Ah, the Olympic ceremonies: When athletes of the world parade with their flags into the international spotlight, when host countries pay tribute to their cultural heritages and when I (without fail) tear up at the beauty of it all. Ballet doesn't usually play into the Olympic mix as a sport, but the opening and closing ceremonies are a different story. Case in point(e): Sochi, Russia in 2014 and London in 2012.


Sochi

Russia's ballet offering was the longer and more classical of the two. Svetlana Zakharova performed alongside fellow Russian ballet stars, including Ivan Vasiliev and Danila Korsuntsev, in a glittering balletic portrayal of Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace. When the corps finishes its intricate serpentine patterns, she takes the stage (1:15)—costume glinting, lights flashing—before an audience of millions. If the dancers are nervous, they don't show it. Zakharova's unfaltering, delicate grace is the perfect foil to Vasiliev's knockout manège.

Diana Vishneva also graced the Olympic stage that year in a contemporary number, and Sochi's closing ceremonies featured the Bolshoi and Mariinsky Ballets coming together for a grand tribute to the Diaghilev era.

London

Two years earlier, at the Olympic Summer Games in London, British ballerina Darcey Bussell took "firebird" to a whole new level. She came out of retirement for the "Phoenix of the Flame" ballet, the final hurrah (3:03:32) before the extinguishing of the Olympic fire. Look beyond the flashy pyrotechnics; Bussell owns that stage like the legend she is.

Rio

Brazil's balletic tradition is young compared to Europe's, but plenty of talented artists have come from the South American nation: Ingrid Silva, Nathalia Arja and Irlan Silva, to name a few. It's hard to say if Rio's Opening Ceremonies tomorrow will include any ballet. (Olivier Award-winning choreographer Deborah Colker is onboard to direct the dance sequences.) With or without ballet, we'll be tuned in. Happy #TBT, and go #TeamUSA!

Ballet Stars

English National Ballet star Alina Cojocaru was still a Royal Ballet principal in 2006 when she guest-starred in the Mariinsky Ballet's production of The Sleeping Beauty. And as this clip of her Aurora proves, she is indeed a vision in Act II's dream scene. Dancing alongside Andrian Fadeyev and Daria Pavlenko as Prince Désiré and the Lilac Fairy, the Romanian ballerina has an air of otherworldly majesty.

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Ballet Stars

A little over a month ago Roberto Bolle gave his final bow with American Ballet Theatre, though thankfully he's not saying goodbye to ballet altogether. After 10 years dancing as a principal with ABT while guesting around the world and at his home company La Scala Ballet, he's now planning to focus on his own galas and projects in Italy. A frequent face in those galas is Polina Semionova, a principal guest with Staatsballett Berlin (and also a former principal with ABT). Semionova and Bolle have danced together for years, and while Bolle is renown for his partnerships with many ballerinas, the two make an exceptionally elegant duo. Here they dance Vladimir Burmeister's Black Swan Pas de Deux at the 2007 Tchaikovsky Gala in Milan.

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Oh, internet challenges...We don't know who starts them or where they come from, but we definitely love it when dancers get involved.

The past few weeks have seen the rise of the #bottlecapchallenge, which involves someone kicking the top off of a plastic bottle. The slow-motion videos show the cap neatly spinning off. Of course, everyone from dogs to celebs have tried their hand (er, foot?) at the challenge. But ballerinas have taken it to the next level. As far as we can tell, Cuban dancer Marlen Fuerte Castro was the first to add a ballet spin: fouetté turns.

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