When American Ballet Theatre offered Katherine Williams a place in its corps, she had no idea how big a transition lay ahead.


Williams’ long line, liquid-smooth control and elegant port de bras had helped her advance quickly from student at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School to ABT II member and, finally, into the company itself. But as many young professionals discover, the transition to company life can be jarring. “Being onstage is nothing like dancing in the studio,” says Williams, who quickly realized that 180-degree turnout isn’t enough to tug heartstrings in the audience. She had worked so hard to become technically polished that she found herself struggling to really move onstage.


Then came Paul Taylor’s Company B last fall. Williams discovered her sense of freedom as she jitterbugged out of the wings of New York City Center—and shocked everyone watching. “This little waif of a thing really slammed it right down to the ground!” says Patrick Corbin, a former Paul Taylor Dance Company member who staged the piece for ABT. “Younger dancers are usually afraid to take risks, but Katie took to it like a duck to water. She just dove into the jazzy idiom.”


Barely a year into her career with the company, 19-year-old Williams is quickly learning to use her rock-solid technical foundation to deliver daring, dynamic performances. Corbin says, “Your eyes go straight to her onstage.”


Williams followed her two sisters to ballet class at age 6. When the family moved from Hawaii to Maryland, her sisters quit, but Williams enrolled at the Ballet Royale Academy and began competing at Youth America Grand Prix. “It was an opportunity like no other to get my name out there and learn what other dancers my age were doing,” says Williams. In 2003, she won the Youth Grand Prix. Two years later, she placed in the top 12 of the senior division and was offered a spot at JKO.


Although she’s blessed with a body perfectly proportioned for ballet (long legs, a willowy silhouette), it’s Williams’ temperament that has been the not-so-secret ingredient of her success. “Katie is one of the most professional workers I’ve ever met by far,” says ABT ballet mistress Susan Jones. Along with being a quick learner, Jones says Williams also applies every personal and general correction, always working at her fullest. “What more could a ballet mistress ask!”


However, Williams has begun letting go of some of that perfectionism when she steps onstage. “In the corps, you have to always stay in line, but I catch myself holding back too much in order to be ‘correct’,” she says. “I want to show my true self in my dancing. I love those moments when you finally let go and feel like you’re flying with the wind blowing through your hair.” She looks up to dancers like ABT principal Gillian Murphy, who’ve found a way to develop their artistry without compromising technique.


Given her magnetic presence and hunger to improve, it’s easy to predict that Williams has a promising future. “She has definitely lost some of the schoolgirl look she had from the start,” says Jones. “I see her improving with each season. Anything is possible when you have all the extraordinary talents that Katie has.”

Jennifer Stahl is
Pointe’s senior editor.

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Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's 'The Nutcracker.' Photo by Rich Sofranko

Catching a performance of The Nutcracker has long been a holiday tradition for many families. And now, more and more companies are adding sensory-friendly elements to specific shows in an effort to make the classic ballet inclusive to children and adults with special needs.

While the accommodations vary depending on the company, many are presenting shorter versions of the ballet with more relaxed theater rules. Additionally, lower sound and stage light levels during the performance, as well as trained staff on hand, make The Nutcracker more accessible for those on the autism spectrum and others with special needs.

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's performance will take place on Tuesday, December 26th, and they are one of the pioneer companies in presenting sensory-friendly performances of The Nutcracker (their first production was in 2013). PBT also offers sensory-friendly versions of Jorden Morris' Peter Pan and Lew Christensen's Beauty and the Beast throughout the year.

See our list of sensory-friendly performances, and check out each site for all of the details regarding their offerings.

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Your Best Body
Pilates hundred intermediate set-up, modeled by Jordan Miller. Photo by Emily Giacalone.

The Pilates hundred is a popular exercise used by many dancers for conditioning and warming up, but it's also one of the most misunderstood. Pumping your arms for 100 counts sounds simple enough, but it requires coordinated breathwork, a leg position that suits your abilities and proper alignment. Marimba Gold-Watts, who works with New York City Ballet dancers at her Pilates studio, Articulating Body, breaks down this surprisingly hard exercise. When done correctly, the benefits are threefold: "If you're doing it before class," she says, "the hundred is a great way to get your blood flowing and work on breath control and abdominal support all at once."

