Ballet Stars
Photo captured via YouTube.

The ballet Don Quixote offers its principal ballerina the unique chance to play two different characters in one role: there's Kitri herself, a vivacious village girl, and then Dulcinea, Don Quixote's idealized love, who takes on the form of Kitri in his dream. The Paris Opéra Ballet's Aurélie Dupont, a former étoile and now the company's artistic director, creates distinct personas for each incarnation of her character. In this clip from a 2002 performance, Dupont dances Dulcinea's variation with serene precision, embodying the mystical beauty of Don Quixote's imagination.

Aurelie Dupont - Dulcinea www.youtube.com

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via YouTube

Back-to-school blues bumming you out? This minute-long clip of Ekaterina Krysanova dancing the first bridesmaid's variation in Don Quixote is the perfect pick-me-up. The fiery Krysanova, who was promoted to principal at the Bolshoi Ballet in 2011, is a bright bundle of energy in this punchy solo. Packed with saut de chats and grand jetés, the variation shows off her star potential from the early days of her career. At 0:20, she punctuates her diagonal of spitfire chaînes with a sassy, suspended moment in seconde. Her quick footwork flits along to the musical trills. A performer at heart, as she admitted in a 2017 interview with Pointe, Krysanova is clearly unstoppable when she takes the stage. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

Ballet Stars
Adiarys Almeida in Don Quixote. Courtesy Almeida.

How was training at the Cuban National Ballet School different from what you see in the U.S.?
It was free education, so it was very hard to get in, and there was a cut every year. We had academics alongside art, and we had to take a lot of different things: modern, character, ballroom, choreography composition, history of dance, music, French, makeup—everything you need for this profession.

Why did you defect?
I always wanted to have an international career. But also, I was 19, and I had a boyfriend. We were dating in Cuba when he won the lottery visa to come to the United States. When I was on tour here with the National Ballet he came to see me and I thought, I'm in love! So I stayed with him.

Has the political opening of Cuba affected you?
Before, if you defected, you had to wait five years to go back. That was pretty rough. Things have changed so much. It's about time; we're neighbors! Last year I was able to go back and perform at the Grand Theater in Havana—with my family, my teachers and my friends there.

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Jane Cracovaner and Elijah Laurant with MOVETHECOMPANY, which will perform at the Joyce Ballet Festival this week. Photo Craig Foster, Courtesy Joyce Theater.

Wonder what's going on in ballet this week? We've pulled together some highlights.


The Joyce Ballet Festival Is Back

New York City's Joyce Theater kicks off its five-company Ballet Festival June 26-July 7. Showcasing a variety of styles including neoclassical and contemporary dance, the festival prides itself on featuring smaller companies. Below, check out the three companies opening this week. (Feeling festive? Enter our giveaway to win tickets to the Ashley Bouder Project at the Joyce on July 5.)

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ABT in "Swan Lake." Petipa often collaborated with Lev Ivanov, who choreographed this ballet's white acts. Photo by John Grigaitis, Courtesy ABT.

Two hundred is the new 30. Or at least it seems so for Marius Petipa, whose ballets are as active as ever as we celebrate his 200th birthday this year.

Nearly all major ballet companies dance Petipa's iconic ballets, which reflect his prolific creative output. And they are heavy hitters: Swan Lake, La Bayadère, Le Corsaire, Don Quixote, The Nutcracker, Paquita, The Pharaoh's Daughter, Raymonda and The Sleeping Beauty, to name just a few of the 50-plus ballets he choreographed. He also revived and reworked earlier productions of Coppélia, La Fille mal gardée and Giselle. During American Ballet Theatre's 2018 spring season, five out of its eight weeks will be attributable to Petipa, including the debut of artist in residence Alexei Ratmansky's newly reconstructed Harlequinade.

Gabe Stone Shayer and Misty Copeland in "The Sleeping Beauty." Photo by Doug Gifford, Courtesy ABT.

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Costume sketches for Alexei Ratmansky's new "Harlquinade" for ABT. Courtesy ABT.

Wonder what's going on in ballet this week? We've pulled together some highlights.


ABT's New Harlequinade is Finally Here

The long wait for Alexei Ratmansky's Harlequinade for American Ballet Theatre is finally over. June 4-9, catch ABT at the Metropolitan Opera House in this bold and colorful tribute to the Italian commedia dell'arte traditions, based on the archival notes of Marius Petipa. If this trailer by Ezra Hurwitz is any indication, this new story ballet is sure to delight (fingers crossed that those dogs make their way to the stage).

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PNB in Justin Peck's "Year of the Rabbit." Photo by Angela Sterling, Courtesy PNB.

Wonder what's going on in ballet this week? We've pulled together some highlights.


