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San Francisco Ballet in class during World Ballet Day 2016. Photo Courtesy SFB.

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.

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Kochetkova and Karapetyan in "Romeo and Juliet." Photo by Erik Tomasson, Courtesy San Francisco Ballet.

Tragedy, romance and world class dancing, all from the comfort of your local movie theater? Sounds like your weekend plans are complete. On May 12, 13, and 15, San Francisco Ballet's Romeo & Juliet will be playing in select movie theaters around the country as part of Lincoln Center at the Movies: Great American Dance. Choreographed by SFB artistic director Helgi Tomasson, this version stars Maria Kochetkova and Davit Karapetyan in the title roles, making it particularly special: Karapetyan retired from SFB in 2017, and Kochetkova gave her final performance with the company just last week. Click here to find a showing near you.

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Kochetkova in Helgi Tomasson's Trio. Photo by Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB.

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.

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Maria Kochetkova, who will perform at the Chicago Auditorium Theatre. Photo by Erik Tomasson, courtesy Auditorium Theatre.

If you'll be in the Chicago area next month, the historic Auditorium Theatre is putting together a one-night-only performance you don't want to miss. The event is in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the theater's reopening in 1967, which featured a performance of George Balanchine's A Midsummer Night's Dream by former New York City Ballet principals Suzanne Farrell and Edward Villella. With Farrell and Villella returning to the theater as guests, the November 12th program will include a mixed repertory performed by dancers from companies including American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, The Joffrey Ballet, The Washington Ballet, The Suzanne Farrell Ballet, Vienna State Ballet and Dutch National Ballet.

The Auditorium Theatre in Chicago from its 1967 opening. Photo by Richard Nickel, courtesy Auditorium Theatre.

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Ballet Stars
One of the many outfits Kansas City Ballet's Kelsey Ivana Hellebuyck sports on her Instagram, @ivanadance.

While we know you practically live in your leos and tights (and a tightly wound bun), summer is the perfect time to literally let your hair down and show off your style outside the studio.

Not sure where to start? Take a page from these pro dancers' ensembles. From classically chic to kooky and daring, these ballerinas know how to express themselves—on and off the stage. The #1 rule? There are no rules.

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For this #MotivationMonday, we mined the “Reverence” section of Pointe’s back issues. Read on for inspiration from some of your favorite dancers. This years-old advice is timeless!

Photo by Jack Devant via JackDevant.com.

“Being a professional is not an easy life. Students need to ask themselves if they really want to do that, because it takes up your whole life. But for me, it still is the best profession!”

-Polina Semionova, Staatsballett Berlin (February/March 2007)

Photo via the Carlos Acosta International Dance Foundation.

“Persevere and work harder every day; do extra hours if need be.”

-Carlos Acosta, Royal Ballet (June/July 2008)

Kotchetkova with Tiit Helimets in Yuri Possokhov's Swimmer. Photo by Erik Tomasson via Bachtrack.

“A walk in the mountains, a good movie, a great conversation. You can find inspiration all around you.”

-Maria Kochetkova, San Francisco Ballet (June/July 2009)

Kistler with Jared Angle. Photo by Paul Kolnik via Los Angeles Times.

“If you’re passionate and you love it, continue. If you’re halfway, there are so many other wonderful things out there to do. I go back to what Mr. Balanchine said: You have to be willing to die for it. It cannot be a maybe.”

-Darci Kistler, New York City Ballet (June/July 2010)

With Guillaume Côté. Photo by David Cooper via Times Union.

“It’s more than just dancing at a higher level. You have to remember it’s not only about you, even if you’re in the spotlight. You must share yourself with the whole company. You gather that energy so they’re involved with you, so there’s a dialogue. Then it becomes more real and exciting for the audience.”

-Xiao Nan Yu, National Ballet of Canada (June/July 2011)

Photo by Valeria Komissarova via Pinterest.

“Physically speaking, I don’t think I was talented. It was more about work every day. Work, more work and yet more work. There’s no upper limit—you can always go further.”

