A Ballet Drama – and a new leotard – for Christmas

Tis the season to be jolly. Or is it? The end of the year is approaching and, while everyone is getting deep into Nutcracker mode, we are still mulling over a season of epic drama and tragic heroines, including a long run of Manons, a gorgeous new Romeo and Juliet, plus brief encounters with the frail Marguerite from Lady of the Camellias, the doomed Anna Karenina and even the tormented Blanche DuBois.

From classic fairy tales (Swan Lake, La Sylphide) to the extra gritty and dark dramas (Mayerling, Onegin), a good tearjerker is an ideal excuse to curl up in the sofa with a mug of hot cocoa, thus perfect for the dark months of winter.

With the help of our Twitter followers, we assembled a new edition of our NY Mag-inspired approval matrix, this time with they key ingredients for a successful drama ballet. So let’s embrace the Grinch within!

With thanks to everyone on Twitter who sent in suggestions!


To celebrate its upcoming anniversary, Yumiko is giving away TWO exclusive Elise leotards (have a look at our current sidebar banner). Lucky winners will receive made to order pieces in the size they wear.

How to enter:

Use comment form below or email us at theballetbag [at] gmail.com by 15 December and let us know:

What is your favorite ballet drama and why?

Entries from all over the globe are welcome. You can send us image/video links if you like. Be creative & good luck.

And do stay tuned for lots of Yumiko in 2012! The company will be celebrating its 10-year anniversary all year long with new models, contests, and giveaways.

Likes ballets that taste like 85% cocoa: pure, extra bitter, dark or intense. Her favorites are La Sylphide, Manon, Mayerling, Ondine, Symphonic Variations and McGregor's Chroma. A self-confessed Alexei Ratmansky devotee, she chases his ballets around the globe. Non ballet: literature, theatre, opera, rock, art, food, travel, fashion, translating and interpreting.

54 Comments

  • December 15, 2011

    Lorry (Bead_109)

    I would love to say Onegin. The story is so complete allowing both main characters to grow & change, Cranko masterfully stayed true to the narrative, the music is beautiful, and the drama is rich and thick. When Onegin lays himself at Tatiana’s feet in the final scene, I want to jump up in my seat and cry “don’t send him away, don’t break his heart, his is SO sorry!” the only thing is that I haven’t actually seen the whole ballet live so I have a hard time actually naming it as my favorite. (Although I have seen Manuel Legris & Maria Eichwald dance the final scene & now I’m obsessed with it and them!)

    Instead I’m going with The Little Mermaid. I was sure that I wasn’t going to like it when I saw SF Ballet perform it, I didn’t even like Neumeier work at the time (although I’m beginning to change my mind). But this ballet is immense… unfortunately for too many of us the name The Little Mermaid will conjure up disney thoughts but the original story is quite brutal and tragic and Neumeier stays with the Hans Christian Anderson narrative. The ballet is heart wrenching without being melodramatic, a true story of unrequited love that doesn’t get bogged down with trying to be both a love story and a tragedy at the same time. Additionally, the ballet is obviously physically demanding but never succumbs to throwing around turns and jumps just to garner some additional applause. The Little Mermaid is a thoroughly gorgeous and completely satisfying ballet.

  • December 15, 2011

    Holly Gressette

    I’m going with Cinderella when Margot Fonteyn danced in it. So amazing and beautiful. And she danced like she was floating on air.

  • December 14, 2011

    Rachel Handshaw

    This is a tough choice and I’m torn because I would love to choose “Giselle” as my favorite ballet drama, but a much darker work was my first ballet drama obsession and still remains my favorite: MacMillan’s “Mayerling”. I can’t think of a more unlikely story for a successful ballet than the true story of Crown Prince Rudolf’s mental unravelling and murder/suicide pact with his young mistress, yet somehow MacMillan created a work that tests the limits of classical dance while remaining faithful to the classical lexicon of steps. It is a bravura showcase for a true dance-actor and explores many different facets of love through several pas de deux. It’s impossible to fully explore politics in ballet, but MacMillan nails all of Rudolf’s relationships and cuts to the heart of his tortured psyche. And how can you not love a dramatic ballet with such morbid props as a skull, a revolver, and a hypodermic needle? “Mayerling” is the anti-Nutcracker and a dark potion for dark winter nights.

