Royal Ballet principal Edward Watson is known the world over for his incredible range, whether he’s dancing dramatic works like MacMillan’s Manon or creating roles with contemporary forces Wayne McGregor and Christopher Wheeldon. But when he’s working out, Watson leaves his creativity at the door. “For me, it’s all about maintenance,” he says. “I think of it like brushing your teeth or washing your hair, you know? I have to do certain things in order to make my body do what I want it to.”
Pilates prowess: Before class, Watson wakes up his turnout with a progression of Pilates mat exercises. “It’s all about opening from the hips,” he says, “so that when my muscles are tired I don’t turn out from my knees or ankles or grip my feet.” He’s been working with the same teacher in Notting Hill for the last 15 years.
To the minute: Stretching is a priority for the extremely flexible Watson. “Because I use a lot of my facility, I’ve built up these big hip flexors, so I always make sure that I release them.” He uses the stopwatch on his phone to time a three-minute stretch on each hip flexor and glute and finishes with a three-minute hamstring stretch. “It’s 15 minutes out of my life each day.”
Weight work: “It’s important for me to feel my chest and my arms and my shoulders as much as my legs,” says Watson. “It’s not just for partnering. Physically, I feel like my body’s more complete and I’m more aware of every muscle if I’ve done some lifting. But I’m not always pumping and building; sometimes I’m just waking stuff up.”
The real thing: “As soon as I know what I’m dancing, I’ll try to run it so I’ve got a feeling of how tough it is,” says Watson. While he does the elliptical sometimes, he finds that the best way to build stamina is “just doing it, just rehearsing the ballet.”
Backstage snack time: “During performances, I have bananas and sometimes a little bit of chocolate to keep my energy up,” he says. “It’s like a picnic back there.”
On versatility: Working with McGregor and Wheeldon has taught Watson that he has to be ready for anything. “Whatever they ask you to do, your body has got to be up for it.” But no matter what rep he’s faced with, Watson says, “I work really hard on my classical technique every day in class. Apart from keeping an open mind and being brave, that sets me up for anything.”
Do you have any tips for dealing with a stubborn partner? We both want to succeed, but we can't seem to communicate. —Jesse
We've all dreamt of it: dancing a romantic pas de deux with your real-life love interest. Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg have done it countless times as one of ballet's most beloved on- and offstage couples. In this immaculate 2003 performance with The Royal Ballet, where they were then principals, their chemistry brings magic to their roles in Sir Frederick Ashton's Cinderella.
As the title character, Cojocaru, who is now a lead principal at English National Ballet, dances with gorgeous generosity–as well as flexibility and turnout. Her lines are long and expansive, and her 6 o'clock penchés inspire awe. True to the Ashton style, the pas is full of unexpected partnering feats, like the lift at 2:52, where Cojocaru balances almost completely upside down on Kobborg's shoulder, and the stunning choreographic motif in which Kobborg supports Cojocaru as she appears to leap in slow motion as across the stage. Their trust in one another truly brings the fairytale to life. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!
Each year, the Princess Grace Foundation honors an extraordinary group of artists. This year, ballet got a major nod. Six of the eight winners in the dance performance and choreography category are ballet-related. (The other two are Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's Jacquelin Harris and downtown dance-theater choreographer Raja Feather Kelly.) While you already know some of these names, we're excited to follow the careers of newcomers, like current Juilliard dance major Mikaela Kelly. Past Princess Grace Award winners include the likes of Carlos Acosta, Gillian Murphy and Tiler Peck, so they're in exceptional company.
What do you enjoy more: performing or being in the studio?
Performing, of course. It's like waiting and getting ready for your birthday party. The rehearsals are a hard process: It's a long wait for enjoyment.
What qualities do you admire most in other dancers?
A brain. Some say that a ballerina only needs good footwork, physical abilities, but I realized gradually that it's very important to have a good head on your shoulders. You go further if you think deeply about your roles.
What do you do to remain injury-free?
I always warm up properly, and I also have massages and water treatments to relax and soothe my body. Sometimes I go to the banya, a typical Russian sauna.
You created the lead role in Jean-Christophe Maillot's The Taming of the Shrew. What place does it have in your repertoire?