-Ekaterina Kondaurova, Mariinsky Ballet (December 2013/January 2014)

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

Ballet Stars
William Forsythe rehearses Kochetkova and San Francisco Ballet corps member Francisco Mungamba in his Pas/Parts. Photo by Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB.

Maria Kochetkova has a voracious appetite for inspiration. A principal dancer with San Francisco Ballet since 2007, she spent the last few years guesting with American Ballet Theatre during their spring season. “ABT is very different from SFB—it has a very different rep, it has very different dancers, incredible dancers you can learn from," says Kochetkova. Last summer, she joined the company as an official principal, taking on a grueling schedule that leaves her shuttling between California and New York.

“I really wanted to learn more and also try to balance my repertoire," she says. “San Francisco Ballet does a lot of new and more contemporary works—we don't always do full-length and classical ballets, which I feel I need. And at ABT, you get the full-length classicals, but not so many contemporary works."

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"And I stood and was silent. And he was silent. And I stood, silent. And he was silent." Maria sporting the words of Daniil Kharms. Photo courtesy of Koche-Kova.

Jumping on a couch and tossing what appear to be birthday bows, Maria Kochetkova appears in one of two promotional photos for her new clothing line, Koche-Kova, which launches this month.

I was a student at San Francisco Ballet School when I first laid eyes on Kochetkova (a few years before our April/May 2010 cover story). It was her first year with SFB and, one September afternoon before the company’s season was in full swing, she took the Level 5 technique class. Petite and quiet, she appeared almost mousy with her neutral-toned warm-ups and humble demeanor.

Now a principal on two coasts (with SFB and American Ballet Theatre), Kochetkova’s dancing remains as incandescent as ever. But her fashion sense? It’s a far cry from those modest warm-ups I saw nearly 10 years ago. Her affinity for daring colors, pattern combinations and statement pieces has earned her acclaim outside of ballet circles, and her zaniness seems to increase each year.

Kochetkova's fashion line announcement came sneakily, in the form of an Instagram post and links to the website on her social media pages. As of yet, details are scarce: For all we know the line might include eccentric studio pieces or dragon print street wear. Though we have few clues, we can see a nod to her Russian roots. In the website’s minimal photos, she sports shirts with quotes by Russian poet and novelist Alexander Pushkin and absurdist writer Daniil Kharms.

 

Absurd? Yes. Delightful? Undoubtedly. Sign up for email updates on the website, and follow Koche-Kova on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Sheer ennui." Kochetkova sporting the words of Alexander Pushkin. Photo courtesy of Koche-Kova.

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

News

San Francisco Ballet principals Maria Kochetkova and Davit Karapetyan in Romeo & Juliet, Courtesy The Anderson Group

 

If you’ve been dying to see San Francisco Ballet but, like me, live nowhere near the Bay Area, be sure to mark your calendars for Thursday, September 24 at 7:00 pm. The company’s production of Helgi Tomasson’s Romeo & Juliet, starring Maria Kochetkova and Davit Karapetyan as Shakespeare’s doomed young lovers, will be shown at over 600 movie theaters nationwide as part of the “Lincoln Center at the Movies: Great American Dance” cinema series. Hosted by Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan of “LIVE with Kelly and Michael,” the screening includes fun extras such as interviews with the principal dancers and behind-the-scenes production footage.

 

San Francisco Ballet is the first of four American dance companies that Lincoln Center at the Movies is screening this fall. Be sure to catch Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater on October 22, Ballet Hispanico on November 12, and New York City Ballet in George Balanchine's The Nutcracker on December 5 and 10. For tickets and a full list of theater locations, visit fathomevents.com. In the meantime, enjoy the sneak preview of the balcony scene here: SFB R&J video, and the Lincoln Center at the Movies season trailer below:

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Some of ballet’s biggest stars have donated signed pointe shoes to raise money for victims of last April’s horrific earthquake in Nepal. The 7.8 magnitude earthquake killed over 9,000 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless. And while the disaster is no longer headline news, survivors are still desperate for help. From August 29 through September 13, Pointes for Nepal, an online campaign organized by Cloud & Victory dancewear, will be selling signed pointe shoes of ballerinas Diana Vishneva, Gillian Murphy, Maria Kochetkova, Isabella Boylston, Joy Womack, Michaela DePrince and more. While prices are steep (between $120 and $450 a pair), all proceeds benefit World Vision International and The Little Bells Promiseland Project, two charities providing aid relief to earthquake victims.

