From Book to Ballet: Chapter Two

You’ve read about books that have become ballets, now let’s turn the page and have a look at  other narrative influences …

Book to Ballet

Chapter 2

 Ballet, and other styles of dance too, have been inspired by many things over the years – Books, Poetry, Mythology, to name but a few.

 In Chapter 1 of ‘Book to Ballet’, we looked at quite a few examples of books that have been turned into Ballets, and in this blog, we will look at examples of other sources of inspiration for ballets.



Original choreography by Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, music by Adolphe Adam

 Giselle took inspiration from a poem about a girl who dies after an all-night ball in Les Orientales by Victor Hugo, and from a prose passage about the Wilis in Elementargeister by Heinrich Heine.

Rite of Spring

Choreography originally by Vaslav Nijinsky, music by Igor Stravinsky

 It is suggested that The Rite of Spring was inspired by Sergey Gorodetsky’s poetry collection Yar. Stravinsky had set music to works from this poetry set previously, and upon studying a poem called Yarila,’the likeness is too close to be coincidenta’, with its themes of sage elders, pagan rites, and the sacrifice of a young maiden. However, the storyline was also inspired by Pagan sacrificial rites.

 The music and dance was so ‘avant-garde’ that it caused ‘loud appeals for orde’ and’actual fighting broke out among some of the spectators’ at its world premiere!

Le Spectre de la Rose

Choreography by Mikhail Fokine, music by Carl Maria von Weber’s Aufforderung zum Tanz as L’Invitation à la Valse

The Ballet is based on a verse by Theophile Gautier about a girl who receives a souvenir rose, and dreams of dancing with its spirit.

Folk tales

Swan Lake

Choreography originally by Julius Reisinger, music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Based on Russian Folk Tales


Choreography (notably) by Lev Ivanov, music by Sergei Prokofiev

Based on a European Folk Tale


Choreography by Mikhail Fokine, music by Igor Stravinsky

Based on a Russian Folk Tale

(You may recognise the music in this clip, as it was use at the opening ceremony of Sochi 2014 when the flame was being lit, and also there is an animation to it in Disney’s Fantasia 2000)

Greek Mythology


Choreography by Leonid Yakobson, music by Aram Khachaturian


Choreography by George Balanchine, music by Igor Stravinsky

(a personal favourite of mine!)


Choreography by George Balanchine, music by Igor Stravinsky

Hindu Gods


Choreography by Maurice Bejart, music is traditional.


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