Makhalina in Corsaire. Photo via the Mariinsky Theatre.

The lead female Paquita variation has a little bit of everything: It showcases the ballerina’s delicate footwork, graceful port de bras and her jumping and turning abilities. In this clip filmed in 1991, Mariinsky Ballet principal Yulia Makhalina has it all. She exhibits crisp entrechats six, clean (and many!) turns and polished hops on pointe. It’s the little details, however, that I find most admirable. I love the way Makhalina sustains her attitude turns so that she’s still sailing at the high note’s little ding. When the harp substantially slows down, she fills out the entirety of the music with her fluid épaulement, arms and wrists, as if she herself were playing the instrument.

When you think of Soviet Era ballerinas, Makhalina’s name may not immediately spring to mind. However, she joined the Mariinsky, then Kirov Ballet, in 1985—six years before the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. A generation after she began her career, Makhalina remains one of the company’s reigning stars. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

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