 

This isn’t the first time dancers have come together to support Nepal. In June, the DRI Foundation hosted Dance for Nepal, a sold-out benefit that included performances by former American Ballet Theatre dancers Maxim Beloserkovsky and Irina Dvorovenko, New York City Ballet principals Sterling Hyltin and Amar Ramasar, and dancers from Martha Graham Dance Company, Paul Taylor’s American Modern Dance Company and more. The benefit raised $21,000 for the DRI Foundation Nepal Relief Fund.

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Misty Copeland in Le Corsaire. Photo by MIRA, Courtesy ABT.

Today, American Ballet Theatre announced that longtime company soloists Misty Copeland and Stella Abrera have been promoted to principal dancer. San Francisco Ballet star Maria Kochetkova and Royal Danish Ballet principal Alban Lendorf will also join ABT next season as principals (though they will remain principals with their respective companies), and Boston Ballet principal Jeffrey Cirio joins as a soloist. Corps de ballet members Skylar Brandt, Thomas Forster, Luciana Paris, Arron Scott and Cassandra Trenary have been promoted to soloist.

The news follows months of speculation after three of ABT's major stars—Julie Kent, Paloma Herrera and Xiomara Reyes—announced their retirements. The promotion has been a long time coming for Abrera, who has been with the company since 1996 and a soloist since 2001. She made a critically acclaimed debut as Giselle last month. Copeland, who made principal debuts in Romeo and Juliet and Swan Lake this season, makes history as the company's first female African American principal dancer. Congratulations to all!

Inside PT

You’ll never catch this San Francisco Ballet star looking ordinary. Kochetkova fills her wardrobe with bold one-of-a-kind finds and pieces that make her laugh. But what’s most impressive is how she puts everything together into fantastical outfits that are truly her own. “I’m always mixing different prints that most people would say are unmixable,” she says.  “I don’t think about it—it just happens. My style is just a part of whoever I happen to be on a certain day.”


The Details—Studio
American Apparel top: “American Apparel clothes are loose and light, and don’t make me look like a Barbie ballerina.”
Phobos Bodywear skirt: “I bought this when I was in Amsterdam learning Cinderella. I like how it’s cut high in the front so you can see your legs, and the flow of the material makes it nice to move in.”
Feathers Dancewear legwarmers: “These are made by a dancer I used to work with at English National Ballet. Clothes made by dancers are more grown up, and quite different from what you usually see in ballet shops.”


The Details—Street

Julien David button-down: “This print has ducks and dinosaurs, though I like to pretend they’re dragons. I like dragons.”
Tatiana Parfionova coat: “This designer uses a lot of Russian folklore, and when she put out a collection with swans, I had to have something!”
Pants by contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama: “Whenever I see artists collaborating with fashion brands, I try to get a piece. What they create is often quite unusual.” 

Ballet Training
San Francisco Ballet principal Maria Kochetkova in "Esmeralda." Photo by Erik Tomasson, courtesy SFB.

Interviews by Christopher Blank, Rosie Gaynor and Nancy Wozny

A firestorm of controversy over recent reviews that singled out dancers' bodies for criticism has raised the question of whether body type still matters in today's ballet world. Does ballet's identity rest on presenting a certain image of the ballerina? Pointe asked leading dancers and artistic directors what impact issues like height and weight have on their casting.

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Ballet Stars
Maria Kochetkova, photographed by Nathan Sayers for Pointe.

Things are not going perfectly in a rehearsal of the Grand Pas de Deux from Helgi Tomasson's Nutcracker, and San Francisco Ballet principal Maria Kochetkova is not happy. A running leap onto the shoulder of partner Gennadi Nedvigin lands acceptably, but merely okay doesn't satisfy Kochetkova.

