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#TBT Paloma Herrera in "Le Corsaire" (1999)

When it comes to gender roles, Le Corsaire is anything but modern. The female characters are passed from pasha to pirate and back again, and they do little else than dance for the men—whether those men are good or evil, lover or foe. (With the ballet's excessively convoluted plot, it's often hard to tell). In “Jardin Animée," the second scene of Act III, Medora, Gulnare and the other enslaved women dance charmingly in the pasha's dream—all smiles, flowers and cotton candy colors. Former American Ballet Theatre principal Paloma Herrera performs Gulnare's variation in this clip from ABT's 1999 PBS special, and her usual power and precision shine through. Just look at her dynamic, buoyant tombés into quick, trilling bourrées; her darting feet in simple jetés and the control she maintains during the ending's dizzying turns. I find myself rewinding every few seconds, just to watch each step's exacting execution.


In the PBS special, ABT artistic director Kevin McKenzie jokingly admits to the ballet's slightly absurd plot, its “politically incorrect attitudes" and its “over the top performance values." However, he says, “with its variety of roles, [Le Corsaire] offered incredible opportunities for virtuoso dancing," which Herrera and other ABT stars have in abundance. In the ballet's story, true love prevails, but it's the truly spectacular dancing (which we're sure to see at ABT this spring) that earns standing ovations. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

News
The Joffrey Ballet's Amanda Assucena and Greig Matthews in Cathy Marston's Jane Eyre. Cheryl Mann, Courtesy Joffrey Ballet.

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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.

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Herman Cornejo in Don Quixote. Gene Schiavone, Courtesy ABT.

American Ballet Theatre's fall season at Lincoln Center's Koch Theater offers a chance to see the company in shorter works and mixed-repertoire programs. This year's October 16–27 run honors principal Herman Cornejo, who's celebrating his 20th anniversary with the company. Cornejo will be featured in a special celebratory program as well as a new work by Twyla Tharp (her 17th for the company), set to Johannes Brahms' String Quartet No. 2 in G Major, Op. 111. The October 26 program will include Cornejo in a pas de deux with his sister, former ABT dancer Erica Cornejo.

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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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