Ballet Stars

It's been an exciting few weeks in New York City with both American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet in the midst of their respective seasons at Lincoln Center. With so many homegrown stars in the spotlight, it's wonderful to remember the past generations of dancers who once lit up the same stages and helped shape American ballet into what is it today. One such luminary is former ABT principal Cynthia Gregory, whom Rudolf Nureyev dubbed the "American Prima Ballerina Assoluta." In this 1970's clip of her "Rose Adagio" from The Sleeping Beauty, it's plain to see how she enchanted balletomanes everywhere with her unaffected elegance.

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Gregory and Bujones in Swan Lake. MIRA, Courtesy Dance Magazine Archives.

There's nothing like watching two masters at work. In this clip from 1985, two of American Ballet Theatre's most legendary stars, Cynthia Gregory and the late Fernando Bujones, make sparks fly in the Black Swan pas de deux from Swan Lake. Bujones can't help but be mesmerized by Gregory's deliciously seductive allure. Watch how she doesn't let him escape her spell at 3:23, effortlessly sailing out of her attitude promenade to zero back in on her prey. We can all take a lesson from their expert musical phrasing, as well as Bujones' clean simplicity during his variation's bravura moments.

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Cynthia Gregory as the Firebird. Photo by Max Waldman via Flick River.

“All-American” and “exotic bird” don’t usually appear in the same context. When Cynthia Gregory appears in an American Ballet Theatre performance of Firebird, however, they do. One of ABT’s brightest stars in the late 20th century, Gregory is incredible in the title role of this 1970s Lincoln Center performance. This adaptation of Michel Fokine’s version also features former ABT principals John Meehan, as Prince Ivan, and Leslie Browne as the Princess.

Don’t have 50 minutes to spare? Skip to the Firebird’s entrance and her pas de deux with Ivan between 6:00 and 13:50. Gregory’s avian affectations are masterful, as is her interpretation of Stravinsky’s score. She punctuates sharp notes with wrist flicks and lightening fast legs, and enraptures with syrupy arms and supple back bends. At once timid and seductive in the arms of Ivan, Gregory has him—and us—hooked. Happy #FlashbackFriday!

 

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

A lake is a familiar setting for a ballet, though usually its shore is home to swans or Wilis. In “The Lake" section of Alvin Ailey's The River, which he choreographed for American Ballet Theatre in 1970, the dancers represent the water itself. In this clip, former ABT principal Cynthia Gregory appears clad in a simple dress of muted gray, like the color of silt stirred up from a lake's murky bottom. To the plucking strings and sonorous horns of Duke Ellington's score, she commands our attention with her swirling and confident shapes. The melody intermittently becomes a tango when Marcos Paredes and other ABT dancers join in, their bodies undulating like lapping waves. The group's level changes and the weight of Gregory's sensual lyricism evoke a lake's mysterious depths.

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