To Start

Lie on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor. Nod your chin toward the front of your throat, and reach your fingertips long.

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Pointe Stars

At just 16 years old, the Bolshoi Ballet's Maria Alexandrova already had the makings of a great artist. In this variation from Coppélia, she portrays the carefree Swanilda with blithe, youthful ease.

When she bounds on stage in her perky pink tutu, you immediately notice her legs–they just go on forever. In the first sequence of steps she keeps her jetés and développés low, but then the phrase repeats and she lets her gorgeous extensions fly. She sails through Italian fouettés and whirls around in piqués en manège that get faster and faster. While she nails all the virtuosic movement, Alexandrova also pays beautiful attention to detail throughout the variation. Even the simplest steps become something exciting, like her precise pas de bourrées beginning at 1:03 that sing with musicality.

Swanilda has been one of Alexandrova's signature roles throughout her career. For a fun side by side, watch her perform the same variation almost 20 years later in this video. Although Alexandrova formally retired from the Bolshoi in February, she still performs frequently in Moscow and internationally as a guest artist. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!


Pointe Stars
Ingrid Silva and her dog, Frida Kahlo. Photo by Nathan Sayers for Pointe.

You're probably already following your favorite dancers on Instagram, but did you know that you can follow many of their dogs, too? We rounded up some of our favorite dog-centered accounts and hashtags to keep you pawsitively entertained (sorry, we can't help ourselves).

Cora and Maya (American Ballet Theatre's Sarah Lane and Luis Ribagorda)

Sarah Lane and Luis Ribagorda's pups Cora and Maya update their profile pretty frequently. Often accompanying Lane to the ABT studios, they can also be seen using tutus or piles of pink tights as dog beds.

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Pointe Stars
Vladislav Lantritov and Ekaterina Krysanova in "Taming of the Shrew." Photo by Alice Blangero, Courtesy Bolshoi Ballet.

If you haven't checked your local movie listings yet for this weekend, hop to it. The Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema series and Fathom Events is broadcasting a performance of Jean-Christophe Maillot's The Taming of the Shrew to theaters nationwide on Sunday, November 19. (To see if it's playing near you and to purchase tickets, click here.) While the rest of the Bolshoi's cinema season features 19th- and 20th-century classics, The Taming of the Shrew gives audiences a chance to see the revered Moscow company in a thoroughly modern, 21st-century take on Shakespeare's famous play.

Aside from a limited run in New York City this July, American audiences have had little exposure to Maillot's 2014 production. To learn more, check out these two exclusive, behind-the-scenes webisodes below. Principal dancer Ekaterina Krysanova, who stars as the hotheaded Katharina, gives an intimate play-by-play of two major scenes in Act I. The first is her fiery rejection of three potential suitors (who all would prefer to marry Katharina's younger sister Bianca).

The second scene breaks down Katharina's first encounter with Petruchio (danced by the larger-than-life Vladislav Lantritov), the only man who seems to be able to challenge her. Here, too, we see the shrew's heart start to soften. (Don't miss her time-stopping attitude turn at 4:27.)

The Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Series continues through June; for more details on upcoming screenings, click here.

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Smuin Ballet dancers Erica Felsch, Rex Wheeler, Mengjun Chen and Tessa Barbour in "White Christmas," choreographed by dancers Ben Needham-Wood and Michael Smuin. Photo by Keith Sutter, Courtesy Smuin Ballet.

Nutcracker-ed out? Or just can't get enough holiday ballets? These unique Nutcracker interpretations and non-Nutcracker productions will make your season bright.


The Hip Hop Nutcracker

Through December 30

Tchaikovsky's masterful Nutcracker score isn't just for classical ballet…

Hip Hop + a live DJ + an electric violinist unite in The Hip Hop Nutcracker, currently touring the U.S.

Familiar characters such Drosselmeyer, the Nutcracker, Mouse King and Marie (here called Maria-Clara) dance through an updated New York City storyline with choreography by Jennifer Weber, artistic director of the Brooklyn-based theatrical hip hop company Decadancetheatre.

Premiered in 2014, The Hip Hop Nutcracker is produced by New Jersey Performing Arts Center.

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