  • December 14, 2011

    Anja Zwetti

    I love Bajadere! I can watch it over and over again, it’s so dramatic and beautiful in the same way. And besides, Gamzatti was my first variation, that may be a reason too ;) Oh, and I adore the costumes!

  • December 14, 2011

    Andrée

    My favorite ballet drama is Firebird. It was the first ballet I ever saw (that I can remember) and I think it is different from others since she does not really fall in love with the Prince, it is more of a friendship. Stravinsky’s music is the perfect match to such movement as well.

  • December 14, 2011

    Carley Smith

    My favorite ballet is Sleeping Beauty because it is a classic fairy tale and you can feel the magic through the whole ballet. I love how you can feel Aurora’s emotions and her growth from a young girl at her 16th birthday party to a mature woman at her wedding. It was also one of the first ballets I ever saw. All ages can relate to the story and enjoy it!

  • December 14, 2011

    Kara Royall

    My favorite ballet drama is Giselle. The emotions conveyed by the performers are so varied throughout the ballet, from lighthearted infatuation to despair to grief and finally forgiveness and redemption. It’s a lovely story without a dull moment.

  • December 14, 2011

    Juanita

    My favorite is Marguerite and Armand. The connection between Fonteyn and Nureyev is so real and breathtaking, not to mention Ashton’s gorgeous choregoraphy. I’m a sucker for classics, and I can watch this one any day of the week.

  • December 14, 2011

    Vanessa

    So many pearls and diamonds out there, but my favorite is still Giselle. Even if it has been around like forever it still speaks to my romantic soul.

  • December 12, 2011

    PBG

    I’ve always liked Coppelia. Poor Swanilda, to have her boyfriend fall in love with a doll, but even more I feel for Doctor Coppelius, whose life is so empty that he creates a doll for a companion. Of course, at the end everyone lives happily ever after, even Doctor Coppelius with his new clothes.

  • December 11, 2011

    Sabine B.

    My favorite ballet drama would have to be Swan Lake. I love everything about it especially the breathtaking music. I dont dance ballet but i have two teenager twin daughters whos dream it has been to become professional ballet dancers. When I was a young child I always had a love for dance and the classical music. My heart melts whenever i get to watch swan lake with my two daughters because I know how much they love this ballet. I am amazed of how the dancers move their arms to look like they are real swans. Their expression and movement reaches out to everyone in the audience. I am so happy for my two daughters because next year they get to dance odette and odile at a school performance with a principal dancer. They now watch Swan Lake videos everyday and i listen to the music on full volume with joy. There is something about this Ballet drama that is different than all others. The innocent odile, the fierce odette that turns the 32 fouettes at the end and Tchaikovskys beautiful music makes Swan Lake one of the most breathtaking ballets ever created for me.
    Throughout the ballet you feel as if you are at a forest lake watching a beautiful white swan dancing her heart out… Oh and dont worry I think this leotard would really bring a smile across my daughters faces when they open it on christmas! :)

  • [...] favorite Ballet drama, would have to be Romeo and Juliet. It is one of the most powerful [...]

  • December 8, 2011

    brynn

    My favorite ballet drama would definitely be swan lake although it’s a tragedy the immense difference between the white swan and strength of the black swan shown by the same dancer is always gripping and immensely entertaining.

  • December 7, 2011

    Alexandra S.

    I love the drama of Giselle…from her untimely death to the torture of her love by the Willis. It’s too good and dramatic to be true!!!!

  • December 5, 2011

    Jane Lawes

    I’ve agonised over this decision all weekend, but I think I’ve finally made it…

    My favourite drama ballet is Romeo & Juliet because MacMillan’s genius choreography brings every single character to life, the music is by turns joyful and heartbreaking and (I’m aware this will sound incredibly cheesy) I think the balcony pas de deux is what real, requited love must feel like. I recently told a good friend that he couldn’t possibly know me completely until he’d watched a MacMillan ballet; Romeo & Juliet is a perfect showcase of why ballet is such a big part of my life.