“I just have to find a way…one, two, three, four," she counts almost to herself, calculating how many steps she needs to take. They try again, and with unerring aim, she sails into place.

You might think that would be that, but as Nedvigin rehearses his solo, Kochetkova slips on a sweater, pauses to gaze out a window at the view of the War Memorial Opera House and then proceeds to repeat those same four steps over and over again, fine-tuning them even more.

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You recently danced your first complete Swan Lake. What would you change in your next performance?
Every time I do a role, I start again from the beginning; you see things differently three months later. Here, the challenge was to create two completely different characters, one of them an ideal woman.

What was the response within the dance community?
I received a phone call afterwards from Natalia Makarova, who said, “Masha, I think you have been watching my videos.” She gave me many good corrections.

How did you end up on Superstars of Dance on TV, and how did you choose your variations?
NBC called me, and I asked Helgi Tomasson if he would release me during Nutcracker season. He said, “Go for it.” There was little time to prepare, so I did what I knew: the variations for Kitri and Medora.

How did people react to your appearances?
I received more than 2,000 e-mails on my website. In some ways, the show was an annoying experience. Although I won, I don’t really like competitions.

How do you prepare your pointe shoes?
I prefer them hard. I break the box, and that’s it. I want them to hold up through the performance.

What would be your ideal performance?
Ideal is impossible. Technically, it can always be better.

How does the Russian ballet world compare with the American one?
In Russia, the training is about quality, breathing, lyricism in the movement. American training is about speed and precision, which makes the dancing here more exciting.

What inspires you?
A walk in the mountains, a good movie, a great conversation. You can find inspiration all around you.

What qualities do you admire most in other dancers?
I enjoy watching dancers with beautiful upper bodies, arms and backs.

To whom do you attribute your success?
This will sound like the Oscars: My grandmother, who got me into gymnastics, figure skating and piano lessons. And my mom, for always believing in me. And the directors of the Bolshoi School—when you think you want to give up, there’s always someone to help.

You recently danced your first complete Swan Lake. What would you change in your next performance?
Every time I do a role, I start again from the beginning; you see things differently three months later. Here, the challenge was to create two completely different characters, one of them an ideal woman.

What was the response within the dance community?
I received a phone call afterwards from Natalia Makarova, who said, “Masha, I think you have been watching my videos.” She gave me many good corrections.

How did you end up on Superstars of Dance on TV, and how did you choose your variations?
NBC called me, and I asked Helgi Tomasson if he would release me during Nutcracker season. He said, “Go for it.” There was little time to prepare, so I did what I knew: the variations for Kitri and Medora.

How did people react to your appearances?

I received more than 2,000 e-mails on my website. In some ways, the show was an annoying experience. Although I won, I don’t really like competitions.


How do you prepare your pointe shoes?

I prefer them hard. I break the box, and that’s it. I want them to hold up through the performance.

What would be your ideal performance?

Ideal is impossible. Technically, it can always be better.

How does the Russian ballet world compare with the American one?

In Russia, the training is about quality, breathing, lyricism in the movement. American training is about speed and precision, which makes the dancing here more exciting.

What inspires you?
A walk in the mountains, a good movie, a great conversation. You can find inspiration all around you.

What qualities do you admire most in other dancers?

I enjoy watching dancers with beautiful upper bodies, arms and backs.

To whom do you attribute your success?

This will sound like the Oscars: My grandmother, who got me into gymnastics, figure skating and piano lessons. And my mom, for always believing in me. And the directors of the Bolshoi School—when you think you want to give up, there’s always someone to help.

Last week, I was previewing a behind-the-scenes video I shot featuring San Francisco Ballet principal Maria Kochetkova. Maria is all the things you would expect from a principal dancer at one of the nation’s top ballet companies—elegant, expressive, sophisticated, and thanks to her Bolshoi Ballet School training, technically uber-refined. However, there’s one thing about her that you wouldn’t expect, and certainly took me by surprise when I met her, which is that Maria is barely over five feet tall.  This made for quite a first impression, since I am 5’9”.  We were like two opposite ends of the ballet world’s height spectrum, and watching her photo shoot made me think about height in two different ways: the actual physical height of the dancer and the illusion of height created by their dancing.


