What does dance mean to you? That's the question Boston Ballet principal John Lam asks his fellow company members in a moving new short film. The dancers' responses, which we hear as we see them performing fluid choreography by Lam, are lovely: "Joy." "Change." "Truth." "Love." "Freedom."

It'd be a meaningful watch even if it were released in a vacuum. But its message hits with special force because Lam created the video to show support for the embattled National Endowment for the Arts, which faces elimination under President Trump's proposed budget.

Watch and share. Because, as Lam says, life is dance. #SavetheNEA #ArtMatters

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It's officially Nutcracker season, and you know what that means: Snow! Sugarplums! Hot chocolate! 40-foot tall Christmas trees!

This year, Boston Ballet took their performance previews to the next level. Their "Frozen Snowflakes" video captures the spirit of the snow scene from every angle imaginable by using awesome 3-D imagery. (ABT just used a similar method with a 360-degree camera for its backstage tour of Lincoln Center). We rounded up our favorite GIFs from the video, and be sure to check it out in full here!

<3 <3 <3

Wheeeee!!

 

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"Free puppies and 25% off tickets!" That was the subject line of the Boston Ballet promotional email that landed in my inbox this morning.

I kind of blacked out for a second.

BOSTON BALLET IS GIVING AWAY FREE PUPPIES! BOSTON BALLET IS GIVING AWAY FREE PUPPIEEEEEEES!!!

And then I remembered that it's April 1st, and my dream of frolicking with little baby doggies dressed in little baby tutus died a slow, sad death.

At least they gave us a picture of a puppy.

But hey, nice work, BB. And the 25% off tickets thing is for real, so, Bostonians, get on that!

(UPDATE: I've been informed that the fun continues on the Boston Ballet Facebook page, where the company has introduced its newest "pup-erinas":)

They didn't name these lovelies, but might we suggest Anna Pawlova, Barkot Fonteyn, and Alicia Wooflonso?

Enjoy the silliest day of the year, everyone. May your dance teacher terrify you with impossible combinations, only to scream "April Fools!" as the pianist cues up; may you and your dance friends repay her by swapping barre spots every time she turns her back.

We first heard from beautiful ballerina Keenan Kampa in 2010, when the Washington, D.C. native documented her final year at the Vaganova Academy in St. Petersburg, Russia for us. (It's incredibly rare for an American dancer to study at the iconic school, by the way, which speaks to just how amazing Keenan is.) Then, this past March, she graced our cover, talking about her artistic growth during her first year as a professional dancer at Boston Ballet—and posing for a gorgeous group of fashion photos that blew up our Pinterest page. Shortly afterward, we were thrilled to hear that Keenan was making history as the first American to join the Mariinsky Ballet—her lifelong dream come true.

And this past week she came full circle, making her U.S. debut with the Mariinsky at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in L.A. The company danced Swan Lake (of course), and Keenan was honored with a demi-soloist part, one of the Big Swans.

Judging by this photo from the performance, it looks like she's grown even more lovely since joining the Mariinsky. (We almost didn't recognize her as a brunette—until we saw those unforgettable feet!). Congratulations, Keenan—we can't wait to see where your fabulous career goes next! And if you haven't experienced Keenan's particular brand of awesome, check out this behind-the-scenes video from her cover shoot:

Erica Cornejo in "Swan Lake." Photo by Gene Schiavone.

With her lovely, expressive face and delicately refined port de bras, Boston Ballet principal Erica Cornejo seems tailor-made for soft, feminine roles like Giselle and Odette—and her nuanced portrayals of those heroines have earned her critical acclaim. But then she busts out her explosive jump in Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room, or gleefully tosses off multiple fouettés as Odile, and it becomes clear that this Argentinean beauty has a bit of fire in her, too. Cornejo began training at the Arts Institute of the Colón Theatre in Buenos Aires at the age of 4. (Her brother Herman, now a principal at American Ballet Theatre, soon followed her to ballet class.) She joined ABT’s Studio Company in 1998, was made a full company member that same year, and by 2002 was promoted to soloist. Four years later, she joined Boston Ballet as a principal. Today Cornejo, who is married to former BB principal Carlos Molina, continues to wow audiences in both classical and contemporary repertoire.  —Margaret Fuhrer

Dear Erica,

The world of ballet is beautiful and powerful. You will get to experience the most amazing feelings through dance and music. It will be magical!

