Ballet Careers
Nevada Ballet Theatre. Still Courtesy Lee.

Earlier this summer, we followed master pointe shoe fitter Josephine Lee of the California-based The Pointe Shop as she made her on a pointe shoe fitting tour around the West Coast and California. Now she's back, this time on a 45-day tour from California to Chicago, educating students on all things pointe shoes and helping them to find their perfect fit. Lee's making stops at top ballet companies and academies across the country, interviewing school directors and chatting with professional ballerinas to find out how they customize and break in their pointe shoes. Below, check out Lee's first stop: Nevada Ballet Theatre. She touches base with company dancer Caroline MacDonald, and academy director Anna Lantz. Stay tuned for more!

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Tricia Albertson kisses Didier Bramaz after finding the perfect hat in The Concert. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy Miami City Ballet.

Tricia Albertson, as told to Gavin Larsen.

I like to make people laugh, so I was excited to be cast as the Mad Ballerina in Jerome Robbins' The Concert. But the character herself didn't feel like me. She's so bubbly and excited, and I'm a bit more pensive (when it comes to ballet, at least). I didn't want her to come across as stupid—she's still thoughtful. I guess you could say she's flighty, but it's just that she's so excited about the music at the concert that everything else is a blur to her.

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Ballet Stars
A portrait of Fanny Elssler, Courtesy Olga Smoak.

This Thursday, we're throwing it all the way back to Fanny Elssler, one of the most famous ballerinas of the Romantic period. Elssler may have graced stages far before the age of reality TV and Instagram, but her story is anything but dry. Last week, the Historic New Orleans Collection put on a symposium on the history of dance in New Orleans, of which Elssler played a pivotal role. We spoke with dance historian Olga Smoak to find out more about why this ballerina is still so exciting... nearly 200 years later.

But first, watch a recreation of Elssler's famous "La Cachucha," which she performed in New Orleans in 1841, danced by Rebecca Allen at the HNOC last week. Note the extreme tilts of the torso; they're part of what made Elssler such a captivating dancer in her day.

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Yuli looks like the ballet biopic of our dreams. Screenshot via YouTube

We admit it. We're picky about dance movies. They don't always represent our beloved art form accurately, or use real dancers to play the main roles.

But we just watched the first trailer for the new Carlos Acosta biopic, Yuli, and we're kinda speechless:

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Ballet Stars
via YouTube

Back-to-school blues bumming you out? This minute-long clip of Ekaterina Krysanova dancing the first bridesmaid's variation in Don Quixote is the perfect pick-me-up. The fiery Krysanova, who was promoted to principal at the Bolshoi Ballet in 2011, is a bright bundle of energy in this punchy solo. Packed with saut de chats and grand jetés, the variation shows off her star potential from the early days of her career. At 0:20, she punctuates her diagonal of spitfire chaînes with a sassy, suspended moment in seconde. Her quick footwork flits along to the musical trills. A performer at heart, as she admitted in 2017 interview with Pointe, Krysanova is clearly unstoppable when she takes the stage. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

Ballet Stars
A young Paul Taylor in Aureole. Photo by Jack Mitchell, Courtesy PTDC.

Legendary choreographer Paul Taylor, whose illustrious career spanned seven decades, passed away yesterday in New York City at age 88.

Originally from the Washington, D.C. area, Taylor discovered dance relatively late in life, while in college at Syracuse University on a swimming scholarship. He then transferred to the Juilliard School, and in 1954 began to choreograph. In 1955 he joined the Martha Graham Dance Company. Taylor first stirred the dance world in 1957 with Seven New Dances. The piece was composed entirely of long sections of standing, sitting and pedestrian style walking across the stage. Audience members were outraged; critic Louis Horst famously published a blank review in The Dance Observer in response. Since 1954, Taylor has choreographed 146 dances.

