American Ballet Theatre Commemorates Three-Quarters of a Century

ABT Gillian Murphy and Marcelo Gomes. Gene Schiavone, Courtesy ABT.

American Ballet Theatre turns 75 this fall. The company's season at the David H. Koch Theater will feature a world premiere by choreographer Liam Scarlett set to music by Sergei Rachmaninoff, and a new production of Raymonda Divertissements staged by artistic director Kevin McKenzie and ballet mistress Irina Kolpakova. The company will also perform legacy works, like Twyla Tharp's Bach Partita, Alexei Ratmansky's Seven Sonatas and Léonide Massine?'s Gaîté Parisienne. “Our 75th is a milestone with which to look back at who we were and an opportunity to look forward to who we will be," says McKenzie.


Liam ScarlettAndrej Uspenski, Courtesy ABT

This marks Scarlett's first collaboration with ABT. The 27-year-old British wunderkind who cut his teeth at The Royal Ballet, first as a dancer and now as artist in residence, has previously choreographed for Miami City Ballet, San Francisco Ballet and New York City Ballet. Scarlett's new work will premiere at ABT's opening night gala on October 22, alongside Christopher Wheeldon's Thirteen Diversions and a performance by the students of ABT's Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School.

The company will also commemorate its long history with performances of works that have been in the ABT repertoire since the 1940s, such as Antony Tudor's Jardin aux Lilas and Jerome Robbins' Fancy Free.

Ballet Stars

What do Diana Vishneva, Olga Smirnova, Kristina Shapran and Maria Khoreva all have in common? These women, among the most impressive talents to graduate from the Vaganova Ballet Academy in recent years, all studied under legendary professor Lyudmila Kovaleva. Kovaleva, a former dancer with the Kirov Ballet (now the Mariinsky), is beloved by her students and admired throughout the ballet world for her ability to pull individuality and artistry out of the dancers she trains. Like any great teacher, Kovaleva is remarkably generous with her wealth of knowledge; it seems perfect, then, that she appears as the Fairy of Generosity in this clip from a 1964 film of the Kirov's The Sleeping Beauty.

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Sponsored by BLOCH
Courtesy BLOCH

Today's ballet dancer needs a lot from a pointe shoe. "What I did 20 years ago is not what these dancers are doing now," says New York City Ballet shoe manager Linnette Roe. "They are expected to go harder, longer days. They are expected to go from sneakers, to pointe shoes, to character shoes, to barefoot and back to pointe shoes all in a day."

The team at BLOCH developed their line of Stretch Pointe shoes to address dancer's most common complaints about the fit and performance of their pointe shoes. "It's a scientific take on the pointe shoe," says Roe. Dancers are taking notice and Stretch Pointe shoes are now worn by stars like American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston, who stars in BLOCH's latest campaign for the shoes.

We dug into the details of Stretch Pointe's most game-changing features:

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Ballet Careers
Ali Cameron, Courtesy Queensland Ballet

An artistic director's position was far from Li Cunxin's mind when the Brisbane-based Queensland Ballet came calling in 2012. Since his retirement from the stage in 1999, the Chinese-Australian dancer had embarked on a highly successful career at the helm of a stockbroking firm. His wife, former dancer and current Queensland ballet mistress Mary McKendry Li, changed his mind, Li remembers. "She said, 'Wouldn't it be nice to give something back to the art form that we both have benefited so much from?' "

Seven years later, Li's contribution has been dramatic. Queensland Ballet, once a struggling choreographer-led company, has become one of Australia's most exciting repertoire ensembles, with Liam Scarlett on board as artistic associate. The budget has more than quadrupled, to over $20 million USD, and Li has launched not one but three major construction projects, with world-class headquarters, a theater and a new academy all in progress.

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News
Gene Schiavone, Courtesy Boston Ballet

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

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