The Opening Ballet is another method for opening a musical show besides the Opening Chorus. The dance or mime can range from wild slapstick to a mild series of vignettes. Major characters may or may not be introduced during this sequence - the entrance of one may bring it to an abrupt end; most of the figures in this sequence may be purely incidental, never to seen again.
Staging what was originally written as a overture as an Opening Ballet has become a common director's trick.
Examples of Opening Ballet include:
- Some productions of Maury Yeston's Nine treat "Overture Delle Donne" as a ballet sequence between Guido and the women in his life.
- The Prologue of West Side Story communicates the entire relationship between the Jets and the Sharks up to the story's opening.
- "Rolling Stock" or "Entry of National Trains" in Starlight Express (Depending on which version.)
- The Carousel Waltz from Carousel is another famous example.
- "Runyonland" from Guys and Dolls.
- The street performers outside Covent Garden in My Fair Lady.
- The Night Waltz from A Little Night Music.
- The opening song in Once Upon a Mattress is staged with a ballet retelling "The Princess and the Pea" story as we know it...the remainder of the show proceeds to tell the "real story", and it's a lot different.
- Older Than Radio: When Richard Wagner was revising Tannhäuser in preparation for the 1861 Paris production, he had to accommodate the Grand Opéra's demands that every opera should have a ballet, preferably in the middle of the evening. Wagner objected to placing the ballet in the second act, instead provided a ballet at the very beginning.
- Cirque Du Soleil shows love to use this trope to bring out major and minor characters and establish the setting: Saltimbanco, Mystere, "O" (a water ballet), Dralion, Varekai, etc.
- "The Story of Chess" and "Golden Bangkok" in Chess (depends on which version of the show; the original West End production introduced them and so versions that draw heavily from that plot, such as the 2008 concert, tend to use them, while Broadway-based productions usually don't).
- In A Chorus Line, the opening song ("I Hope I Get It") has a ballet portion, with the rest of the song being made up of other various types of music and dance. While the song doesn't truly introduce the main characters, they are all there dancing, and their names are announced at the end.
- The Cat and the Fiddle (1931) was one of the earliest Broadway musicals to open on a series of choreographic vignettes not preceded by a conventional overture.