    Honourable mentions to Onegin and Manon, coming in at a very close joint second. Do I get a prize just for making a decision? ;)

  • December 5, 2011

    Hannah

    Swan Lake is still my favorite. It’s achingly beautiful. Every. time.

  • December 5, 2011

    Kristen

    I have seen Giselle many times and it would have been my top choice until I went to Boston a few weeks ago and saw Romeo & Juliet for the first time. Oh my! I’m from Kansas and don’t get many opportunities to see a variety of ballet, so what an experience. Such beautiful music and gorgeous choreography, along with several humorous parts (love Mercutio), mixed with tears throughout. This definitely rockets to the top of my list!

  • December 4, 2011

    Helen Grace

    My favorite ballet drama is Romeo & Juliet. Not only is it a passionate love story, but an exhilarating ballet as a whole. The music is tear-worthy and the famous balcony scene is one of the most emotional pas de deuxs in existence. A beautiful tragedy through and through.

  • December 3, 2011

    Gabriella

    La Bayadere. The Kingdom of the Shades set the bar very high for every other white vision scene thereafter. And the ballet has not one, but two, well-developed female leads. The bittersweet ending makes me cry every time.

  • December 3, 2011

    David

    Ok Romeo & Juliet is a wonderful ballet drama but I can’t help myself I like Swan Lake even more :) I think it’s because of the mystic of this fantasy piece. Every time I saw it in a theater I enjoyed to feel the divided atmosphere of the audience which is in between being fascinated by the beauty and touched by the tragedy.

    If I should win don’t worry about the leotard… my wife who is also a dancer will definitely be delighted to get this xmas gift :)

  • December 3, 2011

    Olivia Shipman

    My favorite by far is The Firebird :) Short and sweet, this ballet has some of the most incredible and inspiring music I have ever heard, and it was my favorite to perform in. So much action and drama is fit into the small amount of stage time but you are never bored. I really think this ballet is under appreciated and loved. I love Stravinsky, I love this story line, and I love the fiery role of the Firebird.

  • December 3, 2011

    Megan

    I have to go with Manon. Love triangle, prostitution, deportation, and death definitely constitutes drama in my book. The wonderful bedroom pas de deux is just icing on the cake. I saw Julie Kent perform it last spring. Just splendid!

  • December 3, 2011

    isabella Ingels

    My favorite ballet would have to be Sleeping Beauty. There is something about the how the music by Tchaikovsky is just completely perfectly interwoven with the movements and gestures that gives me goose bumps every time I watch it. Somehow every gesture seems to be actually spoken or sang because of the movements and the dancing has a heighten sense of amazingness because of the accents in the music.

    I also love the pomp and regality of the fairy court. Each fairy is so beautifully incorporated into the story and they are all so different and unique that i it amazing to dance any of the variations.

    The story is also so beautiful! I mean come on a beautiful princess that falls asleep and a man living in centuries in the future falls in love with her mere image? that is so great! In the Royal Ballet’s version with Alina Cojocaru there is something so great about how loving and gracious about here character of Aurora throughout the ballet.

    My last favorite thing about Sleeping Beauty is the final act. All of the fairy tales and precious stones variations are so fun and entertaining to watch. Who doesn’t love a good blue bird variation??

    For all of these reason Sleeping Beauty has to be my favorite ballet!

  • December 3, 2011

    Taylor

    Don Q is my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE ballet ever! it never gets boring, there is always something going on, and i love the spanish flare and the music just takes my breath away and makes me want to get up and dance! I can’t even express how much i love this ballet!

  • December 2, 2011

    Elizabeth Seibel

    Coppelia: What’s more dramatic than having your boyfriend fall in love with a robot?

  • December 2, 2011

    Ellen Barlow

    It’s hard to say because there are so many amazingly dramatic stories portrayed on stage, and I’d be tempted to say Giselle, but I think I’ll have to go with Romeo and Juliet. The tragedy of two people so young doomed to hide their love for each other because of an outdated family rivalry that leads them both to kill themselves is just so tragically Shakespearean and so beautifully portrayed on stage, especially alongside Prokofiev’s score. There is nothing more beautiful than the wedding pas de deux between Romeo and Juliet.

