Shannon Woods's blog

Act III of The Sleeping Beauty celebrates the resolution of Princess Aurora’s dramatic curse with her wedding to Prince Florimund, with a cast of fairytale characters in attendance. Two of the most notable are Bluebird and Princess Florine, who dance a call-and-response pas de deux to Tchaikovsky’s sprightly music.

 

When dancers dream, they imagine having Sylvie Guillem’s arched feet, long limbs and impeccable ability to extend, accent and suspend any movement she desires. Her technical mastery and unique sense of artistry make her a choreographer’s dream as well. William Forsythe created In the middle, somewhat elevated on the Paris Opéra Ballet, where Guillem was an étiole, in 1987, a time when ballet was just emerging from the classical realm.

Ballet has come a long way since this performance aired in 1960. Part of a series called "The Bell Telephone Hour," this footage of Lupe Serrano and Jacques d'Amboise performing the famous Black Swan pas de deux was among the first televised programs in color. Viewing a performance like this within an hour-long variety show used to be a once-per-week treat. Since then, dance has become profoundly more accessible, expanding across the internet and social media. 

 

Almost every professional dancer has paid her dues in the corps de ballet. It can be the most rigorous years of a dancer’s life, requiring strength and endurance to function as the backbone of the company. In this video of American Ballet Theatre’s Giselle, we experience one of the most difficult moments in a corps dancer’s repertoire. The cast sets the scene for Act II, clouding the stage with ominous white tutus and broken hearts.

The rehearsal studio is a sacred place for dancers. It’s where they assume roles of new and timeless works, transforming their movement to convey the ballets we cherish on stage.

You don’t have to be a ballet dancer to know Mikhail Baryshnikov’s name. His involvement with film and modern dance gave him an international reputation across multiple disciplines. He also defined what it means to be a male dancer, and set the standard for the power it requires. This video from 1969 shows Baryshnikov at only 20 years old—with his famous, awe striking jumps already taking the stage. 

 

 

Margot Fonteyn’s name ranks among the greatest artists of the 20th century. In an era wrought with shifts in literature, philosophy and dance, she captured audiences through her dancing in seemingly tangible ways. Here, it all begins within the first few seconds of this footage of the “Rose Adagio” from 1959—we can’t take our eyes off her. 

 

International ballet competitions are designed to showcase a dancer’s talent and performance skill—which also happen to be the two aims of Victor Gsovsky’s Grand Pas Classique. The female variation consists of steps that align with the music, supporting dancers through difficult moves and reinforcing their musicality. In 2001, Sara Mearns competed in Youth America Grand Prix with this virtuosic variation. Now a principal with New York City Ballet, she had already begun to develop the fiery conviction that has become the trademark to her dancing. 

 

Dancing peasants in traditional costumes often signal a Romantic ballet. However, they don't always consist of a three-act narrative. Divertissements are short ballets created to feature a dancer’s technical skill. August Bournonville choreographed many, including this folkloric interpretation of Gioachino Rossini’s opera William Tell. The dancers don't appear as characters, but rather perform to express the underlying joy in Rossini’s score. Darci Kistler masters this intention, seizing the stage with an unyielding connection to the music.