Le Corsaire – Behind the Scenes
svetlana | Apr 5, 2011 | 12:45PM |

all photos: Shauna Alexander



  • Every year millions of little girls (and thousands of boys?) dream of becoming professional ballet dancers. Only a teeny percentage of that even come close to living THE DREAM.
  • It takes up 10 years or more of training for one to become a professional ballerina
  • It’s usually not till the 4th year of study that pointe work is  introduced pointe work (and then only 15 minutes at the end of each technique class)
  • A male dancer lifts over 1-1/2 tons worth of ballerinas during performances.
  • Most ballerinas wear out 2-3 pairs of pointe shoes per week.
  • One tutu costs up to $2,000 to make.
  • The same tutu requires 60-90 hours of labor and over 100 yards of ruffle.


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Starting tomorrow, for five days only, Washington Ballet will be bringing their interpretation of “LE CORSAIRE”, the classic swashbuckling adventure of pirates, pashas, and the slave girls who love them (oh my) to Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theatre. And since this promises to be both an unmissable series of performance and one that can just swoop by you if you’re not paying enough attention, when The Ballet invited us to observe one of their rehearsals for it-well, we ran over, cameras and notepads in hand.


The show was originally put on in the 19th century by Jules Perot in 1858 but made famous by Marius Petipa’s version in 1868 (and later on reworked by him in 1899). Now, in 2011  it is being interpreted for DC’s stage by Anna-Marie Holmes, an internationally-regarded ballerina, choreographer and repetituer, who ruled the rehearsal with good humor and a firm and fair hand (we’d be lying if we didn’t waltz in expecting some serious “Black Swan” emotional drama but we’re happy (disappointed?) to report everyone seemed well adjusted, happy and working hard at swishing their petal branches just perfectly so).


In an interview earlier this year Septime Webre (Ballet’s Artistic director who also dropped in on the rehearsal)  “Anna-Marie Holmes’ interpretation of Le Corsaire is the perfect production to showcase the talent of The Washington Ballet artists. The men’s dancing roles in particular are significantly expanded, with more virtuosic turns and jumps. It’s almost a competition of male classical prowess, and is perfectly suited for the strong men of the company”

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But enough of that – if this rehearsal was even a glimpse of the glory you’re about to witness this week, then you should not miss a second of it.  Now, enjoy the photos because they are, truly, worth a million words, in this case.


Tickets for Le Corsaire, priced from $29 to $125, are available through kennedy-center.org, the Kennedy Center Box Office, or 202.467.4600.

Le Corsaire April 6-10, 2011

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Eisenhower Theater

  • Wednesday, April 6, 8 PM (Preview)
  • Thursday, April 7, 8 PM (Opening)
  • Friday, April 8, 8 PM
  • Saturday, April 9, 2:30 PM & 8 PM
  • Sunday, April 10, 1 PM & 6 PM

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