San Francisco Ballet in class during World Ballet Day 2016. Photo Courtesy SFB.

Missed World Ballet Day 2018? Catch Up Now!

Here at Pointe, every day feels like World Ballet Day, though the official 2018 event took place on Tuesday. While WBD is a thrill for any bunhead, it can also be overwhelming. How are you supposed to sit in front of your computer all day when you have class and rehearsal and work and a life? We get it, and we're here to help.

To give you a chance to catch up, we've rounded up WBD videos from 26 companies. So grab some popcorn, a backlog of pointe shoes to sew, and settle in. If you start watching now, you might just be done in time for WBD 2019.


The Royal Ballet, London

This year, WBD was organized a little bit differently. Three official companies—The Australian Ballet, Bolshoi Ballet and The Royal Ballet—produced full five-hour streams (though unfortunately the Bolshoi's is no longer available for viewing). Then WBD invited guest companies from all over the world to join in with their own half hour to hour-long additions.

The Royal Ballet is the official co-producer of WBD, so it's only fitting to start with them. This expertly-produced segment includes the entirety of company class, rehearsals and interviews with dancers including Marianela Nuñez and Beatriz Stix-Brunell. This year, the company focused on their female choreographers, which includes a short profile on Charlotte Edmonds, The Royal's inaugural Young Choreographer.

The Australian Ballet, Melbourne

The Australian Ballet usually starts their WBD streams off with a fun intro, and this year is no different. Australian comedy actress Tegan Higginbotham, our host for the day, catches the tram to the theater in a full platter tutu (keep your eyes on the faces of the passerby). The rest of the five-hour stream features company class and rehearsals of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Coppélia and The Australian Ballet's new production of Spartacus.

National Ballet of Japan, Tokyo 

From the official WBD companies, we now move on to their guests. We'll start in Asia and Australia and then move to mainland Europe, the United Kingdom and finally the United States and Cuba. First up is the National Ballet of Japan. On the shorter end of WBD offerings, two company dancers give us a glimpse into the start of class.

Queensland Ballet, Brisbane

This hour-long video follows Queensland Ballet on tour in Melbourne where they're dancing Liam Scarlett's A Midsummer Night's Dream as well as rehearsals back in the company's home in Brisbane.

Melbourne Academy of the Arts, Cheltenham

Back in Australia, we see a staged dress rehearsal of Sleeping Beauty with the Australian National Youth Ballet.

West Australian Ballet, Maylands

West Australian Ballet artistic director Aurélien Scannella shares a bit about the company, and then takes viewers into a rehearsal with choreographer Garry Stewart.

Norwegian National Ballet, Oslo

Congrats! You've made it to Europe. Norwegian National Ballet artistic director Ingrid Lorentzen introduces the company and what they're up to. She even pulls dancer Silas Henriksen out of class to ask him about his recent promotion to principal. The stream also features rehearsals from Sir Kenneth MacMillan's Manon with guest artist Maria Kochetkova.

Royal Danish Ballet, Copenhagen

Any dance history fans out there? This one's for you. Royal Danish Ballet artistic director Nikolaj Hübbe narrates a rehearsal of Bournonville's Napoli in the very studio where Bournonville choreographed his masterwork in 1842. The rehearsal features RDB principals Holly Dorger and Jonathan Chmelensky.

Bayerisches Staatsballett, Munich

This is Bayerisches Staatsballett's first time participating in WBD. Catch principals Ksenia Ryzhkova, Osiel Gouneo and guest artist Sergei Polunin in a rehearsal of Raymonda.

Stuttgart Ballet, Stuttgart

Stuttgart Ballet's contributions focuses on the men of the company. Watch them rehearse John Cranko's 1966 Concerto for Flute and Harp.

Winer Staatsballett, Vienna

Vienna-based Winer Staatsballett takes viewers into a rehearsal of Sylvia.

Dutch National Ballet, Amsterdam

Dutch National Ballet gives us a glimpse inside a rehearsal of La Dame aux Camélias, followed by interviews with some of the company's principal dancers.

Royal Swedish Ballet, Stockholm 

Royal Swedish Ballet rehearses for an upcoming mixed bill performance with special focus on a world premiere by Lukas Timulak. *Note that the video doesn't start until minute nine.

Paris Opéra Ballet, Paris

From the beautiful Palais Garnier, Paris Opéra Ballet gives us a peek into rehearsal for John Neumeier's La Dame aux camélias and Jerome Robbins A Suite of Dances with étoiles Léonore Baulac, Mathieu Ganio and Mathias Heymann.

Polish National Ballet, Warsaw

Polish National Ballet gives viewers a full tour of the theater, which includes one of the largest stages in Europe (according to company dancers this is both a blessing and a curse). The tour also includes the company's physical therapy room and a rehearsal of Swan Lake.

