Shannon Woods's blog

 During ballet competitions or gala performances, dancers have only a short amount of time to convey the power of a pas de deux. Without the context of the entire ballet, they must bring the story's energy to life with only their bodies, costumes and the music. This clip from 2011 shows American Ballet Theatre principal Xiomara Reyes and Rolando Sarabia performing the Diana and Actaeon pas de deux at the 5th International Ballet Star Gala in Taipei.

It’s no surprise that in romantic ballets, love presides over each characters’ motivation. But not every story concludes with a joyous marriage. Marius Petipa’s La Bayadère, set in India, reveals the possible complexities once jealousy and betrayal destroy true love. This clip features Gamzatti’s variation from Act III, right before the gods take vengeance on those who have selfishly obtained romance. Former Royal Ballet principal dancer Darcey Bussell captures Gamzatti's character with calm sincerity, foreshadowing her solemn death.

A great ballerina holds an immense amount of power: She can adopt any role and become another being, using movement as the ultimate means of expression. Some of the greatest ballerinas of the 20th century have honed this skill, but few have become as powerful an icon as the Mariinsky Ballet's Galina Ulanova. Named by Joseph Stalin as prima ballerina assoluta, Ulanova became the masthead for Russian ballet in the former Soviet Union.

From the audience’s perspective, dancers can appear to be six feet tall. It’s a beautiful illusion, but most often not the case. Being a tall dancer can be difficult; while long limbs are a blessing, they are often hard to manage. But as this video proves, the gorgeously tall Ulyana Lopatkina, who stands at 5’ 9”, commands impeccable control.


If you call yourself a “bunhead”, you’ve seen the movie Center Stage. It’s ballet's pop culture classic--and for some dancers outside of New York, it may be their first time seeing American Ballet Theatre principal Julie Kent. Since she appeared on the big screen as the famous Kathleen, Kent has become an icon of beauty, leaving us in a state of endless admiration.


If we saw Mikhail Baryshnikov dressed in a suit and chewing gum, we wouldn’t expect to be watching from the seats of a theater. But as he moves across the stage with his arms swaying in a confident swagger, he captures our attention as a different sort of character. As in many classical ballets, he and his partner, former American Ballet Theatre soloist Elaine Kudo, are telling a story. Except now, Baryshnikov is a foil to Princes Siegfried or Charmant—he almost cares less about his partner. But don’t be fooled!

Happy New Year, ballet lovers! As we plunge into audition season, 2015 will bring an abundance of new challenges and opportunities. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by our New Year’s resolutions, but what better way to keep us inspired than a throwback of Sylvie Guillem? In our dreams we have her feet, her legs and her forever-motivating extensions. No doubt, she has helped push expectations for ballet dancers to new heights. That’s why 2015 arrives with a sense of closure and sadness. After an over three-decade long career, Guillem will retire at the end of the year. 

For ballet dancers, Christmastime means The Nutcracker—and endless weeks of rehearsals and performances. By the time the New Year arrives, we can stand to wait 10 more months for the next round to begin. But despite its relentless repetition, The Nutcracker remains near and dear to many dancers' hearts, with familiar moments sparking memories of childhood. 


Nothing provides more comfort than catching your best friend’s eye during a performance, or realizing that someone familiar is dancing by your side. And when a ballet’s choreography caters to friendship, the most intimate dance arises from the stage.