A character has a lot on his or her mind. They lie down, and all of a sudden, there's music. And guys in tights. What the...
Then they wake up, and the ballet was All Just a Dream.
The Dream Ballet had its heyday in musical theatre from the 1930s through 1950s, when it was a favorite of such choreographers as George Balanchine, Agnes de Mille, Jerome Robbins and Bob Fosse. It appeared in other media as well, but has now fallen out of fashion. It doesn't necessarily have to be a dream, but it only takes place in a character's mind.
Anime and Manga
- A few of these moments occur in Princess Tutu, the most notable one being after the first season, in which Ahiru dreams herself in a pretty dress, dancing en pointe on the surface of a lake with her Prince without her characteristic clumsiness. This particular instance could also subvert the trope in a way, however, as near the end of the dream, Ahiru watches Mytho step back and turn into Fakir, who places his arms in the mime for death and falls backwards. A terrified Ahiru wakes up shortly afterward.
- Petra of Gunslinger Girl, being a former ballerina, occasionally has dreams of herself practicing ballet in her life before being a cyborg; however, since her memory of her previous life has been wiped, she doesn't realize that the girl in her dreams is really her.
Films — Animated
- There's one in Bambi when the title character gets his First Kiss - the only overt fantasy moment in an otherwise realistic story.
- The "Once Upon A December" number in Anastasia, where the portraits in the imperial ballroom come to life and dance for Anya.
Films — Live-Action
- The ballet at the end of An American in Paris, which is nearly 20 minutes long.
- Snow White and the Three Stooges has a Dream Ice Ballet, to show off the skills of lead Carol Heiss.
- Labyrinth had a scene that put Sarah in a white, puffy Pimped-Out Dress with a huge frilly skirt and Giant Poofy Sleeves. It had allusions to Cinderella, with Jareth as the prince dancing with her, and the clocks striking Midnight causing Sarah to break out of the dream.
- The film of Chicago uses this for nearly all of its musical numbers, contrasting Roxie's lavish and expansive daydreams with the cramped and discolored 'real' world.
- The "Broadway Ballet" from Singin' in the Rain is an imagined Show Within a Show which has an internal dream sequence in the Gene Kelly/Cyd Charisse pas de deux.
- During the "Stormy Weather" performance, a girl waiting for the bus in dreary weather becomes a ballet dancer, and expresses the emotions of the song through dance.
- Miss Piggy's water ballet in The Great Muppet Caper. It's doesn't end well.
- The truly bizarre short film "Design for Dreaming," which features a dream ballet about an auto show(!) and was given the Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment with hilarious results.
- The Big Lebowski: The bowling-pin dancers in The Dude's dream.
- Tezuka Productions' Broken Down Film: When the nameless cowboy finally saves the damsel, the film suddenly shifts to Technicolor and the setting changes to a ballroom as the trope sets in. Then, when snapped out of it, the film suddenly reverts to its black-and-white western format.
- The 1956 movie version of Anything Goes included a ballet after "All Through The Night" in which Gaby Duval imagines her Broadway starring turn.
- Messed around with in Black Swan ... probably.
- Cannibal! The Musical features a random dream ballet as an homage to Oklahoma!.
- Charlie Chaplin's The Kid has one near the end, with everyone in angel costumes until the party gets crashed by devils. Being that the rest of the film is fairly realistic, it's appearance is rather random.
- The Hudsucker Proxy includes a parody of 1950s dream ballets set to music from Carmen.
- Mary Poppins incorporates a ballet interlude into the "Jolly Holiday" number. Even Mary's parasol and Bert's cane get in on the act.
- Between the "Ice Skating Ballet" and "The Little Mermaid", Hans Christian Andersen incorporates a pair of these. The first one has Hans and Niels fighting over Doro, and the second is considerably more light-hearted and ends with Hans, Doro, and the corps de ballet singing "No Two People".
- Parodied in Max Shulman's novel The Zebra Derby. Max Stagecraft, Commissar of the People's Theater has a little trouble working Millie de Agnes's "Entrechat de United Nations" into his proletarian play. So the cue for her seventeen ballerinas to go into their folk dance in the Play Within The Book arrives when one character randomly declare, "I am tired. I think I will sleep now and have a dream sequence."
Live Action Television
- Not necessarily ballets, but there are a lot of musical numbers in Eli Stone's dream/hallucination sequences.
- The Red Dwarf episode "Parallel Universe" opens with a musical number which turns out to be Cat watching his own dreams on the ship's dream recorder.
