Margaret Fuhrer's blog

Ethan Stiefel's sojourn abroad will soon come to an end: The former American Ballet Theatre principal has not renewed his artistic director contract with Royal New Zealand Ballet.

When ballet companies perform Swan Lake, all buzz tends to be about the ballerinas dancing Odette/Odile. But what would the work be without its corps of swan maidens?

Though not in the spotlight, their task is, in many ways, just as challenging as the Swan Queen's: They must maintain perfect unison, moving and breathing as one, to create some of the ballet's spine-tingling moments. Oh, and they have to avoid foot cramps (not to mention suffer through itches that can't be scratched) during long periods of standing, when they're essentially living scenery.

Gelsey Kirkland caused quite a stir when she left New York City Ballet in 1974. Then a rising star in Balanchine's company, she joined American Ballet Theatre at Mikhail Baryshnikov's behest, and became one of the Russian star's most frequent partners. Baryshnikov's high-wattage performances never outshone Kirkland, however. With her exquisite control, meticulous attention to detail, and heart-stopping vulnerability, she became a legend in her own right.

Sometimes it seems like Alexei Ratmansky is remaking the classical canon, one ballet at a time. He restaged Le Corsaire and Flames of Paris back when he was director of the Bolshoi. Dutch National Ballet premiered his take on Don Quixote in 2010. He gave The National Ballet of Canada a new Romeo and Juliet in 2011. He took a risk with his unconventional Firebird for American Ballet Theatre in 2012. And ABT has made his delightful Nutcracker an annual New York tradition.

Sochi's glittery closing ceremony last night celebrated Russian culture, and no such celebration would be complete without ballet, of course. But leave it to the Olympics to bring Russia's two great—and very competitive—ballet houses together.

Georgian dancer Nina Ananiashvili was a star of the Bolshoi and, later, American Ballet Theatre. She may be blessed with endless arms and legs, but it's her warm generosity that makes her so endearing; you always want to root for her. Today, Ananiashvili is artistic director of the State Ballet of Georgia. She's about to celebrate her 51st birthday—and she's still dancing.

Here's a video of Ananiashvili performing Giselle's Act I solo with the Bolshoi. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

We have to hand it to the Russians. Olympic opening ceremonies are always brilliant spectacles, but rarely do they involve appearances by world-class ballet dancers.

Last Friday night, the Sochi opening ceremony offered a smorgasbord of rich, theatrical images, many of them created by Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark choreographer Daniel Ezralow. But the highlights for us bunheads were appearances by Russian ballet sensations Svetlana Zakharova, Ivan Vasiliev and Diana Vishneva.

Attention, New York City–area dancers! The School at Steps, a division of the legendary Steps on Broadway, is hosting its annual Pointe Shoe Workshop & Fair (sponsored by none other than Pointe) this Sunday night.

If you're like me, you had at least one photo of Patricia Barker on your wall growing up. The longtime Pacific Northwest Ballet principal was a fearless, eloquent interpreter of Balanchine works, in particular, and ballet fans around the world could write sonnets about her beautiful feet. Today, she's artistic director of Grand Rapids Ballet in Michigan.

Here's a 2001 clip of Barker as Titania in Balanchine's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

 

Even ballet fans far from the U.K. know and love longtime English National Ballet star Daria Klimentová.

We know her by her dancing, of course: She is supremely elegant, expressive, and precise. During her 25 years with the company, she brought a jewel-like sparkle to nearly every role in the classical repertoire.