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Misty Copeland in Swan Lake (photo by Gene Schiavone)

In case you haven't heard (but you have): American Ballet Theatre principal Misty Copeland is one of most famous, and most respected, ballerinas in the world. She's also one of the only black women currently performing Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, which means her (inevitably sold-out) performances of the role come with an extra degree of both celebration and scrutiny.

Since she first started dancing the part in 2015, Copeland has struggled with its infamously difficult sequence of 32 fouettés. She's not the first ballerina to do so; the legendary Maya Plisetskaya, for example, opted to skip them completely, subbing a glittering string of piqué and chaîné turns instead (you can see them here, at 8:13). But Copeland's Swan Lake "fouetté fails," some of which have been posted to YouTube, have attracted plenty of jeers on social media. And today, Copeland herself responded to the criticism.

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Dancer to Dancer
New York City Ballet's shoe room (photo by Tess Mayer)

Deep in the basement of Lincoln Center's David H. Koch Theater is a small, windowless space that's home to nearly 6,000 pairs of pointe shoes, neatly stacked on shelves that reach to the ceiling. It's New York City Ballet's shoe room, and for company members, it's one of the most important places in the world. Dancers frequently stop by to search for the ideal pair for a special performance, or to tweak their custom pointe shoe orders, trying to get that elusive perfect fit. "If the shoe isn't right, the dancer can't do her job," says shoe room supervisor and former Pacific Northwest Ballet principal Linnette Roe. We talked to Roe and NYCB soloist Emilie Gerrity about some of the most interesting—and surprising—secrets of the shoe room.

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Dance News
Bronze medalist Kaetlyn Osmond skating her "Black Swan" long program (screenshot via YouTube)

Once upon a time (until the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi concluded, to be exact), figure skaters had to compete to music without words. Before this rule change, a skater faced an automatic point deduction if the music even hinted at vocals. Understandably, there were *a lot* of Olympic programs skated to classical music, and you'd tend to hear the same music selections over and over and over.

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Dancer to Dancer
Pacific Northwest Ballet's Laura Tisserand, mid-fouetté (via @pacificnorthwestballet on Instagram)

Pretty much every ballet student struggles with fouettés, those fiendishly difficult turns that require both crazy strength and laser-sharp precision. But even the pros, who can make 32 of 'em look effortless, still get a bit of fouetté fear—especially when they're fouetté-ing at the end of Swan Lake's Black Swan pas de deux, one of the most difficult, and exhausting, pieces of classical choreography.

Pacific Northwest Ballet's Swan Lake opens this week (be sure to tune into their live-streamed rehearsal this afternoon!), and the Seattle Times caught up with three of the company's Odette/Odiles—Laura Tisserand, Lesley Rausch, and Elizabeth Murphy—to talk about those infamous fouettés. Their consensus? Yes, they're intimidating, even for gorgeous principal ballerinas, and getting through them is a matter of finding ways to push through the nerves.

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Dance Videos
Angela Sterling, courtesy PNB

Mark your calendars, bunheads! On Monday, January 29th, at 2:45 PM (EST)/11:45 AM (PST), Pacific Northwest Ballet will be streaming a live rehearsal of Act II of Kent Stowell's Swan Lake.

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Dancer to Dancer
Photo by Victoria Schwarzi, courtesy National Ballet of Canada

Few things are as magical as a new tutu. But what goes into the creation of this iconic ballet costume? We followed a National Ballet of Canada Swan Lake tutu—made for first soloist Emma Hawes'debut as Odette/Odile—from sketch to stage.

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Dancer to Dancer
Tiler Peck and Chase Finlay in Swan Lake (photo by Paul Kolnik)

For ballerinas, it's the dream role to end all dream roles: Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, the type of part dancers spend years preparing for and whole careers perfecting. And it's a role that New York City Ballet principal Tiler Peck never thought she'd dance. Though Peck is one of the world's preeminent ballerinas, her short stature made Odette/Odile, typically performed by longer, leggier dancers, seem (almost literally) out of reach.

