Members of the Paris Opéra Ballet give a surprise performance on an Air France flight from Shanghai to Paris. Courtesy Air France.

Just imagine: You're settling in for a long international flight, when suddenly Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake starts playing on the intercom—and a group of feather-clad ballerinas bourrée down the aisle. That's exactly what happened last week to Air France customers on a Paris-bound flight from Shanghai, when 10 members of the Paris Opéra Ballet gave a impromptu performance throughout the plane's cabins.

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Ballet
The Mariinsky Ballet rehearsing at the historic Mariinsky Theatre (via National Geographic on YouTube)

Happy World Theatre (or Theater) Day, everybody! Did you know that this fantastic little holiday has been celebrated every March 27th for the past 56 (!) years?

In honor of WTD 2018, we thought we'd highlight eye-opening behind-the-scenes glimpses at three of the dance world's most beautiful theaters: NYC's Metropolitan Opera House, Paris' Palais Garnier, and St. Petersburg's Mariinsky Theatre.

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How do you spell glamour? P-O-B. That's the Paris Opéra Ballet, of course—the endlessly glam home of some of the world's best dancers. I'm sure you've already drooled over the new POB website and its accompanying 3e Scene, a platform where performance meets digital art.

You may have also noticed that the étoiles have new, beautifully poetic portraits alongside their biographies. Thanks to photographer James Bort, we have a chance to glimpse these swiftly moving artists in a rare still moment. Even more special, POB has released a behind-the-scenes video that shows just how majestic the company's stars are.

Happy Friday!

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OK you guys, I'm officially obsessed. This #empty trend on Instagram is absolutely captivating and when top 'grammers turn their lenses toward the world's most beautiful buildings—well, I die.

POB dancers in rehearsal (photo by @hannahrw)

It feels like it was just yesterday that I was freaking out over #emptyROH. Now, thank the interwebz for #emptygarnier. That's right, the most magical ballet palace on the planet opened its doors to a lucky group of 'grammers whose unique snaps and captures really show the different ways you can look at a place. Thanks also to the Paris Opéra Ballet's Insta-savvy new artistic director, Benjamin Millepied. He's going full-speed ahead when it comes to shaking things up at the POB—he's confidently mixing the old with the new. Civilian smart-phone artists to document an institution steeped in tradition and prestige? Why the heck not?!

IS THIS A REAL PLACE?! (Photo by @wonguy974)

And whether they're tricky perspective shots, soaring views from the roof or intimate close-ups of tiny Palais Garnier details, each photo is a testament to the beauty of sharing our art with others, whether it's dance, photography or something else entirely.

Whoa, you guys: Benjamin Millepied does not mess around.

Ever since it was announced, back in 2013, that he'd become director of the Paris Opéra Ballet, Millepied has been talking about pushing the historic company forward. But today he revealed POB's upcoming season—the first he's been able to plan himself—and it became clear that all that talk wasn't just talk.

Millepied (center) in the studio with POB (photo Agathe Poupeney/POB)

Let's start with the biggest piece of news: Millepied is bringing William Forsythe in as associate choreographer. This is HUGE! Forsythe is one of the dance world's most gifted artists, period. And he actually has quite a history with the Paris Opéra Ballet. He created his masterpiece In the middle, somewhat elevated for the company back in 1983 (starring a young Sylvie Guillem!), and the genre-defying work ushered in a new era for POB—for ballet as a whole, really. Forsythe went on to experiment with more radical forms of dance-theater, but now he's back at the ballet, and I, for one, am crazy happy about it.

POB's Valentine Colasante and Marc Moreau in Forsythe's In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated (photo Anne Deniau/POB)

The season will also include new works by Wayne McGregor, our friend Justin Peck and Millepied himself. And the programming reveals Millepied's connections to New York City Ballet, where he was formerly a principal. Ballets by George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Christopher Wheeldon and Alexei Ratmansky—all NYCB mainstays—will join the POB repertory.

So yeah, basically, now I want to live in Paris even more than I already did. Le sigh. Come visit us soon, you belles Français!

WHOA. Big news from Paris, guys.

Yesterday afternoon, rumors started swirling that Paris Opéra Ballet dance director Benjamin Millepied—the former New York City Ballet principal also known as L.A. Dance Project's director and Mr. Natalie Portman—was leaving his post at POB. Which was a shock to most people, given that Millepied had a) only held the position for a little more than a year and b) generated a lot of excitement (and controversy) with his plans to bring the revered classical company into the contemporary world.

Soon enough, those rumors were officially confirmed, along with the fact that recently retired POB étoile Aurélie Dupont would take over as director. And the news set the whole ballet world buzzing.

Millepied in the studio (via @benjaminmillepied)

So, why is Millepied leaving? He says that while he was honored to have the opportunity, the POB job "doesn't fit" him. He wants to focus on his own choreographic work, and spend more time with LADP, which he plans to turn into a larger company. (Good news for L.A. dance fans.) In earlier interviews, Millepied also expressed frustration with POB's rigid hierarchy and its lack of racial diversity. Aaaaand OK, there've been rumblings that Portman was unhappy in Paris, but...who really knows.