Of course, as in everything else, the negative comes with the positive. In ballet there is plenty of competition. Some people will try to make you feel down, but others will say beautiful things about you. Dance is a demanding profession that is very challenging physically. To succeed, you will have to train many hours and absorb everything you are taught so you can apply all the details and get better and better.

You will need to be mentally strong to be able to overcome the difficulties of your career. Don’t be afraid. Whatever you do, do it with your heart. Don’t do anything just to please others. Remember that your dance experiences will contribute to your development as a person as well as an artist.

Enjoy what you do; be proud and happy. You have chosen an art that will enrich your soul. With love, passion and dedication, nothing is impossible.

Erica Cornejo

If you’re one of Dusty Button’s 146,000 (and counting) Instagram followers, you know this ballerina doesn’t fit any molds. Because while she holds down a job as a Boston Ballet principal dancer and takes the stage in ultimate classical roles like Odette/Odile (which she performed this past April), she’s just as comfortable in a fast-paced contemporary Jorma Elo piece or in a thin pair of socks working a hotel ballroom floor.

In fact, the Myrtle Beach, SC–born dancer grew up dancing on the competition and convention scene before training seriously at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at American Ballet Theatre and The Royal Ballet School. She spent two years in the corps of Birmingham Royal Ballet, then returned to the States to join Boston Ballet in 2012, skyrocketing to principal status in just two years. And while Beantown is her home base, she doesn’t sit still for long. Instead, she frequently travels the globe for gigs as guest star, teacher, choreographer and entrepreneur—cultivating her brand by earning endorsements from companies like Bloch Inc. and Red Bull and working with her husband for their lifestyle company.

We asked Button to share her wild ride of a summer, when, after finishing Boston Ballet’s spring season, she performed in Mongolia, toured Japan, choreographed in Texas and, somehow, made it all look pretty darn effortless.

All photos by Mitchell Button.

In class onstage before the gala in Mongolia.

Getting ready to perform the Don Quixote pas de deux with Boston Ballet principal Lasha Khozashvili in Mongolia. The gala was arranged by fellow Boston Ballet dancer Altan Dugaraa and featured performers from the Mongolian National Ballet Theatre and others from around the world.

Descending into a cave in Japan with husband Mitchell.

Button is on falculty at BellaMoxie dance convention and competition.

Teaching at The Dallas Conservatory in Texas during a week-long ballet workshop.

Choreographing during the workshop at The Dallas Conservatory.

"Regardless of how you see yourself in the mirror, take risks and perform so hard that it might even make you feel embarrassed," Button says. "Your future self will thank you for that dedication."

A quiet moment.

A last-minute gala warm-up.

Doing an interview with Eagle News in Mongolia about the gala, her career and her impressions of the country.

Seeing more of the countryside.

Riding a horse near the Genghis Khan Equestrain Statue in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

It seems like only yesterday that we were writing about legendary choreographer William Forsythe's new position at the Paris Opéra Ballet. In a recent twist, he'll be leaving POB at the end of outgoing artistic director Benjamin Millepied's tenure—and partnering with Boston Ballet.

(Boston Ballet principal Lia Cirio, photo by Emma Kauldhar)

The company will build out its Forsythe rep, and it's possible that the choreographer will create new work during the partnership. This is super exciting news for all the dancers, and we can't wait to see BB tackle some of the Forsythe cannon that's less familiar to American audiences.

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Style Lab

Six ballerinas discuss why they love their pointe shoes.

Kajiya in Ben Stevenson's The Nutcracker (Photo by Amitava Sarkar, courtesy Houston Ballet)

Yuriko KajiyaPrincipal, Houston Ballet

Foot type: Wide and flat, with long toes

Shoe: Capezio Tiffany

Customizations: “I like my heels and sides to be lower than those of the stock shoes. One of the biggest things Capezio does for me is cut down my shank to almost nothing. I really like how light the shoes feel on my feet.”

