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.


With her gentle epaulement and frothy blue tutu, Makarova is a vision of the jewelry-box ballerina. Yet she has the power to whiz through her pirouettes and burst into full-split saut de chats. Panov, likewise, soars with force in his jumps, but his bluebird wings are romantic and luscious. The dancers fly in their assemblés, and they flutter like song-birds in brisk, partnered pirouettes. Makarova hops into the final lift as if she were born to fit perched on Panov's shoulder. Our only qualm: at only two minutes, this duet leaves us longing for more. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

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