Ballet Nacional de Cuba Continues U.S. Tour at the Kennedy Center

A few weeks ago we shared that the historic Ballet Nacional de Cuba is back in the U.S. after 40 years. The company has already made stops in Chicago and Tampa, and heads to The Kennedy Center May 29-June 2 as part of the Artes de Cuba festival with performances of Giselle and Don Quixote. The tour will conclude at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center June 6-8. Whether or not the company is heading to a city near you, you can catch a glimpse of Don Q in the below trailer.

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Angelina Vorontsova in the company's revival of "Cinderella." Photo by Stas Levshin, Courtesy Mikhailovsky Ballet.

Ella Persson remembers the rehearsals for her debut as Giselle. "I was in my first year with the company, and I started preparing with Mikhail Messerer during late evenings," the Mikhailovsky Ballet's Swedish-born coryphée says. "I was definitely not ready, but he gave me a chance to push myself and made me so much stronger, mentally and physically."

Under Messerer, the Mikhailovsky Ballet has carved a niche on the Russian and international stage by investing in coaching and dancers' growth. Unlike the older Mariinsky, St. Petersburg's second ballet company was only founded after World War I. But with a classically focused repertoire and productions that rotate onstage every month, it offers plenty of opportunities for talent to thrive.


Ballet master in chief Mikhail Messerer. Photo Courtesy Mikhailovsky Ballet.

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Jurgita Dronina as Kitri in "Don Quixote." Photo by Angela Sterling, Courtesy National Ballet of Canada.

When Jurgita Dronina first danced Kitri for a guest performance of Don Quixote with Teatro Filarmonico-Fondazione Arena Di Verona, she was in essence cast against type. "Before Kitri, I was dancing only lyrical or dramatic roles, so I had to start from scratch in finding my own signature in the steps and my own interpretation of the character," says Dronina, who was dancing with Royal Swedish Ballet at the time.

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Ballet Stars

The '90s were an exciting time at Houston Ballet. Lauren Anderson, who became Houston's first AfricanAmerican principal dancer in 1990, reigned as its queen of virtuosic technique; a few years later, a young Cuban wonder named Carlos Acosta joined the company and became one of her regular partners. The results were nothing less than explosive, as this clip of their Don Quixote pas de deux proves. Dancing at a brisk pace, they imbue the choreography with high-flying allégro, crisp energy and charismatic flair. Within a minute Acosta has Anderson in an overhead press (no biggie!). Later, she attacks her pirouettes with pointed musicality, slicing the air with a dramatic grand ronds de jambe.

In a recent interview with Pointe, Anderson talked about their partnership. "It was a little bit of a battle at first because he's strong and I'm strong," she said, adding that she had already been an established principal when Acosta, who is eight years younger than Anderson, joined the company. "But we found that there was chemistry there. And what was fun was that we were both heavy on the technique side, so we'd compete a bit onstage, especially when we'd get to the coda. As we'd each come out for our solos, we'd try to kick it up a notch." It's easy to see how much fun they're having here. Happy #TBT!

Ballet Stars

Kitri's Act I variation in Don Quixote is short—but not exactly sweet. Though this clip from a 90s documentary lacks the ballet's usual setting of matadors milling around a Spanish plaza, former American Ballet Theatre principal Susan Jaffe doesn't need scenery to draw her audience in. Kitri's power moves are all about passion, and they require a certain abandon. Jaffe delivers. From the moment she snaps her fingers in her preparation to that crowd-pleasing diagonal of consecutive pirouettes, she's all fire and spice.

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Harvey as Kitri in Don Quixote. Photo by Martha Swope, via CriticalDance.org

Ballet is nothing without technique, but when a performance is accompanied by nothing more than that, it loses its allure. Not so in this 1983 clip of American Ballet Theatre’s Cynthia Harvey in Don Quixote. Here, she’s a breath of fresh air, striking the perfect balance between technique and artistry. She blends the clean lines garnered by years of training with the effusive personality of Kitri—neither aspect overshadows the other.

Although Harvey is surrounded by dancers, she stands out in part due to her sparkling charisma. She embodies Kitri’s character so well that it’s easy to forget that you’re watching a performer. Although the tempo gets increasingly faster, Harvey remains steadfast in her movements, making them fuller and more dynamic. Watch the ease with which she transitions from her waltz turns into a series of chaînés and développés at 1:30. The energy and excitement she brings to each step is magnetic, creating lasting snapshots for the audience to take with them.

In May, Harvey became the artistic director of American Ballet Theatre’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School. In addition to her work with the En Avant Foundation, a non-profit committed to mentoring young dancers, Harvey remains an active contributor to the dance world, bringing notoriety wherever she goes. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

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