American Ballet Theatre announced today that Brooklyn Mack, a former Washington Ballet star, will join the company as a guest for its spring season at the Metropolitan Opera House. Currently an in-demand international guest artist, Mack will dance in three performances of ABT's Le Corsaire this June.
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.
The 1980s were an exciting time at the Paris Opéra Ballet, with Rudolf Nureyev as its director and virtuosic étoiles, like Sylvie Guillem and Patrick Dupond, onstage. These two young stars made a dream team. With raw energy and sublime technique, Guillem and Dupond, only 19 and 24 years-old respectively, are brilliant in this 1984 performance of the pas de deux from Le Corsaire.
This week, young ballet dancers from across the globe have been studying and competing for coveted scholarships at the Prix de Lausanne. This infamous competition has been a launch pad for many of the ballet world's biggest stars. One such star is Royal Ballet principal Steven McRae, who was a prize winner in 2003 with these two outstanding performances in the finals.
At just 20 years old, Cesar Corrales has skyrocketed to principal at English National Ballet.
English National Ballet was midway through a precise but polite performance of William Forsythe's In the middle, somewhat elevated last spring when Cesar Corrales burst into view. The 20-year-old principal turned his solo, a minor one in Forsythe's ballet, into a blaze of technical power and audacious phrasing. The tension at London's Sadler's Wells ratcheted up several notches, and his colleagues joined in his contagious energy.
It wasn't the first time Corrales had raised the stakes on stage. In three short seasons with English National Ballet, he has gone from promising virtuoso to one of the British companies' most vital members. Even among the outstanding crop of men hired by artistic director and principal dancer Tamara Rojo, Corrales' feline technique and generous presence have stood out in ballets including Le Corsaire and Akram Khan's Giselle.
In a dream world we'd all be able to pop over to the Bolshoi to see the best of Russian ballet whenever we want. But because (unfortunately) that's not a possibility for most of us, the Bolshoi makes it easier by bringing their masterpieces to the silver screen. Now in its 8th year, the 2017-18 Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema season presents a wide range of classic story ballets restaged by some of today's most celebrated choreographers. Movie theaters nationwide will screen these ballets starting on October 22; you can find the closest cinema to your hometown here. So grab a ballet-loving friend and a bucket of popcorn and be sure to get your tickets soon—if these knockout trailers are any indication, tickets are bound to sell out fast.
First up is Le Corsaire. Reworked by Alexei Ratmansky (a theme of this year's selections) from Petipa's 19th century classic, this ballet is billed by the Bolshoi as one of their "most lavish productions." A full shipwreck on stage? Yeah, "lavish" seems about right.
American Ballet Theater is in the midst of Le Corsaire this week as part of the company's annual season at the Metropolitan Opera House. One of the ballet's most celebrated and challenging male roles is Ali, the Slave. Daniil Simkin danced the part yesterday and will do so again on Friday evening. A dancer who never seems to disappoint, Simkin is sure to pull out all the technical stops and dazzle audiences with his charisma.
Pirates don't typically pirouette. But next week, they'll do just that for Boston Ballet's North American premiere of Ivan Liska's Le Corsaire. Pointe spoke with Ashley Ellis about her debut as Medora, a woman separated from her true love, the swashbuckling Conrad.
You've danced the ballet's famous pas de trois at galas and competitions, but what's it like in this context?
It's really nice to bring the virtuoso dancing into the story. There are these small details that make it more meaningful. Like the way I look at Ali: I don't love him, I'm more gracious and thankful that he's there. And then Conrad, of course, I look at him differently.
What's unique about this production?
At the end of other versions, Conrad rescues Medora and Gulnara. But in this one, Gulnara decides to stay with Pasha and live with all of his riches, and Medora goes to be with the person that she loves. I like that difference between the two lead female characters, that they have different values.
Do you do anything special to get into character for a story ballet?
For me, it comes gradually. The more we work on it, the more a character gets under the skin. When I get to the theater, I feel it even more with the costume and makeup and the sets. It brings it a level where I really feel like I'm in that world. Before that, connecting with my partner helps a lot and just thinking about the character and what they're feeling before a rehearsal.
