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Peter Martins. Photo by Adam Shankbone, Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

The New York Times reports that a two-month long internal investigation into sexual harassment and physical abuse allegations against Peter Martins, New York City Ballet's former ballet master in chief, has found that the accusations could not be corroborated. In December, an anonymous letter sent to NYCB and its affiliated School of American Ballet accused Martins of sexual harassment, although the claims were non-specific. Afterwards, several former dancers and one current company member came forward to the press accusing him of physical assault and verbal abuse. Martins, who directed the company for 35 years and has denied the accusations, retired on New Year's Day after taking a leave of absence. An interim team led by ballet master Jonathan Stafford has been overseeing the company in the meantime.

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Viral Videos
Anna Isaeva as Karina in "Bolshoi." Photo Courtesy TriCoast.

If you are in need of a feel-good ballet movie night, check this out: Bolshoi, a 2017 Russian coming-of-age drama starring real dancers and filmed on location at the Bolshoi Theater, is now available on multiple VOD platforms. The film follows Yulia Olshanskaya, a scrappy working class kid, as she navigates life at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy and eventually, the company. Like most dance movies á la Center Stage, it's full of the usual ballet clichés. But, like Center Stage, it's also fun, beautifully shot and full of gorgeous dancing (including a mean fouétte turn contest). Polish National Ballet coryphée Margarita Simonova stars as as Yulia, while Anna Isaeva, a former Kremlin Ballet dancer, plays Karina, Yulia's wealthy best friend and biggest competition. Ekaterinberg Ballet principal Andrei Sorokin and former Paris Opéra Ballet étoile Nicholas Le Riche also star.

The film centers on the friendship and rivalry of Yulia and Karina. Discovered by a washed-up Bolshoi star in her industrial town, the rebellious Yulia struggles to fit in once she enters the prestigious Moscow school. But a strict and influential teacher (played by Alisa Freyndlikh) takes her under her wing, and defends her when other school officials want her out. Soon Yulia and Karina are up for the role of Aurora for the school's graduation performance—and the result affects their futures once they enter the company. Flashbacks to Yulia's childhood flesh out her defiant nature, and help make her ultimate sacrifice towards the end especially touching.


Photo Courtesy TriCoast.

One scene that may raise American eyebrows is during the audition, in which young Yulia must wear her underwear. This is typical of Russian ballet academy auditions in order for teachers to evaluate the dancers' lines and proportions (although Yulia's actual audition is pretty far-fetched).The two-hour Bolshoi, in Russian with English subtitles, is now available on iTunes, Fandango, Vudu, FlixFling, Hoopla, In Demand, GooglePlay, Dish, Sony Playstation, Direct TV and Microsoft Xbox.

Ballet Training
Students in class at the Ballet Conservatory of Asheville. Photo by Blair Chamberlain, Courtesy Ballet Conservatory of Asheville.

My classmates and I are seniors now and about to be cast in our biggest production of the year. I want to dance the lead, but we all have the same dancing skills. How do I stand out in classes to increase my chances of being cast in my dream role? —Mary Caite

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Ballet Stars
Edward Villella, Arthur Mitchell and Jacques d'Amboise. Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images, Courtesy NDI.

On Monday night, the National Dance Institute—the arts education organization founded by former New York City Ballet star Jacques d'Amboise—presented Balanchine's Guys, a lively discussion with d'Amboise and two other NYCB greats: Arthur Mitchell and Edward Villella. Many of their former NYCB colleagues, including Patricia McBride and Suki Schorer, were in the audience, and while the evening was sold out, NDI live-streamed part of the conversation. We know many of you weren't able to catch it, so we've included the video from NDI's Facebook page below. (There's a bit of a sound delay, but it's well worth the watch!)


All three shared priceless anecdotes of working with Balanchine. While NDI wasn't able to stream the whole discussion and performance, here are a few highlights from after the camera stopped rolling:

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Ballet Stars

Did anyone else do a double take while watching the Grammys on Sunday? As in, was that Michaela DePrince leaping across my TV screen during a Chase commercial? Well, the answer is yes. The Dutch National Ballet soloist and best-selling author now joins the likes of pro athletes Serena Williams and Stephen Curry in the bank's ad campaign promoting its QuickPay Mobile App.

The commercial, named "Michaela's Way," shows DePrince soaring high above the heads of two dreamy pianists (playing a tongue-in-cheek version of Miley Cyrus' "Wrecking Ball"). The voiceover announces that DePrince can transfer money to practically anyone with the bank's mobile app, "all while performing a grand jeté between two grand pianos." It then cuts to DePrince and her sister Mia lounging in front of the television: "In real life she uses it to pay her sister from her couch, for the sweater she stained."

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Career
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I want to be a professional dancer, but my parents won't listen. They either don't think I can do it (contrary to what my teachers have said) or they won't let me take the necessary steps to become a professional. Please help. —Audrey

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Ballet Stars
Doane and Fentroy brought musical sensitivity to "Brahms Variations." From left: Heiko DeWees, Courtesy DTH; Rachel Neville, Courtesy DTH.

There's nothing more satisfying than witnessing young dancers take their artistry to the next level. During Dance Theatre of Harlem's spring season at New York City Center, Chyrstyn Mariah Fentroy and Da'Von Doane—two dancers who had grown up at DTH since the company relaunched in 2013—brought joy and sophistication to Robert Garland's Brahms Variations. Costumed in sunny yellow and muted gray, the pair were perfect vessels for Johannes Brahms' Variations on a Theme by Haydn, punctuating accents and lengthening through legatos with heightened musical sensitivity.

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Ballet Stars
Karin von Aroldingen and Mikhail Baryshnikov in "Prodigal Son." Photo by Costas, Courtesy Dance Magazine Archives.

"My whole mission in life is to keep Balanchine's work alive," says former New York City Ballet dancer Karin von Aroldingen in Frances Mason's I Remember Balanchine, a collection of interviews by George Balanchine's friends and colleagues. Her words feel especially potent now—and never more true. On Friday, January 5, news came to light that the German-born dancer, teacher, NYCB ballet master and longtime stager for the Balanchine Trust had died at age 76.


Born in East Germany in 1941, von Aroldingen joined Frankfurt Ballet as a first soloist before George Balanchine invited her to join NYCB in 1962. Trained in the Russian method, she had to adjust her technique to fit NYCB's fast, streamlined style. "It took me years to unwind myself, to be good," she says in Mason's book. She eventually rose to principal dancer in 1972. Her dancing was strong, assertive and passionate. During her 22-year career at NYCB, Balanchine created 20 roles for her, including Kammermusik No. 2, Union Jack, Vienna Waltzes, Who Cares?, Robert Schumann's Davidsbündlertanze and her most well-known, Stravinsky Violin Concerto. (Who hasn't marveled at her elastic backbends in the 1972 "Dance in America" broadcast above?)

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