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#TBT: Diana Vishneva and Vladimir Malakhov in Kazimir’s "Colors"

Paintings infrequently inspire ballets. Notable exceptions include Yuri Possokhov's Magrittomania, based on the works of surrealist painter René Magritte, and Christopher Wheeldon's recent Strapless, centered on the woman in John Singer Sargent's painting “Madame X." Different though Magritte and Sargent's paintings are, they both depict people in one way or another—ready material for choreographers. Thus, I'm intrigued by Mauro Bigonzetti's ballet Kazimir's Colors, inspired by Kazimir Malevich's abstract, colorful blocks.

Loosely inspired, I'd say. Diana Vishneva and Vladimir Malakhov are anything but blocky in this 2009 clip. Pliant as putty, she snakes her limbs around her partner, who is sturdy but equally fluid. The piece and Kazimir's paintings do share similarities in their colors, of course, but also in the strength of their off-kilter lines. Vishneva's gorgeous extensions conjure the art's sharp angles. And, like the geometric shapes, the pair's movements are at times thin and reedy and at others wide and bold.

Whereas Bigonzetti recently joined a venerable ballet institution (he's La Scala Ballet's new artistic director), Vishneva will soon leave one of hers. The 2016/2017 season at American Ballet Theatre will be her last, though she will stay on as a principal at the Mariinsky Ballet. Vladimir Malakhov, whose career took him to Vienna, Berlin and beyond, also danced with ABT. He has served as artistic advisor to the Tokyo Ballet and recently produced his show, Malakhov & Friends, in Germany. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

Ballet Careers
Gray Davis with wife, ABT soloist Cassandra Trenary, after his graduation from the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy. Courtesy Trenary.

When Gray Davis retired from American Ballet Theatre in July of 2018, he moved home to South Carolina, unsure of what would come next. Last month, just over a year later, Davis graduated from the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy. Today, he's working as a deputy for the Abbeville County Sheriff's Office.

Though Davis danced in ABT's corps for 11 years and is married to soloist Cassandra Trenary, to many he's best known for saving the life of a man who was pushed onto the subway tracks in New York City in 2017. The heroic effort earned him the New York State Liberty Medal, the highest civilian honor bestowed by a member of the New York State Senate. We caught up with Davis to hear about how the split second decision he made in the subway affected the course of his life, what it's been like starting a second career and what he sees as the similarities between ballet and law enforcement.

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Sponsored by BLOCH
Courtesy BLOCH

Today's ballet dancer needs a lot from a pointe shoe. "What I did 20 years ago is not what these dancers are doing now," says New York City Ballet shoe manager Linnette Roe. "They are expected to go harder, longer days. They are expected to go from sneakers, to pointe shoes, to character shoes, to barefoot and back to pointe shoes all in a day."

The team at BLOCH developed their line of Stretch Pointe shoes to address dancer's most common complaints about the fit and performance of their pointe shoes. "It's a scientific take on the pointe shoe," says Roe. Dancers are taking notice and Stretch Pointe shoes are now worn by stars like American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston, who stars in BLOCH's latest campaign for the shoes.

We dug into the details of Stretch Pointe's most game-changing features:

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Ballet Stars
Megan Amanda Ehrlich, Courtesy LEAP Program

Claire Sheridan wanted to change the status quo. Leading up to the 1990s, she recalls, "there was a 'shut up and dance' mind-set," and as the founder of the dance program at St. Mary's College of California and a longtime teacher in professional companies, she had seen too many dancers retire with no plan for a successful career transition. "At that time, if you thought about education and the future," she says, "you were not a committed dancer. I wanted to fight that."

With the support of St. Mary's, Sheridan developed the Liberal Education for Arts Professionals program, or LEAP, an innovative liberal-arts bachelor's degree program designed especially for professional dancers. She first presented her idea to executives at San Francisco Ballet. "Kudos to that company, because they said, 'This is great,'" she says. "Eleven of the first 18 dancers who started in August 1999 were from SFB."

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Ballet Training
Getty Images

I'm a college freshman, and my dance program isn't challenging enough. We only have ballet three times a week and a few hours of modern, and my classmates aren't as dedicated as I am. There's a small dance company nearby, where I was hoping to take extra classes, but I don't have a car. I want to transfer, but I feel like I won't be in good enough shape for auditions. —Tara

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