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
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.

Your Career
Members of San Francisco Ballet in company class as part of World Ballet Day LIVE 2017. Photo by Erik Tomasson via San Francisco Ballet on Instagram.

Last Thursday was World Ballet Day LIVE, the official 22-hour live-stream relay showcasing companies across the globe. If you were busy (we know that you don't always have the luxury to spend an entire day watching ballet), don't fret. Many of the companies involved recorded their classes, rehearsals and interviews from the day of, and we rounded them up for you to watch at your leisure. Careful, though; there are more than twenty hours of footage included here... make sure you take a break to, you know, sleep.


First up is San Francisco Ballet with a full five hours, including rehearsal for Balanchine's timeless classic, Serenade.


The Royal Ballet's WBD stream is split into three parts. Here's the first chunk, featuring company rehearsals of a few Sir Kenneth MacMillan ballets as well as Christopher Wheeldon's Alice in Wonderland (a measly two hours and 45 minutes). You can find part 2 here and the full company class here. The video also features a quick aerial tour of London from the balcony of the Royal Opera House.

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Featured Article

Olga Smirnova’s first three seasons at the Bolshoi Ballet were a whirlwind of debuts and creations, but it all came to a halt in 2014, when a foot injury took the Vaganova-trained prodigy out of action for nearly a year. During her break, Smirnova adopted a new approach to taking care of her body throughout the day, using Pilates and various floor exercises. When she returned to the stage last summer, in Yuri Possokhov’s new full-length ballet A Hero of Our Time, it was with a newfound maturity. “Maybe I needed this break to reflect after such an intense period,” she says. “I think I grew up more than in the previous three years.”

A Hero of Our Time puts a modern twist on a popular 19th-century Russian novel by Mikhail Lermontov and its hero, Pechorin, who encounters a series of women. Pointe went backstage with Smirnova as she worked with Possokhov and theater director Kirill Serebrennikov on the role of Bela. With the help of her coach, Marina Kondratieva, she used her expressive lines and port de bras to lend depth to the character, a proud Circassian princess.

And the creations keep coming: This winter, she spent a month in Monaco, where Jean-Christophe Maillot devised a new part for her in Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo’s Nutcracker Company. “I feel like Maillot and Possokhov are ‘my’ choreographers,” she explains. “I feel so comfortable in their work that I would never miss an opportunity to go further with them.”

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News

Artists of the Bolshoi Ballet (Courtesy HBO)

From its eerie opening scene to its dramatic closing interview, Bolshoi Babylon—a documentary filmed in the aftermath of the 2013 acid attack on Bolshoi Ballet director Sergei Filin—creates a distinct sense of tension regarding the iconic company’s future.

The dance footage and backstage access featured in the documentary are unprecedented—especially considering the public scrutiny the Bolshoi was experiencing at the time. The filmmakers catch the dancers in the wings, onstage and in the studio, giving viewers a perspective that’s rarely, if ever, seen.

Curious why Filin’s contract, which expires in March 2016, wasn’t renewed? Bolshoi Babylon pulls back the curtain on the subtle, and not so subtle, power shifts within a company where it seems that everyone is on edge and anyone is expendable. The documentary airs on December 21 (tomorrow night!) on HBO.

For more news on all things ballet, don’t miss a single issue.

Your Career

Artists of the Bolshoi Ballet (Courtesy HBO)

New Documentary on HBO Takes On the Bolshoi Ballet 

From its eerie opening scene to its dramatic closing interview, Bolshoi Babylon—a documentary filmed in the aftermath of the 2013 acid attack on Bolshoi Ballet director Sergei Filin—creates a distinct sense of tension regarding the iconic company’s future.

The dance footage and backstage access featured in the documentary are unprecedented—especially considering the public scrutiny the Bolshoi was experiencing at the time. The filmmakers catch the dancers in the wings, onstage and in the studio, giving viewers a perspective that’s rarely, if ever, seen.

Curious why Filin’s contract, which expires in March 2016, wasn’t renewed? Bolshoi Babylon pulls back the curtain on the subtle, and not so subtle, power shifts within a company where it seems that everyone is on edge and anyone is expendable. The documentary airs December 21 on HBO. —Nicole Loeffler-Gladstone

Trey McIntyre (photo courtesy BalletX)

Choreographic Fellowship at BalletX

BalletX’s new fellowship initiative has chosen its first recipient: New York–based choreographer Yin Yue.

Yue was born and raised in Shanghai, China, and has an MFA from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. The joint fellowship panel—including BalletX artistic staff, Wendy Whelan, choreographer Trey McIntyre and others—chose her from 50 international applicants. She’s choreographed on companies like Northwest Dance Project and shown work at such venues as Jacob’s Pillow. Yue will have January and February to create a new piece on BalletX and be mentored by McIntyre, who will create a separate piece during the same period.

“I think that the two of us creating at the same time will help my own process,” says McIntyre. “When you’re mentoring someone and articulating what you see, you’re giving voice to new parts of yourself, too.”

