Last night, I attended the final round of Youth America Grand Prix's New York City finals. Every year, I'm overwhelmed by the level of talent at the competition, and this year was no exception. There's nothing more exciting than spotting the stars of tomorrow, today.
It's news that, as a New Yorker, I am selfishly sad to report: American Ballet Theatre has announced that its The Nutcracker, choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky, will move to the west coast in 2015. Its last New York performance will be this December at the Brooklyn Academy of Music before it calls the Segerstom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California, "home." Ratmansky's production premiered in 2010 and received instant praise for its fine use of students and quick wit.
Before—though not long before—they were immortalized as Cooper Nielson and Kathleen Donahue (Center Stage, we'll never stop loving you), Ethan Stiefel and Julie Kent starred in the 1998 PBS broadcast of American Ballet Theatre's Le Corsaire. Corsaire's choreography may be as cheesy as they come, but what does that matter when you have two of the world's greatest dancers leading its cast?
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.
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!
American Ballet Theatre's Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School has come a long way in the short decade since it was founded. So far, in fact, that it's part of a select group of schools invited to perform at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow as part of the Bolshoi Ballet Academy's celebration of its 240th anniversary.
Somewhere in the history of ballet, a rumor started that dancers weren't very smart. Luckily, there are plenty of brilliant ballerinas who prove that rumor wrong. Take, for example, Melissa Thomas, a former American Ballet Theatre dancer who just graduated from Columbia University with a degree in psychology. She's now planning to pursue a master's degree in social work and eventually practice clinical psychotherapy. But as she tells it, ballet not only gave her the discipline she needed to succeed in her second career, it also became a passion that will never leave her.