Just for fun
Sergei Polunin and Misty Copeland lead a corps of 18 dancers in choreography by Liam Scarlett. Photo courtesy Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

The wait for Disney's reimagining of The Nutcracker is over. Although The Nutcracker and The Four Realms is not a full-length ballet, woven into the plot is a five-minute performance by megastars Misty Copeland and Sergei Polunin alongside 18 supporting dancers, with a CGI Mouse King moved by jookin sensation Lil Buck (aka Charles Riley). Royal Ballet artist in residence Liam Scarlett led the film's choreography in his first major motion picture experience. "It was a call I didn't expect to get," says Scarlett. "I really am the biggest Disney fan, so I couldn't believe it!"

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Just for fun
Sergei Polunin and Misty Copeland lead a corps of 18 dancers in choreography by Liam Scarlett. Photo courtesy Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

The wait for Disney's reimagining of The Nutcracker is over. Although The Nutcracker and The Four Realms is not a full-length ballet, woven into the plot is a five-minute performance by megastars Misty Copeland and Sergei Polunin alongside 18 supporting dancers, with a CGI Mouse King moved by jookin sensation Lil Buck (aka Charles Riley). Royal Ballet artist in residence Liam Scarlett led the film's choreography in his first major motion picture experience. "It was a call I didn't expect to get," says Scarlett. "I really am the biggest Disney fan, so I couldn't believe it!"

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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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At the turn of the 20th century, Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova legitimized and popularized ballet around the world with her one-of-a-kind magnetism and performance style. She is best remembered for her performances of The Dying Swan, a classical solo that fused brilliant technique with striking expression.

Pavlova in costume for The Dying Swan

The Dying Swan, composed primarily of bourrées and soft undulations of the arms, was created especially for her in 1907 (some sources say 1905) by Ballets Russes choreographer Michel Fokine. Here, Pavlova performs her iconic solo.

The Dying Swan is performed to this day by companies such as the Bolshoi Ballet, The Royal Ballet and American Ballet Theatre, and parodied by Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo. Here are some different interpretations to familiarize yourself with.

Classicism at its best: The Bolshoi Ballet’s Svetlana Zakharova performed The Dying Swan for World Ballet Day last year.

A contemporary interpretation: choreographer Dominic Walsh envisioned The Dying Swan as a woman at a cocktail party.

Jookin star Lil Buck became famous for his liquid-style interpretation of this solo.

And last but certainly not least, Paul Ghiselin, aka Ida Nevasayneva of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo performs a hilarious parody. What would Pavlova think?

Photo by Herman Mishkin, courtesy of the New York Public Library

For a history lesson plan on Pavlova and The Dying Swan, subscribe to Dance Teacher and download the October issue.

Isabella Boylston, partnered here by Zachary Catazaro, is Vail's artist in residence this year. Photo by Erin Baiano, courtesy of Vail International Dance Festival

When Damian Woetzel came to Vail a decade ago as artistic director, he brought the vision of creating an open artistic community.

"Dancers often go to festival gigs, arrive with their music and costumes, perform, get the check and go," says Woetzel. "It's very normal and efficient. But I was always more interested in collaborations, artistic development, working with new artists, so I tried from the beginning to create an atmosphere in which to experiment and try something new."

This month, the festival celebrates Woetzel's collaborative mission and its expansion during his time there.

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The main thing to understand here is that Mikhail Baryshnikov can do no wrong. I don’t think I’m being overly effusive when I say that everything he touches turns to gold. I’m going to purchase the entire Rag & Bone winter collection because of this video, and it’s a men’s line.

Don’t misunderstand–the young king of Memphis jookin’ is fantastic in the clothing company’s new film. It's more his venue, really, and Lil Buck does his thing, moving like he has no bones and doesn’t need to abide by gravity’s rules. But the first time I watched, I missed some of Buck’s best choreography because I was too busy watching 67-year-old Misha sitting in a chair. That’s how well this man commands his audience.

Baryshnikov is downright goofy for much of the video. He practices glides and some mild popping, presenting more of a tipsy, Jack-Sparrow swagger than street swagger. But he's so self-aware that he pulls it off. And when he stares into the camera with that disgruntled Russian look of his, you can't help but stare back.

When they move together, the two men have crazy performing chemistry. The best part is just past the two-minute mark, when they cross into each other’s space for the first time and start really letting loose.

In the end, the scene transitions to a theatrical setting with the dancers seated at a chessboard. Baryshnikov ends it with a mic-drop moment, as if to say, “You may be the rising star, but I’m the living legend.” And Lil Buck doesn’t seem to have a problem with that.

Lil Buck is basically unstoppable. The street dancer guested last week with New York City Ballet in the premiere of visual artist JR’s Les Bosquets and is featured in the May issue of VOGUE. The magazine released this artsy, single-angle video of Buck doing what he does best: mesmerizing, physics-defying Memphis jookin. He looks like he’s on an ice rink at one point, those glides are so smooth. I’ve hit the replay button waaay too many times. Enjoy.

Lil Buck leads a children's class at the 2011 Vail International Dance Festival

The Vail International Dance Festival has released a tantalizing sample of its 2013 performance schedule.  The biggest surprise is ballet rebel of the moment Sergei Polunin. (He blew the dance world's collective mind with his departure from The Royal Ballet last year.) The Ukrainian-born dancer is slated to appear at one of the program's International Evenings celebrating talents from around the world.

Other highlights of the festival's 25th anniversary season (July 28–August 10) include appearances by Pacific Northwest Ballet, Argentinian tango icon Gabriel Misséand and New York City Ballet principals Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild as artists in residence. World premieres by Paul Taylor, Lil Buck, Larry Keigwin and Brian Brooks will also grace the Vail stages. There will even be a performance devoted to recognizing virtuosic footwork in different dance genres. We can't wait until the full schedule comes out next month!

Tickets for the VIDF go on sale March 13. More info here

Photo by Erin Baiano

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