You were known as the queen of contemporary at the Mariinsky Ballet, but today you dance almost all the main classical roles. Was it a difficult transition?
It was actually really helpful to dance contemporary repertoire first. It builds coordination and control, particularly for a tall dancer. With Forsythe, for instance, you have to be fast and very accurate. It opened up more possibilities for me in the classics.

You danced all three parts of Balanchine’s Jewels in one special performance last season. How did you get through it?

It was more and more fun from one part to the next, and “Diamonds” just felt like fireworks. I could feel the logical progression, and I didn’t even get tired—I was so happy to do it. It was my idea; I’ve danced parts of the ballet before. I thought: Why not? It’s crazy, but…

What’s the least glamorous part of being a dancer?
Everyday life at the theater and the soap opera it can turn into. The drama can disturb the work. I try not to get into it too much, but sometimes it’s just impossible.

Is it true you got married to your husband, principal character artist Islom Baimuradov, one morning before class?

Yes. It was during the Mariinsky Ballet Festival, and that night I was dancing a big swan in Swan Lake, so Islom and I decided to do it around 8 am. We didn’t have a honeymoon either: After the festival we went straight to New York for a tour. Our life is honeymoon enough!

Do you have any nicknames?

In the theater, the nickname for Islom and me is Angry Family, because we always tell people what we think; we don’t say something is beautiful if it’s not. Not everybody likes that!

In reaching the top, how much was talent and how much was sweat?

Physically speaking, I don’t think I was talented. It was more about work every day. Work, more work and yet more work. There’s no upper limit—you can always go further.

What would you take with you on a desert island?
My husband!

Ballet Training
Hortense Millet-Maurin (third from left) and her classmates perform August Bournonville's La Conservatoire. Svetlana Loboff, Courtesy POB.

As a little girl, Hortense Millet-Maurin fell in love with the wide spiral staircase that dominates the center of the Paris Opéra Ballet School. Today, as a focused 15-year-old POB student, she and her classmate Vincent Vivet navigate the school's spacious architecture on a daily basis. In a hallway strewn with foam rollers and tennis balls, their faces are laced with concentration as they prepare alongside their peers for afternoon ballet class. Color-coded uniforms reflect Vivet's and Millet-Maurin's third division; with only two advanced divisions remaining, they are increasingly close to realizing their professional aspirations: joining the Paris Opéra Ballet. Pointe spoke with these two young dancers to see what it's like studying inside the world's oldest ballet academy.

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Sponsored by Ballet Arizona
Tzu Chia Huang, Courtesy Ballet Arizona

These days, ballet dancers are asked to do more than they ever have—whether that's tackling versatile rep, taking on intense cross-training regimens or managing everything from their Instagram pages to their summer layoff gigs.

Without proper training, these demands can take a toll on both the mind and the body. But students can start preparing for them early—with the right summer intensive program.

The School of Ballet Arizona's summer intensive takes a well-rounded approach to training—not just focusing on technique and facility but nurturing overall dancer growth. "You cannot make a dancer just by screaming at them like they used to," says master ballet teacher Roberto Muñoz, who guests at the program every summer. "You have to take care of the person as well."

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Ballet Training
Emily Giacalone, modeled by Elizabeth Steele of The School at Steps.

If you're feeling wobbly in adagio or wish you could hold your piqué attitude a bit longer, there are ways to assess and improve your balance. Try these four exercises, recommended by Heather Southwick, Boston Ballet's director of physical therapy.

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Courtesy School of Pennsylvania Ballet

While many of us are deep in Nutcracker duties, The School of Pennsylvania Ballet director James Payne has been looking further ahead, finalizing preparations for the school's summer intensive programs. In January, he and his staff will embark on a 24-city audition tour to scour the country for the best young dancers, deciding whether or not to offer them a spot—maybe even a scholarship—in the school's rigorous 5-week intensive focused on high-caliber ballet instruction. Though he'll be evaluating aspirants, he urges that as a student, you should be equally selective in choosing programs that could galvanize your training—and possibly even your career.

We got Payne's advice on strategizing your summer intensive plan before the audition cycle kicks in:

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