It's only every so often that we get to peek behind the curtains of the world’s most acclaimed ballet companies. So when this video of the Mariinsky Theatre and Vaganova Ballet Academy came across our desks, we couldn't wait to watch it. The 25-minute documentary, titled Ballet, Sweat and Tears, features interviews and footage of young students at the academy as well as first soloist Oxana Skorik and prima Diana Vishneva at the Mariinsky, plus insight from Vishneva's coach. It goes in the studios, through the theater and to their apartments. Although we could do without the wacky British voice-overs that are used to translate the dancers' Russian, the film offers an fascinating look inside the daily grind of Russia’s ballerinas—both those who are just budding as well as those who have risen to the top.
The corps de ballet make up the backbone of every company. In our Fall 2020 issue, we highlighted 10 ensemble standouts to keep your eye on. Click on their names to learn more!
Dara Holmes and Edson Barbosa in Myles Thatcher's Body of Your Dreams
Cheryl Mann, Courtesy Joffrey Ballet
Wanyue Qiao as an Odalisque in Konstantin Sergeyev's Le Corsaire
Gene Schiavone, Courtesy ABT
Joshua Guillemot-Rodgerson (far right) with Saul Newport and Austen Acevedo in Oliver Halkowich's Following
Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy Houston Ballet
Leah McFadden as Amour in Colorado Ballet's production of Don Quixote
Mike Watson, Courtesy Colorado Ballet
Maria Coelho and Sasha Chernjavsky in Andy Blankenbuehler's Remember Our Song
Kate Lubar, Courtesy Tulsa Ballet
Alexander Reneff-Olson (right) as Von Rothbart with San Francisco Ballet principal Yuan Yuan Tan in Swan Lake
Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB
India Bradley practices backstage before a performance of Balanchine's Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2.
Erin Baiano, Courtesy NYCB
Bella Ureta performs the Act I Pas de Trois in Kirk Peterson's Swan Lake
Hiromi Platt, Courtesy Cincinnati Ballet
Alejandro González in Michael Pink's Dracula at Oklahoma City Ballet.
Kate Luber, Courtesy Oklahoma City Ballet
Nina Fernandes in George Balanchine's The Nutcracker
Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy Miami City Ballet
When Sir Frederick Ashton premiered Thaïs Pas de Deux, a duet set to the "Méditation" interlude from Jules Massenet's opera Thaïs, the ballet was immediately acclaimed as one of his masterpieces, despite the fact that it is only a few minutes long. In this clip from 2008, Lucia Lacarra and Cyril Pierre, then principals of the Bavarian State Ballet, give a tender, enchanting performance that is six-and-a-half minutes of pure beauty.
Your partner accidentally drops you during a lift. You collide head-on with another dancer in rehearsal. Or you're hit in the face while you're spotting a turn. Even if you didn't lose consciousness, you may have a concussion, which can occur from a direct blow to the head or rotary force of the brain moving excessively or striking the skull.
As a dancer, your first instinct may be to keep going, but you shouldn't, says physical therapist and athletic trainer Carrie Gaerte, PT, DPT, ATC, who works with Butler University in Indianapolis and at Ascension St. Vincent Sports Performance. "What's really hard for dancers is admitting that maybe something isn't right," she says. "But the big thing about concussions is that your brain is not like your ankle, shoulder or knee. When your brain has an injury, that needs to take precedence over a role or a job."
If You Think You've Had a Concussion<p>"If you have a dramatic fall, hit your head and lose consciousness, that's an automatic 911 call," says Gaerte. Sometimes, though, a dancer might run into someone and jostle their head, but they feel fine completing rehearsal. It might not be until that next day or later that they notice any symptoms (see below). "That's when you call your sports medicine physician," she says, stressing that a general practitioner might not understand ballet's athleticism enough to suspect a concussion.</p><p>Following any impact, a dancer should spend about 48 to 72 hours (or until they are further evaluated by a sports medicine physician) in relative rest—meaning that you shouldn't dance, though the old advice about not falling asleep after a concussion doesn't typically apply to these types of sports-related head injuries.</p><p>When you speak with the physician, be very specific. Use language like "I think I may have sustained a concussion," advises Gaerte. Detail when and how you think it happened and any symptoms you're experiencing. "They will get a sense of your situation quickly, and there won't be as much of a delay in the start of rehab."</p>
Cervical tests may be used to evaluate a potential concussion.
Courtesy Carrie Gaerte
Symptoms<p>A concussion isn't always evident when it happens, so monitoring your symptoms is crucial. The most common symptom is a headache, as well as dizziness, feeling foggy, blurred or double vision, or balance problems. Less common symptoms include memory dysfunction, sensitivity to light, fatigue or trouble concentrating.</p><p>Collegiate or high-school level dancers may notice the impact in their academic classes. "Sometimes they'll say that they can't pay attention, they feel very tired, their homework takes longer to do, or they have difficulty studying or taking notes," says Gaerte. Even if a collision seemed uneventful, these symptoms signal that you should seek treatment.</p>
Diagnosis<p>Gaerte emphasizes that there is no single test to diagnose a concussion. A physician or athletic trainer may administer some of the following based on your symptoms: vestibular (balance) tests; oculomotor tests, which monitor your eye movements; cervical (neck) tests; or emotional tests, evaluating your moods.</p><p>One popular method in the sports world is ImPACT testing, which Gaerte hopes to implement with dancers at Butler. Athletes take a series of computer tests that evaluate neurocognitive function at the beginning of a season to establish a baseline. If a concussion is suspected, they can retake the tests to see where their deficits are and, later, how they've improved, says Gaerte.</p>
A physician or athletic trainer may administer a balance test if you think you've had a concussion.
Courtesy Carrie Gaerte