  • December 2, 2011

    Amalie Dooleweerdt

    I would looooove to win:-)!

  • December 2, 2011

    Kristen

    Swan Lake! A classic battle between good and evil and dark and light

  • December 2, 2011

    Giuliana Pindo

    My absolute favorite ‘ballet drama’ would be Sparatcus. Some people have difficulties watching it all the way through, because it’s so dramatic and intense. The Spartacus (Spartacus+Phrygia) Adagio makes me cry every time I watch it, no matter who’s dancing it. I have the version that the Bolshoi performed, with Maria Allash, Nina Kaptsova, and Carlos Acosta on DVD. It’s fabulous, and I must have watched it over 40 times! <3

  • December 2, 2011

    joséphine

    Hello,
    my favorite ballet is “Nutcracker” because it’s the first ballet that i see when i was a child, and i love very much the Noureev’s version with Elisabeth Maurin and Laurent Hilaire, two beautiful frenchs’dancers.

  • December 2, 2011

    maria

    My favorite ballet is Paquita. When an ballet company can pull off such an exhilarating ballet it is truly breath taking. I cant describe the chills that go through me with all the costumes, scenery,music, dancers just right there is no other experience like it.

  • December 2, 2011

    Kate

    My favorite ballet drama is definelty Romeo and Juliet. I saw it for the first time when I was 14 with the San Diego Ballet and when I was fifteen I saw it with ABT. I am absolutly in love with the ballet! The music, by Prokiev, is absolutly beautiful and with the songs like dance of the nights, you can’t help but be drawn in. The ballet has so many beautiful moments and so many dramatic moments. It will never seize to amaze me. :)

  • December 2, 2011

    Rachel

    I would have to choose…I’d have to go with Romeo and Juliet. I have only seen it via searching my way through Youtube, as AZ doesn’t have very many ballets–but I’ve watched most of it, and I’ve read Shakespear’s writings. The idea that one would die for the one they love, going against their parents’ will, going against all that’s right and normal and easy. To take the hard way so you can be happy. And then oh sweet IRONY keeps you from having that. It’s striking. Truly beautiful. The definition of dramatic :)

  • December 2, 2011

    Olivia

    I would have to say Le Corsaire is my favorite! I love the variations the 3 Odaliques do along with the pas that has one of my favorite variations, Medora, in it. The pas is the one the Daniil Simkin and Maria Kochetkova have on YouTube. I watch it at least twice a day! ;)

  • December 2, 2011

    minh

    Lady of the Camellias. I cry every time.

  • December 2, 2011

    Alex

    My favorite ballet drama would have to be Romeo and Juliet. It’s such a classic story that everyone knows and loves, and the ballet really does the tale justice. The music is probably my favorite of all time. So many different parts of the ballet are truly breathtaking and it is nonstop beauty. There are no boring parts, even to people who don’t love ballet. This remarkable work can bring tears to just about anyone. One of the greatest love stories of all time, Romeo and Juliet is the perfect dramatic ballet for any occasion.

  • December 2, 2011

    Lily Cryan

    Romeo and Juliet has always been my favorite story, whether it be in the traditional Shakespeare format or West Side Story style. When PNB did Jean Christophe-Maillot’s Romeo and Juliet I was unsure. I had seen previous productions and I was not as impressed as I had hoped to be. However, the entire production was immaculate. The Priest was powerful and dramatic, Carla Korbes as Juliet was radiant and youthful and the balcony scene took my breath away. My favorite scene is when Romeo kills himself by impaling himself on the triangular bed where Juliet lays seemingly dead but really just sleeping and then when Juliet kills herself. The entire ballet was gorgeous and heartbreaking- It is my favorite dramatic ballet and I have since seen it 4 times (I’ve seen it twice whenever they mount the production… I am a little obsessed)

  • December 2, 2011

    madaline

    Cinderella, true come back through hard work , hope and a little help from a friend.

  • December 2, 2011

    Karina H.

