Bartok - The Miraculous Mandarin: It's not an easy listen - no standout themes or tonal center. It kind of bridges the gap between Bartok's colourful folk-like compositions and his forays into the avant-garde.
Bartok - The Wooden Prince: Ah yes, much more thematically connected and down to earth. It's very reminiscent of Prokofievian ballet music or symphonies, which is why Horner used a bit of it in The Land Before Time.
Borodin - Prince Igor: Folk dances and choirs and beautiful chomaticism in the themes. It's full of popular tunes, but lots of people don't actually realize they came from an opera written by a chemist in his spare time. The Polovetsian Dances make up the most spectacular segment of this opera, and can easily be considered ballet music.
Copland - Rodeo: Speaking of popular tunes, everyone knows this one. Since Copland's music is so schizophrenic it's hard to find pieces that are through and through "action-oriented" so I went with the easy selection here you may remember from beef commercials. James Horner borrowed this sound for his score to An American Tail 2: Fievel Goes West.
Khachaturian - Gayane: pronounced "guy-nuh". The most famous part from this is the Sabre Dance, but everyone's heard that a million times so I went with a more obscure selection. Also, you might recall Gayane's Adagio was used in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, and subsequently Horner's score to Aliens.
Khachaturian - Spartacus: Does Khachaturian's genius know no bounds? He's perhaps one of the most underrated composers if you look at his more unpopular works such as this two-hour ballet. While the Adagio of Spartacus and Phrygia is everyone's favourite selection, for this I chose the Orgy at Crassus's Villa which was used to great effect in the movie The Hudsucker Proxy along with the Adagio.
Khachaturian - The Valencian Widow: Another relatively unknown Khachaturian ballet that takes place during the Spanish Renaissance. It's a comedy, so it carries that patented Khachaturian snare ostinato in full force.
Nielsen - Aladdin: The composer who will always be overshadowed by Sibelius was probably a better colourist than Sibelius as heard in his best work Aladdin. Yeah, he wrote six symphonies that people seem to like, but I can't for the life of me remember how they go even though I own all six.
Prokofiev - Romeo and Juliet: Sergei Prokofiev, one of film scoring's godfathers, was just as good at writing ballets, if not better. His Romeo and Juliet proved he was just as good as Tchaikovsky, and earned him a spot as the 20th century's foremost ballet composer (along with Stravinsky.) James Horner steals quite a bit from this work, as heard in the selection here which can be found in the Stealing the Enterprise cue from Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.
Prokofiev - Scythian Suite: After hearing Stravinsky's revolutionary The Rite of Spring, Prokofiev set out to do one better by writing a ballet called Ala and Lolli. He failed miserably (or so he thought) and the result is this colourful tale. James Horner used this in Battle Beyond the Stars.
Ravel - Daphnis et Chloe: When I first heard this I was in awe of its majestic grandeur and colourful orchestrations, not to mention it was a ballet accompanied by full chorus. The themes and harmonies during the openings of both acts really stuck with me, but here I present the exciting finale as per the action-oriented nature of my selections. There are also portions of this ballet ripped off by Joel McNeely for his Shadows of the Empire faux-soundtrack.
Shostakovich - The Golden Age: Here's a Russian composer who is actually NOT known for his ballet music, though he tried. For the most part they just seemed like extensions of his symphonies and film music, and don't carry the thematic inventiveness or pleasant listening experience of his Jazz Suites. This is only here because I'd hate to leave Shostakovich out. Go listen to his Jazz Suites and symphonies.
Stravinsky - The Firebird: Stravinsky is mostly known for his three big ballets: The Rite of Spring, Petrouchka, and The Firebird. Of the three, The Firebird is the most "listenable" in suite form since the melodies are simple, the harmonies are simple, and the result is good ol' fashioned Tchaikovskian tradition. The more flowery sections seemed to have inspired John Williams for his score to Hook, but here I've selected the Infernal Dance heard in Fantasia 2000.
Stravinsky - The Rite of Spring: I couldn't have made this collection of kick-ass ballet music and not included some selections from The Rite of Spring. Yeah, we all know the trivia: riots broke out at the premiere, John Williams borrows heavily from this, it scored the dinosaurs in Fantasia, etc. But did you know that Trevor Jones took a melody from this for his You Have the Power cue from Dark City? The more you know...
Vaughan Williams - Job: Vaughan Williams is a great composer who can write some of the most beautiful pastoral music you've ever heard, but he has a dark side that can be seen in his symphonies nos 4 and 6, and this ballet. His symphonic scherzos are often reminiscent of the kind his BFF Holst wrote, but this is just weird. Cool, but weird.
William Walton - The Quest: I think somewhere along the way Joel McNeely thought to himself "Gee, this ballet sounds a lot like Star Wars, so why don't I rip it off for Shadows of the Empire? No one will notice because who's ever heard of The Quest?" If you like Shadows of the Empire you will probably like The Quest, but if you LOVE Shadows of the Empire you'll hate The Quest for reminding you that Shadows is just a rip off of this. The selection here actually isn't any of the portions you hear in Shadows, but it's still awesome.