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Celebrate National Best Friend Day With Our 5 Favorite Ballet BFFs

San Francisco Ballet's Frances Chung in "Coppelia." Photo by Erik Tomasson, courtesy SFB.

Though you may not know it, June 8 is National Best Friends Day. Obviously this provides an opportunity to celebrate some of our favorite friendships in ballet, but maybe not the kind you're thinking of. Instead of rounding up our favorite real-life besties (hi, ABT Cindies), we're taking a look at some of ballet's onstage friendships. While lots of classical ballets include love triangles with characters tearing each other down, there are some occasions where friendship flourishes. Check out some of our favorites below, and don't forget to wish your studio BFFs a happy National Best Friends Day!

Romeo, Mercutio and Benvolio, Romeo & Juliet

Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancers Benjamin Griffiths (Benvolio), James Moore (Romeo), and Jonathan Porretta (Mercutio) in Jean-Christophe Maillot's "Roméo et Juliette." Photo by Angela Sterling.

Sure, Juliet has her nurse, but Mercutio literally duels to his death against Tybalt for his BFF Romeo—talk about a loyal friend. But before all of the drama unfolds, Romeo, Mercutio and Benvolio were just your average besties, sneaking into parties and hanging out at the marketplace.


Four Little Swans, Swan Lake

Pacific Northwest Ballet corps de ballet dancers Carli Samuelson and Madison Rayn Abeo, and soloists Angelica Generosa and Leta Biasucci in Kent Stowell's "Swan Lake." Photo by Angela Sterling.

These ladies are the original clique. Not only are they attached at the hip, they're completely in sync all the time, from the tilt of their heads to their precise footwork.

Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, Don Quixote

Pacific Northwest Ballet guest artists Tom Skerritt (Don Q) and Allen Galli (Sancho Panza) with company dancers in Alexei Ratmansky's "Don Quixote." Photo by Angela Sterling.

While ballets are filled with all manner of trusty sidekicks, there is no one quite as idealistic and optimistic in his commitment to his pal as Sancho Panza is to Don Quixote. Even though Don Q may be dreaming of a more beautiful companion, they're content to spend their days adventuring together.

Myrtha's Sidekick Wilis, Giselle

Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancers Elizabeth Murphy and Sarah Ricard Orza in Peter Boal's staging of "Giselle." Photo by Angela Sterling.

Even in death, Moyna and Zulma are BFFs, helping Myrtha round up the rest of the Wilis. While some might say the Wilis are a little coldhearted given that they spend their nights dancing men to death, we think M and Z's friendship proves otherwise (plus, most of those guys probably deserved it).

Swanilda's Crew, Coppélia

San Francisco Ballet's Frances Chung in "Coppelia." Photo by Erik Tomasson, courtesy SFB.

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Ask yourself this: If your BFF found a key lying outside someone's house, would you be down to follow her inside? After all, this is an act better known as breaking and entering. Basically, what we're getting at is that Swanilda's friends must really love her if they're willing to get into those sorts of shenanigans.

Ballet Careers
Sisters Isabella Shaker and Alexandra Pullen. Photo Courtesy Alexandra Pullen.

This is the second in a series of articles this month about ballet siblings.

My mom was in the corps de ballet at American Ballet Theatre. A generation later, so was I. As if that's not enough for one family, my younger sister Isabella Shaker dreams of following in our dancing footsteps. Her endeavor, and her status as somewhat of a child prodigy, stirs feelings of pride and apprehension within me, since I have lived through the ups and downs of this intense yet rewarding career.

Ballet will always be my first love and the thing that brings me the most joy, and my dance career has opened endless opportunities for me. However, it's a difficult career path that requires a lifelong dedication. It's super competitive and can lead to body image issues, physical injury and stress. Most dancers will face some of these problems; I definitely dealt with all three.

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Ballet Stars
Photo by Gabriel Davalos, Courtesy Valdés

For decades the name Alicia Alonso has been virtually synonymous with Ballet Nacional de Cuba, the company she co-founded in Havana in 1948. Alonso died on October 17, just shy of what would have been her 99th birthday. In recent years, she had stepped back from day-to-day decision-making in the company. As if preparing for the future, in January, the company's leading ballerina, 42-year-old Viengsay Valdés, was named deputy director, a job that seems to encompass most of the responsibilities of a traditional director. Now, presumably, she will step into her new role as director of the company. Her debut as curator of the repertory comes in November, when the troupe will perform three mixed bills selected by her at the Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonso. The following has been translated from a conversation conducted in Spanish, Valdés' native tongue.

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Ballet Stars
Photo by Jayme Thornton

It's National Bullying Prevention Month—and Houston Ballet breakout star Harper Watters is exactly the advocate young dancers facing bullying need. Watters is no novice when it comes to slaying on social media, but his Bullying Prevention Month collaboration with Teen Vogue and Instagram is him at his most raw, speaking about his own experiences with bullies, and how his love of dance helped him to overcome adversity. Watters even penned an incredible op-ed for Teen Vogue's website, where he talks candidly about growing up queer. Catch his amazing anti-bullying video here—and, as Watters says, "Stay fabulous, stay flawless, stay flexible, but most importantly, stay fearless."

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News
Alicia Alonso with Igor Youskevitch. Sedge Leblang, Courtesy Dance Magazine Archives.

Her Dying Swan was as fragile as her Juliet was rebellious; her Odile, scheming, her Swanilda, insouciant. Her Belle was joyous, and her Carmen, both brooding and full-blooded. But there was one role in particular that prompted dance critic Arnold Haskell to ask, "How do you interpret Giselle when you are Giselle?"

At eight, Alicia Alonso took her first ballet class on a stage in her native Cuba, wearing street clothes. Fifteen years later, put in for an ailing Alicia Markova in a performance of Giselle with Ballet Theatre, she staked her claim to that title role.

Alonso received recognition throughout the world for her flawless technique and her ability to become one with the characters she danced, even after she became nearly blind. After a career in New York, she and her then husband Fernando Alonso established the Cuban National Ballet and the Cuban National Ballet School, both of which grew into major international dance powerhouses and beloved institutions in their home country. On October 17, the company announced that, after leading the company for a remarkable 71 years, Alonso died from cardiovascular disease at the age of 98.

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