Does Ballet Have Boundaries?

When I saw Paloma Herrera of American Ballet Theatre step onto the stage of So You Think You Can Dance last fall, I was speechless. One of my favorite ballerinas posed confidently to begin Kitri’s variation, on what seemed to be an awful floor for pointe work. Nevertheless, Herrera delivered under bright spotlights, in front of TV crews, and for millions of SYTYCD fans watching at home. If she was out of her element, it was impossible to for anyone to tell. Herrera could probably perform with spunk, strength and spot-on turns under any given situation.

Yet after she finished, my first thought was, “What is she doing up there?” The sophisticated ballerina didn’t seem to fit on the stage of the popular television show. In no way could I belittle what So You Think You Can Dance has done for the dance world—the show has exposed amazing, raw talent and has broadened the horizons of audiences, with or without dance experience. Nor do I find contemporary styles any less beautiful than classical ballet. However, the SYTYCD stage exudes a slightly different atmosphere than the Metropolitan Opera House. I couldn’t help but wonder if putting artists like Herrera on reality TV belittles the art of ballet.

Then this week I heard that American Ballet Theatre soloists Yuriko Kajiya and Jared Matthews are scheduled to perform the pas de deux from act III of Don Quixote live on SYTYCD tomorrow night. Finding out about this upcoming performance urged me to brainstorm more about the situation. Sure, dancers from classical companies are different than contemporary dancers, and they thrive in different venues. However, distinctions between the classical and the contemporary are blurring now more than ever before. (Flash back to rapper Big Boi from OutKast’s collaboration with Atlanta Ballet in 2008.) Maybe soon we will see stars from So You Think You Can Dance and America’s Best Dance Crew touring at the Met and the Kennedy Center.

If anything else, ABT’s appearances on the popular TV show will give audiences an increased awareness of the ballet world. Someone who has never even heard of Don Quixote could develop a newfound love and appreciation of ballet—which is always an amazing thing.


Catch ABT’s Yuriko Kajiya and Jared Matthews on So You Think You Can Dance tomorrow night at 9:00 PM (EST) / 8:00 PM (CST), and share your thoughts in the comments!

Latest Posts


Left to right: Dance Theatre of Harlem's Daphne Lee, Amanda Smith, Lindsey Donnell and Alexandra Hutchinson in a scene from Dancing Through Harlem. Derek Brockington, Courtesy Dance Theatre of Harlem

Dancers Share Their Key Takeaways After a Year of Dancing on Film

Creating dances specifically for film has become one of the most effective ways that ballet companies have connected with audiences and kept dancers employed during the pandemic. Around the world, dance organizations are finding opportunities through digital seasons, whether conceiving cinematic, site-specific pieces or filming works within a traditional theater. And while there is a consistent sentiment that nothing will ever substitute the thrill of a live show, dancers are embracing this new way of performing.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

#TBT: Mikhail Baryshnikov in "Fancy Free" (1981)

In Jerome Robbins's 1944 ballet Fancy Free, three sailors on leave spend the day at a bar, attempting to woo two young women by out-dancing and out-charming one another. In this clip from 1981, Mikhail Baryshnikov, who was then both the artistic director of American Ballet Theatre and a leading performer with the company, pulls out all the stops to win the ladies' affections.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Bethany Kirby, Courtesy Tulsa Ballet

An Infectious-Disease Physician on What Vaccines Mean for Ballet

As the coronavirus pandemic grinds into its second year, the toll on ballet companies—and dancers—has been steep. How long before dancers can rehearse and perform as they once did?

Like most things, the return to normal for ballet seems to hinge on vaccinations. Just over 22 percent of people in the U.S. are now vaccinated, a way from the estimated 70 to 85 percent experts believe can bring back something similar to pre-pandemic life.

But what would it mean for 100 percent of a ballet company to be vaccinated? Tulsa Ballet artistic director Marcello Angelini is about to find out—and hopes it brings the return of big ballets on the big stage.

"I don't think companies like ours can survive doing work for eight dancers in masks," Angelini says. "If we want to work, dance, and be in front of an audience consistently and with the large works that pay the bills, immunization is the only road that leads there."

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks