When Maya Plisetskaya first toured abroad with the Bolshoi Ballet, she stunned the world. Her dramatic and technical abilities were far beyond what anyone outside the Soviet Union had seen before. She quickly became an icon, symbolizing Russian ballet.

Plisetskaya was the perfect ballerina to play the Tsar Maiden in The Little Humpbacked Horse when choreographer Alexander Radunsky and composer Rodion Shchedrin recreated the classic Russian folktale in the 1960s. This vintage clip of the ballet offers a glimpse into an era gone by. Although ballet technique has advanced since then, Plisetskaya's performance is still electrifying. She is daring and agile in her manèges and fouettés, while she shows gentle purity and authentic emotion in the pas de deux with the wide-eyed Ivan. Even half a century later, this magnificent artist continues to transfix us with her radiant presence onstage. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!


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Later this month, six dance companies from around the UK will come together to celebrate Sir Kenneth MacMillan's life and works with performances at Covent Garden. As the program highlight, members of five different troupes will perform in the British choreographer's ballet Elite Syncopations. The fanciful and colorful piece set to Scott Joplin's ragtime tunes reveals MacMillan's lighthearted side and delight in the unconventional. In this video, The Royal Ballet's former principal, Darcey Bussell, shows why Elite Syncopations is a favorite among audiences and dancers alike.

Bussell introduces the ballet, followed by clip of her performing a section called "The Bethena Waltz" (1:40) with Gary Avis. The music in this duet has a smooth, loopy quality that the dancers mimic with continuously circulating movement. As Bussell explains in the intro, subtle moments are key–like when Avis emerges from the "scenery" to grab her hand at the start of the duet, or at 3:35 when the dancers undulate through the upper body to resume dance position. These simple details playfully contrast the over the top costumes and wacky lifts. MacMillan also uses extreme extensions to create humor; at 4:12 the dancers are surprised to find Bussell's foot above her head, and when the dancers exit the stage Bussell is flipped over her partner's head in a full split. Of course, she does it all looking sophisticated and elegant, even in a shiny white jumpsuit with two stars printed on her bum. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

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The tambourine variation from La Esmeralda is a competition favorite, but the full pas de deux isn't seen as often. That's a shame, because it contains some of the most technically challenging classical choreography to be found. In this video, Yuan Yuan Tan and Felipe Diaz take on this balletic feat with amazing power and ease.

Tan, who was awarded a permanent contract with San Francisco Ballet after performing this role as a guest artist in 1995, is a youthful but commanding presence. Her extensions crawl right up to her ear, and she rises from deep lunges en pointe to arabesque without ever seeming to get tired. After an endless series of promenades (4:00), Tan again lunges low to the floor and then teasingly runs away from Diaz, inviting him to follow her. In her variation, she oozes gypsy spunk, enticing the audience with dramatic details. She takes the variation at a quick pace, blending each movement smoothly into the next.

Diaz, who was a soloist with SFB and is now a ballet master for the company, shines in his own right. The adagio reveals his partnering prowess. From 2:15—2:35, Diaz supports Tan almost continuously in a string of carries and lifts–and his variation is chock full of bravura. All the way through the coda, the technical fireworks in this pas de deux never stop coming. We can't get enough! Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

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Summertime may be slipping away, but this clip from Sir Frederick Ashton's The Dream will transport you to a warm, enchanted summer evening. In this clip from an American Ballet Theater performance from 2004, Alessandra Ferri and Ethan Stiefel play Titania and Oberon, rulers of the woodland fairy realm from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Nights Dream. At once regal and whimsical, the proud lovers reunite and make peace after a quarrel in this final pas de deux.

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Lauren Anderson, a former star of Houston Ballet, broke down barriers when she became the company's first African American principal ballerina in 1990. It was with enormous strength, personality and passion that she earned this elusive rank, as well as critical praise and loyal fans. In these snippets from Harald Lander's Etudes, her spirited performance proves why she rose to the top.

It's a thrill to watch Anderson in Lander's masterpiece, which celebrates the traditions of classical technique. She brings extraordinary virtuosity to the lead female role. Anderson captivates the audience with her bravura, insuppressible smile and dramatic flair, like the high-flying entrance at 1:45. In the first solo, she shows her musicality and personality through details in the upper body, sailing through brisk turns with confidence. She has impressive attack, but still incorporates fluid, suspended movement. Anderson certainly pushes boundaries and she reminds us of the possibilities that the future of ballet holds. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

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Photo by Giovanni Gastel, Courtesy The Music Center

La Scala Ballet étoile and American Ballet Theatre principal Roberto Bolle has been everywhere this summer, performing with companies all over the world as well as touring with his own troupe, Bolle and Friends. Still, we can't get enough of this dreamy danseur. This clip of his Solor variation from a 2006 performance of La Bayadère reminds us why Bolle has been one of the most in demand dancers for over two decades.



As Solor, the tall and insanely muscular Bolle looks like he could actually be a warrior just back from a tiger hunt. He brings a regal, slightly arrogant persona to the role, which he pulls off thanks to his exacting technical control and noble stage presence. During every saut de chat and cabriole he suspends himself in the air for a moment, without a hint of effort. If only this variation were longer, because we could watch his soaring jeté en manège all day long. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

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Merle Park and Wayne Eagling in "Voices of Spring"

Sir Frederick Ashton first choreographed the Voices of Spring pas de deux on Royal Ballet stars Merle Park and Wayne Eagling in 1977 for a ball scene in Johann Strauss II's operetta Die Fledermaus. The lively duet is a favorite in galas and mixed bills these days, but Park and Eagling's version from this 1983 video is a spectacular, must-see combination of cheek and elegance.


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Evgenia Obratsova

Bolshoi ballerina Evgenia Obraztsova is sunny and spritely in this 2003 video clip from the Grand Pas Classique Hongrois in Raymonda. She performed this solo at 19 during her first year with the Mariinsky Ballet. Audiences around the world love Obraztsova's contagious sense of joy, and this fun little variation is a preview of her successes down the road in other high energy-roles.

Obraztsova beams as she flies across the stage in this video, nailing the fast footwork. At some points she seems to barely touch the floor. She incorporates folksy details, like a charming head wobble, with a natural flair for character. Even in this light-hearted and super-quick dance, Obraztsova lets her soul shine through. It's sure to make you smile. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

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