Marcelino Sambé has been an ebullient presence at The Royal Ballet since he joined the company in 2012. A prizewinner at Moscow International Ballet Competition and Youth America Grand Prix, the Portuguese dancer earned a scholarship to the Royal Ballet School's Upper School and shone from the start in virtuosic variations, with technique that was unfailingly bright and airy.

His short stature could have limited him. But last season, Sambé (who is also an enthusiastic choreographer) broke through to the next level, as was shown by the expressive, harrowing role Crystal Pite created on him in Flight Pattern—that of a migrant gripped by despair.

A promotion to first soloist followed, and this season Sambé is set to build on his budding partnership with the equally sparkling Francesca Hayward, one of the Royal's homegrown principals. After dancing together in La Fille mal gardée and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, they will make joint debuts in Giselle this February, a vote of confidence from director Kevin O'Hare. For Sambé, Albrecht will be the opportunity to show his mettle as royalty—and as a principal in the making.


Find out who else made Dance Magazine's "25 to Watch" list this year.

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