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
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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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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Viral Videos

American Ballet Theatre is in the midst of Le Corsaire this week as part of the company's annual season at the Metropolitan Opera House. One of the ballet's most celebrated and challenging male roles is Ali, the Slave. Daniil Simkin is dancing the part this week. A dancer who never seems to disappoint, Simkin is sure to pull out all the technical stops and dazzle audiences with his charisma (case in point).

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Viral Videos

Anna Pavlova may be best known for someone else's choreographic work (Michel Fokine's The Dying Swan), but she, too, was a choreographer. Similar to the famous solo, Pavlova's dances often emulated nature—like in Dragonfly and Californian Poppy. In this clip of the latter, circa 1916, Pavlova's “poppy" flutters through space on a string of bourrées. She uses the weight of her port de bras and épaulement as impetus for each swirl. Blossoming, joyous, and alive, Pavlova's grace also reflects a petal's delicate fragility.

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Viral Videos

Jody Sawyer: “Margot Fonteyn didn't have great feet."

Jonathan Reeves: “Well, when Margot Fonteyn was onstage, you couldn't tear your eyes away from her."

—Center Stage (2000)

YouTube wasn't yet invented when the movie Center Stage was released. But thanks to the wonders of the internet, we (who weren't lucky enough to see the great British ballerina in person) can observe exactly what Peter Gallagher's character was talking about.

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Viral Videos

The Fountain of Youth might be in Italy. Alessandra Ferri may be defying all preconceived notions about the length of ballet careers, but she isn't the first Italian to do so. Carla Fracci, a former prima ballerina at La Scala Ballet and international guest artist, who started her career in the 1950s, didn't stop when convention might have told her to.

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Viral Videos

Former Royal Ballet principals Tamara Rojo and Carlos Acosta are notably one of the best couples to perform together. In this clip of Manon, it's clear that Rojo and Acosta have an unadulterated chemistry, even with the pas de deux's technically exhaustive demands.

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Viral Videos

Pop quiz: which ballet looks just like Giselle, La Bayadère's Kingdom of Shades and La Sylphide's forest scene, but has little in common with any of them? Hint: it's often confused with the last ballet on that list.

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When this La Bayadère clip was filmed in 2008, Natalia Osipova was two years away from breaking into the Bolshoi Ballet's highest rank. Though she doesn't play the tragic heroine in this performance, it's actually a treat to watch Osipova in a purely technical soloist role. Despite the ethereal-sounding name, the second Shade variation is no delicate, airy solo. Osipova devours space, both horizontally and vertically with her famously explosive jump. But she doesn't sacrifice details for airtime. The controlled stationary steps, like those perfectly crossed relevé attitudes, are all the more impressive for having followed such a leg-tiring sequence (well, for any other human).

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I can't decide what's more impressive in this 1996 clip of Roland Petit's Notre Dame de Paris. Is it the Frenchman's choreography, which evokes the complex relationship between the gypsy-turned-damsel and her unlikely hero? Or is it the two former Paris Opéra Ballet étoiles' interpretations of the characters? Nicolas Le Riche plays a convincing hunchback Quasimodo, maintaining the role's difficult physical demands while flawlessly executing the partnering. But, honestly, it's hard for me to take my eyes off of Isabelle Guérin as Esmeralda. In the pas de deux's playful moments, she's the strong, sensual gypsy, evoked by her pristine yet free dancing. In the slow, controlled partnering moments, however, she exhibits Esmeralda's vulnerability at the hands of both her rescuer and captor.

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