First performed in 1877 at the Imperial Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow. Choreographed by Julius Reisinger and music by Tchaikovksy it is based on the story by Vladimir.

The first staging was not particularly popular in Russia, but the ballet was revived in the 1890's with choreography by Petipa, who had had much success with The Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty.

This four act ballet begins with celebrations for Prince Siegfried's birthday and the Queen tells her son he must pick a bride at the ball on the following evening.

That night Siegfried and his friends go hunting for swans in the woods. Siegfried sees a white swan transform into a maiden and falls in love. Odette tells him that the evil Rothbart has cast a spell on them all, forcing them to be swans by day and human at night. The spell can only be broken by a man swearing true love to her. Seigfried declares his love but dawn breaks and the swans leave. 

The following day the ball takes place and Rothbart arrives with his eldest daughter, Odile, disguised as Odette. Spanish, Neopolitan, Hungarian and Russian dances are performed at the ball. Seigfried chooses Odile as his wife and when the deception is revealed, Rothbart and Odile vanish.

The final act sees the swans trying to console Odette who is heartbroken at Seigfried's betrayal. A battle ensues between Rothbart and Seigfried and Odette and Seigfried decide to die together to break the spell.