Ballet Stars

Carlos Acosta and Tamara Rojo both took The Royal Ballet by storm when they arrived at the company in 1998 and 2000, respectively. Virtuosic, enigmatic performers, the two forged a storied partnership over the course of their next decade together at The Royal. Now they've both gone on to lead the next generation of ballet dancers in England: Rojo has been the artistic director of English National Ballet since 2012, and Acosta will take the helm of Birmingham Royal Ballet in January. With this 2007 clip of their balcony scene from Sir Kenneth MacMillan's Romeo and Juliet, it's easy to see why they are already the stuff of ballet legend.

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Vadim Muntagirov and Marienela Nuñez in the Royal Ballet's Swan Lake. Bill Cooper, Courtesy Trafalgar Releasing.

Get your popcorn ready! The Royal Ballet is making its way to select North American movie theaters starting November 26 as part of The Royal Opera House's 2019/20 LIVE Cinema Season. Filmed at London's Covent Garden, the season continues through the spring and includes seven ballet productions—some pre-recorded, some captured live—ranging from 19th century classics to world premieres by Cathy Marston and Wayne McGregor. "We make sure we really give a mix of what you can get at the Opera House," says Royal Ballet artistic director Kevin O'Hare. "The idea that you're never really far from the theater is a nice one, and it's caught on fast."

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Ballet Stars
Courtesy Joffrey Ballet

Christine DuBoulay Ellis, legendary figure in classical ballet, died on Saturday, November 9, of complications from Parkinson's disease. She was 96.

She was one of the last surviving members of the original Sadler's Wells cast of The Sleeping Beauty, which opened at the Royal Opera House, London, in 1946.

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Ballet Stars
Yasmine Naghdi in The Sleeping Beauty with Eric Underwood. Bill Cooper, Courtesy The Royal Ballet.

What is the hardest role you've learned?

Swan Lake. You need so much endurance to get through it. Especially in Act III, when you're about to do the fouettés—I feel like I can't see, I'm so tired by that point. It's a battle of your own mind.

You've danced Aurora for The Royal Ballet and at San Francisco Ballet—how were they different?

In London it was my debut; it was 10 times harder dancing it for the first time. Revisiting it in San Francisco, I had so much more experience—it wasn't as hard as I remembered. Anytime you revisit a role, it becomes slightly less hard than the first time.

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Alice Pennefather, Courtesy ROH

You ever just wish that Kenneth MacMillan's iconic production of Romeo and Juliet could have a beautiful love child with the 1968 film starring Olivia Hussey? (No, not Baz Luhrmann's version. We are purists here.)

Wish granted: Today, the trailer for a new film called Romeo and Juliet: Beyond Words was released, featuring MacMillan's choreography and with what looks like all the cinematic glamour we could ever dream of:

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Royal Ballet principal Sarah Lamb taking onstage class at The Joyce Theater. Kyle Froman.

New York City's dance scene is having its own "British invasion" right now. The 2019 edition of The Joyce Theater's annual Ballet Festival, taking place now through August 18, is curated by a team from The Royal Ballet, and a small group of company members are in town to perform. (The festival also features special guests from National Ballet of Canada, American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet and New York Theater Ballet.) And while Royal Ballet director Kevin O'Hare had a huge hand in developing the event and planning its first program, he tapped two of his principal dancers—Lauren Cuthbertson and Edward Watson—as well as frequent company designer Jean-Marc Puissant, to curate programs of their own. "Anytime I go to dance events I see them there—they're always interested in what's going on and have such deep knowledge of choreographers," says O'Hare. "I thought they would be up for the challenge."

Most exciting for us, of course, is the chance to see some of The Royal's star dancers. In addition to Watson and Cuthbertson (who are dancing heavily in their own programs), principals Sarah Lamb and Marcelino Sambé (newly promoted, and our April/May cover star) are in town, as well as rising dancers Calvin Richardson, Romany Pajdak and Joseph Sissens. We couldn't pass up the opportunity to see them in action, and last week the company graciously allowed us to sit in on morning class for a Pointe photo exclusive. Check them out below!


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Ballet Stars
Margot Fonteyn in Sir Frederick Ashton's Cinderella. Louis Peres, courtesy DM Archives.

Dame Margot Fonteyn, The Royal Ballet's legendary prima ballerina assoluta, is an icon of elegance and refinement—and her remarkable theatricality still sets her apart. In this short clip from a 1957 television broadcast of Sir Frederick Ashton's Cinderella, she channels easy grace into the title character's giddy, girlish dreams of going to the ball.

Margot Fonteyn Cinderella excerpt www.youtube.com

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The Royal Ballet's Sarah Lamb and Steven McRae in Mayerling. Alice Pennefather, Courtesy The Music Center.

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

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Natalia Osipova in rehearsal. Photo by Alastair Muir, Courtesy Sadler's Wells

You never quite know what's going to happen when Natalia Osipova steps onstage—you know you're in for something extraordinary, but the exact nature of what you'll get is a mystery until it's happening. It's only fitting, then, that we would learn of Force of Nature, a new documentary following a year of the ballet superstar's career, a day before its limited release in the UK.

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Still of Fonteyn from the 1972 film I Am a Dancer. Photo courtesy DM Archives

On May 18, 1919, Margot "Peggy" Hookham was born. She would grow up to become Dame Margot Fonteyn, England's homegrown prima ballerina. She joined the Sadler's Wells School in 1934 and was performing principal roles with the precursor to The Royal Ballet the next year. Fonteyn was a company-defining figure, dancing Aurora for the re-opening of the Royal Opera House after World War II, creating numerous roles with Sir Frederick Ashton and forging a legendary partnership with Rudolf Nureyev.

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Carlos Acosta in a still from Yuli. Photo by Denise Guerra, Courtesy Janet Stapleton

Since the project was first announced toward the end of 2017, we've been extremely curious about Yuli. The film, based on Carlos Acosta's memoir No Way Home, promised as much dancing as biography, with Acosta appearing as himself and dance sequences featuring his eponymous Cuba-based company Acosta Danza. Add in filmmaking power couple Icíar Bollaín (director) and Paul Laverty (screenwriter), and you have a recipe for a dance film unlike anything else we've seen recently.

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Ballet Stars
Quinn Wharton

This is Pointe's April/May 2019 Cover Story. You can subscribe to the magazine here, or click here to purchase this issue.

The third movement of Balanchine's Symphony in C is designed to wow, but it's not often a dancer manages to bring unadulterated joy to its brutally difficult steps. Yet when The Royal Ballet's Marcelino Sambé ran onto the stage last fall, the bright, cheerful buoyancy of his first grand jeté drew a gasp from the British gentleman sitting behind me in the Royal Opera House's chic Grand Tier.

The stage isn't the only place where Sambé's infectious energy stands out. Time and again, company employees crack a smile at the mention of his name; a stage door attendant perks up when calling him over and chats animatedly about his performances. "He basically cheers up the whole Royal Ballet," says principal Francesca Hayward, a frequent partner of Sambé's. "He's one of those: Sunshine comes with him," Kevin O'Hare, the director of The Royal Ballet, concurs. "He's just a great, positive influence in the room and in the building."

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