Ballet Stars
Leanne Cope with Robert Fairchild in An American in Paris. Photo Courtesy Trafalger Releasing.

Former Royal Ballet first artist Leanne Cope made the ultimate ballet to Broadway crossover. In 2014 she was asked by choreographer Christopher Wheeldon to originate the role of Lise Dassin, a hopeful young ballerina, in his new stage production of An American in Paris. Alongside former New York City Ballet principal Robert Fairchild, Cope starred in critically acclaimed runs of the show on both Broadway and London's West End. Though the production closed in London last January, audiences will have the chance to see Cope and Fairchild in their original roles in a filmed version of the West End production in movie theaters around the US and Canada September 20 and 23. Pointe caught up with Cope to find out what it's like seeing herself on the big screen, her advice for ballet dancers interested in musical theater, and how she managed dancing the same steps eight shows a week... for nearly four years. To see if An American in Paris is coming to a movie theater near you, click here.


What was the best part of doing An American in Paris?

One of the most exciting parts was opening on Broadway and opening on the West End. They were two very different evenings, but by the time we got to London I knew the show much better, so it was nice to know that I felt comfortable in the role. Getting to perform at the White House for Michelle Obama was also amazing—there were so many things, it's hard to pick just a few.

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Just for fun

Happy birthday, Gene Kelly! The dance icon would've been 106 years old today—and his legacy still burns as bright as ever. We thought we'd honor the incredible performer with a look at five of his greatest routines ever.

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Just for fun

Happy birthday, Gene Kelly! The dance icon would've been 106 years old today—and his legacy still burns as bright as ever. We thought we'd honor the incredible performer with a look at five of his greatest routines ever.

Keep reading... Show less
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Fairchild and Sterling Hilton in "Duo Concertant." Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB.

New York City Ballet announced today that principal dancer Robert Fairchild will give his final performances with the company this October. Since his 2015 leave of absence to make his Broadway debut as Jerry Mulligan in Christopher Wheeldon's An American in Paris, Fairchild's presence on the Koch Theater stage has been rare. A true song-and-dance man, as a child he dreamt of following in the footsteps (or tap shoes) of Gene Kelly. Fairchild leaves the world of ballet to take on the surplus of opportunities in musical theater that have recently come his way.


Fairchild in "Apollo." Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB.

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Robert Fairchild and Leanne Cope in An American in Paris. Photo Courtesy Broadway World.

If you haven't seen Christopher Wheeldon's Tony Award winning musical An American in Paris yet, you better hop to it. The hugely successful Broadway production closes on January 1, 2017 after a nearly two-year long run. Don't panic if you can't drop everything and buy a plane ticket to New York, though: The show will commence its national tour in October 2016.

The U.S. tour will star former San Francisco Ballet soloist Garen Scribner as Jerry Mulligan (who has been performing the role on Broadway) and former Miami City Ballet soloist Sara Esty as Lise Dassin. At the show's London opening in March 2017, New York City Ballet principal Robert Fairchild and The Royal Ballet's Leanne Cope will reprise their originating roles.

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Christopher Wheeldon rehearsing Leanne Cope in An American in Paris. Photo by Matt Trent via the Wall Street Journal.

If you had plans for Sunday night, you may want to cancel. This week on CBS’ "60 Minutes," host Lesley Stahl will interview Christopher Wheeldon. This master choreographer’s career—which has given us stunning story ballets and hauntingly beautiful pas de deux—provides a lot of material for 60 minutes worth of intimate conversation. But one hot topic Stahl focuses on is how Wheeldon has made ballet mainstream with Broadway show An American in Paris, which he directed and choreographed (and won a Tony Award for).

The interview promises some personal moments: “I certainly felt like a door was flung open,” Wheeldon says of American in Paris.  “It is possible for ballet to be young, sexy, dynamic, exciting… to tell complex stories, not just stories about sleeping princesses but to take audiences on breathtaking journeys.” And the preview claims that Wheeldon is transforming ballet into something that’s “fun to watch.” Of course, we’d argue that it was already, but we won’t miss a chance get inside Wheeldon’s head.

Tune in to CBS on Sunday, April 3 at 7pm ET/PT.

For more news on all things ballet, don’t miss a single issue.

The Royal Ballet in Wheeldon's The Winter's Tale. Photo by Tristram Kenton via the Guardian.

Photo by Kyle Froman

Ever wonder what life is like as a ballerina on Broadway? Just peek inside Leanne Cope's dance bag. Cope, who stars as Lise in Christopher Wheeldon's production of An American in Paris, carries not only pointe shoes in her Parisian canvas tote but also a well-worn pair of LaDuca heels. “My dresser, Midge, carries this bag around with her during the show, just in case of emergencies," says the Royal Ballet first artist, who's on sabbatical from the company through the end of the show's run. “She basically shadows me, because I have a lot of quick changes."

Cope always has her script nearby, as well. “Not only is every word of the show written in here, but all my stage directions. It's nice to go back to it every once in a while. When you reread it, almost as a novel, it gives you another spin on things." Her other Broadway must-have? Lip balm. “With all the singing and talking, my lips tend to get dry," she says. It also serves as a better alternative to lipstick during kissing scenes with her co-star, New York City Ballet principal Robert Fairchild. “We don't do lipstick—it would end up all over his face!"

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There have been rumblings about Christopher Wheeldon's Broadway project for a while now, but yesterday the official word went out: Wheeldon is directing and choreographing a new production of the Gershwins' An American in Paris. The show will premiere at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris in December of 2014 before coming to Broadway in the spring of 2015—Wheeldon's Broadway debut.

There are many reasons to be excited about this musical, not the least of which is that Wheeldon has been casting serious ballet dancers for its upcoming workshop. We'll let you know when we hear more details. In the meantime, we'll leave you with an excerpt from the fantastical "American in Paris Ballet" from the 1951 film An American in Paris, starring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron. Excited to see what Wheeldon has up his sleeve for this iconic work.

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