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Onstage This Week: The Washington Ballet Welcomes Guest Stars, World Premieres in Sacramento and Phoenix, and More!

Dancers of The Washington Ballet. Photo by Dean Alexander, Courtesy TWB.

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


The Washington Ballet Brings in Guest Stars Including Marcelo Gomes and Stella Abrera

The Washington Ballet's 2018/19 season opens September 26-30 at the Kennedy Center with a mixed bill titled TWB Welcomes, designed to show a range of classical ballet from the last century. TWB presents two programs: The first features George Balanchine's Serenade and Alexei Ratmansky's Bolero, and the second includes Annabelle Lopez Ochoa's Sombrerisimo and Michel Fokine's Les Sylphides. Both include three iconic pas de deux: Marius Petipa's Black Swan, Ratmansky's Seven Sonatas and Balanchine's Tarantella. For this run, artistic director Julie Kent invited four guest artists to join the company: Former American Ballet Theatre principal Marcelo Gomes, ABT principal Stella Abrera, Ballet Manila principal Katherine Barkman and Houston Ballet principal Connor Walsh. Above, check out a clip of Barkman preparing for her Tarantella debut.

Sacramento Ballet's Season Opener Includes World Premiere by Penny Saunders

Sacramento Ballet opens its first season under the leadership of new artistic director Amy Seiwert September 27-30 at The Sofia Tsakopoulos Center for the Arts. Titled Telling Stories, the program includes former director Ron Cunningham's Incident at Blackbriar, Adam Hougland's Cigarettes, Seiwert's Instructions and a world premiere by Penny Saunders to the music of Nick Drake. Above, Saunders explains how she's using Drake's melancholy and evocative music to do just what the program's title suggests: Tell stories.

Ballet Arizona Presents World Premiere by Company Dancer Nayon Iovino 

Ballet Arizona's New Moves program asks audiences to "expect the unexpected." Running September 27-30 at the Orpheum Theatre in Phoenix, the program includes artistic director Ib Andersen's Rio, the Arizona premiere of Justin Peck's In Creases and a world premiere by Ballet Arizona's Nayon Iovino's Inherent. Iovino was just accepted into the New York Choreographic Institute for spring of 2019; see excerpts from his new ballet above.

The Queen of the Nile Comes to Life in Texas

Texas Ballet Theater artistic director Ben Stevenson's full-length ballet Cleopatra runs September 28-30 at the Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth. With music by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov performed live by the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, this tale of love and trickery is sure to enthrall audiences. Leading up to the performance, TBT is releasing a series of fun facts about Cleopatra on Instagram (did you know she spoke nine languages?)

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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