- A musical version happens in iCarly with both Carly and Spencer.
- The Angel episode "Waiting in the Wings" had a deleted scene that featured a fantasy ballet sequence between Fred and Wesley.
- In Smash, Karen has a dream Bollywood dance number.
- The Space Cases episode "The Impossible Dram" was originally supposed to start with Catalina dreaming of a ballet featuring the male cast members in tutus. The showrunners ultimately nixed this, as they feared that it looked too ridiculous for the tone of the episode.
- In one episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Rebecca and Valencia take drugs and hallucinate one of these, entitled "Triceratops Ballet".
- In Oklahoma!, there is a Dream Ballet after Laurey takes smelling salts to help her decide whether to take Curly or Jud to a dance.
- Famous as the Oklahoma! Dream Ballet is, ballets in Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals aren't always dreams — those in Carousel and The King and I don't involve dreams. There is, however, a Dream Ballet for Ta in Flower Drum Song, and the college dance sequence in Allegro takes a three-minute break from awkward reality to send the dancers twirling through their imaginations.
- This scene is spoofed in Trey Parker and Matt Stone's early film Cannibal! The Musical.
- "Somewhere" from West Side Story.
- Stärker als wir sind for Sarah and Carpe Noctem for Alfred from Tanz Der Vampire
- The Nutcracker is a ballet in which all of the second act and some of the first turns out to be All Just a Dream in some productions (other productions play it as straight fantasy with magical things orchestrated by the mysterious Drosselmeyer).
- Fiddler On The Roof has both a Dream Ballet and a ballet to explain a dream.
- The Trope Maker might be the "Beggar's Waltz" from the 1931 revue The Band Wagon.
- The 1951 musical adaptation of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn had a Halloween nightmare ballet for Johnny. It was unnecessarily melodramatic, but unlike many contemporary examples it was recorded for the original cast album.
- The Pajama Game has the "Jealousy Ballet," with Hines imagining what life married to Gladys would be like.
- Bye Bye Birdie has a frequently-cut ballet in which Rose dreams of killing her spineless fiance over and over again, using methods ranging from Shot at Dawn to A Tale of Two Cities to a gangland hit.
- "The Imaginary Coney Island" in On the Town. "A Day In New York" in the film version uses much of the same music.
- The stage version of Mamma Mia! uses this as the Act Two opener, set to the ABBA song "Under Attack," complete with neon colors, blacklights, and scuba gear.
- Rod's dream ("Fantasies Come True") in Act One of Avenue Q, and Princeton's moment of panic at the end of Act One.
- Not a "Dream" Ballet per se, but as Jo reads aloud her "operatic tragedy" at the beginning of both acts of the musical version of Little Women, the rest of the cast acts out the roles, hamming it up as operatically as they can.
- The 11:00 ballet number "Venus in Ozone Heights" in One Touch of Venus starts in Suburbia, where Venus is confined to living like every other ordinary housewife, and ends up in ancient Greece, where she can be her carefree self.
- "Peter's Journey" from Babes In Arms.
- "Joey Looks Into the Future" from Pal Joey.
- The ballet Fall River Legend is almost entirely a flashback in the Accused's head as she is sentenced to death, but there's also a dream ballet within the flashback, in which she reunites with her dead mother after murdering her father and stepmother.
- "Old Man's Darling—Young Man's Slave" from Louisiana Purchase.
- The climax of "At The Ballet" from A Chorus Line shows one as a reflection of the characters' memories.
- Parodied in The Musical of Musicals: The Musical!:
Spoken Stage Direction: As June drifts off to sleep, in her own little corner, in her own little chair, Dream June appears. Dream Willy appears. Together they dance a highly symbolic ballet. Sort of "Run of DeMille."
- The Cat and the Fiddle has one which segues with a Diegetic Switch from the end of a scene where a disconsolate Victor is hearing Shirley playing one of her jazzy piano pieces. Eight girls in grotesque costumes appear in front of the curtain, playing discordant riffs on violin, banjo, trumpet, clarinet, trombone, saxophone, tuba and cymbals. The music settles into a delirious blues, accompanying the wailing of an Ethereal Choir.
- The above image is from Eversummer Eve.
- Evoked in Silent Hill: Promise when Vanessa pricks her finger and hallucinates that she is trick or treating as a literal ballerina.
- Although not ballet per se, the U.S. Acres song "What Harm Can It Do?" could count as this.
- In Sky Dancers, Skyla goes into a trance on the anniversary of Skyler's death and dreams that they are dancing together. In reality, she's dancing alone.