I turned up one morning to watch Eddie Villella’s company class at Miami City Ballet, as I do most mornings when I’m in Miami, and there at the barre was a dancer I’d never seen before—a ravishingly beautiful girl with immense natural charm who was working as hard, or harder, than anyone else in the room. After watching her for 10 minutes I sidled over to Villella and whispered, “Who is that girl? She’s a star! Give her everything!”

 

He’s used to tolerating my enthusiasms, but it was also clear that he didn’t totally disagree, even though he wasn’t going to say so. Her name was Patricia Delgado, he told me. She was 17, and she was an apprentice at the company, where Villella is artistic director. When later in the day I said more or less the same thing to Linda Villella, Eddie’s wife, who runs the company’s school, she just laughed and said, “Wait till you see her sister, Jeanette. She’s just as good!” I didn’t believe it—until I saw Jeanette in action when she came along two years later.

 

The Delgado sisters are not only extraordinary dancers, they’re extraordinary young women: ballerinas without a trace of pretension, self-satisfaction or opportunism. The reason isn’t hard to find, once you know their parents. Millie (Migdalia) is a psychologist with a PhD from the University of Miami; Zeke (Ezequiel), with a bachelor’s of science in industrial engineering and a master’s in education, is a math teacher. Like their daughters, they’re both completely grounded—as far from traditional ballet parents as it’s possible to get. When Patricia said she wanted to go to ballet school, that was fine with them—and it would have been just as fine if she’d wanted to take up water-skiing or raise chickens.

 

The senior Delgados saw, and see, their job as being there to support and advise their girls (when asked). At a crucial moment when Patricia had to decide whether to focus on dancing or to pursue an academic path (she was always at the top of her class), they helped clarify her choices and stood back. Luckily, Patricia knew that deep down she wanted to dance–not to be a ballerina, not to be a star, but to dance. And Jeanette wanted to do whatever her big sister was doing–never in a spirit of competition but in emulation. “I’m so lucky,” she says, “to have my older sister as my best friend.”

 

Millie’s family emigrated to Miami from Cuba soon after Castro came to power, when some family property was nationalized. They never regretted it; there’s none of that nostalgia for the old days. The girls, of course, are Miami-born and bred, went to Miami public schools, and led normal young American lives—with friends, activities and, in Jeanette’s case, dates. Patricia’s first and only date was with Matthew, a boy she met in high school, and that was that—a year ago they were married.

 

There have been only two major obstacles in Patricia’s professional life. One was a serious injury that kept her offstage, her foot in a boot, for an entire season. The other was worrying whether Matt, who had a good job in New York, could find an equally good job back in Miami. The alternative was too painful to consider, but Patricia—the realistic daughter of realistic parents—had to consider it. Everyone breathed a lot easier when the job came through.

 

Leaving Miami City Ballet would have been an emotional disaster for Patricia (not a professional one; any ballet company would be happy to have her). “I feel like a deep-rooted part of Edward’s company, of the creativity here, of the family environment. This is my place.” Villella returns the feeling: “She’s a total dancer,” he says. “She can grow in every direction. And apart from her extraordinary abilities, she’s such a delightful personality—she lights up any room she’s in, be it class, rehearsal or onstage.”

 

Observing her progress these past 10 years, I’ve noticed that even other dancers who might be envious of what she’s achieved have nothing negative to say about her as a person, although for a while there were remarks about her “weak” feet. Needless to say, she worked on them obsessively, and a year ago had a difficult operation to relieve her of almost constant pain: A small extra bone—it’s called an os trigonum—was removed from her ankle. For the first time, she now feels absolutely free to dance full-out, to stretch her technique without fear of hurting herself. You could see the difference this past season: She was not only radiant, but at 27, she was finally fully secure.

 

Her range is already large. How many dancers go effortlessly from the “Man I Love” pas de deux in  Who Cares? to “Sanguinic” in The Four Temperaments to In the Upper Room? She’s classical—Swanilda, Kitri, eventually Giselle—and she’s down and dirty: the sexy lead in Paul Taylor’s Piazzolla Caldera. And surely she’ll be one of the Juliets in the company’s upcoming production of the John Cranko version of the ballet. She also hopes to push herself in the direction of the pyrotechnical Balanchine ballets like Ballo della Regina and Ballet Imperial—in a way, Jeanette’s turf. Usually, it doesn’t serve sisters well to work in the same company, but the Delgados’ dance temperaments are so different that there’s no problem. Jeanette has a thrillingly blithe propulsiveness and rock-solid technique. It’s Patricia’s refinement, repose and allure that instantly grab the audience’s attention, and hold it. In Miami City Ballet, there’s room for them both.

