Ballet Stars
Lia Cirio and Paul Craig in "Same," via YouTube.

We love it when our favorite dancers are tapped to star in other artists' projects. When Boston-based violinist and songwriter Josh Knowles started mulling over video ideas for his new single "Same," the first released song of his upcoming album this fall, he thought that two dancers silhouetted against a backlight could get the song's vulnerability across. And so he asked two of his favorites, Boston Ballet principals Lia Cirio and Paul Craig, to star in the video and commissioned former company principal Yury Yanowsky to choreograph it.

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Ballet Training
Michael Afonso via Unsplash

I only do ballet and pointe. Is taking more styles necessary to become a professional? —Abby

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Larissa Savliev teaches class at YAGP. Courtesy YAGP.

It's hard to imagine the ballet landscape today without Youth America Grand Prix. The annual competition attracts thousands of young dancers from all over the world, many hoping to win a scholarship to a major ballet school. This year, which marks the organization's 20th anniversary, roughly 12,000 students participated in YAGP's semi-finals in 32 cities here and abroad, and over 1,000 are in New York City this week for the final round. The stage at last night's Stars of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow gala was packed during the student defilé (kudos to them for not knocking each other over!), while top alumni—including Kimin Kim, Isabella Boylston, and Hee Seo—made triumphant returns.

In recent years, other scholarship competitions have popped up around the country. But before YAGP was founded 20 years ago, it was a much different story. For bunheads, "competition" was almost a dirty word, one associated with back flips, hulking trophies and flashy jazz studios. And that's exactly where YAGP co-founder Larissa Saveliev found herself in the late '90s. She and her husband, YAGP co-founder Gennadi Saveliev, had defected from Russia a few years earlier, and the former Bolshoi Ballet dancer and new mom was teaching ballet at a studio in New Jersey. On weekends, she would travel with the school to jazz competitions, an experience she found deflating.

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Ballet Stars
Debra Austin and Jeffrey Gribler in Pennsylvania Ballet's production of Balanchine's "Rubies." Copyright Steven Caras, all rights reserved.

Debra Austin has a special place in dance history: In 1971, at age 16, she was the first African American woman George Balanchine hired into New York City Ballet. After nine years with the company and two years with Zurich Ballet, she joined Pennsylvania Ballet as a principal dancer, making her the first female African American principal hired by a major U.S. ballet company outside of Dance Theatre of Harlem. Famous for her buoyant jump, Austin's vast repertoire ranged from classical roles to Balanchine to Hans Van Manen. Since 1997, she's been passing on her knowledge as ballet master at Carolina Ballet, a company led by her former director at PAB, Robert "Ricky" Weiss.

In honor of her achievements, Texas Christian University's School of Classical and Contemporary Dance has named Austin as this year's Cecil H. and Ida Green Honors Chair. She started at TCU this week, where she's been leading master classes and cross-department collaborations, attending cultural events and giving lectures. We caught up with Austin prior to her residency to talk about her extraordinary career.

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Health & Body
via Burst

In December, I had pretty much every illness you can imagine: pneumonia, vertigo, flu, stomach virus. I had to drop out of Nutcracker because I kept fainting. Every time I try to come back, I take steps backwards. I've tried doing as much as I can in class, and I still almost pass out. I've lost so much strength, but dance is my life. What should I do? —Kayla

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Trending
Mearns rehearses Balanchine's Mozartiana, one of her favorite ballets to perform, with ballet master Lisa Jackson. "It's of a higher power," says Mearns. "It's up there with Serenade and 'Diamonds.' " Kyle Froman.

How do principal dancers handle their intense schedules? For New York City Ballet star Sara Mearns, honing her instrument is key. The company's Tuesday-through-Sunday workweeks, lengthy performance seasons and extensive repertoire can make for longs days and late nights. "During performance weeks, I think about what I'm doing that night and make sure I don't have a lot during the day—or if I do, I'm smart about it," says Mearns. "You do one or two things full-out and then take it easy so that you perform your best at night."

To keep her body strong and injury-free, Mearns schedules cross-training sessions with former dancer and personal trainer Joel Prouty. "I've had a few back injuries, so we work a lot on making sure my glutes, back and hamstrings are all working together," she says. "It's really important to my regime—I feel like I can get through a day of rehearsing seven ballets."

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Viral Videos

Today, April 4, marks the 51st anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis, Tennessee. It's a date heavy with meaning and symbolism for Kevin Thomas and Marcellus Harper, the founding directors of Memphis-based Collage Dance Collective. King's death not only marked a turning point in the civil rights movement, but it inspired Arthur Mitchell to found Dance Theatre of Harlem, a company and school devoted to providing opportunities to dancers of color. Harper and Thomas, a former DTH principal, have helped carry on Mitchell's mission through Collage Dance Collective, a company that showcases black dancers and choreographers.

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News
Newly promoted soloist Lawrence Rines in Mikko Nissinen's The Nutcracker. Liza Voll, Courtesy Boston Ballet.

Boston Ballet announced some happy news this morning: seven dancers have been promoted! The company named three to soloist and four to demi-soloist for the 2019-20 season. "I am excited to see how they continue to grow as dancers in the upcoming season with its versatile and challenging repertoire," says artistic director Mikko Nissinen in a statement. So, who are these lucky dancers? Read on to find out.

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