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Two Classic Ballets for Beginners to Enjoy that Prove Ballet Isn’t Boring

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UC Irvine chapter.

As a former ballerina, of course, I enjoy watching ballet performances. However, my friend once told me that ballet is too boring to watch for two hours straight. Compared to up-to-date, hype music used in hip-hop or singing and dancing musical shows, ballet only uses 18th-19th century classical music without any singing and acting. Yes, ballet has its unique language for acting, such as placing both hands at heart to show love or aggressively showing fists as a sign of anger, but they are limited to body movements. In ballet, body movements, facial expressions, and the orchestra are the only used- therefore, it’s understandable that some people would lose interest. 

So, this is why  I would like to introduce the two classical ballet that won’t make you bored and doze off in the middle of a performance. 

Let’s get started. 

The Nutcracker

Has anyone not heard of The Nutcracker before? Yes, The Nutcracker is one of the famous classical ballet performances alongside Swan Lake. Composed by Pyotrich Tschaikovsky, The Nutcracker is an all-time Christmas tradition, and I am sure many of you probably have seen the show during the Christmas season. 

I believe Nutcrackers is the easiest and most enjoyable performance for ballet-watching beginners to see. Many of the songs you have heard in movies and TV are used, such as the Nutcracker March, Russian Dance, Dance of the Flute, and Waltz of the Flowers. Also in 2018, a film adaptation of The Nutcracker movie was produced, starring Keira Knightley as the Sugar Plum Fairy. Thus, unlike other ballet productions, The Nutcracker is familiar to those unfamiliar with ballet.

The story begins with a party scene where Drosselmeyer distributes gifts to children, and Clara receives a Nutcracker. Clara fights along with the toy soldiers against the rats and rat queen, and eventually, the nutcracker that transformed into a human invites her to the land of snow and the land of sweets. The story finishes with Clara waking up, realizing everything was a dream. Therefore, there are no romantic or tragic scenes, and the work can be enjoyed by men and women of all ages.

The highlights of The Nutcracker are the party scene and the snowflakes in Act I, the waltz of flowers, the sugar plum variation, the Russian dance, and the Pas de deux in Act II.

Waltz of Flower from Royal Ballet

Russian dance from Mariinsky Ballet 

Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy from Royal Ballet

Don Quixote 

Don Quixote is one of my all-time favorite classical ballets. I believe other performances cannot beat the upbeat, energetic, and fun music and dances of Don Quixote. Composed by Ludwig Minkus, the ballet Don Quixote is based on the episodes of Kitri and Basilio by Miguel de Cervantes. The story takes place in Spain, and it is mainly about the romantic comedy between Kitri and her lover Basilio. 

The story is accompanied by lively, rhythmic Spanish-style music and dynamically choreographed dances. But the best thing about Don Quixote is the variation of Kitri in the first act. The tremendous spinning power and speed of this variation are the highlights of the show. Even those who have never seen ballet before will be astonished by Kitri’s variation.

Watch Natalia Osipova, a worldwide famous ballerina from Bolshoi Ballet and now a Principal at Royal Ballet, dancing a Kitri’s variation. 

Other highlights from Don Quixote besides Kitri’s first act variation are:

Act 1 finale from the Royal Ballet

Act 3 Basilio variation by Mikhail Baryshnikov, the best male ballet dancer of all time

The same variation by a different ballet dancer, Kumakawa Tetsuya, a Japanese male ballet dancer

Cupid variation by Evgenia Obratszova

These two classical ballet performances are classics of a classic. Although there are many other great classical ballet performances, I have limited this list to only two performances as the most enjoyable, non-boring ballet for beginner ballet watchers. Ballet is the highest art in which people who have trained for many years show their skillful techniques.

So if you have the chance to see The Nutcracker or Don Quixote, please do so.

Ranko Honda

UC Irvine '23

Hi, I’m an art history student at UCI My interests are cruelty free beauty products, art, fashion, and travel ;)