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Onstage This Week: Justin Peck World Premiere at Houston Ballet, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet in NYC, and More!

Justin Peck rehearsing his new ballet, Reflections, with Houston Ballet. Lawrence Knox, Courtesy Houston Ballet.

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


Justin Peck Creates a World Premiere for Houston Ballet

March 21-24, Houston Ballet presents a program aptly titled Premieres, featuring the world premiere of Justin Peck's Reflections. With an original score by frequent collaborator Sufjan Stevens, this marks Peck's first time creating on the company; catch a glimpse of his process in the above video. The program also includes two company premieres: Jiří Kylián's Dream Time, set to a score by Japanese composer Toru Takamitsu, and Aszure Barton's Come In, a ballet for 13 male dancers.

Atlanta Ballet Showcases Ballet's Playful Side 

Atlanta Ballet's Look/Don't Touch program, running March 22-24, features three playful works: Alexander Ekman's Cacti, Mark Morris' Sandpaper Ballet and the world premiere of AON <All or Nothing> by former Boston Ballet principal Yury Yanowsky. Hear more from Yanowsky about his work above.

Aspen Santa Fe Ballet Brings Three New York Premieres to the Joyce Theater

Aspen Santa Fe Ballet brings three New York premieres, all featuring live music by concert pianist Joyce Yang, to the Joyce Theater March 20-24. The program features Jorma Elo's Half/Cut/Split set to Schumann's Carnaval, Fernando Melo's Dream Play to Erik Satie, and Nicolo Fonte's Where We Left Off to Philip Glass.

Boston Ballet Presents George Balanchine's "Coppélia" 

Boston audiences can catch George Balanchine's Coppélia starting this week. Boston Ballet presents the clever, comedic classic March 21-31; catch a glimpse in the above trailer.

Sacramento Ballet Nurtures Company Choreographers

March 21-April 7, Sacramento Ballet continues its annual Beer and Ballet program, wherein company dancers have the chance to create new work on their peers in an informal setting. This year, Sacramento Ballet brings in Val Caniparoli as a choreographic advisor and mentor.

Ballet Memphis Rethinks "Giselle"

Leading up to Ballet Memphis' run of Giselle next month, on March 23, choreographers Julie Marie Niekrasz and Pablo Sanchez dive into the ballet with Through the Veil: Giselle Redux. In this one night only performance, Niekrasz and Sanchez reimagine the classic through a modern lens, including new movement and music and discussion.

San Francisco Ballet's Trainee Program Makes Rare East Coast Appearance

On March 23, Jenkintown, PA-based Metropolitan Ballet Company presents an evening of variations and collaborations in Philadelphia. The program, including works by Jessica Lang, Sarah Mettin and Ashley Walton, will feature special guest artists from San Francisco Ballet School's Trainee Program.

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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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Courtesy BLOCH

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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