    I would say Giselle! The Ballet is packed with drama! The point(e) where Giselle so happily tells Bathilde that she is also engaged to be married, yet they don’t realize they are both in love with the same man, is so filled with irony! Then tension as Hilarion shows Giselle the truth, at which point you’ve bitten your nails to stubs. It’s no wonder Giselle goes mad when she finds out! Although you’ve been going mad the whole time, watching the drama unfold!
    Yes, I would have to say Giselle is my favorite ballet drama!

  • December 2, 2011

    julia

    My favorite ballet drama is Firebird. A happy ending and the woman gets to be the hero! The costumes are also always amazing and unique. <3

  • December 2, 2011

    Lex

    My absolute favorite would have to be Giselle. It’s such a timeless work, I could see it a million times. The choreography is absolutely brilliant and beautiful, the music is gorgeous, and the story of Giselle is so relevant to real-life that it’s impossible not to love this story of heartbreak.

  • December 2, 2011

    Madison

    My favorite ballet drama, would have to be Romeo and Juliet. It is one of the most powerful ballets and the raw passion and emotion that the dancers bring to the stage is incredible. It is a timeless piece and something anyone can relate to. The pas de deux in Romeo and Juliet brings me to tears. It is beautiful and heart wrenching all at once. You can envision yourself as Juliet fighting for the love of Romeo. It is innocent and a seductive ballet all at once. It is on a different emotional level than Swan Lake per say. The fact is to play Juliet you have to be brave enough to be vunerable and bare your soul for this performance to portray The ballet, the way it is written. This is why I have fallen in love with Romeo and Juliet the ballet, and It never fails to bring me to tears and to grant such riveting emotion and the most beautiful extensions and lifts can be found In romeo and Juliet, It is just breathtaking!

  • December 2, 2011

    Sara

    I am completely torn between Giselle, Romeo & Juliet and Swan Lake (preference in that order).

    I can’t explain how much I adored Giselle with Leanne Benjamin & Ed Watson at the ROH and then R&J with Tamara & Carlos at the O2. If it’s about shrink my heart drama, those two will definitly make me cry. With Swan Lake I get a different dramatic response because the music is oh so beautiful, Odile/Odette can be such moving roles too, but overall i think it is the music in the last act when everyone dies (except Rothbart) that makes me go all weepy

  • December 2, 2011

    Ellesbelles

    I just can’t live without Romeo and Juliet and have seen it countless times. There is so much real, raw emotion in it it’s hard not to be touched. The main love theme is something one can also relate to which is key to really understanding and being moved by the choreography (well personally). It’s also got humour, plenty of cheeky characters and one of the best classical scores of music ever!

  • December 2, 2011

    Tage

    Without a doubt..Giselle! The story of heartbreak is one that people, even those unfamiliar with ballet, can relate to. Not to mention the choreography is timeless, and the music is breathtaking.

  • December 2, 2011

    rose

    Make mine Swan Lake: the pompous, rigidly formal court vs the dark mysteries of the forest lake, the fluttery, luminous bird-woman vs the snaky vamp, duty vs enchantment, reality vs delusion, and it all ends in calamity and drowning…love the poignant moment when Odette beats like a distraught moth at the windows of the ballroom as Odile bares her throat and teeth in triumph over the enslaved prince. Oh, and *Tchaikovsky*.

  • December 2, 2011

    P Cheng

    Don’t get to see it much in LA, but I love Onegin. Strong story (no fairy tale silliness), solid characters and the real pain of regret and missed opportunity that we all can relate to.

  • December 2, 2011

    Anna Peters

    I’m gonna have to go with Manon…. just a little bit of everything. Love triangles, gluttony, cleavage revealing dresses, a final dramatic death for the heroine. And, in addition, any time Carlos and Alina are dancing it, the most breathtaking pas de deuxs.

  • That’s easy! Billy Elliott. I can watch this movie over and over, and it never fails to move me to tears. I especially love, after the audition, when they ask Billy what he is feeling when he dances, and he keeps talking, stumbling, searching for just the right words, until he finally says that he turns into electricity.

    YES.

  • December 1, 2011

    Lisa White

    It’s hard to answer but my #1 favorite is Swan Lake because you can feel the magic, the enchantment, the movement and the music is wonderful. Swan Lake is stunning and it’s like Chanel #5, never gets old. :)