A very significant one. It's so precious when a ballet is made on you. So many dancers wait for that, try to find choreographers. If you are the very first person to do a role, it stays with you—and you stay in it, in a way.
It may be the middle of summer, but San Francisco Ballet is already rehearsing for its spring season. There's a lot to prepare for—the company's Unbound: A Festival of New Works, which runs April 20–May 6, 2018, will feature 12 new ballets by 12 choreographers. And it's an impressive group of dancemakers: David Dawson, Alonzo King, Edwaard Liang, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Cathy Marston, Trey McIntyre, Justin Peck, Arthur Pita, Dwight Rhoden, Myles Thatcher, Stanton Welch and Christopher Wheeldon. That's a lot of choreography to pack in!
Stanton Welch in rehearsal with San Francisco Ballet. Photo by Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB.
Luckily, we don't have to wait until spring to get a sneak peek of some of these new works. SFB is kicking off Unbound: LIVE, a series of live-stream events that will take us inside rehearsals. The first one is Wednesday, July 26, at 5:30 pm Pacific Standard Time (8:30 EST). It will highlight rehearsals with Arthur Pita, Edwaard Liang and Stanton Welch. You can expect to see the dancers perform excerpts of their works in progress, as well as interviews with each choreographer.
Artur Pita in rehearsal. Photo by Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB.
Visit SFB's website or its Facebook page tomorrow night to watch. And if you miss it, no worries—it'll be accessible on the company's site and YouTube channel for 60 days. The other live-stream events have yet to be announced, but we'll be sure to keep you posted!
When the Bolshoi Ballet visited New York in 2014, Soviet-era productions like Yuri Grigorovich's Swan Lake and Spartacus were on the menu. This summer, the company is taking a different approach under ballet director Makhar Vaziev, bringing fresh collaborations to the Lincoln Center Festival.
Ekaterina Krysanova and Vladimir Lantratov in "Shrew"Photo by Jack Devant, Courtesy of Lincoln Center
First the Bolshoi participated in the 50th anniversary celebration of Balanchine's Jewels last weekend alongside stars from New York City Ballet and the Paris Opéra Ballet. From July 26-30 Jean-Christophe Maillot's The Taming of the Shrew, created in Moscow in 2014, will have its American premiere. With 10 soloist roles, the witty, fast-paced version of Shakespeare's play is tailor-made for a brilliant new generation of Bolshoi stars, like Ekaterina Krysanova, Vladislav Lantratov and Olga Smirnova.The ballet was Maillot's first creation in two decades for a company other than his Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo. "It has become emblematic of a form of renewal for the Bolshoi," says Maillot. "It's a showcase for these dancers."
Get a sneak peak of the premiere with these two beautiful trailers.
On the morning of June 25, Festival Ballet Providence dancer Jordan Nelson was biking to meet a friend in Rhode Island when he was hit by a box truck. The driver drove off, leaving Nelson injured on the ground. The accident left Nelson with a fractured skull, serious concussion, broken clavicle, and abrasions down the right side of his body. He was unconscious for five days and suffered short term memory loss. Though doctors feared he might never be able to regain the memory and mobility to dance again, less than three weeks later Nelson is back in the studio. We checked in with him to hear about his inspirational recovery process and how his passion for dance motivated him.
When you woke up in the hospital were you immediately worried about dancing?
Definitely, because this upcoming season is very important to me, because we're doing Christopher Wheeldon's The American, which I believe is the first Wheeldon ballet the company has done. So for the whole month of June I was working hard on really pushing myself to get in shape and be as ready as possible for the start of the season. And the doctors originally told me I wouldn't be able to get back until January, if at all.
You've said that the hardest part of being in the hospital was not being able to move. What did you do to keep your spirits and your body active?
From the outside, one might assume that the stars onstage are leaders offstage, too. It might be so, but life in a company is usually more complex. Opportunities to volunteer, teach or represent fellow colleagues allow dancers at any rank to develop important skills and make their voices heard. Others take the lead simply by lifting company morale or setting a good example in the studio. In fact, leadership takes many forms—and you don't have to be a principal ballerina to be an influential company member whom others look up to. For these three dancers, stepping into leadership roles has given greater meaning and fulfillment to their careers.