Jackie Nash with Jacob Bush in Allegro Brillante. Photo by Kim Kenney, courtesy of Atlanta Ballet.

Ballet schools are back in session and dancers are preparing to be back in class with all of its exhilaration, magic, and, of course, struggle.

Today, four dancers reveal what they found challenging as ballet students and how they now look at their technique as professionals.

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Joseph Gatti in class. His new company, United Ballet Theatre, makes its debut this week. Photo by Israel Zavaleta, Courtesy UBT.

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

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Ballet Stars
Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB.

George Balanchine's glamorous three-act Jewels celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Three New York City Ballet stars share their insights on their signature roles in "Emeralds," "Rubies," and "Diamonds." Here's Teresa Reichlen on "Rubies."

The soloist in "Rubies" has been one of my favorite roles since the first time I danced it. I was in the corps then and it was one of my first big parts. It's so powerful and freeing. My favorite moment is when I come straight down center towards the audience, doing these sort of strutting walks on pointe. You're not playing to anyone else onstage. You're playing straight to the house. And the section with the four boys is really unusual; it's not often that a woman is onstage with four men, but she's still the one in charge. When I'm doing the penchés going offstage at the end of the first movement, I try to be calm and hope that the audience can't tell I'm trembling inside, or that my supporting leg is wobbling.

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Olga Smirnova and Semyon Chudin in "Diamonds." Photo by E. Fetisova, Courtesy Bolshoi Ballet

In November, Lincoln Center announced that three of the world's biggest companies—New York City Ballet, Paris Opéra Ballet and the Bolshoi Ballet—would present a collaborative performance of George Balanchine's Jewels July 20–23 in honor of the ballet's 50th anniversary. Each company will take an act, with the Paris Opéra performing "Emeralds" and NYCB and the Bolshoi alternating performances of "Rubies" and "Diamonds." Yesterday, Lincoln Center finally announced what we've all been waiting for: the all-star cast list. (As well as rising stars–Alena Kovaleva and Jacopo Tissi, two young Bolshoi corps members, are slated to dance the leads in "Diamonds" for one performance.) Check out the list below this trailer!

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Sara Mearns in Walpurgisnacht Ballet. Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB.

When New York City Ballet went on a three-week tour to Paris last summer, we wished we could tag along. The company presented 20 ballets at the historic Théâtre du Châtelet, including 14 by Balanchine.

Thanks to PBS and their Great Performances series, you can now get a taste of what it was like to be in that audience. The network will air the closing night performance in a two-part broadcast on February 17 (that's tonight!) and February 24, hosted by artistic director Peter Martins.

The lineup features four Balanchine works, all set to the music of French composers—and the casting alone is enough to make you want to tune in.

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You waited a long time between promotions. How did you cope?
I won’t lie: It was very frustrating, especially being a soloist for as long as I was. But in retrospect, I needed those years to understand my weaknesses. I’m a better artist now because of that slow process.

Have you embraced your height, or does it frustrate you?
A little of both. It’s nice to stand out because I’m tall, and it’s good for creating pretty lines. But there are a lot of “short girl” parts I’d love to try. It would be great to dance Aurora, but I’m a huge person—there’s no way I’d make a convincing 16-year-old.

Critics have praised your versatility. How did you develop that?
I’m not sure—I just knew it was something I admired in other dancers. I once watched Wendy Whelan dance Mozartiana, and then after intermission go on in The Cage! That’s a true artist, someone who can go from pure classicism to a bug in 20 minutes.

You’re working on your biology degree at Barnard College. How did ballet prepare you for the challenges of college?
You have to be very disciplined and dedicated to be a ballet dancer. Having that drive, that crazy perfectionism, has definitely helped me in school.

What’s your biggest indulgence?
Food, in general! We work so hard all day that sometimes a big steak or hamburger is just necessary.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?
That I’m a nice person? Apparently I have this ice queen aura, but really I’m just shy. I think I’m a decent human being!

How would you like to be remembered?

As myself. It’s frustrating when critics compare you to other dancers, past or present. I want to be remembered as a unique artist.


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