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Our 8 Favorite Ballet TED Talks

Earlier this month we learned that former comp star and current UC Berkeley student Miko Fogarty will be giving a TEDx talk in March about her path from ballet to college. This news got us thinking about some of our favorite ballet TED talks from years past. Check out our top eight now!


Michaela DePrince: "From 'Devil's Child' to Star Ballerina"

You might already be familiar with Michaela DePrince's ultra-inspirational journey from an orphanage in Sierra Leone to the Dutch National Ballet, but hearing her story in her own words takes it to a whole new level.

"The Physics of the 'Hardest Move' in Ballet"

Understand the physics of fouetté turns in this short and sweet TED-Ed video. We know that the animated ballerina doesn't have perfect technique (those biscuits!), but it's a fascinating explanation of something we take for granted, and it might be able to help you get closer to the famous 32.

Claudia Schreier: "Thinking On Your Feet"

In this TEDx video, ballet choreographer Claudia Schreier pulls back the veil on her creative process, and discusses the way that choreographic principals can apply to the infinite variations of human relationships.

Juliet Doherty: "Be Great!"

Here, a 15-year-old Juliet Doherty, braces and all, shares her idea of what being great really means. Fresh off her gold medal win at 2012's Youth America Grand Prix, Doherty explains how she learned to stop judging herself and focus on dancing.

"The Origins of Ballet" 

This animated video from TED-Ed gives a super concise version of the history of ballet, from Italian Renaissance courts to today. All in four and a half minutes... Impressive, right?

Darcey Bussell: "The Evolution of Ballet"

If you're looking for a slightly more in-depth take on ballet history, this talk by former Royal Ballet principal Darcey Bussell is for you. Bussell emphasizes innovations in costuming and includes performance clips from Anna Pavlova, Galina Ulanova and Margot Fonteyn.

Misty Copeland: "The Power of Ballet"

In this 2012 video from TEDxGeorgetown, Misty Copeland talks about the history of black dancers in ballet, citing luminaries like Arthur Mitchell, Lauren Anderson and Raven Wilkinson, and stresses the importance of sharing the stories of those who came before her.

Robert Binet: "Challenging Gender Stereotypes"

In this 2015 talk from TEDxToronto, National Ballet of Canada associate choreographer Robert Binet discusses his work Orpheus Becomes Eurydice, which turned the familiar myth's gender roles on their heads. The video includes excerpts from his ballet, performed live.

Ballet Training
Kali Kleiman performing at YAGP's New York Finals. VAM Productions, Courtesy YAGP.

As someone who has judged many ballet competitions, I've had the opportunity to see some breathtaking contemporary solos that combine fantastic technique with well-conceived choreography. Yet it's often hard for us judges to see the artistic intention behind these solos the way we can when watching a classical variation. For one thing, we're simply more familiar with classical ballet's repertoire and characters. But also, when a contemporary solo is just a string of one trick after another, or only delivers one emotion (such as overwrought angst), we don't get to see any artistic depth.

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Francisco Estevez, Courtesy Colorado Ballet Academy

When you're looking for a ballet program to take you to the next level, there are a lot of factors to consider. While it's tempting to look for the biggest name that will accept you, the savvy dancer knows that successful training has more to do with the attention and opportunities you'll get.

We put together a few of the most important things for dancers to look for in a summer or year-round training program, with the help of the experts at Colorado Ballet Academy:

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Ballet Stars
Elle Macy in Benjamin Millepied's Appassionata. Angela Sterling, Courtesy PNB.

Cross-training misconceptions: Before Elle Macy became an apprentice with Pacific Northwest Ballet, she was apprehensive about cross-training. "I was warned that it might bulk you, or not to do certain activities because they could potentially injure you." But a stress fracture in her foot changed her perspective. Unable to bear much weight, Macy reluctantly tried stationary biking at her physical therapist's suggestion. "What I learned is that you're not going to get injured from being on an elliptical for 20 minutes or by taking a Pilates class," says Macy. Today, it's not uncommon to find the soloist training on the elliptical, doing ankle stability exercises, using the Pilates reformer or taking a hot yoga class.

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Courtesy School of Pennsylvania Ballet

While many of us are deep in Nutcracker duties, The School of Pennsylvania Ballet director James Payne has been looking further ahead, finalizing preparations for the school's summer intensive programs. In January, he and his staff will embark on a 24-city audition tour to scour the country for the best young dancers, deciding whether or not to offer them a spot—maybe even a scholarship—in the school's rigorous 5-week intensive focused on high-caliber ballet instruction. Though he'll be evaluating aspirants, he urges that as a student, you should be equally selective in choosing programs that could galvanize your training—and possibly even your career.

We got Payne's advice on strategizing your summer intensive plan before the audition cycle kicks in:

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