Well-loved ballet tales

132-Snow Maiden with snow

The Snow Maiden

The Russian State Ballet Of Siberia will be with us at The Marlowe Theatre very soon, with lavish productions of four classical ballet favourites. This week of dance offers the perfect chance to experience the magic of classical ballet and are also an ideal introduction to dance for the younger members of your family too.

To help you decide which ones to see, we take a look at the stories behind each ballet.


Sleeping Beauty

The classic children’s fairytale, set to Tchaikovsky’s famous score. At her christening, a curse is placed on Princess Aurora by the evil fairy Carabosse that on her 16th birthday she will prick her finger on a spindle and die. But the good Lilac Fairy is able to soften the curse, so that Aurora will only fall into a deep sleep instead of dying, before being wakened after 100 years by the kiss of a handsome prince.

As well as Tchaikovsky’s famous score Sleeping Beauty also features the Rose Adagio, reputedly one of the most difficult sequences in classical ballet. It’s performed by Aurora and four suitors attending her birthday party.

The Snow Maiden

A traditional Russian folk-tale, this work is perfect for a company based in snowy Siberia. The Snow Maiden is captivated by the colourful people of the village, and leaves her land of frost and ice to join them, even falling in love with one of the young men there. But although he returns her love, Russian folk tales are not known for their happy endings, and this one is no different. The Snow Maiden melts away with the first rays of spring sunshine.

This is a brand new production, in it’s first tour of the U.K.


Another great 19th century ballet classic. Boy meets girl, boy tells girl he loves her, girl then discovers he’s engaged to someone else, goes mad and dies, and is then forced to become part of a group of vengeful ghosts who plan to dance boy to death! It’s a ballet of two halves – the happy peasant village of the first half is a strong contrast with the sinister forest of the second.

Unusually, the story is not based around a traditional tale, but was written especially, although it is influenced by legends about vengeful female ghosts.

Originally performed in Paris in 1841, most of the choreography, which has come down to us, is from Russian revivals in in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

Swan Lake

The ultimate classical ballet – if you think of ballet, it’s probably an image of Swan Lake, with it’s grand chorus line (or corps de ballet, to use its correct name) of ballerinas in white tutus, which comes to you first.

You probably know the story, but just to recap: Prince Siegfried is out hunting, and is about to shoot a swan, when it turns into a young woman. This is Odette has been cursed by the evil magician Von Rothbart to spend the day in the form of a swan – only by night can she regain her true form. The spell can only be broken if someone falls in love with her, and is always true to her. Siegfried promises to do this, but Von Rothbart tricks him by sending his daughter Odile, magically disguised to look like Odette (the two roles are traditionally played by the same dancer), and Siegfried falls for the deception. When he realises his mistake, he rushes to be with Odette, but both are now doomed. In most versions they commit suicide together, although there are variants.

This was the first ballet score written by Tchaikovsky. The story is partly based on a Russian folk-tale, The White Duck.


The Russian State Ballet Of Siberia are at The Marlowe Theatre Monday 29 February to Saturday 5 March.



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