Anyway, Dupont—a gorgeous dancer who gave her final performances with the company last summer—will officially take over on July 15. What can we expect from her? That remains to be seen. (Though she won't be choreographing, apparently; she says she has "no talent" as a choreographer.) Here's how she described her relationship with the company at a press conference today: "It's a love story with [POB]. You lose your soul when you join it. It takes time to change things, and I will take my time."

Dupont after a performance of Manon (via @balletoperadeparis)

Obviously, we'll let you know more as we hear it!

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Backdrops for classical ballets can be stunningly beautiful—they're basically museum-quality paintings, done on a (very) large scale. But how are they made? And by whom? And how the HECK does a ginormous drop get from the artists' studio to the stage?

Today, the Paris Opéra Ballet answered those questions in brilliant video fashion. "Giselle: The Walking Landscape"—produced by the POB's digital platform, 3e Scène (Third Stage)—follows the journey of a gorgeous Giselle Act I backdrop.

And I don't just mean its figurative journey, from conception to reality, although we do get lovely shots of the three artists who painted the backdrop hard at work.

It is large. (screenshot via YouTube)

I mean its literal journey, too—from the Ateliers Berthier, where the drop was painted, to the stage of the Palais Garnier.

Why is that trip especially fascinating? Because there are apparently no high-tech solutions to the problem of transporting a giant painting from one side of Paris to the other. So the thing is literally carried across the city by 24 dudes. And the ways unsuspecting Parisians react to the unlikeliness of that image are, frankly, priceless.

Not something you see every day. (screenshot via YouTube)

As a bonus, the whole thing is set to some of the loveliest pieces of Giselle's Act I score. Enjoy!

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So, this is incredibly cool: Have you heard about the Google Cultural Institute? It's a virtual museum boasting millions of artifacts from artistic partners around the world. And we're not talking your standard, here-is-a-really-old-painting-DON'T-TOUCH-IT artifacts: The Institute features interactive digital "objects" that encourage viewers to get up close and personal with art and artists.

Why should you be especially excited about this? Because yesterday, the GCI launched a performing arts arm. And one of the participating organizations is the Paris Opéra Ballet.

In a way that's no surprise, given director Benjamin Millepied's eagerness to boost the company's digital presence. But oh, man, the POB gave Google some GREAT STUFF.

For starters, there's this truly amazing 360-degree video of Millepied's recent ballet Clear, Loud, Bright, Forward, which lets you observe the dancers onstage from every possible angle. It's even cooler than it sounds:

There are also 360-degree "museum views" of the breathtakingly beautiful Palais Garnier, the POB's home. You can tour the stage area, take in amazing views of Paris from the theater's roof—even explore the spooky subterranean "lake" underneath the building. (The Phantom of the Opera: not 100 percent fiction!) And there's a collection of beautiful photographs highlighting the Palais Garnier's exquisite design details.

Like this close-up of Marc Chagall's ceiling for the theater. (via Google Cultural Institute)

Check out the whole thing here. And then pray to the dance gods that the 360-degree dance video trend sticks around for a long time.

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Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably now realized that the ballet-meets-fashion sensation is here to stay. And you've probably also realized that here at DS, we're really, really psyched about it. The latest gem? Otherworldly Marie-Agnès Gillot, an étoile with the Paris Opéra Ballet, was tapped as an "October Muse" by Anthropologie—complete with a revealing interview, stunning photos and (best part!) a jaw-dropping video shot in the Palais Garnier.

There are no words. (Photo via Anthropologie)

Gillot is not only an incredibly gifted dancer, but a true role model—diagnosed with double-scoliosis at age 12, she spent 21 hours a day in a restrictive brace for years to help correct the problem. Dedication's an understatement. Watch the video below and be sure to check out the entire feature here!

The Paris Opéra Ballet's been up to a lot of pretty awesome stuff lately. Besides the company recently launching its new digital platform, 3e Scene, complete with incredibly beautiful short films centered around ballet and the opera house, its dancers participated in a photo shoot as part of "20 Dancers for the 20th Century." As part of choreographer Boris Charmatz's project Musée de la Danse, the ballerinas danced their way through the Palais Garnier. Make sure to check out all the stunning photos here, and see some of our favorites below!

(Photo Francois Guillot/AFP/Getty)

(Photo Francois Guillot/AFP/Getty)

(Photo Francois Guillot/AFP/Getty)

Wouldn't it be nice to fly around the world and see every dance-related performance, exhibit and event? Le sigh.

Fortunately the interwebz make it easy to get a glimpse of international dance beauty, even if we can't be there in person. Case in point: The Palais Garnier is currently exhibiting some of the most spectacular tutus we've ever seen, from Paris Opéra Ballet's productions of PaquitaThe Nutcracker and more. We already knew that everything POB touches is stunning, but this takes it to the next level.

Can't catch the next Air France flight to Paris? Check out the photos below, all taken by Elena Bauer. You're welcome!

