Imagine what it would be like to be Princess Aurora on her 16th birthday. Never mind the pressure to choose a suitor—think of how difficult it must be to keep composed as the center of attention. To us, Aurora has an inherently beautiful, ethereal presence. But perhaps she’s like any 16-year-old girl—anxious to maintain the beauty that accompanies her every move. Ballet dancers face this challenge all the time—our minds race to maintain control so that the audience can enjoy a seemingly effortless performance.
For a dancer so famous for having a distinctly Spanish flair, it may seem ironic that it was her success at a Paris competition that led to recognition as a future ballet star. In 1994, Tamara Rojo—now doing double duty as both a principal dancer and artistic director of English National Ballet—received the gold medal and the Special Jury Prize at the Paris International Dance Competition, in which she performed the sensual piece “Arrayan Daraxa.”
You don’t have to be a ballet dancer to know Mikhail Baryshnikov’s name. His involvement with film and modern dance gave him an international reputation across multiple disciplines. He also defined what it means to be a male dancer, and set the standard for the power it requires. This video from 1969 shows Baryshnikov at only 20 years old—with his famous, awe striking jumps already taking the stage.
International ballet competitions are designed to showcase a dancer’s talent and performance skill—which also happen to be the two aims of Victor Gsovsky’s Grand Pas Classique. The female variation consists of steps that align with the music, supporting dancers through difficult moves and reinforcing their musicality. In 2001, Sara Mearns competed in Youth America Grand Prix with this virtuosic variation. Now a principal with New York City Ballet, she had already begun to develop the fiery conviction that has become the trademark to her dancing.
When a ballet dancer hears Cesare Pugni’s familiar score, and sees a dancer holding a tambourine, she knows the imperishable variation from La Esmeralda will follow. One of the most recognizable pieces of choreography, it is often taught and performed to showcase a dancer's strength and technical ability. Esmeralda is one of a handful of ballet heroines to triumph at the end of her story—so pride and power are critical.
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 seems like only a few days ago that Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev swept onto the international dance scene, bewitching audiences with their feats of daredeviltry. Yet it was back in 2006 that the pair made their breakout debuts as Kitri and Basilio in Don Quixote at the Bolshoi. They were babies, too: Osipova was 20 and Vasiliev, just 18. Here are a few exhilarating excerpts from that first performance. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!
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?