Audiences at New York City Ballet could not help noticing Taylor Stanley when he joined the corps last year. Ruggedly handsome and classically proportioned, his supple authority was clear as soon as he began to dance. He made every lift seem deceptively easy and his leaps possessed an airy, unfailingly musical clarity. Stanley watchers weren’t surprised to find him dancing the lead in Balanchine’s Square Dance opposite principal ballerina Ashley Bouder at the end of the 2011 winter season, three months before his 20th birthday. 

Stanley’s parents took him to a Pennsylvania Ballet performance when he was 3, and he loved it. “All those people in costumes running around! I wanted to start dance class right away,” he says. He soon began what became 14 years of study at The Rock School West in West Chester, Pennsylvania. “I was nervous at first, being the only boy,” he says, “but I welcomed the challenge as an energy outlet.”  

Spotting something special in him, his teacher Jennifer Wheat began to discuss the career paths available in dance. Stanley attended Miami City Ballet’s summer program in 2006 and 2007, where he got a heady dose of Balanchine corps work in Who Cares? and Square Dance. Attending the School of American Ballet in the summer of 2008 led to an NYCB apprenticeship in 2009 and a slot in the corps in September 2010. “My folks were with me all the way,” he says. “They traveled with me. They helped me move. I am so incredibly fortunate to have parents who love what I do as much as I do.” 

His colleagues at NYCB felt themselves lucky to have so finished a product in their ranks. Principal dancer Daniel Ulbricht, who has a dual career as a teacher, says, “I couldn’t take my eyes off Taylor when he was at SAB. Some days I thought I was teaching a gymnastics class, the guys were tumbling around so wildly, but not Taylor. He already had the maturity and the appetite of a seasoned dancer, and when he joined the company he didn’t take it easy. He was always working on his basics or whatever he was rehearsing. He’s a natural mover who’s comfortable dancing outside the box. And he’s genuinely modest. How often does that happen?”

Sean Lavery, NYCB’s assistant to the ballet master in chief, recalls how quickly Stanley could learn a difficult solo in his variations class: “It was a total pleasure to teach a student who listened to what he was told, then made the dance visible when he repeated it the first time.”

Soon after joining the company, Stanley was singled out for roles that made major demands, such as Christopher Wheeldon’s Polyphonia. As a corps member of “Diamonds” in Balanchine’s Jewels, he displayed such presence that he could have been mistaken for a soloist.

The lead of Square Dance, a ballet that requires six corps couples to regularly repeat the two principals’ challenging steps, quickly came his way. It was not Stanley’s familiarity with the principal’s steps but his echoing those steps with the authority of a principal that impressed the ballet masters. All he needed to work on was the man’s somber, introspective solo, a passage of stately continuity, which Lavery taught him.   

Bouder had no complaints about working with a novice. “If Taylor was nervous coming in,” she says, “he did a great job of hiding it. I don’t think I’ve ever danced with someone so calm and confident during a debut—certainly not with someone his age dancing his first principal role.”

Stanley was asked what it was like to dictate the steps the six corps men perform together with such uncanny unity. Anyone who expects an ego-trip response doesn’t know Taylor Stanley. His answer? “You feel like you’re part of a brotherhood.”

Video still by Nel Shelby Productions, Courtesy Dancio.

"What if you could learn from the world's best dance teachers in your living room?" This is the question that Dancio poses on their website. Dancio is a new startup that offers full length videos of ballet classes taught by master teachers. As founder Caitlin Trainor puts it, "these superstar teachers can be available to students everywhere for the cost of a cup of coffee."

For Trainor, a choreographer and the artistic director of Trainor Dance, the idea for Dancio came from a sense of frustration relatable to many dancers; feeling like they need to warm up properly before rehearsals, but not always having the time, energy or funds to get to dance class. One day while searching the internet for a quick online class, Trainor was shocked to not be able to find anything that, as she puts it, "hit the mark in terms of relevance and quality. I thought to myself, how does this not exist?" she says. "We have the Daily Burn for Fitness, YogaGlo for yogis, Netflix for entertainment and nothing for dancers! But then I thought, I can make this!" And thus, Dancio (the name is a combination of dance and video), was born.

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New York City Ballet in "George Balanchine's The Nutcracker." Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy Lincoln Center.

Nutcracker season is upon us, with productions popping up in on stages in big cities and small towns around the country. But this year you can catch New York City Ballet's famous version on the silver screen, too. Lincoln Center at the Movies and Screen Vision Media are presenting a limited engagement of NYCB's George Balanchine's The Nutcracker at select cinemas nationwide starting December 2. It stars Ashley Bouder as Dewdrop and Megan Fairchild and Joaquin De Luz as the Sugarplum Fairy and Cavalier.

While nothing beats seeing a live performance (the company's theatrical Nutcracker run opens Friday), the big screen will no doubt magnify some of this production's most breathtaking effects: the Christmas tree that grows to an impressive 40 feet, Marie's magical spinning bed, and the stunning, swirling snow scene. Click here to find a participating movie theater near you—then, go grab some popcorn.

Artists of Pennsylvania Ballet rehearsing for "The Sleeping Beauty" for the 2017/18 season. Photo by Arian Molina Soca, Courtesy Pennsylvania Ballet.

Today the Pennsylvania Ballet's board of trustees announced the appointment of Shelly Power as its new executive director. Having been involved in the five-month international search, company artistic director Angel Corella said in a statement released by PAB that he's "certain Shelly is the best candidate to lead the administrative team that supports the artistic vision of the company." Power's official transition will begin in February. This news comes at the end of a few years of turmoil and turnover at PAB, including the departure of former executive director David Gray in June.

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Pointe Stars
Tiler Peck with Andrew Veyette in "Allegro Brillante." Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy New York City Ballet.

"I was particularly excited when I saw my name on casting for Allegro Brillante in 2009," remembers principal dancer Tiler Peck. "Balanchine had said Allegro was, 'everything I know about classical ballet in 13 minutes,' and of course that terrified me." To calm her fear, Peck followed her regular process for debuts: begin by going back to the original performers to get an idea of the quality and feeling of the ballet and ballerina. "It is never to imitate, but rather to surround myself with as much knowledge from the past as I can so that I can find my own way," says Peck.

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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 has also offered sensory-friendly versions of Jorden Morris' Peter Pan and Lew Christensen's Beauty and the Beast in the past.

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!





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