Do you want, no, NEED more? Click through POB's insta feed for more glittery goodness.

We know you know ballet boys are gorgeous. But have you already watched Sergei Polunin's dreamy Hozier video 8,3874,389 times? OD'ed on James Whiteside's delectable Insta feed? Exhausted all Google image searches for the impossibly perfect Roberto Bolle? (Be careful with those—there's a lot of bare booty involved.)

If you're in need of some new ballerinos to swoon for, we've got just the thing: Les Danseurs, a photo book featuring the très beaux men of Paris Opéra Ballet.

Yup, this will do. (photo from Les Danseurs by Matthew Brookes)

Of course, Matthew Brookes, the photographer behind the project, had nobler goals for the book than just "man candy YAAAS." Brookes comes from a fashion and sports background, and wanted to accentuate the strength and athleticism of male dancers. As he told CNN, his hope was to challenge the mainstream perception of ballet as "natural" for women, but not for men. Les Danseurs also has a forward by fascinating POB étoile Marie-Agnès Gillot (who, if you're in more of a #WCW mode, is a wonderful woman crush to cultivate).

But, lbh: The collection of black-and-white photos is just pretty, too. There's an old-school Abercrombie & Fitch catalog vibe happening, and it's awesome.

Take a look at some of our favorite images from Les Danseurs below. The book is available for pre-order now.

(All photos by Matthew Brookes)

Happy National Dance Day, fellow dancers! We asked you the other day how you'd be celebrating our favorite holiday, and while it seems like a lot of you will be taking classes, performing and dancing anywhere and everywhere you can, we're here to suggest an alternative: Ballet binge-watching marathon, anyone?

Nothing's more frustrating than searching for a ballet on YouTube only to find a bunch of short clips. Well, we've done the hard work for you! Behold, our National Dance Day YouTube roundup of the best ballets presented in their entirety. Excuse us while we sit in a dark room with a bowl of popcorn for the next 8 hours:

1. Paris Opéra Ballet performing Jerome Robbins' Dances at a Gathering

This beautiful, light and energetic piece by Robbins is set to a gorgeous Chopin piano score. The stunning étoiles of the Paris Opéra Ballet effortlessly dance their way through this technically demanding choreography—and they do it with grace, musicality and presence.

2. Paris Opéra Ballet performing George Balanchine's Agon

Another stunning display of artistry from POB. This Balanchine classic is widely considered to be one of ballet's most timeless, masterful works.

3. The former Kirov Ballet performing Swan Lake

Yulia Makhalina absolutely shines as Odette/Odile in this Kirov Ballet production of Tchaikovsky's classic Swan Lake.

4. Svetlana Zakharova and Roberto Bolle in Giselle

Superhuman Zakharova and her drool-worthy feet are picture-perfect in the Bolshoi's version of Giselle. Throw Roberto Bolle and his star quality into the mix and you've got an hour and a half of ballet brilliance.

5. George Balanchine's Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux 

The sublime Darcey Bussell and Zoltán Solymosi dance Balanchine's 8-minute piece, filled with excitement, fish-dives and fouettés.

Justin Peck is everywhere. That's not hyperbole. In fact, I almost mean it literally.

Over the course of the past few months, he's debuted new ballets at New York City Ballet and Miami City Ballet; seen the opening of a documentary about his choreographic process, Ballet 422; announced that he'll be making his first piece for Paris Opéra Ballet next season, as well as two more works for NYCB's 2015–2016 season; and put together a critically acclaimed plan for total ballet world domination.

OK, the last bit isn't true—but in the context of the rest of that amazingness, you almost believed it, didn't you?

Peck (center) rehearsing NYCB's Craig Hall and Ashley Bouder (photo by Paul Kolnik)

Unsurprisingly, all that activity has generated a lot of press coverage, and CBS News is the latest outlet to get aboard the J. Peck train. They just released a great profile of the young choreographer, which includes wise Peckian words about the creative process (he hopes "to create this cohesive vision for what the ballet is going to be") and tons of pretty footage of Peck working with NYCB dancers—some of it straight from Ballet 422.

Happy Monday, everybody.

I never get tired of seeing beautiful dance films shot in innovative locations. Fortunately, artists everywhere never get tired of making them. Here's a new video to add to your list of favorites: Haut Vol, directed by Louis de Caunes, featuring Paris Opéra Ballet dancers Leonore Baulac and Alistair Madin. Google translate tells me that the title means "flying high."

Still from Haut Vol, directed by Louis de Caunes

It's short and stunning, and kind of like ballet-meets-Inception—which, now that I think of it, should totally be a thing. I especially appreciate how it manages to be visually interesting as a film, while maintaining the integrity of the dancers' movements. (Isn't it always THE WORST when a dance film cuts off someone's line?) Click here to check it out.

P.S. This film also serves as a love letter to Paris, a city going through a very difficult time right now. We're so happy to see something that reminds us of passion and beauty in the midst fear and uncertainty. Here's to the celebration of artistic expression.

 

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