#MotivationMonday: Iconic Ballerina Edition

January 15, 2017

One of my favorite things about working at Dance Magazine is our massive photo archive. As you might imagine, after 90 years we have a pretty impressive collection, one where you might find black and white photographs of Maria Tallchief and Jerome Robbins dancing on the beach, or George Balanchine posing as Titania with the original cast of his A Midsummer Night’s Dream. So for today’s #MotivationMonday, here are three phenomenal ballerinas from our archives to inspire you to drag yourself to class on this, the toughest of weekdays.

Alicia Alonso in her ABT days as the murderous Lizzie Borden (with Lucia Chase and Dimitri Romanoff) in Fall River Legend. Courtesy DM Archives.

Alicia Alonso
first rose to prominence in the 1940s as a principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre, but she soon returned to her native Cuba to star in and direct Ballet Nacional de Cuba. She began having severe vision problems at the age of 19, but you’d never know that from the five pirouettes she knocks out in these excerpts from the Black Swan pas de deux.

Today the ballerina is in her 90s, and still directing.

A young Cynthia Gregory on our August 1953 cover. Courtesy DM Archives.

Cynthia Gregory
was a force to be reckoned with. She joined ABT in the mid-1960s and was a principal within two years, making her mark as one of the most technically assured dancers in ABT’s star-studded roster. But she also had a way of becoming the roles she danced (her Swan Lake was legendary), making her rock-solid technique seem secondary to the details with which she imbued each characterization. This Paquita variation, for example, is #balletgoals.

Sylvie Guillem with Rudolf Nureyev, then director of Paris Opéra Ballet. PC: Peter Perazio, Courtesy DM Archives.

Speaking of forces of nature, let’s talk about Sylvie Guillem, aka Mademoiselle Non. One of the most preternaturally gifted ballerinas in recent memory, Guillem was made an étoile at the Paris Opéra Ballet at 19 (setting the record for the youngest in the company’s history). But what she’s most well known for is her penchant for risk-taking. The internet abounds with envy-inducing videos of her, from the role she originated in William Forsythe’s In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated to Bye, the Mats Ek solo with which she ended her performing career in 2015. I have a soft spot for this one: Grand Pas Classique, circa 1987.

Happy Monday!