News
Dancers in the snow scene from Staatsballett Berlin's Nutcracker. Carlos Quezada, Courtesy Staatsballett Berlin.

The Nutcracker has been a dancer's tradition for over 125 years. As a student at Russia's Imperial Ballet School in Saint Petersburg in the early 1900s, a young George Balanchine performed in the original production of The Nutcracker, created in 1892, at the Imperial Mariinsky Theater. In fact, that production had a huge influence on his own version, choreographed in 1954 for the New York City Ballet—and now performed at Christmastime by companies across the nation and abroad.

In 2013, Russian choreographers Vasily Medvedev and Yuri Burlaka staged a revival of the original Mariinsky production for Staatsballett Berlin, based on the 1892 libretto by Marius Petipa, choreography by Lev Ivanov and original set and costume designs. Using a combination of Stepanov notations and early film recordings of Nikolas Sergeyev's first stagings of the ballet in the West, Medvedev and Burlaka built a version of The Nutcracker. Though not a step-by-step reconstruction, their production transmits the original's "unmistakable flair," as they explain in the program notes. Pointe took a look at both the Berlin and New York productions to see how Balanchine's childhood Nutcracker might have influenced his own. We found a lot of similarities—and a few key differences.

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Profiles
Calvin Royal III in George Balanchine's Apollo. Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy ABT.

In one sense, American Ballet Theatre soloist Calvin Royal III's company debut as the lead in George Balanchine's Apollo in October felt momentous: a black dancer, in a historically lily-white company, portraying a god. In another, it felt inevitable: Royal is regal as soon as he stands onstage, to the manner born. As Apollo, authority radiated even from his decisively placed fingers. That famous "stoplight" moment, in which the hands open and close in quick succession, like flashing traffic signals, registered with spine-tingling precision.

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Profiles
Miami City Ballet principal Katia Carranza "turned every choreographic facet into a discovery" in Balanchine's Duo Concertante. Alexander iziliaev, Courtesy MCB.

Let a seasoned ballerina take on a repertory gem for the first time and watch both the dance and the dancer sparkle in a new light. Just so, at Miami's Adrienne Arsht Center last February, Katia Carranza—a long-established talent at Miami City Ballet—enlivened George Balanchine's Duo Concertant, looking refreshed as she turned every choreographic facet into a discovery.

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Profiles
Pennsylvania Ballet demi-soloist Thays Golz as the Sugar Plum Fairy during a stage rehearsal for George Balanchine's Nutcracker. All photography by Arian Molina Soca.

For many professional ballet dancers, Nutcracker means weeks of performances. That usually translates to multiple casts—and important breakout opportunities for those in the junior ranks. On the afternoon of December 13, Pennsylvania Ballet demi-soloist Thays Golz made her debut as the Sugar Plum Fairy along with her Cavalier, corps member Austin Eylar. For the Brazilian-born dancer, who joined PAB in 2018 after two seasons at Houston Ballet, Sugar Plum marks one of her first principal roles.

"I'm really excited," says Golz. PAB artistic director Angel Corella appointed 12 casts of Sugar Plum Fairies over the run's 29 performances. "When I first found out, I was like, 'Pinch me!' I still can't believe it."

We caught up with Golz just before her debut to see how she prepared for her big break.

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News
Pacific Northwest Ballet principal Noelani Pantastico (center), corps member Christopher D'Ariano and soloist Dylan Wald rehearse Balanchine's Agon. Lyndsay Thomas, Courtesy PNB

We always love a ballet streaming event. That's why you need to clear your afternoon (or at least keep your phones and laptops handy) on Wednesday, September 25. At 12:00 pm PST/3:00 pm EST, Pacific Northwest Ballet will be streaming rehearsals for George Balanchine's Agon, led by founding artistic director Francia Russell. The company is gearing up to perform the neoclassical masterpiece for their season opening program September 27-October 6, along with Kent Stowell's Carmina Burana.

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Profiles
New York City Ballet principal Tyler Angle in Balanchine's Stars and Stripes. Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB.

You might be on layoff or have a break from your summer intensive today, but ballet is probably still on your brain. That's okay—kick back, relax and enjoy these American-themed ballet videos.

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Profiles
Suzanne Farrell works with Sara Mearns during a rehearsal of George Balanchine's "Diamonds." Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy NYCB.

