Brooklyn Ballet in Pas de Quatre. Courtesy Brooklyn Ballet.

This Historic Reconstruction of Jules Perrot's 1845 "Pas de Quatre" Features Four Ballerinas of Color

There's a famous lithograph of Jules Perrot's Pas de Quatre, which had its debut in 1845 at London's Her Majesty's Theatre. The print depicts four of the most celebrated ballerinas of the time—Carlotta Grisi, Marie Taglioni, Lucile Grahn and Fanny Cerrito—with nearly indistinguishable light skin and brown hair, dressed in identical lily-white costumes. This weekend, 175 years later, Brooklyn Ballet recreates that image with a group of dancers of color, reflecting the community in which the company is housed. "Our mission is to represent Brooklyn and its diversity," says artistic director Lynn Parkerson.


Jones, dressed in a very pale pink tutu costume, poses on the ground with her arms framing her face.

Paunika Jones as Marie Taglioni

William Miller, Courtesy Brooklyn Ballet

Brooklyn Ballet presents its recreation of Pas de Quatre on a program titled Revisionist History 2, running February 13-16 at The Mark O'Donnell Theater at The Actors Fund Arts Center in Brooklyn. Perrot created the ballet to highlight the strengths and individuality of the dancers he was working with, and Parkerson has taken a similar approach. "This seemed like a wonderful opportunity for the four dancers to develop their artistry in becoming one of those ballerinas, and bringing that individuality and history into our world," she says. Brooklyn Ballet's Paunika Jones takes on Taglioni, Courtney Cochran dances Grahn's role, Christine Emi Sawyer portrays Grisi and Miku Kawamura embodies Cerrito. "Paunika, at 41, is the oldest in the group just like Taglioni, but still at the top of her game" says Parkerson. "And Courtney is an incredible jumper, and the Gran solo has all of those entrechat quatres. Christine is fluid and she's a great turner, and Grisi has the turning solo. And Cerrito has the charming solo, which gives Miku a chance to be flirtatious, relax and charm the audience. So I had my reasons," adds Parkerson, laughing.

To bring Pas de Quatre to life, Parkerson worked with dance historian and frequent collaborator Claudia Jeschke. They used notations and filmed versions provided by the Anton Dolin Foundation, which is responsible for the preservation of Dolin's 1941 staging from which most modern-day companies work. "Claudia brought a lot of research materials about the ballerinas and the time period it was choreographed," says Parkerson, adding that they also discussed how ballet technique has changed since then with the dancers. "Obviously they used a very different kind of shoe back then, and the style had lower arms and dropped elbows."

The torsos of two dancers, one in a yellow tutu and one in light pink, which still have pins in the back.

The dancers pose during a costume fitting

Courtesy Brooklyn Ballet

Though Parkerson has seen groups of Japanese dancers performing the ballet, she believes that this is the first time such a diverse cast has taken on the work. She decided to reflect that in the dancers' costumes. Designer Sylvia Nolan is creating new tutus in neutral colors to complement the ballerinas' skin tones. "It's difficult to light white tutus with dark-skinned dancers, and though we do it all the time, I thought we should really make this version for these dancers," says Parkerson.

For this weekend's program, Parkerson has paired Pas de Quatre with a new hip-hop piece titled Quartet, which follows the same structure as the ballet. "We give enough of the formations that you really recognize the original ballet, because you've just seen it," she says. Also on the bill is Parkerson's Intersection, which brings the ballet and hip-hop dancers out onstage together. "It's my experience that people are completely charmed and enchanted by Romantic ballet, beautiful costumes and live music, even without having any historical references," says Parkerson.

Latest Posts


Vikki Sloviter

Sydney Dolan Takes Center Stage at Pennsylvania Ballet

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

Just days before the world shuttered under the strain of the coronavirus pandemic, and the curtain came down indefinitely on dance companies everywhere, Pennsylvania Ballet soloist Sydney Dolan debuted Gamzatti in La Bayadère with captivating ease. Her jumps soared, her technique was sound, and her cheeky smile paired with exquisite port de bras was beguiling. Though she didn't know the company would soon cancel the remainder of its season, her beautiful performance acted as a kind of send-off into the unknown.

Dolan's career could be described in one word: charmed. At just 19 years old, she's flown through the ranks at PAB, debuted a long list of roles, won a Princess Grace Award and been named one of Dance Magazine's "25 to Watch." Yet it's her challenges that have shaped not only her training but her outlook, giving her a solid foundation for becoming one of Pennsylvania Ballet's rising stars.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
VAM/Siggul, Courtesy YAGP

YAGP Has Announced the Winners of the 2020 Pas De Deux Virtual Competition

Last weekend, Youth America Grand Prix took to the internet, hosting its first virtual pas de deux competition. Over the course of three days, YAGP streamed videos from its regional events' highest-ranked competitors for a panel of esteemed judges. And, drum roll please... YAGP has just announced the winners, spanning three categories: Senior Classical, Junior Classical and Contemporary.

You can watch the full virtual awards ceremony, hosted by YAGP director of external affairs Sergey Gordeev, below, or scroll down for the list of winners. And if you're missing the thrill of competition, don't fear: Gordeev announced that registration for the 2021 season will open on July 10, with both in-person and virtual options available.

Congratulations to all!

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy ABT

Defining and Refining Musicality: How to Tune In and Develop Your Artistic Voice

Ask a hundred people what musicality is, and you're likely to get a hundred different answers. "Musicality is where an artist's personality shines brightest," says Smuin Contemporary Ballet member Ben Needham-Wood. For American Ballet Theatre soloist Skylar Brandt, "it's what distinguishes one dancer from another. It helps me express myself more vividly and emotionally."

Teachers encourage it, directors seek it out and dancers who possess it bring choreography to life in compelling ways. But what exactly is musicality, and how can dancers get more of it?

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks