Ballet Stars
Evelyn Hart in "Swan Lake," via YouTube.

The individual touches that ballerinas incorporate into well-known classical variations are a source of endless fascination for us bunheads. (The abundant "variation compilation" videos on YouTube is proof of our obsession!) Odette's solo in Swan Lake's Act II is one that is particularly open to interpretation. The style is lyrical and introspective, giving dancers ample opportunity to make personal choices about choreography, musicality and character. The Canadian ballerina Evelyn Hart, a former principal with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, performs a fairly traditional version in this clip, yet with each nuance she defines her own Odette.

Evelyn Hart as Odette (1988) www.youtube.com

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Ballet Stars
The Royal Ballet's Marianela Nuñez in "Swan Lake." Image via YouTube.

Need an excuse for a YouTube ballet break? Probably not, but just in case, here are videos to celebrate some of this month's off-the-beaten-path holidays.

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Trending
Aurelie Dupont explained she did not share Polunin's values. Photo via Instagram

Sergei Polunin, whose recent homophobic and sexist Instagram posts have sparked international outrage, will not be appearing with the Paris Opéra Ballet as previously announced.

POB artistic director Aurélie Dupont sent an internal email to company staff and dancers on Sunday, explaining that she did not share Polunin's values and that the Russian-based dancer would not be guesting with the company during the upcoming run of Rudolf Nureyev's Swan Lake in February.

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Giveaways
The Joffrey Ballet's Victoria Jaiani with members of the Joffrey in Swan Lake. Photo by Cheryl Mann, Courtesy Joffrey Ballet.

We're giving away a pair of tickets to see The Joffrey Ballet in Christopher Wheeldon's Swan Lake on October 27 at 2 pm in Chicago, IL. Enter now to win!

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News
Ballet Austin's Aara Krumpe in The Firebird. After 20 years, this is Krumpe's final season with the company. Photo by Tony Spielberg, Courtesy Ballet Austin.

Wonder what's going on in ballet this week? We've pulled together some highlights.

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Ballet Stars

Last week American Ballet Theatre principal Gillian Murphy danced the iconic dual role of Odette/Odile as part of the company's spring season. In preparation for the performance she posted an adorable photo from her childhood on Instagram of her posing in costume as the Black Swan. Murphy also admits that as a young dancer she was determined to master the 32 fouettés, which Odile performs at the climax of the Black Swan pas de deux. Her performance in this clip from a 2005 performance, alongside former ABT principal Angel Corella as Siegfried, makes it obvious as to why this childhood dream role is now one of her signatures.

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Ballet Stars
ABT principals Christine Shevchenko and James Whiteside rehearse "Swan Lake" in Singapore.

In the middle of American Ballet Theatre's spring season, principal dancer Christine Shevchenko takes a break from her comedic role of Pierrette in Harlequinade to (briefly) transform into a swan. During the half hour rehearsal, Shevchenko seamlessly transitions from Odette to Odile, running through her various solos without pause—save for the short conferences with ballet mistress Irina Kolpakova, which switch between Russian and English almost as quickly as Shevchenko whips out her fouetté turns (but more on those later).

"The rehearsal process is a lot different right now because every week it's a new ballet," Shevchenko says during a rehearsal break last week. "I'm really trying to squeeze in as many Swan Lake rehearsals as I can, and at the same time, I'm trying to prepare for Don Quixote, which is the week after," she explains of juggling the season's eight programs. "This is my first year as a principal during the Met season, so I'm learning how to figure it out as we keep going. In a way, I'm used to doing parts last minute because that's how I got most of my roles," she says. Ahead, Shevchenko shares exactly how she's gearing up for her Met debut on June 20.

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Ballet Stars
ABT in "Swan Lake." Petipa often collaborated with Lev Ivanov, who choreographed this ballet's white acts. Photo by John Grigaitis, Courtesy ABT.

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.

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News
PNB in Justin Peck's "Year of the Rabbit." Photo by Angela Sterling, Courtesy PNB.

Wonder what's going on in ballet this week? We've pulled together some highlights.


Ballet Nacional de Cuba Continues U.S. Tour at the Kennedy Center

A few weeks ago we shared that the historic Ballet Nacional de Cuba is back in the U.S. after 40 years. The company has already made stops in Chicago and Tampa, and heads to The Kennedy Center May 29-June 2 as part of the Artes de Cuba festival with performances of Giselle and Don Quixote. The tour will conclude at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center June 6-8. Whether or not the company is heading to a city near you, you can catch a glimpse of Don Q in the below trailer.

