Ballet Stars
Angela Sterling, Courtesy PNB

Your teacher at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, Marcia Dale Weary, recently passed away. What impact did she have on you?

I feel deeply indebted to her. She shaped my life's course, and I know that were it not for her, I would not be living out my dream today. She led by example through her remarkable commitment to her work, as well as her genuine kindness and generosity.

You were a trainee with San Francisco Ballet. What was that experience like?

It was an exposure to different schools of thought. We were mostly in the full-lengths, and watching run-throughs of Sleeping Beauty and Don Quixote was revolutionary for me. But I was young and far away from home. That transition was hard. My body started changing. It wanted to be fleshy. Biology is cruel in that way. I desperately wanted to fit in, but it wasn't meant to be.

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The Royal Ballet's Vadim Muntagirov and Marianela Nuñez in La Bayadère. Photo by Bill Cooper, Courtesy ROH.

Do you ever wish you could teleport to London and casually stroll into The Royal Opera House to see some of the world's best-loved ballets? Well, we have a solution for you: The Royal Ballet's 2018-19 cinema season.

Whether live or recorded, the seven ballet programs listed below, streaming now through next October, will deliver all of the magic that The Royal Ballet has to offer straight to your local movie theater. Can you smell the popcorn already?

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Site Network
Left: Misa Kuranaga in The Veritginous Thrill of Exactitude. Gene Schiavone, Courtesy Boston Ballet. Right: Sasha Mukhamedov in Apollo. Altin Kaftira, Courtesy Dutch National Ballet.

San Francisco Ballet just announced some major news: longtime Boston Ballet star Misa Kuranaga will be joining the company as a principal dancer for the 2019-20 season, while Dutch National Ballet principal Sasha Mukhamedov has been hired as a soloist. They join a slew of newly promoted SFB principals and soloists, announced earlier this year.

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Ballet Stars
Xiao Nan Yu in company class. Aaron Vincent, Courtesy National Ballet of Canada.

On June 22, National Ballet of Canada principal Xiao Nan Yu will retire from the stage after 22 years with the company. Originally from Dalian, China, Yu studied at the Shen Yang School of Dance and the Beijing Dance Academy before coming to Canada's National Ballet School at age 17. She joined the National Ballet of Canada less than two years later, and was promoted to principal in 2001.

"She is a supreme dance actress with an innate ability to bring the audience into her world," says NBoC artistic director Karen Kain. "Nan has always brought such a calm confidence into the studio and has been a role model for so many dancers I will miss her generosity both inside the studio and out." We spoke with Yu as she prepared for her final week of performances. She opened up about her initial culture shock upon moving to Toronto, her thoughts on artistry and why she chose Hanna Glawari in The Merry Widow as her final role.

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News
Gene Schiavone, Courtesy ABT

Wonder what's going on in ballet this week? We've rounded up some highlights.

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Ballet Careers
Jolie Rose Lombardo performing at ADC | IBC prior to her diagnosis. Richard Finkelstein, Courtesy Stephanie Lombardo

It was mid-January when 15-year-old Jolie Rose Lombardo first noticed the leg pain. A scholarship student at the John Cranko Schule in Stuttgart, Germany, the Florida native felt fine dancing through full days of classes and completing her regular school schedule. It was only at night that what appeared to be sciatic pain would shoot down her right leg when she tried to lie down, making resting difficult. After a few sleepless nights, spent mostly standing up, she went to the doctor for an X-ray, followed by an MRI.

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Summer Intensive Survival
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It is easy to feel as though the entire ballet year revolves around summer: more hours in the day for dance, and another summer intensive to add to your resumé. You've likely dreamt about which program you want to attend, traveled to auditions and gotten excited about the new challenges in a big city school. But what if you find yourself staying home?

It can feel heartbreaking to watch your peers take off for their intensives. Whether you're staying home by choice or because of injury or finances, you can still improve and have fun at your local studio. Unlike those headed off to big intensives, you have flexibility and money on your side. Jody Skye Schissler, owner of Skye Ballet Center in Herndon, Virginia, encourages dancers to start by asking, "How can you make your summer more focused on yourself and what you need for your future?" Here are tips for making the most of your time at home.

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Ballet Stars
Royal Ballet principal Steven McRae with his kids. Via Instagram.

With Father's Day just around the corner, we wanted to take a minute to acknowledge some of the dancer dads out there who are doing double duty at home and onstage. So in between feting the father figures in your life this weekend (and thanking them for sitting through countless hours of dance recitals throughout the course of your lives), check out these eight ballet dads below.

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Ballet Stars
Antonio Carmena (right) coaches a Barnard College student. Photo by Marcus Salazar, courtesy Carmena.

