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Visits to the Ballet ~ Tchaikovsky's Famous 'Swan Lake', 'Sleeping Beauty' and 'The Nutcracker'

Updated on December 4, 2014

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky


The Ballet and Me

I have only been to the theatre, to see live ballet, three and a half times. (Yes, three and a half ~ I will explain, later.)

The first full presentation that I saw was 'Swan Lake', the second was 'Sleeping Beauty' and the third was 'The Nutcracker'.

In addition to this, my primary school was once visited by a ballet company, which performed an extract from 'Coppelia' for us.

As a child, just like many young girls, I found ballet enchanting.

I attended ballet classes, read books about the ballet, watched ballets on television and had ballerina paper dolls.

I loved Noel Streatfeild's 'Ballet Shoes', for example.

* * * *

Towards the end of the hub, I have added some videos of the three lovely Tchaikovsky ballets, plus his delightful Romeo and Juliet.

Little Ballerina

'Little Ballerina' available from
'Little Ballerina' available from

Swan Lake

The first time I went to the theatre, to see live ballet on stage, was when I was five years old! It was a school trip, by coach, and I was both excited and apprehensive, as I had never been on such an outing before ~ certainly not without my parents!

It was an evening performance, so it was dark when our coach pulled up near 'The Hippodrome', in Birmingham.

I remember walking, in 'crocodile', from the coach, across the road, towards the theatre. I also remember climbing up to the highest tier of seats, and sitting near the aisle. However, I do not recall the name of the company, unfortunately.

That top tier of seats would probably be considered inferior, because they were so far from the stage, but I was perfectly happy there.

From where I sat, the figures on stage did not look like human dancers, but like white-clad fairies. It was a truly wonderful experience!

I was entranced ~ and oblivious to everything and everyone around me ~ as the beautiful music played and these 'fairies' played out their story before me.

When it ended, and our teacher prepared for us to leave, it was like waking from a magical dream.

It was amazing, dreamy, delightful ~ and I shall never forget it!

A Piece of Musical History: 'Publicity shot of the original cast of Tchaikovsky's ballet, The Sleeping Beauty, St Petersburg: Mariinsky Theater, 1890'

Publicity shot of the original cast of Tchaikovsky's ballet, The Sleeping Beauty, St Petersburg: Mariinsky Theater, 1890. Carlotta Brianza starred as Aurora. This photo is in the archives of RIA Novosti (Photo #60755, RIA05-011343, 69-32163). Public
Publicity shot of the original cast of Tchaikovsky's ballet, The Sleeping Beauty, St Petersburg: Mariinsky Theater, 1890. Carlotta Brianza starred as Aurora. This photo is in the archives of RIA Novosti (Photo #60755, RIA05-011343, 69-32163). Public

Sleeping Beauty

My second visit to the ballet was also with class-mates, but this was something that just a few close friends had arranged for ourselves. We were now 18 and at Sixth Form College.

The ballet we chose was 'Sleeping Beauty', and I think that we we viewed it at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry. Again, I do not remember the company.

Again it was wonderful, and, again, the music was a delight!

This time, we were a little closer to the stage ~ and we had opera glasses ~ so we had quite a good view.

Of course, as lovely as it was, it could not re-capture the magic of that first visit to the ballet ~ by a five-year-old, who believed in fairies! Not even when there were fairies on stage!

The Nutcracker

The third ballet I saw at the theatre ~ the Birmingham Hippodrome, again ~ was 'The Nutcracker', but I had to go twice, in order to see this production. The first time, I took my eldest child, but he was not too keen, and, after a while, we had to leave ~ and visit Father Christmas. (Hence the 'half'.) This would have been for Christmas 1990.

What I saw, I enjoyed ~ especially the dance of the snowflakes, which reminded me of those fairy ballet dancers from my childhood!

At the second attempt, a few years later, I took my youngest child ~ my daughter ~ and she enjoyed it as much as I did!

It was a wonderful production. The scenery was amazing ~ and the special effects were spectacular.

At the time, the video of 'Barbie' in 'the Nutcracker' was a big hit with little girls, so there were lots of them in the audience ~ all wondering when their favourite doll would appear!!! This would have been Christmas 2001.

Tchaikovsky's Music

It only recently dawned upon me that the composer behind the music for all three of the ballets I have seen is / was Tchaikovsky.

This is not, though, surprising to me, as I love Tchaikovsky's music. One of my very favourite classical pieces is his 'Romeo and Juliet'. I played it almost continuously while I was studying for school exams.

Tchaikovsky Ballet

Tchaikovsky Ballet available from
Tchaikovsky Ballet available from

'The Nutcracker' from Sister Company of 'Birmingham Royal Ballet'

News Article About Birmingham Royal Ballet's 'Nutcracker' - Extract

(Birmingham) Sunday Mercury, Nov 20 2009:

'Birmingham Royal Ballet’s spectacular production of The Nutcracker returns to its home theatre, Birmingham Hippodrome .... A true delight for the all the family, Birmingham Royal Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker has been enjoyed by audiences for almost 20 years.

'The Company's Director Laureate, Sir Peter Wright, created the lavish production for the City of Birmingham in 1990, to thank it for its support and generosity toward the Company following its move from Sadler's Wells in London. The Nutcracker immediately triumphed, establishing itself as the finest on offer throughout the country in the Christmas calendar ..'