Despite his postmodern roots, Taylor quickly found favor with ballet companies. In 1959, George Balanchine invited him to be a guest artist with New York City Ballet for the creation of Episodes, a two-part work that he and Graham were co-creating. Balanchine's section included a solo made on Taylor, which the New York Times described as "disturbingly complex" when NYCB revived it in 1986. (Today, only Balanchine's section of Episodes, sans solo, is performed.) And some of Taylor's most loved works, including Airs, Company B, Black Tuesday, Aureole and Sunset are frequently performed by major ballet companies including American Ballet Theatre, Miami City Ballet and Royal Danish Ballet.

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Ballet Stars
Misty Copeland works with a MindLeaps student in Kigali, Rwanda last week. Photo Courtesy MindLeaps.

In 2015, Misty Copeland travelled to Kigali, Rwanda with MindLeaps, an international NGO that uses dance to help at-risk youth develop life skills. Up until that point, the program had only been available to boys; Copeland's visit launched MindLeaps' Girls Program. Now, three years later, Copeland's just back from another trip week-long to Kigali.

MindLeaps does more than just teach dance. The organization uses free classes to draw vulnerable youth, many of whom are orphaned and living on the street, to safe spaces within urban slums. Once they're regularly attending dance classes, children are enrolled in programs in digital literacy, nutrition support, sanitation services, sexual and reproductive health, and academic catch-up classes. Eventually, the participants go on to boarding schools or to work-study positions, breaking the poverty cycle. "When you learn about the [Rwandan] genocide, you see how strong people had to be to survive. When you look at these kids today, you can see their resilience. Those are themes of my life too—to overcome all odds to succeed," Copeland told Pointe via email. Copeland's work with MindLeaps expands behind her visits to Rwanda; through her ongoing work with their International Artists Fund she works to represent the organization in the U.S. In 2015, she also founded a scholarship to send a promising student, Ali, to boarding school.

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Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn in "Les Sylphides," via YouTube

When Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn began dancing together in the early 1960s, they made an unexpected pair—he was a young, hot-tempered Soviet defector and she was a distinguished prima of The Royal Ballet, 19 years his senior. Yet their partnership (which lasted almost two decades) became one of the most famous in all of ballet. Nureyev said in a documentary about Fonteyn that they danced with "one body, one soul." That connection is evident here in their performance of Michel Fokine's Romantic-style ballet Les Sylphides from a 1963 film.

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You could just drown in all the gorgeousness. Still via YouTube.

How is American Ballet Theatre gearing up for its fall season, October 17-28 at Lincoln Center? With an epic video featuring its dancers being their beautiful selves on a beautiful NYC rooftop, as you do.

Directed by dance-videographer-about-town Ezra Hurwitz, the vid features a slew of ABT standouts, including Misty Copeland, Isabella Boylston, Hee Seo, Calvin Royal III, and Catherine Hurlin, doing mind-bendingly beautiful things with the NYC skyline as a backdrop. They're living on the edge, quite literally—because nothing adds to the excitement of world-class ballet like a little bit of danger.

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Connor Walsh and Harper Watters after Houston Ballet's opening night performance. Photo via YouTube.

All week, Houston Ballet soloist Harper Watters has been giving us the inside scoop on the company's tour to Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival. In this last installment, we'll see how the dancers prep for opening night (hint: it involves a good nap and plenty of coffee). Plus, we'll catch glimpses of the show.

Ballet Stars
iHouston Ballet soloist Harper Watters and principal Chun Wae Chan, via YouTube

Houston Ballet has been taking Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival by storm this week, and soloist Harper Watters has been filling us in on how it's going. In yesterday's vlog he took us around the historic festival's scenic grounds and barn-like theater. Today, he and principal dancer Chun Wai Chan give us the inside scoop on HB's dress rehearsal (and take us into the wings to watch some beautiful dancing). Stay tuned for more from Watters later this week!

Ballet Stars
Houston Ballet demi-soloist Alyssa Springer and principal Chun Wai Chan in rehearsal at Jacob's Pillow. Via YouTube.

Houston Ballet is at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival this week—and company soloist Harper Watters is taking us behind the scenes as the company settles in at this historic landmark. Catch HB in action on their first day of class and rehearsal, and stay tuned for more vlogs from Watters throughout the week!

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