Taking Flight

Photo: Christian Witkin

George Balanchine, the Leonardo of ballet in New York, was known for many things—inventive choreography, devotion to modern classical music, a penchant for certain of his dancers. But his most charming legacy might be that of the “baby ballerina”: the girl in the corps who has that special something and gets a center-stage pirouette of her own. In recent years, New York City Ballet and its across-the-plaza rival, American Ballet Theatre, have carried on Balanchine’s tradition admirably, paying increasing attention to the corps dancers and young soloists who deserve a chance at stardom—and they’re not all girls nowadays, either. Five to watch.

From left to right:
Joined his brother, Jared, at City Ballet in 2004; has since established himself as a mature and eye-catching dancer. Danced the Liebeslieder Walzer with four of NYCB’s top ballerinas when a principal was hurt. Shows a sense of humor and passion; a lighthearted sailor in Fancy Free and a dramatic Romeo both fit him well. Look for him in bigger solos soon.

At 20, is already being called a “capital-B Ballerina.” Says a City Ballet insider, “She has what Danilova called ‘perfume.’ ” Made soloist after only two years; was hand-picked for Odette/Odile in Swan Lake this season—a huge role this early in her career, and one for which she’s stylistically suited. A Sugar Plum debut in The Nutcracker can’t be far off.

One of the most charismatic dancers at City Ballet. Became a soloist last year at 21; has taken such roles as Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and a lead Candy Cane in The Nutcracker. Has also shown poise in elegant work like Balanchine’s Mozartiana. Said to be a Martins favorite for his articulation of abstract work.

Stands out against ABT’s crop of high-energy Latin male dancers. Known for effervescence and intelligence onstage. Brings a fresh wit and energy to the soloist roles he’s been filling: the Bronze Idol in La Bayadère, the Joker in Jeu de Cartes, and especially the Champion Roper in Agnes de Mille’s Rodeo. He’ll reprise that one this fall at City Center.

Though she didn’t start dancing till 13, Copeland has risen fast at ABT. Dark-eyed and feminine, she brings strength and line to soloist roles in standards like Apollo and new ballets like this year’s Cinderella. ABT insiders praise her dynamism and her physical clarity; watch her mature this fall in Twyla Tharp’s The Upper Room at City Center.

Next: Vijay Iyer, the Mixed-Media Artist

Taking Flight