Most romantic and classical ballets of the 19th century were narrative ballets. Among the most well known are Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, and The Nutcracker. For these and other classic narrative ballets it is common for ballet directors to create their own choreography, while maintaining the plot and music used by the original 19th-century choreographer. Kenneth MacMillan and Frederick Ashton were neoclassical ballet choreographers that created original narrative ballets in the 20th century.
Narrative ballets are essential to a ballet company's repertoire, because they tend to generate the highest sales and bring families with children to see the ballet. Many newer narrative ballets are adapted from familiar stories or literature because they are recognizable to audiences. Ballet versions of Dracula became very popular in the late 20th century for this reason. Ben Stevenson, Artistic Director of Texas Ballet Theater, has choreographed many narrative ballets with lavish sets and costumes in recent years, including Cleopatra, Dracula, and The Snow Maiden, based on a Russian folktale, as well as his own versions of narrative ballets.
- Kourlas, Gia (3 February 2012). "Tharp's New Tale, Woven In Dance". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 March 2012.