Shannon Woods's blog

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.

 

Think of dancing in front of the love of your life. Suddenly, the thousands of hours you’ve spent rehearsing leave you stunned as excitement and bashfulness consume every move. Dance presents a new hurdle once it becomes an open expression of love—a gesture Lise offers Colas in Sir Frederick Ashton's La Fille mal gardée. In this Act I variation, Lise seemingly performs to the audience, but each step expresses the joy she feels for Colas as he watches her from stage right.

 

It’s difficult to classify the movement in Vaslav Nijinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps as ballet; today, we would denote such vocabulary as modern dance. But Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes, which premiered the ballet in Paris in 1913, embraced France's emerging avant-garde culture at the time. They premiered works by new choreographers whose names we now recognize (Michel Fokine, Bronislava Nijinska and George Balanchine, to name a few).