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7 Must-Watch Clips From Vail Dance Festival

Our favorite dancers might not be in the midst of a performance season, but that hasn't stopped them from popping up on stages across the U.S. From the Tiler Peck-curated BalletNow in Los Angeles, to Isabella Boylston's upcoming Ballet Sun Valley festival in Idaho, the summer isn't slowing the ballet world down.

The biggest showcase of them all, Vail Dance Festival, just celebrated its 29th season in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Led by artistic director Damian Woetzel, Vail Dance Festival presented two weeks of performances from top dancers across various techniques (some even tried out an entirely new discipline on stage). Ahead, check out some of our favorite Vail moments to watch on repeat.


New York City Ballet's Lauren Lovette and Joseph Gordon kicked things off with Three Chopin Dances, choreographed by Jerome Robbins.


American Ballet Theatre's Misty Copeland rehearsed fellow ABT dancer Marcelo Gomes' Tocarre.


Boston Ballet's Misa Kuranaga and ABT's James Whiteside received direction from choreographer Matthew Neenan as they rehearsed for the piece's world premiere.


ABT's Jeffery Cirio teamed up with NYCB's Tiler Peck for a crazy combo of turns and jumps in George Balanchine's Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux. Check out Peck casually throw in some mid-fouetté port de bras and triple pirouettes!


NYCB's Unity Phelan and ABT's Calvin Royal III took on Balanchine's Agon Pas de Deux for the first time.


Former NYCB principals Janie Taylor and Carla Körbes helped L.A. Dance Project make its Vail debut with Benjamin Millepied's In Silence We Speak.


And you can't miss when Tiler Peck tried out tap shoes for her first tap performance in a piece choreographed by Michelle Dorrance.

Ballet Stars

For many a bunhead, "The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" is not just a holiday tradition, but a rite of passage. The variation, with its tinkling celesta, bourrées and petit battus, is one that all ballet dancers are familiar with, and getting the opportunity to perform it often represents moving into new realms in your training or career. Such was the case for Soviet ballerina Ekaterina Maximova. In this 1957 clip, the 18-year-old aspirant performed the Sugar Plum variation at a ballet competition, where she represented the Bolshoi Ballet Academy.

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Sponsored by Ballet Arizona
Tzu Chia Huang, Courtesy Ballet Arizona

These days, ballet dancers are asked to do more than they ever have—whether that's tackling versatile rep, taking on intense cross-training regimens or managing everything from their Instagram pages to their summer layoff gigs.

Without proper training, these demands can take a toll on both the mind and the body. But students can start preparing for them early—with the right summer intensive program.

The School of Ballet Arizona's summer intensive takes a well-rounded approach to training—not just focusing on technique and facility but nurturing overall dancer growth. "You cannot make a dancer just by screaming at them like they used to," says master ballet teacher Roberto Muñoz, who guests at the program every summer. "You have to take care of the person as well."

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Getty Images

For any young dancer performing in The Nutcracker, Marie (aka Clara, depending on the production) is a dream role. But Charlotte Nebres, who will be playing Marie in New York City Ballet's Nutcracker this year isn't just bringing her own dream to life—she's also making history.

Charlotte is the first black dancer to ever perform the role of Marie in NYCB's production of George Balanchine's The Nutcracker, which dates all the way back to 1954. Charlotte was, of course, hugely excited to perform the role of Marie, but, according to the New York Times, when her mother told her that she was the first black dancer cast in the role, she said "Wow. That seems a little late."

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Courtesy School of Pennsylvania Ballet

While many of us are deep in Nutcracker duties, The School of Pennsylvania Ballet director James Payne has been looking further ahead, finalizing preparations for the school's summer intensive programs. In January, he and his staff will embark on a 24-city audition tour to scour the country for the best young dancers, deciding whether or not to offer them a spot—maybe even a scholarship—in the school's rigorous 5-week intensive focused on high-caliber ballet instruction. Though he'll be evaluating aspirants, he urges that as a student, you should be equally selective in choosing programs that could galvanize your training—and possibly even your career.

We got Payne's advice on strategizing your summer intensive plan before the audition cycle kicks in:

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