There's not much anyone can do about your physical height, and life in the ballet world can be hard for dancers that are considered too short or too tall. 
I’ve gotten excited by seeing “Looking for female ballet dancers” in the title of audition postings many times, only to go on to read “5’2”–5’6” only” further on in the paragraph. Being told you’re wrong for the job right off the bat because of something you can’t help is disheartening, and I’ve often wished I were shorter and more delicate. On the other hand, if you’re very petite, it can be hard to feel authoritative onstage, and it can be a struggle not to get lost in the crowd. 


Watching Maria go through her poses, though, made me abandon my preconceptions about my own height and the height of other dancers. Her lines were amazingly long and completely unbroken, from her fingertips to her toes. When she hit a high développé in ecarté á la seconde, in the moment that the movement was at its apex, it was absolutely complete. The line from her side arm to her working foot was completely stretched but not static; it looked as if she was still reaching and extending her line farther and farther. Her torso was tilted and lifted over her standing leg just enough to make this illusion possible, but never broke her line or made it look un-classical. The overall effect was that she was completely filling up the space she was given to dance in, and left me without a doubt that she dominates whatever stage she is on.


By the end of the shoot, I had completely forgotten about her small stature, and admired her all the more because she had inspired me to think about height as an asset to one’s dancing, rather than something that works against you if it doesn’t conform perfectly. I’m now working harder to achieve the length she can, and extend my arms and legs infinitely in whichever direction they are pointing, instead of concentrating on keeping everything underneath me in an iron grip to look more compact. I’m already starting to see a lighter, brighter quality in my dancing as a result.  I know now that a beautiful line is a beautiful line, no matter how tall or short you are, and will definitely get you noticed. 

 

Oh, and what correction do you think I got in class today? “Use your height!!”

 

It's hard to take your eyes off Maria Kochetkova, whether she's on stage or off. In a tutu, it's the delicate dynamism of her dancing that makes her magnetic. On the street, it's her out-of-this-world fashion sense.

 

Style blog Refinery 29 recently profiled the San Francisco Ballet superstar and photographed her in four of her favorite outfits. Head to toe polka dots? Check. Avant garde Commes des Garcons dress? Check. Wild rainbow print leggings? Check. In addition to dishing about her ping pong obsession, Kochetkova tells writer Angela Tafoya, "My personal style in three words: I. Don't. Know."

 

My favorite part is, when asked about her fashion icons, Kochetkova gives two shout-outs: One to Audrey Hepburn...and one to Flavor Flav.

Here at Pointe, we just can't get enough of San Francisco Ballet's Maria Kochetkova. Yes, she's an incredible powerhouse dancer, but she's got personality, too. Last night, she posted a delightfully silly Instagram video of her messing around in the studio. She is impressively flexible: This is over-splitting at its finest. But the real treat is the video's quirk—a spoof on this Volvo commercial featuring Jean-Claude Van Damme. Anything Van Damme can do, Masha can do better. Make sure your sound is on to get the full effect.

And bunheads, please promise me that you won't try this at home.

;

A quintessential Bournonville piece, Flower Festival in Genzano was originally a one-act ballet choreographed in 1858 for the Royal Danish Ballet. Although the full ballet was inspired by an Alexandre Dumas tale, today only the pas de deux survives. Nevertheless, the charming love story is still apparent in this flirtatious duet, which includes an entrance, two variations and a coda.

 

In this video from 2001, a young and playful Maria Kochetkova performs the female variation from this pas de deux in Moscow. Even without her partner, Kochetkova exudes a coquettish demeanor. Just as her dainty brisés perfectly suit her petite physique—not to mention her Bournonville ballon—her endearing épaulement takes viewers in from the moment of her first preparation. Even at this early age, it is no surprise that Kochetkova would go on to become a principal dancer with San Francisco Ballet only six years later. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

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