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#TBT: Watch Ballet in the Olympics

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!

News
The Joffrey Ballet's Amanda Assucena and Greig Matthews in Cathy Marston's Jane Eyre. Cheryl Mann, Courtesy Joffrey Ballet.

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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.

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Herman Cornejo in Don Quixote. Gene Schiavone, Courtesy ABT.

American Ballet Theatre's fall season at Lincoln Center's Koch Theater offers a chance to see the company in shorter works and mixed-repertoire programs. This year's October 16–27 run honors principal Herman Cornejo, who's celebrating his 20th anniversary with the company. Cornejo will be featured in a special celebratory program as well as a new work by Twyla Tharp (her 17th for the company), set to Johannes Brahms' String Quartet No. 2 in G Major, Op. 111. The October 26 program will include Cornejo in a pas de deux with his sister, former ABT dancer Erica Cornejo.

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Gray Davis with wife, ABT soloist Cassandra Trenary, after his graduation from the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy. Courtesy Trenary.

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Though Davis danced in ABT's corps for 11 years and is married to soloist Cassandra Trenary, to many he's best known for saving the life of a man who was pushed onto the subway tracks in New York City in 2017. The heroic effort earned him the New York State Liberty Medal, the highest civilian honor bestowed by a member of the New York State Senate. We caught up with Davis to hear about how the split second decision he made in the subway affected the course of his life, what it's been like starting a second career and what he sees as the similarities between ballet and law enforcement.

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