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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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.

The tree, once again masterminded by Arnaud Stephenson and Amber Hunt (aka Photography by ASH), will adorn the lobby of the London Coliseum for the duration of ENB's Nutcracker run. It features 341 shoes—all of them signed by their ballerina owners, and many of them bedazzled—arranged in an artful spiral. And this year it's adorned with braided shoe-ribbon garlands and extra-sparkly twinkle lights. Which—I mean, just look at it:

Sometimes we get cynical about promotional hashtagging, but oh, man: This wonder DESERVES ITS OWN HASHTAG, and ENB has, happily, provided one. If you need to get in the ho-ho-holiday spirit, go search #ENBTree on Twitter and Insta. You won't be disappointed.

Also, please enjoy this delightful time-lapse video of the tree's creation:

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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.

The Pros

Megan Levinson, Radio City Rockette

Lloyd Knight, Martha Graham Dance Company principal

Jenny Driebe, Cirque du Soleil's Michael Jackson ONE dancer

Madison Keesler, English National Ballet first artist

 

 

Megan prepping her Rockettes look (photo by Rana Faure/MSG Photos, courtesy MSG Entertainment)

Megan Levinson's Routine

“I start by blending liquid foundation on my entire face, and then use concealer under my eyes. Next I apply eye shadow primer on my eyelids and let it dry as I fill in my eyebrows. I mix eye shadows, and always make sure to define the crease of my lid with a dark brown. Then I put on mascara and false lashes. Once my eyes are done, I set my face with powder foundation and apply blush. Finally, and most importantly, I finish off my makeup with the famous Radio City Rockette red lip!”

Megan’s Pro Tip

“The Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes is 90 minutes of non-stop action with athletic choreography and quick changes, so we need our makeup to stay in place,” she says. “I always apply Sealed With a Kiss lip seal by Cosmetically Sealed over my lipstick to keep it looking perfect during the whole show. Also, eye shadow primer is life-changing!”

A Few of Megan’s Go-To Products

•Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion and Eyeshadow Palette in Naked

•MAC Russian Red lipstick

(“It’s the iconic Rockette color!”) and blush in Mocha

•Ardell false eyelashes

 

Lloyd Knight's Routine

“I begin by moisturizing my face and applying foundation. Then

I move on to eye makeup: first shadow, then liner and then mascara.

Lloyd Knight with his makeup spread (photo by Brigid Pierce, courtesy MGDC)

Depending on what I’m dancing, I like to change up the colors or the boldness of the lines. After my eyes are done, I contour my cheekbones and jawline, apply lipstick to seal the deal and hit the stage!”

Lloyd's Pro Tip

“It’s always best to go out into the house to see how much makeup you think you might need,” he advises. “Determine how far away the audience will be sitting, and try to see what someone else’s stage makeup looks like from the house. You don’t want to overdo it, or wear too little.”

A Few of Lloyd's Go-To Products

•Make Up For Ever foundation in 180=R530 Brown (“It matches my skin color perfectly!”) and black Graphic Liner Pen (“It makes for a really clean and sharp look.”)

•Sephora eye shadow in Colorful Sandcastle and Colorful Diamonds Are Forever, and Waterproof Contour Eye Pencils in White, Cocoa and Black

 

Jenny Driebe's Routine

“Each dancer in Michael Jackson ONE has a specific look created by the amazing makeup artists at Cirque du Soleil. I always begin with a primer base and then apply silver cream

Jenny Driebe in her finished look (courtesy Jenny Driebe)

by Make Up For Ever to my lids, brow arch and inner eye. I draw a pink line from the inner corner of my eyebrow down my nose, blend it out over my eye, and blend blue into the outer corner to create a smoky look. Then I apply foundation; contour and blend; set it with translucent powder; brush the excess powder away; and repeat everything with powder eye shadow, contour and blush. I line my eyelids and fill in my brows. Finally, I add glue and silver glitter to my eyelid, and the unique rhinestone appliqué

I wear goes on my cheek.”

Jenny's Pro Tip

“This was taught to me by one of the awesome makeup artists from Cirque du Soleil: For a 3-D lip look, apply lip liner and lipstick as usual, using a brush to blend them together. With a thinner brush, apply a line of cream highlight around your lips. Use powder to set it, and voilà! Beautiful 3-D lips that really pop!”

A Few of Jenny's Go-To Products

•Make Up For Ever Star Powder (“It highlights with shimmer.”)

•MAC Bone Beige Sculpting Powder (“to enhance bone structure”) and False Lashes mascara

 

Madison Keesler's Routine

“I always start with face primer and then do my brows. I follow with foundation, concealer and contouring. Then I powder my face with setting powder and ‘bake’ my T-zone. Baking is when you leave excess powder on your face for a few extra minutes before gently

Madison Keesler in full stage makeup (courtesy Madison Keesler)

brushing away the excess—this step is key! Then I prime my eyelids, use different eye shadow colors to define the crease, and use liquid liner on the top and bottom lids. I finish with mascara and lipstick, and any extra blush, highlighting or contouring.”

Madison's Pro Tip

“Choosing a lipstick color is very important because it can really change the overall look of your makeup. Also, to get the best brows, do them first! I do brows right after primer because it helps the brow product stick.”

A Few of Madison's Go-To Products

•Tarte Clean Slate primer in Poreless

•Cover FX contour kit in P Light Medium

•Laura Mercier Loose Setting Powder in Translucent

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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Are you just not feeling the holiday spirit this year? Is the Nutcracker inundation—you know, between actual Nut performances and the ceaseless stream of Tchaikovsky playing in every mall in the world—making you feeling a little, well, Grinchy? (THOSE DARN WHOS AND THEIR NOISE, NOISE, NOISE, NOISE.)

Let English National Ballet help you with that. More specifically, let ENB's pointe shoe Christmas tree help you with that.

Yes. Those lovely Londoners created a pointe shoe Christmas tree.

To clarify: It's not a tree decorated with pointe shoes. It's a tree made of pointe shoes.

500 pointe shoes, to be exact.

And it is glorious.

AHHH SO PRETTY. (screenshot via YouTube)

The tree now graces the foyer of the London Coliseum, where ENB just kicked off its Nutcracker run. And as if the finished product wasn't enough to get you belting out carols and eating sugar cookies, there's also a delightful time-lapse behind-the-scenes video showing how this holiday miracle—the brainchild of Arnaud Stephenson and ENB dancer Amber Hunt (otherwise known as Photography by ASH)—was constructed.

What's that sound? Is that the sound of your small heart growing THREE sizes? Yes. Mine too.

Enjoy!

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