Cast of Characters

The word “character” in ballet can be used to describe a type of dance, such as the folk dances in Swan Lake, or the act of embodying role. At the "American Ballet Theatre: A Cast of Characters" event at the Guggenheim museum, the dancers performed excerpts from a range repertoire that ABT will presenting at New York City's Metropolitan Opera House this coming season, and spoke about their artistic process with panelist John Meehan, a professor of dance at Vassar College and former ABT studio company director.

 

According to Roman Zhurbin, who studied character dancing in Russia from the age of 5 before coming to the U.S., folk dancing is more about “musicality and personality.” Zhurbin performed a character medley in which he embodied Lord Capulet from Romeo and Juliet, the inspector from The Bright Stream and Von Rothbart from Swan Lake, one after the other. His seamlessly transitions between such different characters showed off his talents in acting.

 

Misty Copeland gave the audience a sneak peek of Alexei Ratmansky’s Firebird. The sheer athleticism and originality in the choreography captures the essence of the magical creature perfectly. “Being a second or third cast is not easy because you have to adapt to other dancers’ strength,” Copeland said, but noted that Ratmansky amalgamated all three dancers—Copeland, Natalia Osipova and Isabella Boylston—into the role of the Firebird. Though Copeland was not in full costume, she was completely convincing as a mythical creature through the way she executed each step with such intent and fierceness while maintaining the fluidity of her arms as wings.

 

You can watch the whole event here. To find out more about ABT's Met season, go to abt.org.

 

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Today's ballet dancer needs a lot from a pointe shoe. "What I did 20 years ago is not what these dancers are doing now," says New York City Ballet shoe manager Linnette Roe. "They are expected to go harder, longer days. They are expected to go from sneakers, to pointe shoes, to character shoes, to barefoot and back to pointe shoes all in a day."

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