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Svetlana Zakharova in Swan Lake. Photo by Damir Yusupov, Courtesy Bolshoi Theatre.

If you know ballet, you know the name Svetlana Zakharova. She's ballet royalty. Zakharova's incredible natural facility, paired with her technical precision and emotive finesse, have stunned audiences for more than two decades. She's danced with many of the world's most prestigious ballet companies, including the Mariinsky and the Bolshoi, where she's currently a principal.

We interviewed the iconic ballerina to find out who's influenced her dancing—and what advice she'd give her teenage self.

You're known as being one of the best technical dancers of a generation. How do you balance your technicality with your artistry?

During the performance everything has to be controlled technique and emotions, so I work endlessly on technique and artistry during my rehearsals. I'm trying to get my technique to a level so that it won't be an obstacle for me during the performance, and then I can direct my focus on the artistry. I want the technique to come automatically, so that I can be in full character during a performance.

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Ballet Stars
Hallberg speaking at a Bolshoi press conference before the premiere of "The Sleeping Beauty." ITAR-TASS Photo Agency/Alamy Stock Photo, Courtesy Simon & Schuster, Inc.

"Do you still love ballet?" I ask David Hallberg as we sit in a drab conference room at American Ballet Theatre discussing his new memoir, A Body of Work: Dancing to the Edge and Back. The book details Hallberg's grueling return from a series of injuries that left him questioning whether he would ever dance again. "Yes, I love it even more," he says almost hungrily, as he stares me down with his searching, slightly hollow gaze.

A Body of Work is not an easy read. Its final section, devoted to the long road back from injury and despair, is the most distressing, but what comes before is not much lighter. The self-portrait Hallberg has outlined is stark: a boy, and later a man, propelled by a single-minded drive, subjected to savage bullying at school in Arizona; ostracism during a year of studies at the Paris Opéra Ballet School; arduous private training that has his parents half-joking about appealing to child services; un-empathetic partners; a punishing work schedule that leaves his body broken. All this, in order to satisfy the "gravitational force" of ballet, which he feels "pulling [him] in deeper and deeper," he writes.

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Ballet Stars
Vladislav Lantritov and Ekaterina Krysanova in "Taming of the Shrew." Photo by Alice Blangero, Courtesy Bolshoi Ballet.

If you haven't checked your local movie listings yet for this weekend, hop to it. The Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema series and Fathom Events is broadcasting a performance of Jean-Christophe Maillot's The Taming of the Shrew to theaters nationwide on Sunday, November 19. (To see if it's playing near you and to purchase tickets, click here.) While the rest of the Bolshoi's cinema season features 19th- and 20th-century classics, The Taming of the Shrew gives audiences a chance to see the revered Moscow company in a thoroughly modern, 21st-century take on Shakespeare's famous play.

Aside from a limited run in New York City this July, American audiences have had little exposure to Maillot's 2014 production. To learn more, check out these two exclusive, behind-the-scenes webisodes below. Principal dancer Ekaterina Krysanova, who stars as the hotheaded Katharina, gives an intimate play-by-play of two major scenes in Act I. The first is her fiery rejection of three potential suitors (who all would prefer to marry Katharina's younger sister Bianca).

The second scene breaks down Katharina's first encounter with Petruchio (danced by the larger-than-life Vladislav Lantritov), the only man who seems to be able to challenge her. Here, too, we see the shrew's heart start to soften. (Don't miss her time-stopping attitude turn at 4:27.)

The Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Series continues through June; for more details on upcoming screenings, click here.

Ballet Careers
Members of San Francisco Ballet in company class as part of World Ballet Day LIVE 2017. Photo by Erik Tomasson via San Francisco Ballet on Instagram.

Last Thursday was World Ballet Day LIVE, the official 22-hour live-stream relay showcasing companies across the globe. If you were busy (we know that you don't always have the luxury to spend an entire day watching ballet), don't fret. Many of the companies involved recorded their classes, rehearsals and interviews from the day of, and we rounded them up for you to watch at your leisure. Careful, though; there are more than twenty hours of footage included here... make sure you take a break to, you know, sleep.


First up is San Francisco Ballet with a full five hours, including rehearsal for Balanchine's timeless classic, Serenade.


The Royal Ballet's WBD stream is split into three parts. Here's the first chunk, featuring company rehearsals of a few Sir Kenneth MacMillan ballets as well as Christopher Wheeldon's Alice in Wonderland (a measly two hours and 45 minutes). You can find part 2 here and the full company class here. The video also features a quick aerial tour of London from the balcony of the Royal Opera House.

