Happy Birthday George Balanchine!

Today, let's take a moment to reflect on the legacy of George Balanchine, the father of American ballet.

He was an innovator, who took his Russian training and tweaked it to match the frenetic pace of his adopted home. Now, Balanchine dancers are known for their speed, precision and musicality. He was an entrepreneur, who created his own ballet education program and founded his own company. We still look to the School of American Ballet and New York City Ballet to preserve his legacy. He was a visionary, whose first ballet created in America (Serenade, in 1934!) looks as fresh today as it did 82 years ago.

Now, not only is his work exported to companies around the globe, but several other American companies are noted for their relationship to his training and choreography, including Pacific Northwest Ballet, Miami City Ballet and Pennsylvania Ballet. Balanchine really is everywhere.

Bolshoi Ballet principal Olga Smirnova in George Balanchine's "Diamonds" from Jewels (photo by Elena Fetisova)

His legacy isn't without controversy, though, and many people think Balanchine's preference for waif-like ballerinas helped normalize extremely thin bodies in the ballet world. Others don't like his style at all, and consider Balanchine technique to be too affected.

Fortunately, his body of work is so large and varied—and is now danced by so many companies—we can look at it and make decisions about its merit for ourselves. But there's no denying the lasting impact of his work. Who do you think will be the choreographers we still remember in another one hundred years?

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Dance News
Gabriel Figueredo in a variation from Raymonda. VAM Productions, Courtesy YAGP.

This week, over 1,000 young hopefuls gathered in New York City for the Youth America Grand Prix finals, giving them the chance to compete for scholarships and contracts to some of the world's top ballet schools and companies. Roughly 85 dancers made it to the final round at Lincoln Center's David H. Koch Theater on Wednesday. Today, the 20th anniversary of YAGP came to a close at the competition's awards ceremony. Read on to find out who won!

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After a string of ballet-company rejections, Jennifer Sydor (here in Laura Peterson's "Failure") found success in other areas of the dance world. (Stephen Delas Heras, courtesy Jennifer Sydor)

In her senior year at Butler University, Jennifer Sydor auditioned for more than a dozen regional ballet companies—and got a string of "no, thank you" responses. "I have an athletic build, and my movement quality isn't the typical ballet aesthetic," Sydor says. "But I'd been laser-focused on ballet. When I didn't get a ballet contract, I was heartbroken."

Her one job offer came from Kim Robards Dance, a small modern company based in Aurora, CO. After attending KRD's summer intensive, Sydor ended up accepting a yearlong position with the troupe. "I was relieved and happy to begin my career," she says. She's been working as a contemporary dancer ever since.

In the dance world, rejection is part of the package. That doesn't make it any more pleasant. But whether you didn't get the Nutcracker role of your dreams or you weren't picked for a job despite feeling like you aced the audition, you can emerge from even the most gut-wrenching "no" smarter and stronger.

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Ballet West principal Beckanne Sisk as Kitri (Luke Isley, courtesy Ballet West)

Guess who's baaaaack?! Your resident Dance Spirit astrologers! And on the eve of the Youth America Grand Prix awards ceremony, we thought it was the perfect time to pair each zodiac sign with a variation commonly seen during the competition. After many painstaking hours spent researching, consulting the stars, and staring wistfully into the sky, we compiled our data and present you with the definitive list of each star sign as a YAGP variation! As we said last time, don't @ us if you're not happy with your pairing—the stars don't lie, baby!

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