Some ballet dancers, the lucky ones at least, get to enjoy long, successful careers. Yet their dancing schedule usually allows little time for anything else. At New York City Ballet, for instance, most dancers don't have secondary jobs on the side, although layoffs between seasons provide short opportunities to flex new muscles, like teaching. But performance careers inevitably come to an end, and dancers must then "become" something else.

When former NYCB soloist Antonio Carmena retired from the company in 2017, he realized he wasn't quite prepared for the next step. His retirement uncovered an insecurity buried deep within him—that without dance, he wasn't "good" at anything anymore. It's taken two years for Carmena to develop more work experience as he searches for a new place for himself in the dance world. And while he admits it's an ongoing journey, the pieces are finally starting to come together.

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Viral Videos
Carlos Villamayore, Via Instagram

American Ballet Theatre is in the midst of Le Corsaire this week as part of the company's annual season at the Metropolitan Opera House. One of the ballet's most celebrated and challenging male roles is Ali, the Slave. Daniil Simkin is dancing the part this week. A dancer who never seems to disappoint, Simkin is sure to pull out all the technical stops and dazzle audiences with his charisma (case in point).

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Ballet Training
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Houston Ballet principal Jessica Collado recalls dancing Giselle's Myrtha on an outdoor stage in the thick of a Texan summer. "At the beginning of the act my shoes still had some life in them, but when I bourréed off to go to my grave at the end, there was literally nothing left of them," she says. "They completely died."

While some pointe shoe brands are built with synthetic materials (making them longer lasting), most shoes are still made out of organic components like burlap and paper, which are incredibly susceptible to humidity. "The more moisture there is, either in the air or from your foot sweating, the faster your shoes will break down," says ThePointeShop founder Josephine Lee. Whether you're spending your summer performing outdoors or training in a crowded studio, muggy weather will have a huge impact on your shoes. Here are some tips to make it through.

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News
The bunheads of Bunheads. Adam Lakey, Courtesy ABC Family

Seven years ago today something very special entered the lives of bunheads everywhere. What was it? Well, "Bunheads," the Amy Sherman-Palladino television show that aired on ABC Family for 18 short episodes, until the final curtain fell in February of 2013. Unlike the sadistic pop culture depictions of ballet that sandwiched it (Black Swan in 2010 and "Flesh and Bone" in 2015), "Bunheads" was a wholesome, funny and mostly true-to-life look at what it's really like to be a teenage trina.

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Brooklyn Mack in Le Corsaire. Photo by Carlos Quezada, Courtesy Mack

After almost a decade at The Washington Ballet, Brooklyn Mack has struck out on his own. Last summer, after unsuccessful contract negotiations with the company—now under the direction of Julie Kent—the 32-year-old star decided to go it alone. So far, his full-time freelance career has taken him to Hong Kong, Mexico, Norway, Russia, Georgia (the country, not the state) and various cities across the U.S. But his biggest debut is still to come. This month, he appears with American Ballet Theatre at the Metropolitan Opera House for four performances of Le Corsaire, playing both Conrad and Ali.

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Trending
Ballet West's Emily Neale. Jayme Thornton.

This is Pointe's Summer 2019 cover story. You can subscribe to the magazine here, or click here to purchase this issue.

In Ballet West's company class at Salt Lake City's historic Capitol Theatre, demi-soloist Emily Neale stands poised in first position, her hair swirled into a slightly disheveled bun. In any other room, her 5' 8" frame would be a standout, but in this company—where the tallest woman is 6' 1"—her height is hardly something to note. Rather, it's her self-possession. As the dancers around her seek to impress on-looking artistic staff, 24-year-old Neale seems unfazed. Her épaulement breezes, her allégro soars and suspends, her technique is solid, and all the while, she is calm.

Her unflappability was built along a very patient path to Ballet West. While clearly talented, Neale struggled to find work for two years, enduring the pressures of rejection while waiting for the right stars to align. Yet she remained steadfast, and despite her difficult start, her timeline caught up with her talent once she landed at Ballet West. Since joining as a trainee in 2015, she's risen rapidly to demi-soloist. In fact, it's the fastest climb the company has seen since principal Beckanne Sisk.

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News
Photo via Instagram

Balletomanes, bunheads, and Center Stage fangirls alike, listen up, because there's a big announcement here for the dance community: on Saturday, June 8, legendary ballet power couple Gillian Murphy and Ethan Stiefel welcomed their son, Ax Nathaniel Stiefel, into the world!

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News
Houston Ballet's Melody Mennite in Stanton Welch's Marie. Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy HB.

Wonder what's going on in ballet this week? We've rounded up some highlights.