In a large practice studio inside Lincoln Center's Koch Theater, Suzanne Farrell watches quietly as New York City Ballet principals Sara Mearns and Russell Janzen work through a series of supported poses. As Janzen kneels to face her, Mearns brushes through to croisé arabesque, extending her leg high behind her. "I wouldn't penché there," says Farrell, gently. "You can, but I wouldn't."

"I get so excited here," says Mearns with a laugh. The three are slowly working through the pas de deux of "Diamonds," the ballet George Balanchine created on Farrell and Jacques D'Amboise in 1967 that makes up the third act of his full-length Jewels.

"I know," Farrell says. "But it's more exciting if the arabesque turn afterwards is sustained."

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Profiles
Paula Lobo, Courtesy Matt Ross PR

It was only a matter of time before dance super couple Sara Mearns and Joshua Bergasse did a major project together.

After all, the newlyweds first met when Mearns, a New York City Ballet star, was being considered for a part on the TV show "Smash," which Bergasse was choreographing. They hit it off, but the role ended up getting cut.

Fast-forward to today, and they're working on their first full-length musical together: I Married an Angel, which opens next week as part of New York City Center's Encores! season, with Bergasse as choreographer and Mearns as the star.

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Profiles
Wendy Whelan leads a crowded morning class. "The energy was amazing," she says. "Among the visiting companies, there was such a shared respect and friendliness toward each other." Kyle Froman.

On a crisp day in late October, the studio air is thick and hot as dozens of sweaty dancers finish up grand allégro at New York City Center. Despite the fact that many of them are jet-lagged, there is a palpable, positive energy throughout the studio. Teaching class is former New York City Ballet star Wendy Whelan, which seems fitting. The dancers, culled from eight major companies around the world, are getting ready for opening night of Balanchine: The City Center Years, a five-day festival highlighting the choreographer George Balanchine's early works.

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Training
Forsythe's in the middle, somewhat elevated uses the battement like an attack. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy Pennsylvania Ballet

Just before retiring in 2015, Sylvie Guillem appeared on "HARDtalk with Zeinab Badawi," the BBC's hard-hitting interview program. Badawi told Guillem,

"Clement Crisp of the Financial Times, 14 years ago, described your dancing as vulgar."

Guillem responded,

"Yeah, well, he said that. But at the same time, when they asked Margot Fonteyn what she thought about lifting the leg like this she said, 'Well, if I could have done it, I would have done it.' "

They were discussing Guillem's signature stroke—her 180-degree leg extension à la seconde. Ballet legs had often flashed about in the higher zones between 135 and 160 degrees before. But it wasn't until the virtuoso French ballerina regularly
extended her leg beside her ear with immaculate poise in the 1980s that leg extensions for ballet dancers in classical roles reached their zenith. Traditionalists like Clement Crisp were not taken with it.

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News
The Royal Ballet's Francesca Hayward and Marcelino Sambé in Tarantella. Photo by Bill Cooper, Courtesy New York City Center.

In 1948, George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein founded New York City Ballet at New York City Center. This year, in honor of its 75th anniversary, City Center is bringing together eight companies—American Ballet Theatre, The Joffrey Ballet, Mariinsky Ballet, Miami City Ballet, NYCB, Paris Opéra Ballet, The Royal Ballet and San Francisco Ballet—to perform 13 Balanchine works over six programs, running October 31–November 4. "I liked the idea of showing different perspectives on how Balanchine is performed internationally," says City Center president and CEO Arlene Shuler. "Bringing together these eight companies is unprecedented."

Balanchine: The City Center Years www.youtube.com

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Profiles
Villella in rehearsal with members of Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami earlier this summer. Photo by Joe Gato, Courtesy DDTM.

This summer the legendary New York City Ballet dancer Edward Villella marked two full-circle moments. He returned to Miami for the first time since his controversial 2012 departure from Miami City Ballet, the company he founded, to coach members of Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami. This new troupe was founded by former MCB principals and Villella protégés Jennifer Kronenberg and Carlos Guerra in 2016. Villella worked with DDTM dancers on George Balanchine's Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux and Tarantella, signature pieces during his performing career. While there, Villella announced that he would be coaching dancers at NYCB starting in September—his first time returning to the troupe where he defined major ballets like Prodigal Son and Rubies, which the company performs this fall.

We spoke with Villella about keeping Balanchine's legacy alive, his big news, and his post-Miami life back in New York, where he lives with his wife Linda.

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