance, IMHO.

  8. karenb responded on 15 February 2017 at 10:19pm Reply

    I agree, especially when Zenaida Yanowski is performing. Best dance actress ever.

  9. Stevie responded on 16 February 2017 at 10:50am Reply

    OOPS, went out to the football on Valentines night. Will have to make amends with Sleeping Beauty on 28th February.

  10. I thought the choices were relitively acute, there is so many ballets in the list, you could have Carmen, Cinderella the list goes on. I enjoyed what i saw. Thank you.

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