The Best Ballet Music For Studying

It can be difficult to create the perfect study playlist. While everyone has different tastes in study music, the goals of study music tend to remain pretty consistent. Ideally, the perfect study playlist must be exciting enough to keep your attention focused as you concentrate on school work (it should not be able to double as your “Nap Playlist”!), while simultaneously not becoming a distraction that slows your productivity. Although every person is different, I often find songs with lyrics to be particularly damaging to my focus on academic work. I am happy to say that the answer to all of your study playlists can be found within the classical ballet repertoire. In this article, I will highlight ballets as well as specific pieces that are always a part of my go-to playlist.

 

“Coppelia” composed by Leo Delibes

This ballet is one of the few comedic ballets and focuses on the relationship between Swanhilda and Franz. Though Franz spends the first half of the ballet in love with the mysterious Coppelia who spends her time reading on a balcony, Swanhilda eventually discovers that she is a doll and regains Franz’s heart. After a very strange series of events, everything is resolved and Swanhilda and Franz get married and the town celebrates the arrival of a new town bell. Although the plot of the ballet is very convoluted, some of the music, particularly, the two pas de deuxs are quite beautiful.

Pieces that absolutely need to be included in your playlist:

Act I:

No. 6 Ballade (“The Wheat Dance”)

 

Act III:

No. 21 Prayer Variation

No. 25 Grand Pas de Deux

No. 27 Finale

 

“Romeo and Juliet” composed by Sergei Prokofiev

The Kenneth MacMillan choreography of this ballet is my absolute favorite, partially because of its beautiful score. Although the plot is hardly a surprise, the ending of the ballet was almost rewritten because the choreographers could not understand how the dying heroes could continue to dance. Luckily, the alteration to Shakespeare’s story was ultimately rejected, and both the score and choreography reflect the play. It is truly incredible how the score can convey the emotions of the story.

Pieces that absolutely need to be included in your playlist:

Act I:

No. 1 Introduction

No. 10 Juliet as a Young Girl

No. 13 Dance of the Knights

No. 16 Madrigal

No. 19 Balcony Scene

No. 20 Romeo’s Variation

No. 21 Love Dance

Note: Numbers 19, 20, and 21 are all a part of what is generally considered the Balcony Scene in the ballet.

 

Act II:

No. 28 Romeo at Friar Laurence’s

No. 36 Finale of Act II

 

Act III:

No. 37 Introduction

No. 38 Romeo and Juliet (Juliet’s bedroom)

No. 39 Farewell before Parting

No. 42 Juliet Alone

No. 43 Interlude

 

“Paquita” composed by Ludwig Minkus

This Spanish inspired ballet is actually not performed as a full-length story ballet anymore. Instead, the grand pas de deux from the ballet is performed in the much more manageable twentyish minute time slot. What the ballet lacks in plot, it makes up for in attitude and drama!

Pieces that absolutely need to be included in your playlist:

Paquita: Adagio

Paquita: Allegro

Note: Just googling “Paquita ballet, Minkus” will pull up all options pretty easily.

 

“La Bayadere” composed by Ludwig Minkus

This is another ballet that it is no longer performed in its entirety very often, except by the Russian companies. The plot is too convoluted to get into here, but let’s just say it runs a typical course and ends with everyone dying.

Pieces that absolutely need to be included in your playlist:

Act II:

No. 35 Entrance and Variation – Nikiya

No. 36 Variations Nikiya; Snake, and Finale

 

Act III:

No. 39 Entrance of the Shades

 

“The Firebird” composed by Igor Stravinsky

Based on a Russian folk tale, Stravinsky's dynamic music tells the story of Prince Ivan and the Firebird and their ultimate triumph over the evil magician Koschei. The finale of the ballet, known as The Firebird Suite, is one of Stravinsky’s most iconic pieces.

Pieces that absolutely need to be included in your playlist:

No. 4 The Firebird entreats – Appearance of the Thirteen Enchanted Princesses

No. 10 The Princesses’ Khorovod (Round Dance)

No. 19 Dance of the Infernal

No. 20 Lullaby (The Firebird)

No. 24 Disappearance of Koschei’s Palace and Magical Creations, Return to Life of the Petrified Knights, General Rejoicing (The Firebird Suite)

 

While this article certainly contains enough pieces to create a new study playlist, it is by no means fully inclusive. I can only encourage you to go forth and discover all that the classical ballet repertoire has to offer.

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