Ballet Stars
Maire-Agnès Gillot in The Sleeping Beauty, via YouTube.

Fairies crop up everywhere in classical ballet, from sylphs to dryads to, of course, the ranks of fairies who attend Aurora's christening in The Sleeping Beauty. These delicate and mystical creatures stretch the reaches of ballet technique, forcing dancers to embody an otherworldly ideal. In this 1999 clip from the Paris Opéra Ballet's The Sleeping Beauty, former étoile Marie-Agnès Gillot dances the luxurious Lilac Fairy variation. With her refined, gentle power, Gillot truly finds the sublime in her interpretation of this magical character.

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Ballet Stars
Valery Panov and Natalia Makarova in The Sleeping Beauty, via YouTube.

The Soviet Union redefined standards in classical ballet in the 1960s, producing opulent story ballets and dancers with refined, yet daring technique. Dancers like Natalia Makarova and Valery Panov, who were among the leading performers with the Kirov Ballet (now the Mariinsky) at that time, were at the pinnacle of the art form. In this 1964 film of the Kirov's The Sleeping Beauty, Makarova and Panov dance together as Princess Florine and the Bluebird. Despite the nostalgic trappings of the soundstage dance film, their strength and intention in this pas de deux make for a timeless performance.

Natalia Makarova as Princess Florine and Valery Panov as the Bluebird ('Sleeping Beauty' 1964) www.youtube.com

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Ballet Stars
Irina Kolpakova in "The Sleeping Beauty." Still vIa YouTube.

Irina Kolpakova, currently a ballet mistress at American Ballet Theatre at age 85, is a living dance legend. She studied under Agrippina Vaganova and went on to dance as prima ballerina at the Kirov Ballet (now the Mariinsky). In the '60s, she astonished American audiences with her interpretation of Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty during the Kirov's U.S. tours. She was a partner to Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov, and for the last 30 years she has set and coached ABT dancers in the classics.

With an influence that spans so many generations of dancers, it's not surprising that Kolpakova's youthful energy is one of her calling cards. That infectious quality is part of what makes Aurora her signature role. In this clip from 1982, Kolpakova, who was 49 at the time of the performance, channels the teenage Aurora's unbridled joy with purity and lightness in each step.

Kolpakova Sleeping Beauty Aurora Variation www.youtube.com

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Ballet Stars
Novikova in The Sleeping Beauty. Photo by Natasha Razina, Courtesy Mariinsky Theatre.

The luminous Olesya Novikova has become one of St. Petersburg's best-kept secrets. Pushed into leading roles early, the 34-year-old has been out of the limelight in recent years, partly because she has given birth to three children with husband Leonid Sarafanov. Last March, however, for the bicentenary of Marius Petipa's birth, she was tasked with leading a revival of Sergei Vikharev's landmark reconstruction of The Sleeping Beauty, first performed in 1999.

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News
Costume sketches for Alexei Ratmansky's new "Harlquinade" for ABT. Courtesy ABT.

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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Ballet Stars

It's been an exciting few weeks in New York City with both American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet in the midst of their respective seasons at Lincoln Center. With so many homegrown stars in the spotlight, it's wonderful to remember the past generations of dancers who once lit up the same stages and helped shape American ballet into what is it today. One such luminary is former ABT principal Cynthia Gregory, whom Rudolf Nureyev dubbed the "American Prima Ballerina Assoluta." In this 1970's clip of her "Rose Adagio" from The Sleeping Beauty, it's plain to see how she enchanted balletomanes everywhere with her unaffected elegance.

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News
National Ballet of Canada's Skylar Campbell and Elena Lobsanova in "The Dreamers Ever Leave You." Photo by Karolina Kuras, Courtesy NBoC.

This week is bursting at the seams with ballet. Earlier this month multiple companies performed the same ballet (think Romeo and Juliet), but this week brings a truly eclectic mix of new works, company premieres and old classics all around the U.S. and Canada. We've rounded up programs by eight companiesNational Ballet of Canada, Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Houston Ballet, American Repertory Ballet, Sarasota Ballet, Ballet Memphis, Texas Ballet Theater and Indianapolis Balletto give you a sense of what's happening.