Then—surprise!—her name popped up on the cast list for NYCB's fall season run of Swan Lake.

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Dance Videos
Misty Copeland and James Whiteside in Swan Lake (photo by Gene Schiavone)

The dual part of Odette and Odile in Swan Lake is THE role, the one every trina dreams of from the moment she first dons a leotard. It's also insanely difficult to perform, challenging even the most elite ballerinas with its multifaceted demands.

So what's it actually like to dance Odette/Odile? A new short film from American Ballet Theatre goes behind the scenes with three Swan Queens—principals Misty Copeland and Isabella Boylston and soloist Devon Teuscher—to find out.

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Dance News

Swan Lake premiered at the Bolshoi Ballet in 1877, but since then it's undergone many variations and alterations. Dancers perform everything from New York City Ballet's stripped-down two-act version to Christopher Wheeldon's Degas-esque fantasy. And while each interpretation has its own merit and relationship with Tchaikovsky's score, wouldn't it be cool to know what the original was like?

Luckily, for dance #nerdz everywhere, there's been a major discovery at the Bolshoi: The New York Times reports that "a cache of materials uncovered during the recent renovation of the Bolshoi Theater [...] helps answer lingering questions about the first Swan Lake." SO COOL.

(Ekaterina Shipulina, photo by Damir Yusupov)

The classical production we're all familiar with is based on a 1895 staging by Marius Petipa, and it relied on a score that was rearranged from Tchaikovsky's original. It's hard to imagine the super-classical version of the ballet sounding or looking any different, but Lydia Geiten, the ballerina cast as the original lead, refused the part saying that the score was too boring (!). I guess generations of tinkering have spiced things up, because I can't imagine there's a bunhead out there who doesn't want to dance Odette/Odile—at least partly due to the beauty of the music.

Since Alexei Ratmansky's rebuild of The Sleeping Beauty was smashingly successful for American Ballet Theatre, maybe now is a great time to start piecing together notes on the original costumes and musical arrangements for Swan Lake. I know I would LOVE to see it.

 

 

Dance News

The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!

Actually, they're already here: Moscow's famous Bolshoi Ballet has arrived in NYC for more than two weeks of performances.

"Bolshoi" literally translates to "big"—which is perfect, because this company doesn't do anything small. They've brought three huge productions with them to the Big Apple: classics Swan Lake and Don Quixote, and an over-the-top man-candy festival known as Spartacus.

It's a chance for New Yorkers to see ginormous stars, especially the world-renowned Svetlana Zakharova.

Zakharova being her usual unreal self in Don Quixote (photo by Gene Schiavone)

We'll also finally witness Zakharova's much-talked-about partnership with David Hallberg, the American Ballet Theatre star who's made the Bolshoi his second home.

High drama: Hallberg and Zakharova in Swan Lake (photo by Damir Yusupov)

And we'll get a good look at up-and-comers like gorgeous Olga Smirnova, who at just 22 has already earned thousands of rabidly devoted fans.

Classical perfection: Smirnova in "Diamonds" from Jewels (photo by Damir Yusupov)

Time for some real talk: The past couple of years haven't been so great for the Bolshoi. Early in 2013,  director Sergei Filin was attacked by a masked man who threw acid on his face, leaving Filin nearly blind. The resulting investigation revealed a lot of disturbing—sometimes downright scary—information about Bolshoi politics.

But Filin, who after many surgeries has regained some of his eyesight, is back at the Bolshoi's helm. (He was even a judge at the Youth America Grand Prix finals this spring.) And it's a good sign that most of the press the group has been getting recently concerns dancing, rather than scandal. Here's hoping that the company's ugliest moments are past—so we can get back to obsessing about its truly fantastic artists.

The Bolshoi Ballet performs through July 27 at Lincoln Center. Click here to learn more!

Picture this in 3D! (photo of Ekaterina Kondaurova by Gene Schiavone)

Forget sinking ships and giant blue aliens. Director James Cameron has a new over-the-top movie project: Swan Lake.