Do you have any tips for dancers learning a full length like Le Corsaire?
Do your research. It's always valuable to see how other dancers have performed the role. Now, it's so accessible to watch YouTube videos, not to copy them but to get familiar with the character and how it can be interpreted. You should try to always bring as much as you can from your own ideas and personality, but if something in a video sparks your interest and really resonates with that character, brainstorm about it.
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When it comes to gender roles, Le Corsaire is anything but modern. The female characters are passed from pasha to pirate and back again, and they do little else than dance for the men—whether those men are good or evil, lover or foe. (With the ballet’s excessively convoluted plot, it’s often hard to tell). In “Jardin Animée,” the second scene of Act III, Medora, Gulnare and the other enslaved women dance charmingly in the pasha’s dream—all smiles, flowers and cotton candy colors. Former American Ballet Theatre principal Paloma Herrera performs Gulnare’s variation in this clip from ABT’s 1999 PBS special, and her usual power and precision shine through. Just look at her dynamic, buoyant tombés into quick, trilling bourrées; her darting feet in simple jetés and the control she maintains during the ending’s dizzying turns. I find myself rewinding every few seconds, just to watch each step’s exacting execution.
In the PBS special, ABT artistic director Kevin McKenzie jokingly admits to the ballet’s slightly absurd plot, its “politically incorrect attitudes” and its “over the top performance values.” However, he says, “with its variety of roles, [Le Corsaire] offered incredible opportunities for virtuoso dancing,” which Herrera and other ABT stars have in abundance. In the ballet’s story, true love prevails, but it’s the truly spectacular dancing (which we’re sure to see at ABT this spring) that earns standing ovations. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!
If you call yourself a “bunhead”, you’ve seen the movie Center Stage. It’s ballet's pop culture classic--and for some dancers outside of New York, it may be their first time seeing American Ballet Theatre principal Julie Kent. Since she appeared on the big screen as the famous Kathleen, Kent has become an icon of beauty, leaving us in a state of endless admiration.
Here, Kent performs the pas de trois from ABT's production of Le Corsaire with fellow principals Ethan Stiefel and Angel Corella. As each press lift and penché takes her from one man to the next, she performs with a calculated precision that leaves us breathless. The beginning of her variation is one of the best moments—she enters with sweeping port de bras, and begins each turn with ease. Kent is another great who will retire this year, but she has left a permanent beauty mark on the stage. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!
Before—though not long before—they were immortalized as Cooper Nielson and Kathleen Donahue (Center Stage, we'll never stop loving you), Ethan Stiefel and Julie Kent starred in the 1998 PBS broadcast of American Ballet Theatre's Le Corsaire. Corsaire's choreography may be as cheesy as they come, but what does that matter when you have two of the world's greatest dancers leading its cast? (The supporting players weren't too shabby, either—Angel Corella danced Ali the slave, and Vladimir Malakhov the slave trader Lankandem.) Here are Stiefel and Kent in the "bedroom" pas de deux, which includes one of ballet's most jaw-dropping lifts (at 3:23, for the record). Happy #ThrowbackThursday!
An integral portion of Le Corsaire’s first act is the Odalisque pas de trois—a dance by three slave girls whom the audience knows little about. Choreographed to a grandiose score, the Odalisque variations act as an interlude in the ballet's larger plot. Their precise and petite steps cater to the meekness and femininity of the role. This recording from 1999 showcases Gillian Murphy taking this character to a new level as a recently promoted soloist for the American Ballet Theatre. From her four-count introduction and that first glissade, Murphy is anything but a submissive slave girl. She counters this idea with powerful movement worthy of attention—and it’s impossible to take your eyes off of her.
An international icon, Gillian Murphy has performed around the world as one of the most famous ballerinas of our time. We have all grown up watching her attain the ideal career through her brilliant artistry. As a turner, jumper and overall technician, she is the archetypal principal dancer, and has performed nearly every lead role within ABT’s expansive repertoire. This #TBT foreshadows her future stardom as she performs the third Odalisque variation. Those successive triple turns will keep you at the edge of your seat, but her flawless control preceding each step keeps the audience at ease.