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Onstage This Week: New "Anna Karenina" at the Joffrey, "Firebird" World Premiere at Ballet Arizona, and Much More!

Wonder what's going on in ballet this week? We've pulled together some highlights.


Joffrey Ballet Presents a Brand New "Anna Karenina"

The Joffrey Ballet debuts Yuri Possokhov's Anna Karenina February 13–24. Based on Leo Tolstoy's seminal tale of passion and desire, this co-production with The Australian Ballet features original music by Possokhov's frequent collaborator, Ilya Demutsky.

Ballet Arizona's "The Firebird" Has Its World Premiere 

Ballet Arizona artistic director Ib Andersen's new Firebird, based on the Russian fairy tale and set to Igor Stravinsky's celebrated score, hits stages February 14–17. Billed as a cinematic experience, Andersen is also designing the costumes and sets. The program also includes August Bournonville's La Sylphide, staged by Andersen.

San Francisco Ballet's Season Continues With Two Mixed Rep Programs

San Francisco Ballet moves away from story ballets this week with two mixed repertoire programs. The first, Kaleidoscope, runs select dates February 13-23 and features George Balanchine's Divertimento No. 15, the SFB premiere of Benjamin Millepied's Appassionata and Justin Peck's Hurry Up, We're Dreaming. In Space & Time, on from February 14-24, brings to the stage SFB artistic director Helgi Tomasson's The Fifth Season, Cathy Marston's Snowblind and Harald Landar's classic Etudes.

The Kennedy Center Celebrates the Lunar New Year With National Ballet of China

This week, National Ballet of China is back at The Kennedy Center February 13-16 with the full length ballet Raise the Red Lantern, which made its DC debut in 2005. Choreographed by Wang Xingpeng and Wang Yuanyuan, the ballet brings together Chinese opera, shadow puppet theater and more to tell a tragic story set in 1920s rural China.

Milwaukee Ballet's Choreographic Competition is Back

Genesis, Milwaukee Ballet's annual choreographic competition, returns February 14-17. The three choreographers chosen were given three weeks to work with the company on new works. This year's choreographers all hail from abroad: Cass Mortimer Eipper is from Australia, Aleix Mañé comes from Spain and Kenneth Tindall, of Scotland, rounds off the group.

Ballet Memphis Gives Audiences a Glimpse of Spring

Ballet Memphis' Spring Mix program running February 15-24 offers viewers "earth, water and sky through different eyes." This celebration of earthly elements includes three works: Steven McMahon's Flyaway, Julia Adam's Dew Point and a world premiere by Rafael Ferreras titled Heartwoods.

Annabelle Lopez Ochoa Takes Center Stage at Ballet Austin

Celebrate Valentine's weekend in style with Ballet Austin's Pieces of Passion: Four Dances by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, featuring some of this choreographic powerhouse's favorite works. Austin audiences can see Requim for a rose, A deux, Symbiotic Twin and Sombrerísimo February 15-17.

Festival Ballet Providence Presents Three Striking Ballets 

Festival Ballet Providence's program Mirrors: Three Striking Ballets is onstage this weekend, February 15-17. The program includes Viktor Plotnikov's Coma, George Balanchine's Serenade and Yury Yanowsky's Smoke & Mirrors.

Aspen Santa Fe Ballet Presents Mixed Rep in Aspen

Aspen Santa Fe Ballet takes the stage in its Aspen home on February 16 for a one-night-only program of fan favorites. The modern program features Alexander Ekman's Tuplet, Fernando Melo's Dream Play and Jorma Elo's 1st Flash.

8 Companies Celebrate Valentine's Day With Romantic Story Ballets

This weekend, 8 companies are celebrating Valentine's Day by bringing back some of ballet's most romantic story ballets.

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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 at New York's Metropolitan Opera House, 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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Today's ballet dancer needs a lot from a pointe shoe. "What I did 20 years ago is not what these dancers are doing now," says New York City Ballet shoe manager Linnette Roe. "They are expected to go harder, longer days. They are expected to go from sneakers, to pointe shoes, to character shoes, to barefoot and back to pointe shoes all in a day."

The team at BLOCH developed their line of Stretch Pointe shoes to address dancer's most common complaints about the fit and performance of their pointe shoes. "It's a scientific take on the pointe shoe," says Roe. Dancers are taking notice and Stretch Pointe shoes are now worn by stars like American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston, who stars in BLOCH's latest campaign for the shoes.

We dug into the details of Stretch Pointe's most game-changing features:

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Sir Anthony Dowell dedicated four decades for his life to The Royal Ballet, first as a principal dancer, and then as the company's artistic director. His monumental career is a testament to his love for the art form. That love can also be seen in this solo from a 1980 performance of Dutch choreographer Hans van Manen's Four Schumann Pieces, created for the company five years earlier. Van Manen's choreography slips in and out of pedestrian and balletic vocabulary. Dowell demonstrates his virtuosity by ascending into sublime classical shapes without an intimation of effort.

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During one of Charlotte Nash's first few weeks with Houston Ballet II, she was thrown into a run-through of Balanchine's Theme and Variations. "I had never really understudied before and I didn't know what I was doing," she says. "I fell right away and was quickly replaced." For Nash, now a dancer with Festival Ballet Providence, the episode was a tough lesson. "I was mortified, but then I said to myself, 'Okay, I need to figure out how to learn things more quickly.'"

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