Ballet Stars

#TBT: Viviana Durante and Irek Mukhamedov in “Manon”

Irek Mukhhamedov and Viviana Durante in "Manon." Image via YouTube.

Sir Kenneth MacMilllan's ballet Manon tells the story of ill-fated lovers Manon and des Grieux, who are torn between worlds of wealth and opulence and the stark misery of poverty. While the characters' circumstances are bleak, their love is the powerful and redeeming force that carries the ballet. In this clip, The Royal Ballet's Viviana Durante and Irek Mukhamedov bring the characters' passion to the forefront. The powerhouse duo, who danced together throughout the 1990s, were renown for their dramatic prowess; their Act III pas de deux in Manon is an exquisite display of raw emotion and refined technique.


Manon's final scene, set in a Louisiana bayou, is reminiscent of the moonlit settings in so many ballets, yet there is no supernatural element here; the pas de deux is utterly, and tragically, human. The couple, after Manon's arrest in France and deportation to America, is now on the run. Exhausted and weak, Manon clings desperately to des Grieux. Durante appears as though she's slowly collapsing with each step, despite highly technical choreography. She conceals her strength with languid legs and a limp upper body. Mukhamedov, on the other hand, shows his vigor by manipulating Durante through difficult partnering feats, especially at 1:07 when he tosses her into a tour en l'air and catches her. Although heartbreaking, Mukhamedov's anguished pleading over Manon's body as the curtain closes bring the ballet to a cathartic climax. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

The Conversation
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Yos Clark, of Africa's Ivory Coast. Courtesy Ballet Rising.

From his home in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, an eight-year-old boy named Yos Clark discovered ballet from the film Un, Dos, Tres, and began teaching himself to dance through videos. A teacher in France saw photos of Yos dancing online, and taught him over Skype because the studio in Abidjan was too long of a commute for him to train there on a regular basis. Apparently, the lessons paid off; last year, Yos received a scholarship to continue his training in Warrington, England.

Dancers like Clark are what propel former Dutch National Ballet principal Casey Herd recently; since leaving the company three years ago, Herd has become determined to shed light on the lesser-known stories of dancers making it around the world. Now, he and his friend and colleague Chris Weisler are creating a documentary project called Ballet Rising. Together they have been transversing the globe, searching for people embracing ballet. (Since the series is still in development, a premiere date is TBA.) Between stops, Pointe touched base with Herd over the phone to learn about the project, where his travels have taken him so far, and what his hopes are for the future of global ballet.

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