#TBT: Maya Plisetskaya in "The Sleeping Beauty" (1963)

August 26, 2020

Among her storied gifts, Maya Plisetskaya, former prima ballerina of the Bolshoi Ballet, was renowned for her ability to imbue classical choreography with rich layers of meaning. In this 1963 clip of Aurora’s Act I variation from The Sleeping Beauty, Plisetskaya portrays a princess that is regal and gracious, yet delicate, with an uncertain destiny.

From the enormous care she takes in presenting her foot before a piqué, to the musical flourishes of her head and fingers, Plisetskaya weaves magic into her performance. At 1:20, she travels across the floor in staccato ballonés and pin-prick piqué arabesques—foreshadowing Aurora’s curse to be pricked herself. In the latter half of the clip, a high camera angle shows off her generous épaulement and upper body. Then with uncanny fluidity, she shifts from adagio to allégro movement, finishing the variation with a brilliant manège of piqué turns. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!