Although Patricia is such an integral part of the repertoire now, she remains eager and modest. “I’ve never thought of what I do as ‘a career.’ I’ve always only wanted to dance wonderful roles. And one of the great things about Miami is that we don’t perform anything but the best choreography: Balanchine, Taylor, Tharp (we had a fabulous time with her when she was down here creating Nightspot on us), Robbins, the classics. I just go on working on my feet, on my line, hoping like everyone else that I’ll be cast.”

 

As for Villella, he sees Patricia Delgado as a perfect example of how the institution he founded 25 years ago can function. “She comes from Miami. She came through our school. She quickly made a wonderful impression on us and on our audience—she was so appealing we almost had to hold her back. She never makes problems. She’s always ready, willing and more than able. If every ballerina had her talent, her temperament and her looks, the lives of artistic directors like me would be a cakewalk!”


Robert Gottlieb, former editor-in-chief of Simon & Schuster, Alfred A. Knopf and The New Yorker, is the author of George Balanchine: The Ballet Maker and is currently the dance critic for The New York Observer.

Francesca Velicu in Pina Bausch's Le Sacre du printemps by English National Ballet. Photo by Laurent Liotardo, Courtesy ENB.

There was total silence by the end of English National Ballet's first go at Pina Bausch's raw Rite of Spring, and much of the performance's success came down to a tiny dancer: Francesca Velicu. Handpicked to be The Chosen One, the Romanian corps member threw herself into the role with an innocence that made the ritual newly terrifying. "It brought me the most intense and emotional moments that I'll ever experience onstage," she says.

At just 19, Velicu is already walking in the footsteps of ballet's reigning Romanian star, her ENB colleague Alina Cojocaru. Born in Bucharest, Velicu earned top finishes at Youth America Grand Prix and completed her training at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy. In 2015, she joined the Romanian National Ballet under Johan Kobborg, who fast-tracked her: In one season, she danced Kitri, Theme and Variations and numerous soloist roles, honing her effervescent technique with breezy confidence.

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Alana Griffith in "ALICE (in wonderland)". Photo by Mark Frohna, Courtesy Milwaukee Ballet.

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Screenshot from CNN Style video

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In the short film, which features McNally's choreo and is directed by Andrew Margetson, Royal Ballet first soloist Beatriz Stix-Brunell and principal Yasmine Naghdi changed the expectations on gender roles in ballet—and the end result is awesome. Nearly identical in appearance, the dancers' movements and lines also mirror each other throughout the piece, even when dancing in canon. Even more impressively, McNally told CNN Style, "The dancers and I did two rehearsals and then we shot the film."

Check out the full duet for yourself, below.


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Photo by Lambtron, via Wikimedia Commons

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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.

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Tanaquil Le Clercq at the 1967 book signing. Reprinted with permission from Dance Magazine.

Ballerina Tanaquil Le Clercq may have been known for her long-limbed dancing and versatile grace, but it turns out that her renown didn't end there. In 1967 the former New York City Ballet star published The Ballet Cook Book, a mix of ballet history, food stories and the pièce de résistance: recipes collected from over 90 famous NYCB dancers and choreographers including George Balanchine (her then husband), Jacques d'Amboise, Melissa Hayden and Allegra Kent.

Why bring this up now? This year marks the 50th anniversary of her book's publication, and in celebration, food scholar Meryl Rosofsky is curating a program exploring the context of the book. Held on November 5 and 6 at the Guggenheim Museum, the program will include live performance excerpts with roles originated by Ballet Cook Book contributors including Balanchine's The Four Temperaments, Bugaku, Stars and Stripes and Western Symphony as well as a panel conversation with d'Amboise and Kent (both of whom were at the original book signing) as well as current NYCB principals Jared Angle and Adrian Danchig-Waring, both talented cooks.That certainly seems like plenty of excitement to us, but attendees can also stop into the Guggneheim's Wright Restaurant to taste select dishes from The Ballet Cook Book including Le Clercq's Chicken Vermouth, Balanchine's Slow Beet Borschok, Hayden's Potato Latkes and Kent's Walnut Apple Cake.

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