#TBT Video: Yuan Yuan Tan as Esmeralda

When a ballet dancer hears Cesare Pugni’s familiar score, and sees a dancer holding a tambourine, she knows the imperishable variation from La Esmeralda will follow. One of the most recognizable pieces of choreography, it is often taught and performed to showcase a dancer's strength and technical ability. Esmeralda is one of a handful of ballet heroines to triumph at the end of her story—so pride and power are critical.

Twenty years ago, Yuan Yuan Tan performed this variation for her graduation from the Shanghai Dance School. Even as a teenager, she is able to capture the audience’s attention through quiet assurance and confident technique. Her long limbs consume the stage as she captures the true nature of her gypsy character. Yuan Yuan's Esmeralda commands with precision and clarity.

In true “throwback” form, this video features a minor stumble at the end of her manège. But like any trip in a performance, it would make no difference. A year later Yuan Yuan would be recruited as a soloist for San Francisco Ballet, becoming one of the most striking dancers of our time with an unbeatable repertoire. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!