In English, “le jeune homme et la mort" translates to “the young man and death." There's no missing the somber tone in this clip of Roland Petit's short ballet. As the young man, Rudolf Nureyev dances in a reverie to the melancholic organ chimes. Throughout the technical tricks and complicated prop maneuvering that peppers Petit's choreography, Nureyev never loses his trance-like stare. The reason for his reverie soon strides through the door. Le Jeune Homme et la Mort, based on the libretto written by Jean Cocteau, is about a man who—consumed by his love for a woman—is eventually driven to suicide.


Zizi Jeanmaire, Petit's real-life lover and muse, plays the woman, and Nureyev's submission to her seductive power is evident. She sidles up against him and teases with swiveling hips and playful kicks. In French, nouns carry genders, and it's interesting to note that the word “death" is feminine. The woman is the one who loosens the noose, turns Nureyev's head towards it and then disappears, leaving the man with the torment of her absence and one tragic way out.

The climactic, macabre ending is no indication of Petit's own life. Though he had a brief affair with Margot Fonteyn, Petit married Jeanmaire and they lived together until his death four years ago, nearly to the day. With his risqué themes and evocative choreography, Petit is remembered for enabling ballet to enter a new realm of storytelling. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

Viral Videos

Master pointe shoe fitter Josephine Lee of the California-based ThePointeShop chats with Ballet West soloist Chelsea Keefer to hear about how she prepares her pointe shoes. Keefer offers lots of darning tips, and shares all of the unusual ways that she uses rosin.

Keep reading... Show less

At this point, you'd think we'd all be used to the level of technical absurdity Daniil Simkin achieves when he's playing around in the studio. But then he did this:

...and now we're low-key appalled in the absolute best way.

After we picked our jaws up from the floor, we were inspired to dig up clips of some of our other favorite dancers turning like it's no big deal. Here are just a few standouts.

Keep reading... Show less
Viral Videos

Natalia Makarova's version of Swan Lake, staged in the 1980s for London Festival Ballet (now the English National Ballet), incorporates a pas de quatre choreographed by Sir Fredrick Ashton into the ballet's opening act. Leanne Benjamin, then just 24 and a principal with the company, dances among the couples in this clip from a 1988 film of the ballet. The burgeoning ballerina shines in her minute-long solo, tackling intricate footwork with intelligence and spirit that foreshadow her formidable, two-decade career as a principal of The Royal Ballet.

Keep reading... Show less