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Isaac Hernández in "Despertares" (via Vimeo)

Move over, Sergei Polunin*: There's a new ballet heartthrob in town.

Well, not "new," exactly: The fabulously talented Isaac Hernández has been a lead principal with the English National Ballet since 2015, and previously danced with Dutch National Ballet and San Francisco Ballet. (He's also part of a distinguished dance family: You met his brother, SFB corps member Esteban, in our March issue roundup of up-and-coming danseurs.)

But a dreamy new video by filmmaker Ezra Hurwitz—"Despertares" [Wake Up], featuring Hernández dancing in studios and on rooftops all over NYC—makes a strong case for this beautiful dancer becoming your next ballet crush:

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Usually, when we see ballerinas out in the mainstream world—in commercials, on TV shows, in movies—they're portrayed as either delicate little flowers or twisted, tortured souls.

Rarely, though, does the average person see ballet dancers for what they really are: totally hardcore.

My new favorite exception to that rule comes courtesy Lexus, whose TV spot "Poise" for the Lexus IS features the awesome Tamara Rojo.

Talk about a hardcore ballerina: In addition to being a superstar performer, Rojo is also artistic director of the English National Ballet. (You know. NBD.) And the ad shows her in all her kick-butt glory, zooming in on her powerful legs and feet as she bourrées at lightning speed and whips off quadruple fouettés.

The tagline? "A stronger body for greater control." Couldn't have said it better myself.

The sad thing is that this ad was produced by Lexus UK, so we won't see it over here in the States. The happy thing is that it's on YouTube, so you can watch it obsessively whenever you feel like it. And believe me, you'll feel like it.

Here's the ad...

...and here's a bonus clip featuring an interview with Rojo and more footage of her amazing dancing:

(For those of you now also obsessed with the song that plays during the ad—so, all of you—here it is!)

Sometimes, as a dance fan, you wish you could be everywhere at once. There's all kinds of amazing dance stuff happening in NYC this month (American Ballet Theatre! New York City Ballet! Gallim Dance! KEIGWIN + COMPANY!)—so as a New Yorker, I'm a pretty lucky girl. And yet I'm pining for a show that's now touring the UK: "Against Time," a collaboration between the hip hop group Flawless and English National Ballet.

An unlikely pairing? Well, sure. But how could a combination of street dance, acrobatics and ballet not add up to a great time? Choreographed by ENB soloist Jenna Lee and Flawless' Marion "Swoosh" Wallen, the work tells the story of an evil watchmaker who plans to stop time—and, in turn, dancing—forever. Sounds like good, kooky fun to me. And just look at the promotional pictures below. Adorable!

Friends across the pond: Definitely check this one out. JEALOUS.

All photos by Laurent Liotardo. (Click to enlarge.)

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Eye Candy

Last year, we introduced you to the magical majesty of the English National Ballet's pointe shoe Christmas tree, the holly-jolliest of all holly-jolly things. This year? This year, it's back—and it is even more amazing, if that's possible.

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Dancer to Dancer
Megan Levinson prepping her Rockettes look (Rana Faure/MSG Photos, courtesy MSG Entertainment)

There are zillions of makeup goodies out there, and just as many ways to wear them. Rather than spending the rest of your life trying to find that perfect black eyeliner pen, take a cue from these pros, who have streamlined their prep routines to get the job done night after night.

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Dance News

English National Ballet is doing something a little bit curious: The company is performing two versions of Giselle in one season. The second one is the romantic-tutu version we know and love. But the first one, premiering at the end of the month, is a contemporary take by choreographer Akram Khan. In his imagination, Giselle transforms into something pretty darn creepy—which makes sense. It's a ghost story, after all.

Step into the rehearsal studio through these amazingly thorough videos by English National Ballet.

Here, three company members go into detail about what it's like to work with Khan:

 

Here Khan and ENB artistic director Tamara Rojo talk about the need to revisit classic works:

 

And here's a semi-terrifying trailer that makes me want to hop on the first plane to the UK so I catch opening night:

 

 

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Friends, it's finally here. English National Ballet's "She Said" program, which premieres April 13, features internationally recognized choreographers Aszure Barton, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa and Yabin Wang. All three women have a record of remarkable work and the three of them together on one program promises great things.

But I'm especially excited for Lopez Ochoa's piece, titled Broken Wings. It's a biographical ballet about the life of surrealist painter Frida Kahlo, who was an amazing, fascinating and extremely important artist in her own right. Her work is a little bit scary, and it looks like Lopez Ochoa is addressing that head-on.

Lopez Ochoa has been developing the work with theater director Nancy Meckler, and it sounds like they've come up with some inventive ways to portray the ballet's biographical elements. For example, when she was young, Kahlo was in a terrible bus accident which left her disabled and in chronic pain. But, bed-ridden during her recovery period, she started to investigate painting as a way to continue living her life. In the ballet, Kahlo's bed will transform into a box where she's restricted but can still move. Genius!

As for the artistic elements, it looks like Lopez Ochoa has been inspired by Kahlo's surrealism. These costume sketches, by designer Dieuweke van Reij, are reminiscent of Kahlo's unsettling self-portraits.

Sketch by Dieuweke van Reij

Check out the trailer below for a glimpse at Lopez Ochoa's choreography!

 

 

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Yes, we love dance for its glamour. We love the tutus and the tiaras, the sets, the pageantry. We love the stage versions of our favorite dancers, transformed by lights and makeup and the distance of the fourth wall.

But we're also all about the real people behind those stage personae—the sweaty, bruised, blistered, strong, brilliant artists who work themselves to the bone every day. They're even more impressive than their be-tutued counterparts. They're warriors, and their dancer bodies have the battle scars to prove it.

Photographer Rick Guest totally gets that. His latest series, "What Lies Beneath," features stripped-down images of fantastic dancers from The Royal Ballet, English National Ballet, the Richard Alston Dance Company and Wayne McGregor's Random Dance. (To name just a few: Sarah Lamb. Marianela Nuñez. Sergei Polunin.) Stark lighting and minimal makeup and costuming mean that we see their remarkable bodies for what they really are: monuments to the never-ending struggle for perfection.

(From left) Marianela Nuñez and Eric Underwood of The Royal Ballet (Rick Guest, via)

(From left) Edward Watson and Sarah Lamb of The Royal Ballet (Rick Guest, via)

Guest's images are on display from January 22-31 at London's Hospital Club Gallery. But those of us who don't live across the pond can also find them in book form, complete with a foreword from English National Ballet director and principal Tamara Rojo.

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