With his extensive experience coaching, teaching and guiding students, McIntyre is an advocate for fellowships like this one. “Choreographers don’t spend a lot of time receiving feedback—what we do is very solitary. I longed for this early in my own career,” he says.

BalletX will provide Yue’s choreographer’s fee, costume design budget and travel expenses. McIntyre is open to his mentorship extending into the logistical side of creating a new ballet, but he doesn’t intend to set parameters on the relationship. “I don’t want to impose my worldview. What I have to offer is about opening up what is authentic within our own selves.” —NLG

Italian Renaissance

In rehearsal for Duse with Hamburg Ballet principal Alexandr Trusch (photo by Holger Badekow, courtesy Hamburg Ballet)

Alessandra Ferri, the iconic dance actress, has emerged, at age 52, from a six-year retirement into an astonishing post-career. After successes with projects like Martha Clarke’s Chéri and the critically praised Woolf Works at The Royal Ballet, Ferri has been tapped by Hamburg Ballet’s John Neumeier as the muse for his Duse—Myth and Mysticism of the Italian Actress Eleonora Duse. As an actress at the turn of the 20th century, Duse’s performances were both highly popular and critically acclaimed, and she was lauded by writers like Anton Chekhov and George Bernard Shaw. The ballet, set to music by Benjamin Britten and Arvo Pärt, will premiere on December 6.

Why did you return to performing?

I realized a part of me was switched off. I love creating and dancing and performing with other artists. I feel very much alive when I do that. The first thing I did—The Piano Upstairs—was a fascinating collaboration with John Weidman. Then Martha Clarke came along (with Chéri). It all happened without me looking for it. Now I’m more conscious of my desire for doing it. At the moment I feel free and much more appreciative of the talent I was given.

What does John Neumeier wish to explore with you in Duse?

I think John has always been very passionate about theater and acting. Eleonora Duse was the first modern actor. She completely changed the art form. She was a very complex, strong and vulnerable woman and very devoted to her art. It’s funny—when I’m talking about her, I’m saying the same things about myself. She felt alive when she was onstage.

What is it like to portray a real-life character?

It’s so hard in dance to just be biographical because dance is the language of emotion. Duse starts out at the end of her life. John is interested in exploring the different woman she was with all these men in her life, like the poet Gabriele D’Annunzio. She really wanted to help and console people. She suffered a lot in her life and was very sensitive to suffering.

Did you make any special preparations for the role?

I visited two museums—one in Venice and one in Asola—which house some of Duse’s original letters and clothes. I also read the book Il Fuoco by D’Annunzio, which describes her life.

Joseph Carman

Kansas City Ballet’s New Nut

This season, Kansas City Ballet will unveil its all-new Nutcracker, choreographed by artistic director Devon Carney.

Carney has assembled an impressive team, including set designer Alain Vaës, costume designer Holly Hynes (who was the director of costumes at New York City Ballet for 21 years) and lighting designer Trad A Burns. The show will run December 5–24 at the Kauffman Center. —NLG

Noelani Pantastico Returns to PNB

Former Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Noelani Pantastico has returned to the company after a seven-year stint with Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo. She made her first appearance in November, in PNB’s production of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker. —NLG

 

News

The National Ballet of Canada in rehearsal (photo by Karolina Kuras)

 

World Ballet Day will happen once again on October 1. The Bolshoi Ballet, The Australian Ballet, The Royal Ballet, The National Ballet of Canada and San Francisco Ballet will join forces for 18 hours of non-stop behind-the-scenes footage from around the world. 

It's no surprise that the event is back, considering its smashing success last year—it was trending on Twitter all day, and thousands of people watched the stream on YouTube.

This year, the event will include even more companies: Bangarra Dance Theatre, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Boston Ballet, English National Ballet, Hamburg Ballet, Houston Ballet, Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal, National Ballet of China, Nederlands Dans Theater, Northern Ballet, Pacific Northwestern Ballet, Royal New Zealand Ballet and Scottish Ballet will all participate. Those companies will show pre-recorded footage rather than a live stream.

The Australian Ballet will show class and rehearsals for The Sleeping Beauty, among others. The Bolshoi will show class and rehearsals for its 240th season. I'm especially excited to see The Royal Ballet's rehearsals of Romeo and Juliet and the National Ballet of Canada's rehearsals of The Winter's Tale. Both companies will also show morning class. San Francisco Ballet will show class and rehearsals and will feature an interview with choreographer William Forsythe.

For those of us in the United States, the time zones are a bit confusing. The stream starts with The Australian Ballet in Melbourne at 19:00 PDT (that's Pacific Day Time) on September 30. Use this handy time zone converter to determine when you should start watching the live stream.

Click here for more information about programming as it's released!

Ballet’s spectacle does not always rest in high extensions and multiple pirouettes. In fact, sometimes precision gets lost in a catacomb of tricks. But moments such as the Dance of the Cygnets from Act II of Swan Lake recapture ballet's purity with meticulous footwork and teamwork. Its cohesiveness reveals how simplicity can enrapture an audience. With hands interlaced, these four Bolshoi ballerinas coordinate their épaulement and piqués as if they are perfect replicas of one another. Enjoy this quick moment of intricacy. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

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