#TBT

Last night, I attended the final round of Youth America Grand Prix's New York City finals. Every year, I'm overwhelmed by the level of talent at the competition, and this year was no exception. There's nothing more exciting than spotting the stars of tomorrow, today.

It seems like only a few days ago that Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev swept onto the international dance scene, bewitching audiences with their feats of daredeviltry. Yet it was back in 2006 that the pair made their breakout debuts as Kitri and Basilio in Don Quixote at the Bolshoi. They were babies, too: Osipova was 20 and Vasiliev, just 18. Here are a few exhilarating excerpts from that first performance. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

Choreographer Roland Petit was for years the ballet world's master of theatrical showmanship. Bolstered by rich, beautifully designed costumes and decor, his works oozed sensual style.

Before—though not long before—they were immortalized as Cooper Nielson and Kathleen Donahue (Center Stage, we'll never stop loving you), Ethan Stiefel and Julie Kent starred in the 1998 PBS broadcast of American Ballet Theatre's Le Corsaire. Corsaire's choreography may be as cheesy as they come, but what does that matter when you have two of the  world's greatest dancers leading its cast?

These days, we know Svetlana Zakharova as an international ballet superstar. As a young student at St. Petersburg's prestigious Vaganova Academy, however, she was...well, still a superstar, just on a slightly smaller scale. Here are some excerpts from her graduation exam in 1996. You'll probably pick her out right away, but just in case: She's on the left in the first clip. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

Gelsey Kirkland caused quite a stir when she left New York City Ballet in 1974. Then a rising star in Balanchine's company, she joined American Ballet Theatre at Mikhail Baryshnikov's behest, and became one of the Russian star's most frequent partners. Baryshnikov's high-wattage performances never outshone Kirkland, however. With her exquisite control, meticulous attention to detail, and heart-stopping vulnerability, she became a legend in her own right.

Georgian dancer Nina Ananiashvili was a star of the Bolshoi and, later, American Ballet Theatre. She may be blessed with endless arms and legs, but it's her warm generosity that makes her so endearing; you always want to root for her. Today, Ananiashvili is artistic director of the State Ballet of Georgia. She's about to celebrate her 51st birthday—and she's still dancing.

Here's a video of Ananiashvili performing Giselle's Act I solo with the Bolshoi. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

If you're like me, you had at least one photo of Patricia Barker on your wall growing up. The longtime Pacific Northwest Ballet principal was a fearless, eloquent interpreter of Balanchine works, in particular, and ballet fans around the world could write sonnets about her beautiful feet. Today, she's artistic director of Grand Rapids Ballet in Michigan.

Here's a 2001 clip of Barker as Titania in Balanchine's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

 

Elegant Darcey Bussell was one of The Royal Ballet's star ballerinas for two decades, impressing audiences with her beautifully refined technique (and those legs). Here she is breezing through a fiendishly difficult variation from Frederick Ashton's Sylvia. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

At 92, Cuban prima ballerina Alicia Alonso is a living legend. Now director of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, she had a brilliant dancing career despite being partially blind from the age of 19. Here she is (with the none-too-shabby Azari Plisetsky) in excerpts from the Black Swan pas de deux—showing off, among other things, her prodigious turning ability. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!