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Michaela de Prince and Daniel Camargo. Courtesy Dutch National Ballet.

Have we mentioned that we love ballet movies? Thankfully, Dutch National Ballet just gave us something new to look forward to. The company announced today that filming is now underway for Coppelia, a new star-studded fusion of animation and ballet set to be released at the end of 2020. And, wait for it... Michaela DePrince will be dancing Swanilda, with DNB principal Daniel Camargo as her Franz.

The standout cast also includes DNB principal Igone de Jongh, former Bolshoi and Royal Ballet star Irek Mukhamedov, Dutch dancer and actor Jan Kooijman and English prima ballerina Darcey Bussell.

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Michaela DePrince at her 2014 TEDx Amsterdam talk. Still via YouTube.

Earlier this month we learned that former comp star and current UC Berkeley student Miko Fogarty will be giving a TEDx talk in March about her path from ballet to college. This news got us thinking about some of our favorite ballet TED talks from years past. Check out our top eight now!

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Ballet Stars

Later this month, six dance companies from around the UK will come together to celebrate Sir Kenneth MacMillan's life and works with performances at Covent Garden. As the program highlight, members of five different troupes will perform in the British choreographer's ballet Elite Syncopations. The fanciful and colorful piece set to Scott Joplin's ragtime tunes reveals MacMillan's lighthearted side and delight in the unconventional. In this video, The Royal Ballet's former principal, Darcey Bussell, shows why Elite Syncopations is a favorite among audiences and dancers alike.

Bussell introduces the ballet, followed by clip of her performing a section called "The Bethena Waltz" (1:40) with Gary Avis. The music in this duet has a smooth, loopy quality that the dancers mimic with continuously circulating movement. As Bussell explains in the intro, subtle moments are key–like when Avis emerges from the "scenery" to grab her hand at the start of the duet, or at 3:35 when the dancers undulate through the upper body to resume dance position. These simple details playfully contrast the over the top costumes and wacky lifts. MacMillan also uses extreme extensions to create humor; at 4:12 the dancers are surprised to find Bussell's foot above her head, and when the dancers exit the stage Bussell is flipped over her partner's head in a full split. Of course, she does it all looking sophisticated and elegant, even in a shiny white jumpsuit with two stars printed on her bum. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

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Ah, the Olympic ceremonies: When athletes of the world parade with their flags into the international spotlight, when host countries pay tribute to their cultural heritages and when I (without fail) tear up at the beauty of it all. Ballet doesn’t usually play into the Olympic mix as a sport, but the opening and closing ceremonies are a different story. Case in point(e): Sochi, Russia in 2014 and London in 2012.

Sochi

Zakharova and Korsuntsev performing at the Sochi Olympic Games. Photo by Mark Humphrey/AP Photo via ABC News.

Russia’s ballet offering was the longer and more classical of the two. Svetlana Zakharova performed alongside fellow Russian ballet stars, including Ivan Vasiliev and Danila Korsuntsev, in a glittering balletic portrayal of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. When the corps finishes its intricate serpentine patterns, she takes the stage (1:15)—costume glinting, lights flashing—before an audience of millions. If the dancers are nervous, they don’t show it. Zakharova’s unfaltering, delicate grace is the perfect foil to Vasiliev’s knockout manège.

Diana Vishneva also graced the Olympic stage that year in a contemporary number, and Sochi’s closing ceremonies featured the Bolshoi and Mariinsky Ballets coming together for a grand tribute to the Diaghilev era.

London

Bussell partnered by Royal Ballet principals at the London Olympic Games. Photo by Gary Hershorn/Reuters via The Royal Opera House.

Two years earlier, at the Olympic Summer Games in London, British ballerina Darcey Bussell took “firebird” to a whole new level. She came out of retirement for the “Phoenix of the Flame” ballet, the final hurrah (3:03:32) before the extinguishing of the Olympic fire. Look beyond the flashy pyrotechnics; Bussell owns that stage like the legend she is.

