Natalia Makarova's version of Swan Lake, staged in the 1980s for London Festival Ballet (now the English National Ballet), incorporates a pas de quatre choreographed by Sir Fredrick Ashton into the ballet's opening act. Leanne Benjamin, then just 24 and a principal with the company, dances among the couples in this clip from a 1988 film of the ballet. The burgeoning ballerina shines in her minute-long solo, tackling intricate footwork with intelligence and spirit that foreshadow her formidable, two-decade career as a principal of The Royal Ballet.
For the past 10 years, English National Ballet's annual Emerging Dancer Awards have offered a unique opportunity for lower-ranking company members to step into the spotlight. This year's competition, held on May 7 at London's historic Sadler's Wells Theatre, features six finalists selected by their peers. If a quick trip to London's not in the cards, don't fear; ENB will live-stream the awards on their Facebook and YouTube pages starting at 7:25 pm BST (2:25 pm EST).
The young dancers will take the stage before a panel of expert judges in classical pas de deux and contemporary solos, in which they've been coached by their ENB colleagues. The program also includes an appearance from last year's winner, Daniel McCormick, who will dance a pas de deux from Don Quixote with ENB dancer (and 2017 Pointe Star of the Corps) Francesca Velicu. Get to know the six finalists below.
This week (Feb 28-Mar. 2), English National Ballet brings Akram Khan's widely acclaimed Giselle to Chicago's Harris Theater, the company's first U.S. appearance in 30 years. Commissioned by ENB artistic director Tamara Rojo, Khan, whose work combines contemporary dance and Indian kathak, takes a revisionist approach to the classic story, replacing peasants and aristocrats with migrant factory workers and wealthy landlords. The ballet's look and sound have also been reinterpreted, with music by Vincenzo Lamagna (adapted from Adolphe Adam's original score), sets and costumes by Academy Award-winner Tim Yip and lighting design by Tony-award winner Mark Henderson.
Pointe spoke with Rojo to learn more about why she wanted to modernize one of ballet's best-loved classics—and why the risk was worth it.
Jeffrey Cirio's meteoric rise is what dreams are made of. A Pennsylvania native, he joined Boston Ballet in 2009 and quickly rose up the ranks to principal dancer by 2012. While he felt Boston was "home," he left to join American Ballet Theatre as a soloist in 2015, where he was promoted to principal after only one year. Now, after a four-month stint as a guest artist with English National Ballet last season, this all-American boy has joined the company as a full-time lead principal. It's hard to believe he's only 27.
Just a day after his performance as Prince Siegfried in Swan Lake with Alina Cojocaru last month, Cirio sat down with Pointe to give an update on his new life living and working in London.
Here at Pointe, every day feels like World Ballet Day, though the official 2018 event took place on Tuesday. While WBD is a thrill for any bunhead, it can also be overwhelming. How are you supposed to sit in front of your computer all day when you have class and rehearsal and work and a life? We get it, and we're here to help.
To give you a chance to catch up, we've rounded up WBD videos from 26 companies. So grab some popcorn, a backlog of pointe shoes to sew, and settle in. If you start watching now, you might just be done in time for WBD 2019.
Promotions season is well underway. Earlier this spring we covered exciting changes at Boston Ballet and Pennsylvania Ballet; now we're back with news from six more companies—English National Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, National Ballet of Canada, Miami City Ballet, Ballet West and Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. (Stay tuned throughout the summer as additional companies release their updated rosters.) Here's who's doing a happy dance.
English National Ballet's Emerging Dancer Award has become a highly anticipated annual event, especially since the company started live-streaming the performance around the world. The competition, which is between six up-and-coming dancers from ENB's junior ranks, is often a good predictor of bigger things to come—past winners include ENB principal Shiori Kasi and first soloist Junor Souza, as well as exiting principal Cesar Corrales, who will join Royal Ballet as a first soloist next season.
This year's competition took place Monday. Finalists Precious Adams, Fernando Carratalá Coloma, Giorgio Garrett, Daniel McCormick, Francesca Velicu and Connie Vowles performed their hearts out for a live audience at the London Colosseum, each dancing a classical pas de deux and variation, as well as a contemporary solo. (Read more about the finalists here).
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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As told to Amy Brandt.
Myrtha is a role I've always loved to watch, but when Tamara Rojo asked me to dance it for English National Ballet's Giselle last year as a guest artist, I thought she was crazy. The role is usually for a tall, strong dancer. I'm strong, but I'm also very petite. I thought people might criticize me for that. I also wore brown tights onstage, since I'm a brown dancer, and I was nervous people wouldn't understand that—but I got great comments on it.
San Francisco Ballet announced this morning that principal dancer Maria Kochetkova will leave the company at the the end of the 2017–18 season. Her final performance date has not yet been announced, but it will be sometime during the company's Unbound Festival, April 20–May 6.
Taking a lower rank at a new company can feel risky. But whether you're breaking out of your comfort zone, yearning for bigger challenges or finding a better company fit, you can make a successful transition. Here are three ballerinas whose recent moves have advanced their growth and artistry.
Fentroy at DTH. Photo by Rachel Neville, Courtesy Fentroy.
Chyrstyn Mariah Fentroy: Dance Theatre of Harlem to Boston Ballet
Although Dance Theatre of Harlem isn't a ranked company, Chyrstyn Mariah Fentroy spent much of her five years there dancing principal roles. She loved the touring, the repertoire and dancing beside her boyfriend, but she longed to try her luck at a larger company with more variety. And with DTH's mainly neoclassical focus, Fentroy felt her chances of dancing in a classical story ballet getting slim: "I wanted to do a full-length before it was too late."
Valentine's Day makes February the perfect month for ballet companies to perform Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare's famous tale of star-crossed lovers. A few companies presented their versions earlier this month and many are on their way in the next few weeks. We rounded up eight companies including New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, The Washington Ballet, Les Ballet des Monte Carlo, Orlando Ballet, Colorado Ballet, Carolina Ballet and Ballet BC to find out how they're using this classic ballet to celebrate the holiday of love.
New York City Ballet
A 12-performance run of Peter Martins' Romeo + Juliet comes in the middle of New York City Ballet's winter season, spanning from February 13-23 at the Koch Theater in New York City. This year's production marks the debuts of corps dancers Harrison Coll and Peter Walker as Romeo, and former Pointe cover star Indiana Woodward will be making her debut as Juliet. Below, hear Tiler Peck, who will dance Juliet alongside Zachary Catazarro, point out the tricky technical moments in this role and explain what makes it so special to her.