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Suzanne Farrell works with Sara Mearns during a rehearsal of George Balanchine's "Diamonds." Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy NYCB.

In a large practice studio inside Lincoln Center's Koch Theater, Suzanne Farrell watches quietly as New York City Ballet principals Sara Mearns and Russell Janzen work through a series of supported poses. As Janzen kneels to face her, Mearns brushes through to croisé arabesque, extending her leg high behind her. "I wouldn't penché there," says Farrell, gently. "You can, but I wouldn't."

"I get so excited here," says Mearns with a laugh. The three are slowly working through the pas de deux of "Diamonds," the ballet George Balanchine created on Farrell and Jacques D'Amboise in 1967 that makes up the third act of his full-length Jewels.

"I know," Farrell says. "But it's more exciting if the arabesque turn afterwards is sustained."

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Suzanne Farrell rehearses Sara Mearns in George Balanchine's "Diamonds." Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy NYCB.

In a large practice studio inside Lincoln Center's Koch Theater, Suzanne Farrell watches quietly as New York City Ballet principals Sara Mearns and Russell Janzen work through a series of supported poses. As Janzen kneels to face her, Mearns brushes through to croisé arabesque, extending her leg high behind her. "I wouldn't penché there," says Farrell, gently. "You can, but I wouldn't."

"I get so excited here," says Mearns with a laugh. The three are slowly working through the pas de deux of "Diamonds," the ballet George Balanchine created on Farrell and Jacques D'Amboise in 1967 that makes up the third act of his full-length Jewels.

"I know," Farrell says. "But it's more exciting if the arabesque turn afterwards is sustained."

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Forsythe's in the middle, somewhat elevated uses the battement like an attack. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, courtesy Pennsylvania Ballet

Just before retiring in 2015, Sylvie Guillem appeared on "HARDtalk with Zeinab Badawi," the BBC's hard-hitting interview program. Badawi told Guillem,

"Clement Crisp of the Financial Times, 14 years ago, described your dancing as vulgar."

Guillem responded,

"Yeah, well, he said that. But at the same time, when they asked Margot Fonteyn what she thought about lifting the leg like this she said, 'Well, if I could have done it, I would have done it.' "

They were discussing Guillem's signature stroke—her 180-degree leg extension à la seconde. Ballet legs had often flashed about in the higher zones between 135 and 160 degrees before. But it wasn't until the virtuoso French ballerina regularly extended her leg beside her ear with immaculate poise in the 1980s that leg extensions for ballet dancers in classical roles reached their zenith. Traditionalists like Clement Crisp were not taken with it.

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Just for fun
Bucharest National Ballet's 2013 trailer for "La Sylphide,' via YouTube

Few things are more powerful for promoting ballet performances than captivating trailers—especially in today's visually-focused, digitally-connected world.

We've rounded up some eye-catching ads from seasons past and present that not only make us wish we could have seen the show, but also stand alone as short films.

Bucharest National Opera's La Sylphide

Magnifying the scarf which—spoiler alert—brings about the ballet's tragic conclusion, this 2013 Bucharest National Opera's trailer turns that fateful fabric into a beautiful, deadly web. Its windswept movements form a dance of its own.

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Isabella Boylston and Calvin Royal III in Christopher Wheeldon's This Bitter Earth. Photo by Erin Baiano, courtesy of New York City Center

To celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Damian Woetzel's leadership at the Vail International Dance Festival, a new four-day event will be held in New York City, November 3–6. Vail Dance Festival: ReMix NYC brings three programs to New York City Center, along with a special lecture/demonstration focused on footwork, hosted by Woetzel. Featured performers include: Lil Buck, Michelle Dorrance, Wendy Whelan, Robert Fairchild, Matthew Rushing and Yo-Yo Ma. Works by George Balanchine, Alexei Ratmansky, José Limón, Martha Graham, Larry Keigwin and Christopher Wheeldon will be performed. Vvf.org/arts/vail-international-dance-festival

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George Balanchine

The first-ever hall of fame honoring performing artists and advocates will open at Lincoln Center in New York City next month. Legends at Lincoln Center: The Performing Arts Hall of Fame will recognize those who have contributed to the Center’s 60-year legacy. The first annual group of six inductees includes Broadway producer Harold Prince and Tony Award–winner Audra McDonald. They will be honored at a ceremony in June.