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popular
All of these moms put a lot of thought and effort into getting their children the perfect holiday gift. Photo by Gene Schiavone, Courtesy American Ballet Theatre.

With Mother's Day fast approaching, we started thinking about some of the mom characters in ballet who don't get enough credit. Below are five of our favorites.


Swan Lake

Siegfried's mother might have put a lot of pressure on him to get married, but she did go to great lengths to provide him with plenty of options. She brought in princesses from all over the world, and he still had to go and choose a swan?

Boston Ballet in Mikko Nissinen's "Swan Lake." Photo by Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy BB.

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News
Misty Copeland photographed by Jayme Thornton.

Nobody has a "perfect" performance every time they go onstage—not even the dancers at American Ballet Theatre. Despite knowing this, we tend to beat ourselves up enough over the tiniest of slip ups without having someone else pointing out our errors, too.

But imagine if your mistake was posted on YouTube for the whole world to see. That's exactly what happened to ABT principal Misty Copeland when a less-than-flattering clip of her performing the infamous fouetté turns in Swan Lake was shared on YouTube. Rather than report the video as offensive and pretend it never happened (like we would have done), Copeland wrote a compelling response on Instagram, linking to the video herself.


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Angelina Vorontsova in the company's revival of "Cinderella." Photo by Stas Levshin, Courtesy Mikhailovsky Ballet.

Ella Persson remembers the rehearsals for her debut as Giselle. "I was in my first year with the company, and I started preparing with Mikhail Messerer during late evenings," the Mikhailovsky Ballet's Swedish-born coryphée says. "I was definitely not ready, but he gave me a chance to push myself and made me so much stronger, mentally and physically."

Under Messerer, the Mikhailovsky Ballet has carved a niche on the Russian and international stage by investing in coaching and dancers' growth. Unlike the older Mariinsky, St. Petersburg's second ballet company was only founded after World War I. But with a classically focused repertoire and productions that rotate onstage every month, it offers plenty of opportunities for talent to thrive.


Ballet master in chief Mikhail Messerer. Photo Courtesy Mikhailovsky Ballet.

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via Instagram

Every ballerina grows up aspiring to nail the fouetté turns in the coda of Swan Lake's Black Swan Pas de Deux. From classic primas like Natalia Makarova to current pros like Gillian Murphy, the 32-fouetté sequence has become so iconic that even our non-dancer friends know about the tricky turns. But yesterday, American Ballet Theatre principal Christine Shevchenko introduced us to a totally new take on the fouettés that we've been watching on a loop, in awe.


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Ballet Stars
Webb and Jared Matthews in "Sleeping Beauty." Photo by Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy Houston Ballet.

Houston Ballet principal Sara Webb, now celebrating her 20th season, holds the distinct position of being the only ballerina currently in the company who has worked extensively under two Houston Ballet artistic directors: Ben Stevenson (who left in 2003 and now directs Texas Ballet Theatre) and Stanton Welch. Webb was nurtured under Stevenson, who first saw her potential and promoted her to soloist, and she was the very first dancer that Welch promoted to principal. Having danced most major roles since joining the company in 1997, she carries a considerable amount of Houston Ballet history in her body.

With her exquisite technique, gorgeous lines, and her ability to bounce back from having a baby quicker than most celebrities, Webb has always been an audience favorite. She spoke with Nancy Wozny via email about her lengthy career.




Congratulations on 20 years at Houston Ballet. To what do you credit your artistic longevity?

I credit my artistic longevity to my life experiences. From the difficult ones (my husband being deployed to Iraq) to the joyful ones (having my children), those experiences help me bring a wider range of emotions to the stage. Every time I've revisited a role, I've been in a different place in my life, which has allowed me to approach the role in a different way.

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Ballet Stars
Photo by Nisian Hughes for Pointe.

This is Pointe's December 2017/January 2018 Cover Story. You can subscribe to the magazine here, or click here to purchase this issue.

Few ballets are as unforgiving for a young dancer as Swan Lake. Both Odette's heartbreak and Odile's deceit of Siegfried demand the kind of dramatic commitment and maturity that often come with experience. At the same time, when a director entrusts an 18-year-old corps de ballet member with the double role, the implicit promise is clear: A special ballerina will emerge from that chrysalis.

So it was with Alena Kovaleva, who turned 19 shortly after her Swan Lake debut, last September, on the historical stage of the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow. Barely a year after her graduation from the Vaganova Ballet Academy, Kovaleva isn't a full-fledged Swan Queen yet. At nearly 5' 10", she is so tall that her coltish limbs sometimes falter, and she was visibly tiring by Odette's final pleas.


