Former Royal Ballet principals Tamara Rojo and Carlos Acosta are notably one of the best couples to perform together. In this clip of Manon, it's clear that Rojo and Acosta have an unadulterated chemistry, even with the pas de deux's technically exhaustive demands.
Every year, a select few dancers join the Paris Opera Ballet. An even smaller percentage make world headlines like former étoile Sylvie Guillem, who joined the company in 1981 at age 16. Three years later, after winning gold at the Varna International Ballet Competition, then-director Rudolf Nureyev made her the youngest étoile in the company’s history. Her promise was as undeniable as her decisions were bold. In 1989, Guillem left POB to join the Royal Ballet as a principal guest artist, a move that allowed her to freelance with companies around the world.
Although Guillem was young when she began performing soloist and principal roles, her maturity and self-awareness translated beautifully into her performances. In this clip from the television documentary Sylvie Guillem at Work, her precise footwork and elegant upper body mirror the grace and sophistication of Raymonda’s Act III variation. I love how she dramatizes her movements by contrasting expansive port de bras with sharp arm gestures. Her piqués at 1:48 (besides being perfectly placed) are taken with just enough momentum to sustain her flowing balance before relinquishing it into a series of bourrées. After a demanding series of sissonnes and pirouettes, she completes the variation with a renewed sense of composure.
Sylvie Guillem commanded the stages of both the Palais Garnier and the Royal Opera House. Although she retired last December, she set a precedent for artistic freedom, leaving a lasting impact on the dance world. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!
Harvey as Kitri in Don Quixote. Photo by Martha Swope, via CriticalDance.org
Ballet is nothing without technique, but when a performance is accompanied by nothing more than that, it loses its allure. Not so in this 1983 clip of American Ballet Theatre’s Cynthia Harvey in Don Quixote. Here, she’s a breath of fresh air, striking the perfect balance between technique and artistry. She blends the clean lines garnered by years of training with the effusive personality of Kitri—neither aspect overshadows the other.
Although Harvey is surrounded by dancers, she stands out in part due to her sparkling charisma. She embodies Kitri’s character so well that it’s easy to forget that you’re watching a performer. Although the tempo gets increasingly faster, Harvey remains steadfast in her movements, making them fuller and more dynamic. Watch the ease with which she transitions from her waltz turns into a series of chaînés and développés at 1:30. The energy and excitement she brings to each step is magnetic, creating lasting snapshots for the audience to take with them.
In May, Harvey became the artistic director of American Ballet Theatre’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School. In addition to her work with the En Avant Foundation, a non-profit committed to mentoring young dancers, Harvey remains an active contributor to the dance world, bringing notoriety wherever she goes. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!
Natalia Osipova in Coppélia (Photo by Marc Haegerman, via the New York Times)
Bolstered by its eccentric characters, Coppélia has comic flare like no other ballet. In this 2009 rendition staged by Sergei Vikharev, Natalia Osipova, a then 23-year-old Bolshoi Ballet soloist, storms the stage in Swanhilda’s variation from Act III. It would be another year before her promotion in 2010, but here Osipova demonstrates all of the ideal qualities of a principal dancer: articulated feet, expressive arms, an emotional parallel with the character that comes from years of experience and, of course, flawless technique.
After being reunited with her beloved Franz, she leaps (quite literally) onstage with confidence. The variation is fashioned with jumps, and though petite, Osipova seems to defy gravity, proving once again why her jumps are famous worldwide. She dives into each step with ease, showing a mesmerizing certainty in her ability (specifically after her soutenous at 1:10, before she begins an endless stream of développés and pirouettes). In the final seconds of the variation, Osipova’s delicate upper body captures the lighthearted nature of the ballet so well.
Now a principal with the Royal Ballet, Osipova has shown an interest in contemporary ballet. Just recently, she traded in her tutu to appear in an evening of contemporary work by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Russell Maliphant and Arthur Pita. Now that she has our attention, we wait in anticipation of her next performance! Happy #ThrowbackThursday!
Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Romeo and Juliet and Don Quixote are some of my favorite ballets. I love watching the grace that is Odette and Aurora and the strength of Juliet and Kitri. But after watching this clip from a DVD released in 2009 of Mariinsky Ballet principal Alina Somova, I can say Queen of the Dryads in Don Quixote is now one of my favorite roles.
In this video, Somova appears before Don Quixote in a dream. She mirrors the subtle but captivating orchestra from the moment she walks onstage, all the while radiating an understated elegance from her first port de bras to her last fouetté. I love the fluidity of her arms as she glides from stage left to stage right between each suspended développé. Her entrechats across the stage add a playful note to an otherwise regal performance.
When Somova was promoted in 2004, only a year after joining the company, critics doubted her promise as an artist. But, they cannot deny her transformation from the budding, technically gifted student in the documentary Ballerina to one of the premiere dancers of the Mariinsky. Now in her 14th season, we can’t wait to see what else is in store for her.
Ferri and Wayne Eagling (1984). Photo by Leslie Spatt via The Guardian.
June 23 is finally here, and we couldn’t be more excited! Tonight, internationally acclaimed ballerina Alessandra Ferri, 53, returns to American Ballet Theatre to reprise the role of Juliet alongside Herman Cornejo in Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet. For some, tonight’s performance is one more opportunity to see the former ABT and Royal Ballet star dance the role she’s most famous for. For others, it is a chance to see her legendary Juliet live for the first time.
Until then, let’s enjoy this 1984 clip of Ferri, then a newly promoted Royal Ballet principal, in the bedroom pas de deux. With youthful ardor, she breathes life into the Shakespearian heroine. Ferri and her partner, former principal Wayne Eagling, abound in bashful and impassioned embraces, their movements across the stage both dramatic and fleeting. My favorite moment starts at 0:16, as the couples’ gentle cambrés give way to fiery, abandoned lifts.
We thought we had seen the last of Ferri when she retired in 2007. Yet she made an unexpected comeback in 2013, and has since starred in Martha Clarke’s Chéri, John Neumeier's Duse at Hamburg Ballet, and The Royal Ballet’s production of Wayne McGregor’s Woolf Works. We’re anxiously waiting to see how Ferri’s matured perspective influences her latest performance, and we can’t wait to see what else the future has in store for her. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!
Ferri and Roberto Bolle at her farewell ABT performance. (Not farewell for long!) Photo by Nan Melville via NYTimes.