Ballet dancers never reveal the labor of their work. Whether onstage or in rehearsal, they hurdle through moments of exhaustion to preserve an effortless illusion. Even when a character calls for anger, sorrow or pain, a dancer can still move the audience with beauty. The Dying Swan, originally choreographed by Mikhail Fokine in 1905, breaks this quest for effortless beauty. It presents the ultimate challenge—how to appear weak, and at times, ugly.
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.
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.