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News
Terrence S. Orr with dancers of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. Aimee DiAndrea, Courtesy PBT.

Change is in the air in Steel City: On Friday Terrence S. Orr announced that, after 22-years as artistic director of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, he will retire in June 2020 following the conclusion of PBT's 50th anniversary season.

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Ballet Stars
Kathleen Breen Combes in George Balanchine's Serenade. Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy Boston Ballet.

On Sunday, June 9 Boston Ballet principal Kathleen Breen Combes will take her final bow onstage before stepping behind the curtain into a new role: executive director of the Rhode Island–based Festival Ballet Providence. Originally from Rockville Center, New York, Combes spent three years with The Washington Ballet before joining Boston Ballet in 2003; she was promoted to principal in 2009. For her retirement performance she's dancing Paulo Arrais' ELA, Rhapsody in Blue. "It just happened to be the last thing on the program, but it worked out perfectly," says Combes. "It's me and 15 men, and it's all about female empowerment, so it felt very fitting to go out with that." Below, Combes shares what made Boston Ballet her dream company, how becoming a mother has affected her approach and why she's interested in dance administration.

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Ballet Careers
Sarah LaPointe, here in class at Charlotte Ballet, uses her summer layoff to teach and catch up on college. Todd Rosenberg, Courtesy Charlotte Ballet.

For a new professional dancer, the concept of a summer layoff—when ballet companies go on an unpaid hiatus for several weeks (or months)—can be a welcome change of pace, an anxiety-riddled uncertainty or a bit of both. While it should feel rejuvenating to take a break after an intense season, fear of financial instability or getting out of shape can overshadow the good. Here, six dancers share how they leverage their summer layoffs to be both productive and restorative.

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Ballet Stars
Maire-Agnès Gillot in The Sleeping Beauty, via YouTube.

Fairies crop up everywhere in classical ballet, from sylphs to dryads to, of course, the ranks of fairies who attend Aurora's christening in The Sleeping Beauty. These delicate and mystical creatures stretch the reaches of ballet technique, forcing dancers to embody an otherworldly ideal. In this 1999 clip from the Paris Opéra Ballet's The Sleeping Beauty, former étoile Marie-Agnès Gillot dances the luxurious Lilac Fairy variation. With her refined, gentle power, Gillot truly finds the sublime in her interpretation of this magical character.

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Ballet Stars
Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn. Courtesy CineLife Entertainment.

A while ago we alerted you to Nureyev, a new feature length documentary about the life of legendary ballet star Rudolf Nureyev. The film is now enjoying a limited run in several U.S. cities, nicely coinciding with the release of Ralph Fiennes' Nureyev biopic The White Crow. The documentary, directed by brother-sister team Jacqui Morris and David Morris, tells the infamous dancer's life story from his deeply impoverished childhood to his years at the Kirov Ballet and his eventual defection from Russia. It then continues where The White Crow leaves off, chronicling his dance career and pop-culture celebrity in the West, his celebrated partnership with Margot Fonteyn and his life-ending battle with AIDS.

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Natalia Osipova in rehearsal. Photo by Alastair Muir, Courtesy Sadler's Wells

You never quite know what's going to happen when Natalia Osipova steps onstage—you know you're in for something extraordinary, but the exact nature of what you'll get is a mystery until it's happening. It's only fitting, then, that we would learn of Force of Nature, a new documentary following a year of the ballet superstar's career, a day before its limited release in the UK.

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Trending
2019 YoungArts finalist Kali Kleiman. Photo by Em Watson, Courtesy YoungArts.

If you're looking for something to add to your summer to-do list alongside "wash smelly ballet bag," or "burn heinous recital costume," consider adding "apply to prestigious national arts competition" as a line item. Now through October 11, the National YoungArts Foundation is accepting applications for its annual YoungArts competition.

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Trending
Dancers in Brendan Fernandes' exhibit "The Master And Form," shown here at the Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago. Photo by Brendan Leo Merea, courtesy the Whitney Museum of American Art.

It sounds like a ballet dancer's worst nightmare: hold extensions and splits for a prolonged period, improvise in a cage and on a rope, and execute a ballet barre to performance standards. Do it with no music, wearing just a leotard and tights for an audience that's only two feet away, staring at every move.

Scary as that may sound, that's what the dancers in "The Master And Form" are doing in nine shows a week through September 22 at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. The exhibit, by Chicago-based artist Brendan Fernandes, is part of the Whitney Biennial 2019, which showcases the "latest developments" in American art.

"When dancers are performing, the feats look effortless," says Fernandes. "But it's labor, and dancers are masochists. I wanted to show the pain and the pleasure."

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