National Ballet of Canada

In honor of Canada's 150th anniversary in 2017, the Toronto-based National Ballet of Canada is presenting a mixed bill February 28–March 4 titled Made in Canada. The program features works made on NBoC by three of Canada's most lauded choreographers: Robert Binet's The Dreamers Ever Leave You, James Kudelka's The Four Seasons and Crystal Pite's Emergence. Check out the preview below.

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Ballet Stars

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.

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Viral Videos
Mr. Jeremy FIsher, from Sir Frederick Ashton's "The Tales of Beatrix Potter."

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.

Bunny Hop

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.


Four-Legged Interlude

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.

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Views

Sofiane Sylve in Forsythe's Pas/Parts. Photo by Erik Tomasson via After Dark SF.

Remember in the Disney version of Sleeping Beauty when Aurora’s fairy godmothers fight over which dress is best, pink or blue? Watching Petipa’s ballet, you might face a similar conflict: Do you prefer the young, spirited Aurora decked in rose pink from Act I? Or the cool yet lovely dream princess from Act II? In this clip from a 2003 Dutch National Ballet performance, San Francisco Ballet principal Sofiane Sylve embodies the silver radiance of her lunar setting. Her ice-blue tutu barely flares as she sails effortlessly in each attitude turn. Her grace and control are so refined that, if Sylve really were dancing in a mist-filled dream, she wouldn’t disturb a single vapor.

Before joining SFB in 2008, Sylve danced at Dutch National Ballet and later New York City Ballet. In a 2012 Dance Magazine interview with former NYCB star Allegra Kent, Sylve said that she fell in love with ballet for its “relationship with the music.” I’d say that she does that sacred relationship justice. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

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

Views
Zakharova in "Swan Lake." Photo by B. Stoess, Courtesy Bolshoi.

Mark your calendars! This Sunday, the Bolshoi Ballet, in partnership with Fathom Events, kicks off its 2016-17 Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Series. Between now and April, seven Bolshoi productions will be high-beamed to movie theaters around the world (400 in the U.S. alone), giving ballet lovers a chance to see the legendary company on the big screen.

In addition to standard classics like The Nutcracker, The Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake, this season is book-ended by two uniquely Russian ballets not performed by other companies, starting with Yuri Grigorovich's The Golden Age on October 16. Set in a cabaret during the Roaring 20s, The Golden Age is a Soviet love story between Boris, a young fisherman, and Rita, a dancer with connections to a local gangster. Yuri Possokhov's A Hero of Our Time, based on the great Russian literary classic of the same name, closes out the season in April.

In an exclusive interview, Pointe spoke with Bolshoi prima ballerina Svetlana Zakharova about what it's like to perform for the camera.

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Carla Fracci photographed in 1967. Photo via Amicapercaso.

The Fountain of Youth might be in Italy. Alessandra Ferri, 53, is defying all preconceived notions about the length of ballet careers. But she isn’t the first Italian to do so. Carla Fracci, a former prima ballerina at La Scala Ballet and international guest artist, who started her career in the 1950s, didn’t stop when convention might have told her to.

This clip, from a 1987 television series called the “The Ballerinas,” proves it. At 51 years old, Fracci isn’t doing an easy skip of a variation. Here she tackles one of the hardest dances in the classical canon: the Rose Adagio. Aurora’s iconic dance with four suitors is a challenge in stamina, a test in technique and definitely a trial in composure, particularly during the promenade balance section. When this sequence repeats at the end, the music crescendoing as high as the expectations, Fracci is unflappable. With rock-solid strength and softness rivaling that plush pink tutu, she finishes with an ebullient smile.

Best known for her Giselle portrayal, Fracci has (we think) retired from the stage and taken on humanitarian work later in life. In 2004, she was named a Goodwill Ambassador of the Food and Agriculture Association, a United Nations agency dedicated to fighting hunger around the world. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

Photo by Giuseppe Pino via Mondadori Portfolio.

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

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