Ballet Stars

Standout Performances of 2019: Boston Ballet's Derek Dunn in "Vestris"

Boston Ballet principal Derek Dunn flies through the air in Leonid Yakobson's Vestris. Rachel Neville, Courtesy Boston Ballet.

Imagine stepping into an iconic role made famous by one of ballet's greatest living legends. That was the challenge for Boston Ballet's Derek Dunn in the company's premiere of Vestris, a solo that Soviet-era choreographer Leonid Yakobson created especially for the physical and dramatic artistry of a young Mikhail Baryshnikov. Yet Dunn pulled it off with dazzling élan and technical assurance.


A small, powerhouse dancer who is really coming into his own, Dunn began his career with Houston Ballet, joining Boston Ballet in 2017 as a soloist. Quickly stepping into the spotlight, he was promoted to principal dancer last season and has become well known for his brilliant turns, buoyant leaps and deep musicality, not to mention dramatic depth and charisma to spare. Vestris, inspired by the famous French dancer/pedagogue Auguste Vestris (1760–1842), seemed tailor-made for Dunn's talents. As the technical and theatrical tour de force unspooled a vivid cast of characters, from doddering old man to imperious dandy to drunken oaf, Dunn brought each to life with masterful command and fanciful comic flair.

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Rachel Neville, Courtesy Ellison Ballet

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Karina González in Ben Stevenson's Coppélia. Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy Houston Ballet.

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