'...delivers the wow-factor year on year...'

'...still the most magical, awe-inspiring Nutcracker around'

Birmingham Hippodrome

Birmingham's 'Hippodrome' theatre opened in 1899 and many famous entertainers have walked its boards since it opened.

In 1990, the Hippodrome became home to the 'Birmingham Royal Ballet' ~ formerly 'Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet' ~ under the artistic direction of Sir Peter Wright. In the words of Anne Sacks ~ in Fred Norris's 'Birmingham Hippodrome 1899-1999' ~ after its move to Birmingham it became 'the premier ballet company in Britain'.


Birmingham Hippodrome:

Ballet Paper Dolls

Ballet paper dolls available from
Ballet paper dolls available from

The Story of Swan Lake

The story of Swan Lake concerns a princess, transformed into a swan, by an evil sorcerer.

She can only be saved by a young man's true love.

But, if the the sorcerer and his daughter ~ who could be the princess's twin she is so like her ~ have anything to do with it, love will not be allowed to save the day!


The story is based on some Russian folk and fairy tales, including some collected by Alexander Nikolayevich Afanasyev ~ eg. 'The White Duck'.

Sleeping Beauty Books

The Story of the Sleeping Beauty

The fairy tale about the princess, who sleeps for 100 years, as the result of a spell cast by a wicked fairy, is well-known. Only the kiss of a prince who truly loves her can save her.

Disney has made a film of the story, and the tune to which Princess Aurora and her prince sing 'Once Upon A Dream' is Tchaikovsky's.

'Sleeping Beauty' ('La Belle au Bois Dormant') was first published by Charles Perrault, in his 'Contes de ma Mère l'Oye' ('Tales of Mother Goose'), in 1697.

Perrault wrote fairy tales, based on existing folk stories.

'The Nutcracker' Books

The Story of the Nutcracker

The story of 'The Nutcracker' takes place on Christmas Eve.

It involves a young girl called Clara, a nutcracker doll, fighting mouse armies, a magically transformed prince and dancing fairies.

It is adapted from 'the Nutcracker and the Mouse King' ~ one of the tales of author, Ernst Theodor Wilhelm Hoffmann.


I think that 'Coppelia' deserves a quick mention here.

The extract of this ballet, which I mentioned earlier, was danced for us at school and involved just two characters ~ Dr Coppelius and his life-size dancing doll.

I was about seven when I saw it and I really enjoyed it. Again, an experience that I shall never forget.

While I do not remember the name of the company, I think that it was one that specialised in visiting schools.


The Ballet 'Coppelia' is based on two stories by E T A Hoffmann (he who wrote the original 'Nutcracker' story), namely: 'Der Sandmann' ('The Sandman') and 'Die Puppe' ('The Doll'). It concerns an inventor ~ Dr Coppelius ~ and the life-size, and life-like,female doll that he invents.

Swan Lake - Great Chinese State Circus - amazing on those pointes

Sleeping Beauty

Tchaikovsky - Romeo and Juliet

Birmingham and Coventry, West Midlands, UK

Ten Little Ballerinas

'Ten Little Ballerinas' available from
'Ten Little Ballerinas' available from


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    • Trish_M profile image

      Tricia Mason 7 years ago from The English Midlands

      Hello Moncrieff. Thank you for visiting :)

      And thank you for the information on Marius Petipa. I looked him up on Wikipedia, as I knew nothing about him, I'm sorry to say:

    • moncrieff profile image

      moncrieff 7 years ago from New York, NY

      I applaude your adoration of ballets. I'm not so patient with them but I like to see them occassionally.

      I, too, saw "The Nutcracker" two times. One time, at the Mariinsky Theater in 2001, on the stage where it was produced originally. It was very charming. But since it was a noon performance (less expensive), I couldn't help falling asleep. A shame, I know. I also saw "The Nutcracker" in a small Texas town! It was performed mostly by local ballet children. It was fair although the music wasn't live.

      I also went to a ballet soirée, in 1997, held at the Hermitage Palace Theatre. It dedicated to late ballet dancer Rudolf Nuriyev and various companies showed extracts from different ballets. I remember Pugni's piece, "La Esmeralda", was particuarly gracious.

      BTW, all those ballets mentioned here - Coppelia, The Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, The Sleeping Beauty and La Esmeralda - were all originally choreographed by Marius Petipa

    • Trish_M profile image

      Tricia Mason 7 years ago from The English Midlands

      Hi Peggy. :)

      Yes ~ and I am still captivated by paper dolls whenever I see them.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Very entertaining hub about your memories of visiting the ballet. I think that the ones you saw are probably just about everyone's favorites! Like you, I also played with paper dolls. I don't specifically remember ballet ones, but that was a fun time of life.

    • Trish_M profile image

      Tricia Mason 7 years ago from The English Midlands

      Thank you, Bob :)

      London I find hard-going, but there are some very good theatres outside the capital.

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 7 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Anything that has pretty women in it appeals to me - even "Strictly." I cant be bothered going into London any more, but watch ballet on the telly. What has happened to "modern ballet?" It seems to have died some sort of a death, unless I am just out of touch. Tchai was definitely the ballet king, wasn't he...good looking bloke, too. Good article, very full of...everything...Bob


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