Rio

Brazil’s balletic tradition is young compared to Europe’s, but plenty of talented artists have come from the South American nation: Ingrid Silva, Nathalia Arja and Irlan Silva, to name a few. It’s hard to say if Rio’s Opening Ceremonies tomorrow will include any ballet. (Olivier Award-winning choreographer Deborah Colker is onboard to direct the dance sequences.) With or without ballet, we’ll be tuned in. Happy #TBT, and go #TeamUSA!

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

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Darcey Bussell in The Prince of the Pagodas. Photo via Robbie Jack.

If you thought kissing a Frog Prince was strange, you’ve clearly never heard the plot of The Prince of the Pagodas. In 1989, Sir Kenneth MacMillan restaged John Cranko’s elaborate 1957 ballet, created to a commissioned score by Benjamin Britten. In this clip from a 1990 performance, The Royal Ballet’s Darcey Bussell dances the role of Princess Rose, whose compassion and love for a salamander—yes, a salamander—saves her father’s kingdom.

Strange though the plot may be, Bussell and Royal Ballet principal Jonathan Cope dance with sincere clarity. Blindfolded, she learns to trust the Salamander Prince while he’s in human form, and Bussell is as expressive and candid with covered eyes as she would be otherwise. She aptly portrays hesitation and curiosity while she and Cope masterfully handle MacMillan’s complex partnering. The momentum builds, and his gentleness with her growing trust climax in a passionate kiss. MacMillan created The Prince of the Pagodas on then 19-year-old Bussell. More magical than a salamander-turned-human was the emergence of this stunning ballerina. After the premiere, Bussell was promoted to the rank of principal at just 20 years old. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

Bussell at 19, photo via The Independent.

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

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The ballet Sylvia has undergone many reincarnations since its 1876 premier by the Paris Opéra Ballet. Some of the past two centuries’ most notable choreographers—Sir Frederick Ashton, George Balanchine, Mark Morris and John Neumeier—have seemed inescapably drawn to creating their own versions of this ballet, as if it was an artistic scratch they simply had to itch. In this 2005 clip, Darcey Bussell dances the title role in Ashton’s revived version for The Royal Ballet.

The English choreographer is a master at setting a scene: the stage appears painted with a palette of shadowy purple, moonlight sliver and inky teal. Sylvia’s character is unusual in classical ballet repertoire, as she’s neither a courtly princess nor an ethereal winged being. Sylvia is a huntress, and Ashton’s choreography for her is appropriately grounded. Bussell’s long, stem-like legs seem impossibly rooted on pointe while she sustains each balance, and she dances to the bell-like intonations of composer Léo Delibes’s melody with impeccable control. Bussell’s movement is confident but understated, technically thrilling but subtly performed. Bussell and Ashton are a perfect pairing in this throwback. Happy#TBT!

Elegant Darcey Bussell was one of The Royal Ballet's star ballerinas for two decades, impressing audiences with her beautifully refined technique (and those legs). Here she is breezing through a fiendishly difficult variation from Frederick Ashton's Sylvia. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

It’s no surprise that in romantic ballets, love presides over each characters’ motivation. But not every story concludes with a joyous marriage. Marius Petipa’s La Bayadère, set in India, reveals the possible complexities once jealousy and betrayal destroy true love. This clip features Gamzatti’s variation from Act III, right before the gods take vengeance on those who have selfishly obtained romance. Former Royal Ballet principal dancer Darcey Bussell captures Gamzatti's character with calm sincerity, foreshadowing her solemn death.

 

It takes a true artist to deliver the gravity of La Bayadère. Bussell achieves this through her technique alone—moving her limbs as though dancing through water. She perfectly balances a ballerina’s lightness with the weight of fatigue. Most importantly, she proves that she can take on any task, no matter how grave. Bussell had only been a principal dancer for three years at the time of this video in 1991, and would continue to master new ballets and originate roles for Kenneth MacMillan, Twyla Tharp and Christopher Wheeldon before her retirement in 2007. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

 

Click here to watch the clip.

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