Nagahisa in La Bayadère. Photo by Natasha Razina, Courtesy State Academic Mariinsky Theatre.

25 to Watch 2018: May Nagahisa

Not many students get the opportunity to perform a variation onstage with the Mariinsky Ballet. But in April 2016, when May Nagahisa was just 15 and training at Monaco's Princess Grace Academy, the Japanese prodigy was invited to perform the Manu dance in La Bayadère with the venerable Russian company—an unprecedented honor for a non-Vaganova student.


Mariinsky director Yuri Fateyev was impressed, and just after her graduation in Monaco last June, the 17-year-old dancer started her career as a trainee in St. Petersburg. During the Mariinsky's summer tour to London, Nagahisa was assigned variations in Paquita's grand pas and La Bayadère. Her outstanding technique and épaulement made an impression, with The Telegraph praising her "ethereally light upper body." Nagahisa may well be the Mariinsky's next standout foreign soloist: Her serene classical articulation is already at home in St. Petersburg.


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

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Luke Isley, Courtesy Ballet West

How Do Choreographers Bring Something Fresh to Music We've Heard Over and Over?

In 2007, Oregon Ballet Theatre asked Nicolo Fonte to choreograph a ballet to Maurice Ravel's Boléro. "I said, 'No way. I'm not going near it,' " recalls Fonte. "I don't want to compete with the Béjart version, ice skaters or the movie 10. No, no, no!"

But Fonte's husband encouraged him to "just listen and get a visceral reaction." He did. And Bolero turned into one of Fonte's most requested and successful ballets.

Not all dance renditions of similar warhorse scores have worked out so well. Yet the irresistible siren song of pieces like Stravinsky's The Firebird and The Rite of Spring, as well as the perennial Carmina Burana by Carl Orff, seem too magnetic for choreographers to ignore.

And there are reasons for their popularity. Some were commissioned specifically for dance: Rite and Firebird for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes; Boléro for dance diva Ida Rubinstein's post–Ballets Russes troupe. Hypnotic rhythms (Arvo Pärt's Spiegel im Spiegel) and danceable melodies (Bizet's Carmen) make a case for physical eye candy. Audience familiarity can also help box office receipts. Still, many choreographers have been sabotaged by the formidable nature and Muzak-y overuse of these iconic compositions.

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