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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.

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Rachel Neville, Courtesy Ellison Ballet

If you've got your heart set on dancing for, say, San Francisco Ballet, you should attend a school that specializes in Balanchine, right? Not necessarily: It's actually a misconception that you have to train in a particular style or technique in order to pursue a career in that style. Ellison Ballet in New York City—which specializes in Vaganova technique—is living proof: Graduates of Ellison's year-round program and summer intensives go on to ballet companies that perform in a wide range of styles, and use what they've learned from Vaganova to land jobs.

Here are five reasons why studying Vaganova technique can actually make you a sought-after dancer for any number of ballet companies:

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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 Careers
David Kornfield, Courtesy National Ballet of Canada

I first saw Maria Seletskaya when she was dancing as a leading soloist in Europe. Years later, she sent me a video of herself with the Stuttgart Ballet—not as a dancer, but as a guest orchestra conductor! I found her work and this particular transition very exciting and so I brought it to the attention of David Briskin, musical director of the National Ballet of Canada (where I dance), to see what he would think.

Being a ballerina is certainly challenging on its own. But as Seletskaya negotiated a career transition that felt right for her, she opted to pursue another, equally demanding passion: music.

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