Just for fun

Celebrate National Best Friend Day With Our 5 Favorite Ballet BFFs

Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancers Elizabeth Murphy and Sarah Ricard Orza in Peter Boal's staging of "Giselle." Photo by Angela Sterling.

Though you may not know it, June 8 is National Best Friends Day. Obviously this provides an opportunity to celebrate some of our favorite friendships in ballet, but maybe not the kind you're thinking of. Instead of rounding up our favorite real-life besties (hi, ABT Cindies), we're taking a look at some of ballet's onstage friendships. While lots of classical ballets include love triangles with characters tearing each other down, there are some occasions where friendship flourishes. Check out some of our favorites below, and don't forget to wish your studio BFFs a happy National Best Friends Day!

Romeo, Mercutio and Benvolio, Romeo & Juliet

Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancers Benjamin Griffiths (Benvolio), James Moore (Romeo), and Jonathan Porretta (Mercutio) in Jean-Christophe Maillot's "Roméo et Juliette." Photo by Angela Sterling.

Sure, Juliet has her nurse, but Mercutio literally duels to his death against Tybalt for his BFF Romeo—talk about a loyal friend. But before all of the drama unfolds, Romeo, Mercutio and Benvolio were just your average besties, sneaking into parties and hanging out at the marketplace.


Four Little Swans, Swan Lake

Pacific Northwest Ballet corps de ballet dancers Carli Samuelson and Madison Rayn Abeo, and soloists Angelica Generosa and Leta Biasucci in Kent Stowell's "Swan Lake." Photo by Angela Sterling.

These ladies are the original clique. Not only are they attached at the hip, they're completely in sync all the time, from the tilt of their heads to their precise footwork.

Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, Don Quixote

Pacific Northwest Ballet guest artists Tom Skerritt (Don Q) and Allen Galli (Sancho Panza) with company dancers in Alexei Ratmansky's "Don Quixote." Photo by Angela Sterling.

While ballets are filled with all manner of trusty sidekicks, there is no one quite as idealistic and optimistic in his commitment to his pal as Sancho Panza is to Don Quixote. Even though Don Q may be dreaming of a more beautiful companion, they're content to spend their days adventuring together.

Myrtha's Sidekick Wilis, Giselle

Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancers Elizabeth Murphy and Sarah Ricard Orza in Peter Boal's staging of "Giselle." Photo by Angela Sterling.

Even in death, Moyna and Zulma are BFFs, helping Myrtha round up the rest of the Wilis. While some might say the Wilis are a little coldhearted given that they spend their nights dancing men to death, we think M and Z's friendship proves otherwise (plus, most of those guys probably deserved it).

Swanilda's Crew, Coppélia

San Francisco Ballet's Frances Chung in "Coppelia." Photo by Erik Tomasson, courtesy SFB.

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Ask yourself this: If your BFF found a key lying outside someone's house, would you be down to follow her inside? After all, this is an act better known as breaking and entering. Basically, what we're getting at is that Swanilda's friends must really love her if they're willing to get into those sorts of shenanigans.

Music
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Securing the correct music licensing for your studio is an important step in creating a financially sound business. "Music licensing is something studio owners seem to either embrace or ignore completely," says Clint Salter, CEO and founder of the Dance Studio Owners Association. While it may seem like it's a situation in which it's easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission—that is, to wait until you're approached by a music-rights organization before purchasing a license—Salter disagrees, citing Peloton, the exercise company that produces streaming at-home workouts. In February, Peloton settled a music-licensing suit with the National Music Publishers' Association out-of-court for an undisclosed amount. Originally, NMPA had sought $300 million in damages from Peloton. "It can get extremely expensive," says Salter. "It's not worth it for a studio to get caught up in that."

As you continue to explore a hybrid online/in-person version of your class schedule, it's crucial that your music licenses include coverage for livestreamed instruction—which comes with its own particular requirements. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about music licensing—in both normal times and COVID times—as well as some safe music bets that won't pose any issues.

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Teaching Tips
A 2019 Dancewave training. Photo by Effy Grey, courtesy Dancewave

By now, most dance educators hopefully understand that they have a responsibility to address racism in the studio. But knowing that you need to be actively cultivating racial equity isn't the same thing as knowing how to do so.

Of course, there's no easy answer, and no perfect approach. As social justice advocate David King emphasized at a recent interactive webinar, "Cultivating Racial Equity in the Classroom," this work is never-ending. The event, hosted by Dancewave (which just launched a new racial-equity curriculum) was a good starting point, though, and offered some helpful takeaways for dance educators committed to racial justice.

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Higher Ed
The author, Robyn Watson. Photo courtesy Watson

Recently, I posted a thread of tweets elucidating the lack of respect for tap dance in college dance programs, and arguing that it should be a requirement for dance majors.

According to onstageblog.com, out of the 30 top-ranked college dance programs in the U.S., tap dance is offered at 19 of them, but only one school requires majors to take more than a beginner course—Oklahoma City University. Many prestigious dance programs, like the ones at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and SUNY Purchase, don't offer a single course in tap dance.

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