It’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow, so Happy Valentine’s, everyone! To celebrate the season of love, we’ve rounded up 8 of ballet’s iconic couples and love stories – some will make you ugly cry, some may break your heart and perhaps one or two will make you smile and your heart expand with joy. Without further ado, here are some of the most iconic ballet couples!
1. La Bayadère
Literally meaning “the temple dancer”, La Bayadère follows the story of (who else?) temple dancer Nikiya and her warrior lover Solor, who have sworn eternal fidelity to each other. And of course things go downhill from there. The High Brahmin wants Nikiya for himself, and the Rajah of Golconda wants Solor to wed his daughter, Gamzatti. Sneaky schemes, backfiring of plans, murder, opium-smoking and the existence of spirits (shades) are all included in this ballet – but both Nikiya and Solor die in the end. Though, it’s noteworthy that they both reunite and “live” happily after in the shade world.
I’ve taken part in a production of Giselle before, so I know the story very well. Basically, Giselle falls in love with a man who wasn’t the person she thought he was, goes mad and dies of a broken heart – seemingly all in one day. (How?) Important fact to note: Giselle has a fragile heart anyway. After she dies, she is summoned by the Queen of Wilis to join the Wilis, who are all maidens who have died of broken hearts, mostly abandoned on their wedding day. Yikes. Long story short, the queen wanted Albrecht to die, but Giselle, still loving him, manages to save him from death. As such, she also escapes the fate of becoming a Wilis herself. It’s an understandable ending, but still tragic. Also Albrecht, why you always lyin’?
The story of Cinderella is so well-known, I don’t think I have to say much! A story of magic and wonder, Cinderella who is mistreated by her stepmother and stepsisters get help from her fairy godmother and manages to attend the ball at the palace. Naturally, she catches the prince’s eye, and they fall in love. However, the clock strikes twelve and she must flee. In her haste, she leaves behind a glass slipper. He searches high and low for the girl who fits the slipper, and after much searching, he finds Cinderella. The prince then takes Cinderella back to the palace, where they are wed and live happily ever after.
4. Le Corsaire
A tale of high seas, multiple rescues, and a good dose of betrayal thrown in – Le Corsaire is exciting and enjoyable enough even without the love story of Medora and Conrad, but that’s what we’re here for today! Conrad is a pirate and Medora the foster daughter of a slave trader, who fall in love at first sight at a busy marketplace. As you probably can guess, trades occur, and there are several arguments along the way. A highly exciting story from start to end, Le Corsaire is considered as one of those pleasant love stories that aren’t tragic for a change!
5. Swan Lake
Arguably the most well-known ballet in and out of the industry, Swan Lake is one of those tragic love stories. As most stories go, the prince is asked to wed by the queen, because he’s at “the age”. To take his mind off things, he goes hunting and encounters Odette at dusk, who is the Swan Queen by day, and only can be a girl at night, as she has been cursed by an evil sorcerer Rothbart. Naturally, they fall in love but it’s not meant to be. Rothbart plays a horrible trick that causes Odette to commit suicide, and the prince following her on the path of death when he discovers the truth.
6. The Sleeping Beauty
Another one of those well-known classics, hardly anyone doesn’t recognise this fairytale. Princess is born; fairies are invited, except that one forgotten fairy; she gets angry; curses princess to die; but other fairies lighten the curse instead to a sleep that can only be broken by true love’s kiss; princess gets her true love’s kiss; she awakens; all is good. This only actually really counts as a love story towards the end, where the prince and Princess Aurora gets married (but to be honest who in the world will marry a guy you don’t even know who kisses you in your sleep?). Anyway, there’s your formula for “true love”, and you can’t deny that the grand pas de deux is absolutely breathtaking to watch!
7. Romeo & Juliet
Ah, the original star-crossed lovers. The lovers who chose death instead of not being with each other. A well-known work of Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet is, frankly speaking, a tragedy. It’s bad enough their families were feuding, but to result in their deaths is tragic on another level. The dramatic, passionate kind of lovers who are willing to do anything for each other, Romeo and Juliet literally died for each other in the end, and so we got no happy ending here. At least they got the balcony scene, I suppose, and one can’t deny the feeling of suspense and horror as the story gradually descends from romance to tragedy.
8. Don Quixote
We couldn’t bear to leave you all sad and brokenhearted with Romeo and Juliet, so here’s a happy, upbeat couple for you – Kitri and Basilio. While the story was meant to be centred on Don Quixote and his adventures, there’s no denying that most who watch the ballet instead look out for the feisty Kitri and her lover Basilio. The story of Kitri and Basilio involves many twists and turns, but they do get their happy ending in the end! With lots of Spanish flair, teasing and flirting as well as a breathtaking coda with plenty of bravura, Kitri and Basilio remains one of our favourite iconic couples in ballet!
That concludes our iconic couples in ballet, and do you now feel the love in the air? Let us know which couple is your favourite in the comments below, and why!
Embarking on the journey of self-discovery through dance.