Kovaleva in "Swan Lake." Photo by M. Logvinov, Courtesy Bolshoi Ballet.

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Ballet Stars
Gillian Murphy in the Cloud & Victory Ballerina Tee. Photo courtesy of Cloud & Victory.

Whether you've been lucky enough to watch American Ballet Theatre's Gillan Murphy dance Swan Lake's Odette/Odile in person or you're one of the 100,000+ who've watched her performance on YouTube, the magic happening on stage is obvious. Even off stage, it's easy to see why the role is such a perfect fit. Supremely graceful with her long limbs and quiet nature, Murphy certainly looks the part of Odette. Yet there's also an Odile-like spark in her eyes as she speaks, one that was even more noticeable while teaching a younger generation the famous black swan pas de deux during Cloud & Victory's master class in New York City last month.

After we learned how to master Odile's swan arms (the trick is to relax your elbows while still keeping resistance, according to Murphy), we caught up with Murphy for her take on the famous role.

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Ballet Stars
Isabella Boylston teaches "Giselle" in the Cloud & Victory 'Ballet Dancers Sweat Glitter' tee; via Instagram

Learning a variation for the first time is definitely one of the most rewarding parts of ballet. And when American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston teaches you that variation as part of a master class series hosted by dancewear brand Cloud & Victory, the whole process gets even more exciting. Dreamt up by Cloud & Victory founder Min, the day-long workshop at Joffrey Ballet School in New York City consisted of a technique class taught by fellow ABT principal Gillian Murphy, as well as variations from both Murphy and Boylston. After Murphy taught Black Swan, Boylston gave the dancers another classic with Act I of Giselle. If you weren't lucky enough to be among the dozens of aspiring ballerinas gathered at the master class, check out some of Boylston's tips for learning Giselle at home.

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Director's Notes
Gen Horiuchi with dancers Lauren Lane and Elliott Geolat. Photo by Sabrine Rhodes.

When Gen Horiuchi became the executive and artistic director of Saint Louis Ballet, his mentor Peter Martins offered the same wisdom that George Balanchine had given him: Running a company isn't just about ballet—you have to do and oversee everything. That leadership philosophy is what Horiuchi, now 53, has adopted at Saint Louis Ballet.

The Tokyo native and former New York City Ballet principal took over the financially troubled company from longtime artistic directors Ludmila Dokoudovsky and Antoni Zalewski in 2000. Within two years Horiuchi stabilized the organization's finances and restructured and revitalized the Saint Louis Ballet School. In 2010, he moved the organization into a new 7,500-square-foot facility with four studios.

Now in his 18th season with SLB, Horiuchi has increased the company's annual operating budget from $200,000 in 2000 to $2 million currently, grown the number of dancers from 13 to 25, and added more productions (when he arrived they were only perform- ing Nutcracker). He's also increased ticket sales and bolstered the school's enrollment from 50 to 350 students.

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Ballet Stars
Lopatkina and Danila Korsuntsev in Balanchine's "Symphony in C." Photo by N. Razina, Courtesy Mariinsky Theater.

Last weekend, the Mariinsky Ballet announced on its website that one of its most revered prima ballerinas, Uliana Lopatkina, has retired from the stage. A principal dancer since 1995, Lopatkina's interpretation of Odette/Odile and "The Dying Swan", among other roles, was legendary. To honor her dance career, we're re-visiting this interview from the February/March 2013 issue.


What's the toughest part of being a dancer?

More than most professions, ballet erodes the private sphere. You don't fulfill yourself in this career: You serve it; you're a slave to it.


What ballet makes you most nervous?

Swan Lake. Even if it's not the most difficult ballet to perform, it's difficult in another way, a mystical way.

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Ballet Stars

Last week, The Royal Ballet's Zenaida Yanowsky took her final bow at Covent Garden—a stage she called home for 23 years. Beloved by Britain's loyal ballet fans, she captivated audiences throughout her 16 years as a principal dancer. At 5' 9" Yanowsky is regal and striking, breaking the mold of the more traditional, diminutive English ballerina.

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There’s nothing like watching two masters at work. In this clip from 1985, two of American Ballet Theatre’s most legendary stars, Cynthia Gregory and the late Fernando Bujones, make sparks fly in the Black Swan pas de deux from Swan Lake. Bujones can’t help but be mesmerized by Gregory’s deliciously seductive allure. Watch how she doesn’t let him escape her spell at 3:23, effortlessly sailing out of her attitude promenade to zero back in on her prey. We can all take a lesson from their expert musical phrasing, as well as Bujones' clean simplicity during his variation's bravura moments.