Jerome Robbins

A separate group of inductees, the Founding Legends, will also be featured to pay homage to those who made a historical impact. The group of 30 inductees includes choreographers George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins, New York City Ballet co-founder Lincoln Kirstein and NYCB artistic director Peter Martins.

David Geffen Hall, home of the New York Philharmonic, will serve as permanent residence for the hall of fame in 2021 after renovations are complete. Until then, smaller exhibits will be on display at Geffen Hall and Alice Tully Hall.

Peter Martins

Photos (from top): by Tanaquil LeClercq, by Frederic Ohringer, by Paul Kolnik, by George Platt Lynes, courtesy of New York City Ballet (4)

Lincoln Kirstein

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This month, as part of its Encores! series, New York City Center premieres Cabin in the Sky, the 1940 musical choreographed by George Balanchine and Katherine Dunham and performed by an all-black cast. Inspired by George Gershwin’s 1935 musical Porgy and Bess, Cabin in the Sky tells the story of a youth named Little Joe who has six months to prove his worth before Judgment Day. It was one of Balanchine’s few forays into the world of musical theater (other credits include On Your Toes and Where’s Charley?), and for its opening, he asked Dunham to play the seductress Georgia Brown. She agreed and recruited her company members as the musical’s dancers.

Cabin in the Sky runs at New York City Center, February 10–14.

Photo by Fraver, courtesy of New York City Center

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The holidays are here and in the dance world, that typically means one thing: Nutcracker season! As a former bunhead, I’d be remiss not to give a shout-out to some of the Nutcracker productions we all know and love.

Houston Ballet's Jared Matthews and Karina Gonzalez dance the Sugar Plum Fairy pas de deux.

10 Nutcrackers That Rock

  1. George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker(1954) Where to see it: New York City Ballet; Pacific Northwest Ballet, Seattle; Pennsylvania Ballet, Philadelphia.

  1. Kent Stowell’s Nutcracker(1983) Where to see it: PNB retired the production last year, but you can catch it on DVD via Nutcracker: The Motion Picture, filmed in 2011.

  1. Ben Stevenson’s The Nutcracker(1987) Where to see it: Houston Ballet, Houston, Texas (Catch it now because HB is retiring the production after this year. Artistic director Stanton Welch will present a new version in 2016.)

  1. Mark Morris’ The Hard Nut(1991) Where to see it: Mark Morris Dance Group, Brooklyn, NY.

  1. Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker!(1992) Where to see it: available on DVD.

  1. Helgi Tomasson’s Nutcracker(2004) Where to see it: San Francisco Ballet, San Francisco.

  1. Debbie Allen’s The Hot Chocolate Nutcracker(2010) Where to see it: Debbie Allen Dance Academy, Los Angeles.

  1. Alexei Ratmansky’s The Nutcracker(2010) Where to see it: American Ballet Theatre, Costa Mesa, California.

  1. Mikko Nissinen’s The Nutcracker(2012) Where to see it: Boston Ballet, Boston.

  1. Gelsey Kirkland’s The Nutcracker(2013) Where to see it: Gelsey Kirkland Ballet, Brooklyn, NY.

The snow scene from Alexei Ratmansky's The Nutcracker

5 Reasons Why The Nutcracker Will Never Get Old

  1. The music is iconic—Nothing rings in the holiday season quite like Tschaikovsky’s score.

  1. It’s joyful—In most versions, the unhappiest thing that happens is Clara’s nutcracker getting broken (only temporarily) by her pesky brother Fritz. Not too bad if you ask me!

  1. It’s the perfect blend of narrative and non-narrative ballet—The first act’s party and fight scenes are ballet acting at its finest. The second act’s Land of Sweets offers a buffet of dance delicacies.

  1. It’s a time-honored holiday tradition—If you haven’t danced in it, it’s likely you’ve seen it. Each year, thousands of people attend the show, bringing in roughly 40 percent of ballet companies’ annual revenue.

  1. There’s something in it for everyone—From the humorous antics of the opening party scene to the action-packed fight scene that follows, to the technical feats of the Sugar Plum Fairy, it’s a show everyone can enjoy.

Happy Holidays!

Photos (from top): by Amitava Sarkar, courtesy of Houston Ballet; by Gene Shiavone, courtesy of American Ballet Theatre

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