Sandik's question -- "Is the distinction between classical and romantic ballet a viable one today" -- made me sit up and actually think. I'd add a related question: How do we use -- or possibly misuse -- these terms ourselves?
[R]epertories have shifted and the Romantic works (both originals and their descendents) are performed far less often than in the past. Although my local company did add Giselle to their rep a couple years ago (they've done Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty for several years now) it has been ages since I've seen Les Sylphides performed by a fully-professional company, either in a home season or on tour. I think there are a multitude of reasons for this, not the least of them the development of neoclassical ballet.
You may want this to spin out to a separate thread, but I'll ask here since I'm already here -- is the distinction between classical and romantic ballet a viable one today (not just as a divider between chunks of the historical rep)? Do people think of Giselle differently than they do the Petipa classics (never mind that most of the material we know of Giselle was restaged and revamped by Petipa...) or do they just think of it all as generically old?
Many Ballet Alertniks will know the historical categories "romantic" and "classical" as they apply to ballet and can probably locate them on a time line.. We can most likely think of a "look" associated with each category, as well as at least a few characteristic steps and gestures. We can probably list some major works in each category.
I have to confess -- and this is a purely personal response -- I tend to think of romantic as a stage in the development of classical -- almost like one of those species that evolve but never quite make it, eventually petering out while leaving beyond a small surviving rep, a "look," a "feel," some gestures and steps, and a lot of history. In other words, I tend to identify and think of "romantic ballet" mostly in terms of the ways in which it deviates from --- or leads up to -- "classical ballet." My favorite romantic ballets tend to be those already showing qualities which later would be central to the "classical" tradition. (Robert Greskovic, for example, describes Giselle as an example of "Mature Romanticism," Bayadere as "Romantic Turning Classical," and Swan Lake as "Romantic Classical")
Another way I use the term, when talking to myself, is to categorize individual dancers by placing them on a kind of imaginary spectrum ranging from "romantic" to "classical." For example, Ulanova as a "romantic" classical dancer and Plisetskaya definitely not.