Gregory and Bujones in Swan Lake. Photo by MIRA, Courtesy Dance Magazine Archives.

Odette/Odile was considered Gregory’s signature role; this month, she’s passing on her expertise at Nevada Ballet Theatre, where she's staging the full-length Swan Lake. Those sure are some lucky dancers.

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

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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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Jody Sawyer: “Margot Fonteyn didn’t have great feet.”

Jonathan Reeves: “Well, when Margot Fonteyn was onstage, you couldn’t tear your eyes away from her.”

--Center Stage (2000)

Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn. Photo by Emma Schad via The Daily Mail.

YouTube wasn’t yet invented when the movie Center Stage was released. But thanks to the wonders of the internet, we (who weren’t lucky enough to see the great British ballerina in person) can observe exactly what Peter Gallagher’s character was talking about.

Fonteyn appears with Rudolf Nureyev in this clip from Swan Lake, filmed at the Vienna State Opera in 1966. Whereas Act II’s iconic White Swan pas de deux displays a tentative love blossoming between the swan queen and her prince, here—in the last act’s pas de deux—there is more trust between them. And much more sadness. Siegfried has betrayed Odette, enchaining her in her curse. Fonteyn and Nureyev, as luminous as their reputations promise, dance as one: joined in the tragedy of their characters’ impending fate.

Fonteyn and Nureyev’s partnership began when she was 42 and he was just 23. Named a Dame of the Order of the British Empire in 1956, Fonteyn was also one of few people given the title “prima ballerina assoluta” in the 20th century. Nureyev’s career spanned continents, TV screens and company roles. From 1983−1989, he served as director of the Paris Opéra Ballet, which still presents his restaging of classical ballets. Eminent dancers and public figures in their own right, together, they are transcendent. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

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

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The coda in Swan Lake’s second act can be brutal for the ballerina dancing Odette. She barely has time to catch her breath after her variation before coming back onstage to carry the act’s final dramatic minutes. Paris Opéra Ballet étoile Dorothée Gilbert handles the coda with, dare I say, swanlike elegance in this 2007 clip.

Gilbert rehearsing The Death of a Swan. Photo by James Bort via Dorothee Gilbert.

It’s her deliberateness that I find extraordinary. Of course, we all try to sustain the peak of every arabesque and squeeze more revolutions out of every pirouette. But Gilbert doesn’t try. She just does. The part that follows–after her partner, former POB étoile Manuel Legris, gently places Gilbert on her feet–never fails to send shivers down my spine. Having just fallen deeply in love with Siegfried, Odette is torn away from him as Rothbart calls her back. With chilling gravity, she finally resigns to her heartbreaking exit—maybe knowing, right then, the inescapable tragedy that awaits.

The clip was filmed the same year Gilbert was promoted to étoile and two years before Legris retired from the stage. The two continue to inspire, she as a consummate artist, he as the director of Vienna State Ballet. Happy #TBT!

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

Viral Videos
Erica and Herman Cornejo. Photo by Rebecca Milzoff via The New York Times.

Sprightly and sweet, the Swan Lake Act I pas de trois variations are deceptively difficult. But Boston Ballet principal Erica Cornejo betrays no hint of effort in this clip, filmed in 2005 while she was a soloist at American Ballet Theatre. The divertissement doesn't require a huge emotional range from its dancers. Still, Cornejo delivers a warm, generous stage presence. Her smile is authentic, not affected, and the only thing as natural as her joy is her jump, which is buoyant from the first entrechat six to the diagonal of temps de flèche.

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Rojo and Polunin in Marguerite and Armand. Photo by Bill Cooper via The Telegraph.

Whether it’s an oh-so fashionably late arrival to a ball or an endless line of impressively in-sync penchés, ballets know the power of a dramatic entrance. (Appropriate, perhaps, that the word “entrance” has a double meaning, depending on how you pronounce it: “an entry” and also “to enthrall.”) Take a look at some of our favorite wing-to-stage moments.

Cinderella

Antoinette Sibley, Anthony Dowell, The Royal Ballet (1969)

Clad in a wide, diaphanous cape, Cinderella glides onto the stage and down the stairs during the ball scene of Sir Frederick Ashton’s version, as if in a dream.

 

Odile

Uliana Lopatkina, Bolshoi Ballet (2007)

Odile enters on Rothbart’s arm in a flurry of horn blares and a stormy lowering of stage lights (0:50). Intrigued, the Queen acknowledges the late arrival, and Odile casts her spell with a glittering, dark smile.