Scottish Ballet, Glasgow

The above video shows Scottish Ballet in company class. They also live streamed a rehearsal with choreographer Helen Pickett; see it here.

Birmingham Royal Ballet, Birmingham

Birmingham Royal Ballet dancers Céline Gittens, Mathias Dingman and Brandon Lawrence join choreographer Juanjo Arqués in a rehearsal for his work Ignite.

English National Ballet, London

Watch English National Ballet in rehearsal for Manon.

Royal Academy of Dance, London

English National Ballet dancer Shevelle Dynott gives viewers a full tour of the RAD headquarters and describes many of the organization's programs taking place around the world. First up, see two of the recent Genée International Ballet Competition medalists in rehearsals: gold medalist Monet Hewitt has just joined the English National Ballet School, and silver medalist Basil James has just joined The Royal Ballet Upper School.

Northern Ballet, Leeds

Northern Ballet's live stream includes an interview with choreographer Cathy Marston on Victoria, her upcoming ballet based on the life of Queen Victoria. Also, watch for a clip of dancers sword fighting in a castle...you won't be disappointed.

Acosta Danza, Havana

Carlos Acosta introduces this day-in-the-life video of his Havana-based company, Acosta Danza.

Houston Ballet, Houston

In exciting news for the company, Houston Ballet brings fans back into the Wortham Center after a year-and-a-half long absence due to destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey. Principal Jessica Collado hosts, leading viewers through company class and Houston Ballet II class, as well as rehearsals for Jerome Robbins' Fancy Free and The Cage, and Swan Lake, which the company will bring to Dubai later this month.

Pacific Northwest Ballet, Seattle

Meanwhile, in Seattle, watch Pacific Northwest Ballet run through nearly the entirety of Jerome Robbins' Dances at a Gathering.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, New York

This year, WBD broadened their parameters by welcoming Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater into the mix. See inside their rehearsals of Rennie Harris' Lazarus and Ronald K. Brown's The Call.

Still haven't had enough? There's more! Royal New Zealand Ballet and Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal's streams are exclusively available on their FB pages. Click here and here to watch them now.

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From left: Anthony Crickmay, Courtesy Dance Theatre of Harlem Archives; Courtesy Ballethnic

Lydia Abarca Mitchell, Arthur Mitchell's First Ballerina, Builds On Her Mentor's Legacy in Atlanta

It is the urgency of going in a week or two before opening night that Lydia Abarca Mitchell loves most about coaching. But in her role as Ballethnic Dance Company's rehearsal director, she's not just getting the troupe ready for the stage. Abarca Mitchell—no relation to Arthur Mitchell—was Mitchell's first prima ballerina when he founded Dance Theatre of Harlem with Karel Shook; through her coaching, Abarca Mitchell works to pass her mentor's legacy to the next generation.

"She has the same sensibility" as Arthur Mitchell, says Ballethnic co-artistic director Nena Gilreath. "She's very direct, all about the mission and the excellence, but very caring."

Ballethnic is based in East Point, a suburban city bordering Atlanta. In a metropolitan area with a history of racism and where funding is hard-won, it is crucial for the Black-led ballet company to present polished, professional productions. "Ms. Lydia" provides the "hard last eye" before the curtain opens in front of an audience.


For more than 25 years, coaching at Ballethnic has been a lifeline back to Abarca Mitchell's days with DTH. She had a stellar career, both with the company and beyond, but left the stage at age 30 after an injury sustained performing in Dancin' on Broadway. Her husband's job transferred them to Atlanta, where she transitioned to a full-time job as a medical transcriptionist while raising a family. Now retired from her second career, Abarca Mitchell continues to forward Arthur Mitchell's legacy, not only through coaching but also by building community among DTH alumni and writing her memoirs—a fairy-tale story of a child who came from the Harlem public-housing projects and became a trailblazing Black ballerina.

Abarca Mitchell grew up during the 1950s and '60s, the oldest of seven in a tight-knit family. She always danced, taking cues from Hollywood figures until a fourth-grade teacher saw her talent and encouraged her to seek formal training. The family couldn't afford ballet lessons, but Abarca Mitchell earned a scholarship to attend The Juilliard School's Saturday youth program, and later the Harkness Ballet's professional training program. But for all of those ballet classes, Abarca Mitchell never had the opportunity to see or perform in a ballet production. She didn't understand the purpose behind ballet's tedious class exercises.

When the fast-growing Harkness Ballet moved its scholarship students to the June Taylor Studio on Broadway, Abarca Mitchell remembers hearing live drumming, clapping and laughter coming from the studio across the hall. It was a jazz class taught by Jaime Rogers, who'd played Loco in the West Side Story movie. Abarca Mitchell started sneaking into Rogers' classes.

When Harkness informed her that her scholarship was exclusively for ballet, Abarca Mitchell left the program. She saw no future for herself in the white-dominated ballet world, and focused on academics during her last two years of high school.

