Ballet Stars

At the end of Swan Lake's Act I, Prince Siegfried finds himself alone after guests have departed from his birthday celebration, processing the news that he'll soon need to choose a wife. The soul-searching prince dances an introspective, almost mournful solo that is one of the most challenging male variations in the classical repertoire. Rudolf Nureyev, a formidable performer and a relentless technician, gives an inspired interpretation of the solo in this clip from a 1964 Vienna State Opera performance.

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Ballet Stars

In everything she tackles, Natalia Osipova, a current principal with The Royal Ballet, seems to jump higher and turn faster than other any ballerina. It's almost impossible to watch her dance without letting out a gasp. Her performance as Medora in Le Corsaire's Grand Pas des Éventails from early in her career at the Bolshoi Ballet is no exception. In this clip of the variation and coda, Osipova soars with boundless virtuosity.

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Ballet Careers
Richard Termine, Courtesy New York Theater Ballet

Amanda Farris has never danced in a company with more than 20 dancers. "Growing up we have these notions that we're aiming for the big companies, and that's the only place success lies," says the California native, who dances with the 11-member Diablo Ballet outside San Francisco. Yet Farris' impressive rep says otherwise: Over the course of her career she's performed everything from Giselle to Balanchine's Apollo to Trey McIntyre's Blue Boy.

Small troupes tend to slip under the radar. But they offer unique benefits that are harder to find in big ballet companies, such as frequent opportunities for featured roles and forging deep connections with colleagues. The intimate working environment also provides ample opportunities for artistic growth. We spoke with dancers working at small ballet companies across the country to learn what they love about the careers they've made.

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Everything Nutcracker

On this day in 1965, The Bell Telephone Hour broadcast a Christmas special featuring New York City Ballet principal dancers Melissa Hayden and Jacques d'Amboise. The pair performed the Snow Pas de Deux from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker, choreographed by d'Amboise, spreading holiday magic far and wide across the country. Their duet, set in a vintage-looking town square and danced with Balanchine briskness, takes on a distinctly American flair. Hayden, with all her gorgeous length, whizzes brilliantly in pirouettes and chaîne turns, while D'Amboise gallantly supports her in expert lifts and nimble jaunts across the stage. His choreography swirls endlessly, conjuring the wonder of watching snow fall outside the window. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

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Everything Nutcracker
Stella DiPasquale. Courtesy Joy Jaworski.

Eleven-year-old Stella DiPasquale is preparing to make her debut as Marie this weekend in Fadeyev Ballet's Nutcracker in Greenvale, New York. Decked out in curls and party frills onstage, she'll stand out as the lucky girl who is given a nutcracker doll on Christmas Eve. In rehearsals, however, she stands out for another reason, too: DiPasquale, who suffers from alopecia, has no hair.

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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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Ballet Stars

Carlos Acosta and Tamara Rojo both took The Royal Ballet by storm when they arrived at the company in 1998 and 2000, respectively. Virtuosic, enigmatic performers, the two forged a storied partnership over the course of their next decade together at The Royal. Now they've both gone on to lead the next generation of ballet dancers in England: Rojo has been the artistic director of English National Ballet since 2012, and Acosta will take the helm of Birmingham Royal Ballet in January. With this 2007 clip of their balcony scene from Sir Kenneth MacMillan's Romeo and Juliet, it's easy to see why they are already the stuff of ballet legend.

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Ballet Stars

Noëlla Pontois, the striking, lithe and fiercely technical former étoile of the Paris Opera Ballet, was renown for her interpretation of aristocratic roles in 19th-century ballets. In this 1983 performance from Rudolf Nureyev's production of Raymonda, Pontois is at her most imperious and entrancing in the title role's wedding variation.

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