 

Kingdom of Shades

Paris Opéra Ballet (2012)

When the first group of eight dancers has zigzagged its way down the ramp in La Bayadère’s Kingom of Shades scene, it seems impossible that they just keep coming—and coming and coming. The precision in the adagio section that follows is truly mesmerizing.

 

Marguerite and Armand

Tamara Rojo and Sergei Polunin, The Royal Ballet (2013)

Again, Ashton proves to be a master of drama. Marguerite, utterly still, watches her clandestine lover enter. So much emotion charged in one stare! This pas de deux is a must-see.

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

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Svetlana Zakharova as Odile. Photo By Marc Haegeman via Indulgy.

Swan Lake’s Black Swan pas de deux may be a chance for stars’ technique to shine, but it’s the acting—Odile’s wicked seduction of the blindly loving Siegfried—that gives me chills. In this clip from a 2004 recording of La Scala Ballet, Svetlana Zakharova finds fresh moments in Vladimir Bourmeister’s 1953 choreography to bewitch Roberto Bolle—and her audience. She undulates her arms and unfurls her legs delicately, mimicking Odette’s graceful wings, then entices him by crisply rebuffing her prince’s offered attentions. Did you shiver when she flicked her wrists and widened her eyes piercingly in her variation preparation? Bolle, meanwhile, dances with incredible fluidity. His open, easy carriage reveals both the dancer’s seasoned strength and his character’s vulnerability.

Roberto Bolle as Siegfried. Photo by Luciano Romano via Style.It

Bourmeister’s Swan Lake is less popular than the classic Petipa/Ivanov staging, but it actually uses Tchaikovsky’s original composition. Music sound familiar? Balanchine used sections cut from the classical version for his Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux (1960).

Swan Lake’s steps and structure may be altered in different versions for years to come, but the fascinating white swan/black swan dichotomy, which has inspired choreographers and even Hollywood directors, is likely to endure. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

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

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From historic promotions to ballerina retirements to groundbreaking new work, 2015 was an incredible year for ballet. We can't wait to see what the new year has in store, but first let's take a moment to reflect on some of our favorite Pointe stories from the past year. Happy 2016!

 

"Better than perfection is the ability to let it go"—American Ballet Theatre's Veronika Part, photo by Gene Schiavone

Amy Brandt, Editor in Chief

"My favorite was April/May's 'In Pursuit of Perfection,' by Laura Jacobs. Her essay delves into dancers' driving, unattainable quest for the ideal, and the fractured relationship all artists have with perfection. I think it's something we can all relate to, and it holds a very important message for young dancers. 'Artistry that possesses a flashing life force—daring, reaching, giving—will always contain moments that are not quite correct,' Jacobs writes. '...it's the life we remember: the singing of the self.' "

 

 

 

 

Madeline Schrock, Managing Editor

"I loved the cover and accompanying story for Miami City Ballet soloist Nathalia Arja. At her photo shoot, I was blown away by Arja's infectious energy and the pure joy in her dancing. (Yes, she really is as genuine as she seems!) When I read the cover story, I became even more excited about her. I was inspired by her courage to move from her mother's dance school in Brazil to Miami, where not only the language but the Balanchine style was completely foreign to her. Now, Arja seems at home in Balanchine works, and her success is even more thrilling because of her perseverance."

 

Taylor Stanley, photo by Nathan Sayers

Suzannah Friscia, Assistant Editor

"When I saw Justin Peck's new Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes at New York City Ballet in early 2015, I was mesmerized by Taylor Stanley, and his performance stuck with me throughout the year. So it's not surprising that one of my favorite stories was our cover and feature on Stanley's journey at NYCB. I loved reading about his ability to be both a great partner and a true individual onstage—and how this has made him an inspiration to Peck and other choreographers."

 

 

 

 

Nicole Loeffler-Gladstone, Assistant Editor

Dylan Gutierrez and Victoria Jaiani in Wheeldon's Swan Lake, photo by Quinn Wharton

" 'From Studio to Stage,' the Joffrey Ballet photo essay of Christopher Wheeldon rehearsing his Swan Lake with the company, from the February/March issue. Photographer Quinn Wharton captures the sweat and the glamour and conveys a sense of intimacy with the photographs."

 

Hannah Foster, Research Editor

"In 'Ballet's Not Dead.' Allan Ulrich argues exactly that (definitive period included). I agree! When I look towards all the exciting projects in store for 2016—from digital stages to diversity initiatives, large-scale story ballets to collaborative side projects—I think our beloved art form is taking off anew.

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