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The National Ballet of Canada in rehearsal (photo by Karolina Kuras)

 

World Ballet Day will happen once again on October 1. The Bolshoi Ballet, The Australian Ballet, The Royal Ballet, The National Ballet of Canada and San Francisco Ballet will join forces for 18 hours of non-stop behind-the-scenes footage from around the world. 

It's no surprise that the event is back, considering its smashing success last year—it was trending on Twitter all day, and thousands of people watched the stream on YouTube.

This year, the event will include even more companies: Bangarra Dance Theatre, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Boston Ballet, English National Ballet, Hamburg Ballet, Houston Ballet, Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal, National Ballet of China, Nederlands Dans Theater, Northern Ballet, Pacific Northwestern Ballet, Royal New Zealand Ballet and Scottish Ballet will all participate. Those companies will show pre-recorded footage rather than a live stream.

The Australian Ballet will show class and rehearsals for The Sleeping Beauty, among others. The Bolshoi will show class and rehearsals for its 240th season. I'm especially excited to see The Royal Ballet's rehearsals of Romeo and Juliet and the National Ballet of Canada's rehearsals of The Winter's Tale. Both companies will also show morning class. San Francisco Ballet will show class and rehearsals and will feature an interview with choreographer William Forsythe.

For those of us in the United States, the time zones are a bit confusing. The stream starts with The Australian Ballet in Melbourne at 19:00 PDT (that's Pacific Day Time) on September 30. Use this handy time zone converter to determine when you should start watching the live stream.

Click here for more information about programming as it's released!

Osipova in "Firebird" with American Ballet Theatre. Photo Courtesy ABT.

Press room, Metropolitan Opera House, New York City, before show time (loud bells interrupt us between 7:40 and 8 pm). Natalia Osipova, American Ballet Theatre's 26-year-old star ballerina, has come from rehearsal wearing a purple T-shirt over crocheted tights and down booties. No makeup, heart-shaped face, small features, black hair pulled back, like a fresh-faced elf. Osipova's continent-straddling career—she and fiancé Ivan Vasiliev are also principals at the Mikhailovsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, after their headline-grabbing departure from the Bolshoi Ballet—has made her an international name. She puts feet up on couch, asking if I mind. I don't!

You told me once that your parents moved back to Russia from Israel, and that you spent summers with your grandmother in Israel.
Yes, that's true. It was hard times in the USSR when they were young. They wanted a better life. Israel was a young state. If you had relatives there you could get a visa. But after a while it didn't go well, so they moved back. My sister and I were both born in Moscow.

Parents?
I come from a simple family, you could say working class. Mama went to school, then she met my father. She had a child—and she was a mom. That was her profession from then on, and she did it very well.

What was your father's work?
He was educated as an engineer. But he did sports.

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Ballet’s spectacle does not always rest in high extensions and multiple pirouettes. In fact, sometimes precision gets lost in a catacomb of tricks. But moments such as the Dance of the Cygnets from Act II of Swan Lake recapture ballet's purity with meticulous footwork and teamwork. Its cohesiveness reveals how simplicity can enrapture an audience. With hands interlaced, these four Bolshoi ballerinas coordinate their épaulement and piqués as if they are perfect replicas of one another. Enjoy this quick moment of intricacy. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

Ballet documentaries, why are you so few and far between? We have to wait until next summer for the documentary Black Ballerina, which promises a candid discussion of racial disparities in the ballet world. And the latest buzz— Another Adventure, featuring Joy Womack—is still making the indie festival rounds, without a release date in sight.

Womack was the first American to graduate from the Bolshoi Ballet's academy and the first American woman to dance with the company. She left the Bolshoi in November, 2013, accusing the company of demanding that she pay a monetary bribe to dance soloist roles. She is now a principal dancer at the Kremlin Ballet Theater in Moscow, Russia.

The film features Womack's personal relationship with fellow dancer Nikita Ivanov-Goncharov, and promises to take viewers inside the world of Russian ballet.

Given Womack's unique story, the controversy surrounding the Bolshoi, and the fact that she has forged her own path as an artist, it seems likely that American ballet audiences will be interested in seeing this film. Let's hope it gets broad distribution soon!

 

Check out the trailers here:

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And here:

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