Viral Videos

French ballerina Zizi Jeanmaire first gained fame when she premiered the titular title role in Roland Petit's Carmen in 1949, opposite Petit as Carmen's lover Don José. With her famously cropped hair (and cropped tutu!), Jeanmaire's performance as the seductive gypsy took the world by storm, catapulting her and Petit's careers.

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Ballet Stars

Fairies crop up everywhere in classical ballet, from sylphs to dryads to, of course, the ranks of fairies who attend Aurora's christening in The Sleeping Beauty. These delicate and mystical creatures stretch the reaches of ballet technique, forcing dancers to embody an otherworldly ideal. In this 1999 clip from the Paris Opéra Ballet's The Sleeping Beauty, former étoile Marie-Agnès Gillot dances the luxurious Lilac Fairy variation. With her refined, gentle power, Gillot truly finds the sublime in her interpretation of this magical character.

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Ballet Stars

The Soviet Union redefined standards in classical ballet in the 1960s, producing opulent story ballets and dancers with refined, yet daring technique. Dancers like Natalia Makarova and Valery Panov, who were among the leading performers with the Kirov Ballet (now the Mariinsky) at that time, were at the pinnacle of the art form. In this 1964 film of the Kirov's The Sleeping Beauty, Makarova and Panov dance together as Princess Florine and the Bluebird. Despite the nostalgic trappings of the soundstage dance film, their strength and intention in this pas de deux make for a timeless performance.

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Ballet Stars
Boston Ballet principal Derek Dunn at age 12 in a variation from Flames of Paris at the 2008 YAGP finals. Courtesy YAGP.

The Youth America Grand Prix New York Finals are starting up again this week, running April 12-19. This year, YAGP is celebrating its 20th anniversary. April 18-19 marks the competition's annual Stars of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow gala, featuring 13 pros who are also YAGP alumni. We've rounded up photos and videos from those stars' YAGP years and shared them with you here.

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Viral Videos

Tamara Rojo joined the elite, though thankfully growing, roster of female ballet company directors seven years ago when she took the helm at English National Ballet. Since then she's managed the even more uncommon feat of continuing to perform as a leading principal dancer for ENB while directing the company. Rojo began her remarkable career in her home country of Spain, but at 22 years old she left for the UK, dancing with Scottish National Ballet, ENB, and then The Royal Ballet, where she spent 12 years as a principal and earned international acclaim for her assured technique and passionate stage presence. Her performances, like this 2009 La Bayadère, show an artist truly in command of her craft.

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Ballet Stars

The individual touches that ballerinas incorporate into well-known classical variations are a source of endless fascination for us bunheads. (The abundant "variation compilation" videos on YouTube is proof of our obsession!) Odette's solo in Swan Lake's Act II is one that is particularly open to interpretation. The style is lyrical and introspective, giving dancers ample opportunity to make personal choices about choreography, musicality and character. The Canadian ballerina Evelyn Hart, a former principal with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, performs a fairly traditional version in this clip, yet with each nuance she defines her own Odette.

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Viral Videos

Irina Kolpakova, currently a ballet mistress at American Ballet Theatre at age 85, is a living dance legend. She studied under Agrippina Vaganova and went on to dance as prima ballerina at the Kirov Ballet (now the Mariinsky). In the '60s, she astonished American audiences with her interpretation of Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty during the Kirov's U.S. tours. She was a partner to Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov, and for the last 30 years she has set and coached ABT dancers in the classics.

With an influence that spans so many generations of dancers, it's not surprising that Kolpakova's youthful energy is one of her calling cards. That infectious quality is part of what makes Aurora her signature role. In this clip from 1982, Kolpakova, who was 49 at the time of the performance, channels the teenage Aurora's unbridled joy with purity and lightness in each step.

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Everything Nutcracker
San Francisco Ballet principal Joseph Walsh at age 3 as the tiny green elf in his local Nutcracker. Courtesy Walsh.

Oh, Nutcracker... It's the ballet experience that unites us all, from young student to seasoned pro. Whether you made your entrance in a mouse costume or under Mother Ginger's skirt, do you remember the choreography and costume of your very first role?

Today, six professionals share their favorite childhood Nutcracker photos and memories.

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Viral Videos

Throughout the last quarter of the 20th century Cynthia Harvey was a force in the ballet world. She had the unique distinction of dancing as a principal ballerina on both sides of the Atlantic, with American Ballet Theatre and then at The Royal Ballet, where she was the first American dancer ever to hold that position. A dynamo with impeccable style, her polished technique was matched only by her power. In this 1984 performance of a variation from Paquita, she bursts from the wing with a tidal wave of energy that carries her throughout the entire solo.

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Viral Videos

The final moments of Giselle's second act are some of the most hauntingly beautiful in all of ballet: from the pas de deux between Giselle's betrayed spirit and the man she still loves, to the wilis' cold rejection, to Albrecht's heart-wrenching desperation as the curtain closes. The Bolshoi Ballet's late prima ballerina assoluta, Galina Ulanova, is among the most legendary interpreters of the ballet's titular role, admired around the world for her ability to utterly transform into character. Alongside her frequent partner Nikolai Fadeyechev, also a former leading dancer with the Bolshoi, their performance is an offering of sensitivity that stirs us even decades later.

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Viral Videos

The Paris Opéra Ballet, Swan Lake and the dance of Les Petite Cygnets—could anything in ballet be more iconic? Factor in four beloved French ballerinas dancing as the four little swans and we think not. In this 2006 performance, Fanny Fiat, Myriam Ould-Braham, Mathilde Froustey and Dorothée Gilbert (appearing from left to right in that order) are a testament to the powerful precision that makes this quartet so recognizable.

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Viral Videos

When Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn began dancing together in the early 1960s, they made an unexpected pair—he was a young, hot-tempered Soviet defector and she was a distinguished prima of The Royal Ballet, 19 years his senior. Yet their partnership (which lasted almost two decades) became one of the most famous in all of ballet. Nureyev said in a documentary about Fonteyn that they danced with "one body, one soul." That connection is evident here in their performance of Michel Fokine's Romantic-style ballet Les Sylphides from a 1963 film.

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