Kajiya’s advice to dancers: “Pointe shoes are like Cinderella slippers—you’re always trying to find the style that’ll help you dance your best. I’d advise younger dancers not to go with shoes that are too hard in the beginning. They can cause damage to your Achilles tendons if you aren’t strong enough.”

Rausch in Ulysses Dove's Red Angels (Photo by Angela Sterling, courtesy Pacific Northwest Ballet)

Lesley RauschPrincipal, Pacific Northwest Ballet

Foot type: Long and narrow, with very high arches

Shoe: Freed of London “V” maker

Customizations: “I wear wing-blocked shoes and ask them to bang out the bottom

and platform so they’re really flat. Freed also three-quarters the shank and makes the vamp and sides to my specifications. A lot of shoes try to make you go over your pointe more, and that just doesn’t

work for my ankles.”

Rausch’s advice to dancers: “Talk to someone who has a foot shape similar to yours, especially if you like the way her shoes look. Find out what she wears and what her tricks are. It’s really a matter of trial and error.”

Button in Jose Martinez's Resonance (Photo by Rosalie O'Connor, courtesy Boston Ballet)

Dusty ButtonPrincipal, Boston Ballet

Foot type: Wide at the ball, narrow at the heel

Shoe: Bloch Inc. Jetstream

Customizations: “To accommodate my foot shape, Bloch makes the heel of my shoe much narrower than the base. Because my arch is closer to my heel than the middle of my foot, they remove one of the nails from the bottom so it breaks right where my arch is.”

Button’s advice to dancers: “Don’t just follow what’s trendy. I think it’s silly when people tell you not to wear a certain brand or type of shoe. Find what actually works for your foot, regardless of anyone else’s thoughts or what your favorite dancer wears.”

Erickson in La Bayadere (Photo by Rosalie O'Connor, courtesy Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre)

Julia Erickson, Principal, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

Foot type: Wide and square, with bunions

Shoe: Gaynor Minden #4 box

Customizations: “I have some of the material cut down on the sides, and the back half of the upper is made with Gaynor Minden’s Luxe fabric lining, which prevents the wrinkling that can happen when you point your foot in your shoe. I also have a box liner because I’m kind of in between sizes. I wear both the hard shank and the ExtraFlex shank, depending on the role I’m dancing. These shoes are great, because they really let my metatarsals spread and alleviate the pressure on my bunions.”

Erickson’s advice to dancers: “Be patient. It takes time to find the shoe that feels like an extension of your body. Wear what makes you feel free to dance the way you want to dance.”

Angelova in Balanchine's Walpurgisnacht Ballet (Photo by Rosalie O'Connor, courtesy The Suzanne Farrell Ballet)

Violeta Angelova, The Suzanne Farrell Ballet

Foot type: Under-pronated with a recovering injury on the fifth metatarsal

Shoe: Sansha Etudes

Customizations: “I don’t have a special order on this particular shoe. I actually wear a few different brands of pointe shoes depending on the role that I’m dancing. These shoes are very quiet, so when I recently danced Giselle, which has so many jumps, they worked well. I do have to make sure my shoes are softened properly to avoid aggravating my fifth metatarsal.”

Angelova’s advice to dancers: “Try as many different shoes as possible. If you can, have a fitting with a shoe company and see if they can make a trial shoe especially for you.”

Scheller with Tyler Angle in Balanchine's The Four Temperaments (Photo by Paul Kolnik, courtesy NYCB)

Ana Sophia Scheller, Principal, New York City Ballet

Foot type: Wide

Shoe: Grishko Nova

Customizations: “My vamp and sides are slightly shorter than those of the stock shoe, and my shank is measured to break with my arch, with additional flexibility through demi-pointe. I like that these shoes last a lot longer than any others I’ve worn.”

Scheller’s advice to dancers: “You always want a pretty shoe, but make sure it’s also comfortable so it doesn’t cause injuries.”

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