No, but really. Cameron has teamed up with Russia's Mariinsky Ballet to present the world's first-ever live 3D performance broadcast—and what better production to choose than Swan Lake, the most epic of all epic ballets?

Even better: Starring as Odette/Odile will be the gorgeous Ekaterina Kondaurova. She feels larger than life when you're watching her from the back row of the opera house—just imagine how fabulous she'll be 20 feet high and seemingly leaping right out of the movie theater screen!

(Or, uh, maybe that'll be terrifying. But it'll definitely be impressive.)

The broadcast is scheduled for June 6 at 6:30 pm local time in the U.S. across all time zones (while it'll be filmed live, the broadcast will be tape-delayed). Click here to find out where it's playing near you—then take a look at the official trailer:

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:

Dance Fashion

Channel classical ballet heroines in these princess-perfect tutus.

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Fashion

It's no secret that we're as obsessed with pretty costumes as we are with the pretty dancers who wear them. There's just something so magical about following the life of a tutu, or going behind the scenes to see how costume shops take their creations from the page to the stage. Costumes also hold a special place in every dancer's heart.

Which is why, when we stumbled upon this Fashion magazine article, we did a little happy dance. Fashion followed National Ballet of Canada principal Greta Hodgkinson (who's celebrating her 25th year with NBoC and her 20th year as a principal in the company) into the wardrobe room—and had her round up her favorite costumes of all time. Which was no small feat, considering Hodgkinson has danced pretty much every principal role in NBoC's classical repertoire. NBD.

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Dance News

When non-dancers see a ballerina nail the role of Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, they're impressed. But when those of us who know dance see the same feat, we're totally, completely astounded. Because we understand how incredibly difficult it is just to SURVIVE the role's insane technical demands—let alone to develop a nuanced interpretation of one of ballet's most complicated characters.

That's why Cosmopolitan's interview with American Ballet Theatre principal (/style icon) Isabella Boylston about her Odette/Odile journey is especially fun for us insiders. OK, no, we don't need things like its explanation that fouettés are "quick spins while whipping a leg." But it is interesting to hear about the intensity of the rehearsal period that led up to Boylston's first shot at the role back in 2011—the hard work that resulted in her Swan Lake success. (And it was definitely a success. Girl is a BEAST.)

#sautdechatGOALS: Boylston as Odette in Swan Lake (photo by Gene Schiavone)

For example: At a showcase performance shortly before her debut, Boylston wasn't able to finish the Black Swan fouetté sequence—so she drilled those fouettés like crazy in the following weeks, working on them every day in the studio to ensure that she'd have no problem killing them onstage. And I especially love this fun fact: Boylston spent many of her precious hours of downtime at the New York Performing Arts Library, watching archival footage of past Swan Lake performances for inspiration.

Basically, the article is yet another reminder that looking like a superhuman onstage is the result of many, many hours of very human effort offstage. Read the whole thing here. And if you're in NYC, be sure to catch Boylston dancing Odette/Odile with ABT at the Metropolitan Opera House this June.

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Dance News

The fall ballet season is quickly approaching and bunheads everywhere are buzzing. While there's tons of exciting stuff going on, New York City Ballet principal Sara Mearns as Odette/Odile in Peter Martins' Swan Lake is a definite must-see.

Sara Mearns giving it her all as Odile (left, with Jared Angle) and Odette (right) (Photos Paul Kolnik)

Lincoln Center's media team recently caught up with Mearns for a 10-question interview about everything from her rehearsal process to her experiences dancing in so many different choreographers' works. (She's done everything from originate a role in Justin Peck's Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes to perform the lead in countless Balanchine ballets.)

It's even more exciting as this is Mearns' 10-year anniversary as Odette/Odile—she hasn't stopped growing as an artist, so this time around is bound to be amazing. If you simply can't wait to see Swan Lake, check out this DS fave of Mearns and fellow NYCB principal, Ashley Bouder, in Swan Lake rehearsal:

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