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.
Tetsuya Kumakawa, a former principal with The Royal Ballet and the founder and artistic director of K-Ballet in Tokyo, could make an audience gasp with his wildly powerful and inventive allegro. A boyish, dare-devil dancer, Kumakawa was a natural fit for roles like Franz in Coppélia. Watching him in this clip of Franz's Act I variation, it seems Kumakawa must have some sort of gravity-defying DNA.
For the last few years, World Ballet Day has transfixed millions of ballet lovers with its hours and hours of live-streamed classes, rehearsals and behind-the-scenes extras from major companies around the globe. (We here at Pointe certainly don't get any work done!) And the 2018 edition is finally here! Hosted by Australian Ballet, Bolshoi Ballet and The Royal Ballet, streaming begins on WBD's Facebook page in Melbourne on October 2. However, for folks in North America, that means 9pm EST/6pm PST on Monday, October 1. In past years, the National Ballet of Canada and San Francisco Ballet helped host the event, but they are not participating this time. Other U.S. and Canadian companies, however, will get time in the limelight this morning and this afternoon--check out the full schedule here.
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.
There are few opportunities as rewarding for a dancer as having choreography created on you. Sir Anthony Dowell, former principal and then artistic director of The Royal Ballet, is one of those rare few who had the chance to originate many roles throughout his performing career. Dowell was a particular inspiration for Sir Frederick Ashton; the choreographer created many roles for him, including original choreography for the Prince in The Royal Ballet's production of Sleeping Beauty. In this variation from Act II, Dowell comments on, and demonstrates, the unique sense of self-possession that comes with performing a specially-created role.
Animal roles might not typically be what dancers dream of performing…but they're oh-so-fun to watch. You can't help falling under their spell (and perhaps aspiring to dance one someday). Here's a round-up of some of our favorite furry and feathered roles.
Run. Dance in a circle. Pretend to be a rabbit. It might sound like a creative movement combo, but don't let that fool you. The role of Peter Rabbit in Sir Frederick Ashton's The Tales of Beatrix Potter requires fierce technique—not to mention the ability to project personality while wearing an animal head and fur suit.
Who do you turn to for halftime entertainment during a quartet of fairy variations? Dancing lizards, mice and a frog of course! This charming quintet of creatures light up the stage in David Bintley's Cinderella.
This fall English National Ballet wunderkind Cesar Corrales graced the cover of Pointe and spoke about searching for new ways to grow at ENB. Yet just today ENB announced that after three years with the company, Corrales has decided to leave to join The Royal Ballet as a first soloist.
Corrales rose swiftly through the ranks at ENB; he was promoted to principal this past summer at just 20 years old. While at ENB Corrales was best known for his highly charismatic performances which inflected roles such as Ali in Le Corsaire, Mercutio in Romeo & Juliet, Albrecht in Giselle and Hilarion in Akram Khan's 2016 re-imagining of Giselle.
Corrales will perform the lead role in Roland Petit's Le Jeune Homme et La Mort at the London Coliseum in late January as planned. He will officially part ways with ENB at the end of the 2017/2018 season.
Congratulations Cesar! We wish you all the best in this new adventure. And we certainly understand why turns like these are in high demand:
Dancewear brand Cloud & Victory is so much more than just clever t-shirts; founder Min is set on finding all kinds of ways to connect to the greater community. Earlier this fall she organized a master class led by American Ballet Theatre stars Gillian Murphy and Isabella Boylston, and now she's organizing a fundraiser to fight against child slavery called Pointes Against Child Slavery.
Signed pointe shoes donated by ballet dancers from some of the world's best companies will be sold online from November 8-19. The proceeds will be donated to two non-governmental organizations committed to fighting against child slavery, sexual abuse and exploitation for the empowerment and welfare of underprivileged children. The first is Destiny Rescue, a U.S.-based organization that since 2011 has rescued 2,000 children enslaved in Thailand, Cambodia, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines and India. The second organization is The Promiseland Project in Nepal. The Singapore-based Promiseland Project is working to build a school and orphanage in Dhamphus, Nepal to "shelter, raise and nurture the poor, needy and orphaned children of Nepal and equip them with an education and skill sets to make a better life for themselves." The earthquakes that devastated Nepal two years ago have set the project back, and they're looking for funds to finish construction.
Pointe shoes worn by Marianela Núñez during the Royal Ballet's Fall/Winter season. Photo via Cloud & Victory.
Get Pointe in your inbox
Last Thursday was World Ballet Day LIVE, the official 22-hour live-stream relay showcasing companies across the globe. If you were busy (we know that you don't always have the luxury to spend an entire day watching ballet), don't fret. Many of the companies involved recorded their classes, rehearsals and interviews from the day of, and we rounded them up for you to watch at your leisure. Careful, though; there are more than twenty hours of footage included here... make sure you take a break to, you know, sleep.
First up is San Francisco Ballet with a full five hours, including rehearsal for Balanchine's timeless classic, Serenade.
The Royal Ballet's WBD stream is split into three parts. Here's the first chunk, featuring company rehearsals of a few Sir Kenneth MacMillan ballets as well as Christopher Wheeldon's Alice in Wonderland (a measly two hours and 45 minutes). You can find part 2 here and the full company class here. The video also features a quick aerial tour of London from the balcony of the Royal Opera House.
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.
While ballet may feel female-dominated in that there are plenty of onstage opportunities for women, key behind-the-scenes roles like choreographer and artistic director are still largely held by men—a point that is increasingly being raised and questioned in the dance world thanks to female choreographers like Crystal Pite and Charlotte Edmonds. Also helping to break that mold is rising female choreographer Kristen McNally, who not only choreographed a recent duet for CNN Style, but also paired two women to bring it to life.
In the short film, which features McNally's choreo and is directed by Andrew Margetson, Royal Ballet first soloist Beatriz Stix-Brunell and principal Yasmine Naghdi changed the expectations on gender roles in ballet—and the end result is awesome. Nearly identical in appearance, the dancers' movements and lines also mirror each other throughout the piece, even when dancing in canon. Even more impressively, McNally told CNN Style, "The dancers and I did two rehearsals and then we shot the film."
Check out the full duet for yourself, below.
Wearing leggings and a puffy vest as she works in one of The Royal Ballet's light-filled studios, Charlotte Edmonds could pass for a corps de ballet member. Instead, she is choreographing on them, creating dynamic, ballet-based contemporary dance in her role as the company's first-ever Young Choreographer.
"At the Opera House you have dancers who have 20 years more experience," she says. "I bow to their experience, but I also try to hold the room. It is sometimes quite nerve-racking! But it is always exciting."
Edmonds' uncanny instincts for choreography and leadership were already apparent at age 11, when she was a first-year student in the Royal Ballet School's Lower School—and a finalist in its competition for the Ninette de Valois Junior Choreographic Award. She got her first professional commission at age 16, and was barely 19 when Royal Ballet director Kevin O'Hare named her the inaugural recipient of the company's Young Choreographer Programme. The paid position provides her with studio space, access
to dancers and the mentorship of renowned choreographer Wayne McGregor.
Photo by Alice Pennefeather, Courtesy ROH