After 17 years at The Royal Ballet, Carlos Acosta is ready to begin his next chapter. The principal dancer retired from the company last night after performing in his new production of Carmen, which he choreographed and starred in. According to The Telegraph, after receiving a 20-minute standing ovation last night, Acosta offered a few words of advice for the next generation of dancers. “Allow yourself to make mistakes, there is no such thing as failure," he said. "Be curious and enjoy, enjoy, enjoy because one day you will blink and realize that 70 years have gone by."

Acosta has been captivating audiences worldwide ever since he left his native Havana and won gold at the 1990 Prix de Lausanne. He danced with Houston Ballet and English National Ballet before joining the Royal. He's also published two books (his autobiography, and a novel called Pig's Foot) and produced his own shows (the most recent, Cubanía, premiered at the Royal over the summer).

So, what's next? Acosta plans to start a company of his own in Cuba, where he'll focus on developing new work that has a uniquely Cuban aesthetic, and explore more contemporary styles. He's also working to rebuild the ballet school at Havana's National Art School. As Cuba becomes more open to the influence of the outside world, he'll play a role in shaping the way dance is affected.

Luckily for us, many of his dazzling performances have been captured on film. If you're already missing seeing him onstage, here he is as Franz in The Royal Ballet's 2000 production of Coppélia:

Summer Intensive Survival
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There's a sweet spot toward the end of August—after summer intensives have wrapped up and before it's time to head back to school or work—where the days are long, lazy and begging to be spent neck-deep in a pile of good books. Whether you're looking for inspiration for the upcoming season or trying to brush up on your dance history, you can never go wrong with an excellent book on ballet. We've gathered eight titles (all available at common booksellers like Amazon and Barnes and Noble) guaranteed to give you a deeper understanding of the art form, to add to your end-of-summer reading list.

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James Yoichi Moore and Noelani Pantastico warm up onstage. Angela Sterling, Courtesy SDC.

On a sunny July weekend, hundreds of Seattle-area dance fans converged on tiny Vashon Island, a bucolic enclave in Puget Sound about 20 miles from the city. They made the ferry trek to attend the debut performance of the fledgling Seattle Dance Collective.

SDC is not a run-of-the-mill contemporary dance company; it's the brainchild of two of Pacific Northwest Ballet's most respected principal dancers: James Yoichi Moore and Noelani Pantastico. The duo wanted to create a nimble organization to feature dancers and choreographers they felt needed more exposure in the Pacific Northwest.

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Roman Mejia in Robbins' Dances at a Gathering. Erin Baiano, Courtesy NYCB.

The Princess Grace Foundation has just announced its 2019 class, and we're thrilled that two ballet dancers—New York City Ballet's Roman Mejia and BalletX's Stanley Glover—are included among the list of über-talented actors, filmmakers, playwrights, dancers and choreographers.

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The Royal Ballet's Alexander Campbell and Yasmine Naghdi in Ashton's The Two Pigeons. Tristram Kenton, Courtesy ROH.

While most ballet casts are 100 percent human, it's not unheard of for live animals to appear onstage, providing everything from stage dressing to supporting roles. Michael Messerer's production of Don Quixote features a horse and a donkey; American Ballet Theatre's Giselle calls for two Russian wolfhounds; and Sir Frederick Ashton's La Fille Mal Gardee requires a white Shetland pony. Another Ashton masterpiece, The Two Pigeons, is well known for its animal actors. But though ballet is a highly disciplined, carefully choreographed art form, some performers are naturally more prone to flights of fancy—because they're birds.

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