At 17, Abarca Mitchell met Arthur Mitchell. He had made history as the first Black principal dancer with New York City Ballet, which he had joined in 1955, and had just begun to shape what would become Dance Theatre of Harlem when he hired Abarca Mitchell in 1968. Within a month, she was back on pointe. Within two months, she was performing in Arthur Mitchell's Tones. "I didn't even know what ballet was until I was onstage," Abarca Mitchell says. "All of a sudden, it was my heart and soul."

Arthur Mitchell made sure his dancers saw NYCB perform, and subsequently brought Balanchine's Agon, Concerto Barocco and other NYCB works into the DTH repertoire. "Physically and emotionally, I felt the connection of jazz in Balanchine's choreography," Abarca Mitchell says. "His neoclassical style was just funky to me. I could totally relate."

For the first time, Abarca Mitchell danced with people who looked like her and shared the same aspirations, she says, with a leader who "saw us through his eyes of love and achievement."

In Abarca Mitchell's 30s, after a performing career that took her from DTH to the film version of The Wiz to Bob Fosse's Dancin' and beyond, her husband's job took their family to Atlanta. She soon connected with Gilreath and Waverly Lucas. The couple, also DTH alumni, were influenced by Arthur Mitchell's model when they founded Ballethnic, seeking to create access for dancers of all backgrounds to develop as classical dancers and perform a repertoire that represents the company's culturally diverse home city. Over time, Abarca Mitchell became a trusted advisor.

Abarca Mitchell goes in at least twice a year to coach Ballethnic's productions—such as Urban Nutcracker, set in Atlanta's historically Black Sweet Auburn neighborhood, and The Leopard Tale, which features the company's signature blend of classical pointe work with polyrhythmic dance forms of the African diaspora. These final rehearsals give Abarca Mitchell a way to fast-track the transfer of her mentor's values.

Two dancers in blue and black practice clothes and face masks, the woman in pointe shoes, pose together in a first arabesque tendu. Abarca Mitchell steps out of a mirrored pose as she adjusts the fingertips of the male dancer.

Lydia Abarca Mitchell works with Ballethnic's Calvin Gentry and Karla Tyson.

Courtesy Ballethnic Dance Company

She recalls that Arthur Mitchell taught his dancers to present themselves at their finest—to enter a room with their heads held high and shoulders back—and to dress, speak and walk with dignity and self-respect. He reminded them that they were pioneers and ambassadors for Blacks in ballet. As the company gained international stature—Abarca Mitchell was the first Black female ballerina to appear on the cover of Dance Magazine, in 1975—he insisted the dancers remain humble and in service to the greater mission. But he was also a taskmaster. "No nonsense, no excuses," Abarca Mitchell says. "There was no slack. If he was rehearsing something that you're not in, you'd better be on the side learning it."

"He didn't throw compliments around at all. You had to really kill yourself to get a smile from him." After a run-through, she says, "you didn't want to be singled out."

Abarca Mitchell takes a slightly different approach, though she doesn't compromise on the values her mentor instilled. When coaching large casts of all ages and different levels for Ballethnic, she has found ways to inspire people without tearing them down. She calls it a "tough love" approach.

"I've got to make them want to do it. I don't want to beat them into doing it," Abarca Mitchell says. "I tell them, 'You're here because you want to be, and because you auditioned and were accepted. Now, show me why I should keep you here.'"

"I tell them, 'I'm here to make sure you'll look good—you know: 'That looks fake. Let's make it look real. Think about what you're doing, so that it's not just a gesture.'"

Arthur Mitchell instilled this level of emotional honesty in his dancers, and it was key to the company's quick success. "We were bringing a thought forward," says Abarca Mitchell. "We were bringing a feeling forward, so that the audience could connect with us."

In addition to her position as rehearsal director for Ballethnic, Abarca Mitchell is today part of 152nd Street Black Ballet Legacy, a group of DTH alumni who seek to give voice to people responsible for the company's success in its early years. "It's incredible," she says, "how many people took something from DTH and applied it to their lives."

As Ballethnic prepares to co-host the International Association of Blacks in Dance Conference and Festival in January 2022, Abarca Mitchell hopes to help strengthen the network of dance companies associated with Ballethnic, such as Memphis' Collage Dance Collective. "The dream is for all of us to collaborate with each other," she says, "so that it becomes more normal to see a Black ballerina, so it's not just a token appearance."

Today's young dancers face different challenges from what Abarca Mitchell faced. She finds that they're more easily distracted, and sometimes act entitled, because they don't know or appreciate how hard earlier Black ballerinas like herself worked to clear a path for them. But what she's passing on will benefit them, whether they choose to pursue dance careers or become doctors, lawyers, professors or something else entirely. "The principles are the same," she says. "Work for what you want, and you will achieve it."

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