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Classical ballets combine music and stories. Several of them have been performed for hundreds of years and are still popular with audiences today.

Two examples of classical ballets are:

• “The Nutcracker.” This is a Christmas story that includes many children in the company, or cast. The music was written by a Russian composer, Peter Tchaikovsky (chi-KOFF-skee), left. The story was based on a tale by E.T.A. Hoffmann called “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.”

It features a little girl, Clara, who is given a nutcracker doll for Christmas. But her brother, Fritz, breaks the doll.

Later that night, Clara sneaks into the parlor to find her doll. She finds that some of the toys have come to life, and mice and gingerbread men are having a battle!

Clara’s nutcracker defeats the Mouse King and turns into a prince, who takes Clara to the Land of Sweets.

When Clara wakes up back in her own parlor, she wonders if her adventures were really just a dream.

• “Swan Lake.” Tchaikovsky also composed the music for this ballet, about a prince who falls in love with a maiden who is under the power of an evil spell. The spell turns her into a swan during the day.

Ballet stories