Ballet Stars
Jayme Thornton

This is Pointe's Winter 2020 cover story. You can subscribe to the magazine here, or click here to purchase this issue.

"They're breaking all my theories about not pushing dancers too soon," Kevin McKenzie, the usually cautious artistic director of American Ballet Theatre, said recently in his office near Union Square. He was referring to recently promoted soloists Catherine Hurlin and Aran Bell, 24 and 21, respectively. And he's not kidding. Hurlin and Bell are on the fast track, with role after role coming their way.

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Ballet Stars
Karina González in Ben Stevenson's Coppélia. Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy Houston Ballet.

Are you more of a Giselle or a Juliet?

I've always said that my favorite role is Juliet, because of her vulnerability and maturity throughout the ballet. But now that I've performed Giselle, I find her so incredibly enjoyable, from being a village girl who falls in love for the first time to the most tender, almost weightless dancing in Act II.

Are you more at home in the studio or onstage?

I love the time in the studio. The process of starting from zero to getting better each day is so rewarding. My favorite phrase in rehearsals is "Let's do it again, so I can sleep in peace tonight." I need to feel so comfortable in the studio so that when I am onstage there are no bad surprises.

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Ballet Stars

At the end of Swan Lake's Act I, Prince Siegfried finds himself alone after guests have departed from his birthday celebration, processing the news that he'll soon need to choose a wife. The soul-searching prince dances an introspective, almost mournful solo that is one of the most challenging male variations in the classical repertoire. Rudolf Nureyev, a formidable performer and a relentless technician, gives an inspired interpretation of the solo in this clip from a 1964 Vienna State Opera performance.

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Ballet Stars
Beckanne Sisk in the studio. Quinn Wharton.

Ballet West principal dancer Beckanne Sisk may not subscribe to a specific style, but there are a few key elements to her off-duty look no matter what the season. "Comfort is number one for me," she says. "I also like to buy things that are a little higher quality, because they last longer." Other than that, she says, it's really anything goes. "I like to change up my style all the time."

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Ballet Careers
Lara Paraschiv. Rachel Neville, Courtesy Paraschiv.

Most professional ballet dancers' stories start the same way. They begin training at a local studio between the ages of 3 and 10, move to a pre-professional school and eventually enter a company. Lara Paraschiv did not follow this script. She began her serious ballet training at age 16, and went from beginner to professional in just five years. Having overcome naysayers along the way, she is now in her first season at Russia's Astrakhan State Ballet, and plans to keep on climbing.

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Ballet Training
Marty Sohl, Courtesy ABT

When I was 14 years old, I placed in Youth America Grand Prix's final round and was offered a scholarship to the Royal Ballet School's summer intensive. As overjoyed as I was, I couldn't help but realize just how hard I'd had to fight to get to this point. Despite the years of tears, bullies and constant exclusion that I'd faced, I hadn't given up—and it was paying off.

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News
Samantha Hope Galler and Alexander Peters rehearse Jerome Robbins' I'm Old Fashioned. Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy MCB.

In 1983, at New York City Ballet, Jerome Robbins decided to create a tribute to the great Fred Astaire, one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. Astaire dazzled audiences on the silver screen, making an unmistakable impact on dance in film. Robbins decided to set his ballet against the backdrop of film projections of Astaire dancing with Rita Hayworth in a scene from the 1942 film You Were Never Lovelier. According to NYCB's website, when Robbins wrote to Astaire letting him know of his intentions, Astaire replied, "I'm honored that you want to do what you suggest." The result was I'm Old Fashioned, a ballet that's full of Astaire's signature elegance, and the glamour and romance of his films. The work transports the audience back to a time of long ball gowns and men in white ties and tails, when love stories were told through dance.

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News
Bolshoi Ballet principals Olga Smirnova and Artemy Belyakov in Alexei Ratmansky's production of Giselle. Damir Yusupov, Courtesy of Bolshoi Theatre.

Bolshoi fans, listen up: On Sunday, January 26, the company will broadcast Alexei Ratmansky's new production of Giselle—captured from a live performance in Moscow earlier that day—to over 450 North American movie theaters as part of its Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema season. Olga Smirnova and Artemy Belyakov will star as Giselle and Albrecht, along with Angelina Vlashinets as Myrtha and Denis Savin as Hans, the Gatekeeper.

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Ballet Stars

In everything she tackles, Natalia Osipova, a current principal with The Royal Ballet, seems to jump higher and turn faster than other any ballerina. It's almost impossible to watch her dance without letting out a gasp. Her performance as Medora in Le Corsaire's Grand Pas des Éventails from early in her career at the Bolshoi Ballet is no exception. In this clip of the variation and coda, Osipova soars with boundless virtuosity.

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News
Ballet West Academy Professional Training Division student Olivia Book. Haskell Photography, Courtesy Book.

When you see Olivia Book dance, you first notice her long lines, incredible control and captivating stage presence. It's obvious why the Canadian dancer received high marks at Toronto's Youth American Grand Prix competition last year—the girl has talent! It isn't until a second or third glance that you realize that one of the 16-year-old's arms is a little different than most. Born with congenital upper extremity limb deficiency, Book's right arm ends just above her elbow and is significantly smaller than her left one. "My right arm, or 'little arm,' has forced me to rely on my left arm for all of my daily life activities," says Book.

Though she's had to work twice as hard at things that might be second nature for many dancers, Book's passion for ballet trumps any of the physical challenges she faces. "I love how beautiful ballet is," she says, "and there are so many professional ballerinas that I admire and look up to. Knowing that one day I could dance that beautifully and make ballet my career makes me so excited."

Book, who trains full time at Ballet West's Professional Training Division, appears to be well on her way to making her dreams of dancing professionally a reality. Pointe talked with Book to learn more about her path to Ballet West Academy and how she manages some of her unique challenges.

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News
Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron in a scene from An American in Paris. Courtesy Fathom Events.

If you loved Christopher Wheeldon's An American in Paris on Broadway, you can now see the 1951 Oscar-winning movie it's based on in all its Technicolor glory. Fathom Events will present MGM's An American in Paris, starring Gene Kelly and French ballerina Leslie Caron, and with music by George and Ira Gershwin, in select theaters nationwide January 19 and 22.

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Ballet Stars
Erin Baiano, Courtesy NYCB

Read on for our 12 Standout Performances of 2019. Click the titles and photos to learn more!

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