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  • Writer's pictureJulia Sumzina

La Notte Ballet Top: Top-5 International Dancers of the Year.

Updated: Aug 16, 2020

I'm happy to announce the new rubrics of the La Notte Magazine “La Notte Ballet Top-5”. Every month we will announce Top-5 of Dancers in different categories.

Today we're announcing “Top-5 International Dancers of the Year”. This season was very hard not only due to the Covid-19 pandemy, but all of them are the dancers of the highest class and the people who are doing a lot for the society and international ballet community.

Each legendary winner was chosen based on the following criteria:

* Constantly-developed body of outstanding work over the last decade;

* Authenticity, generosity and hard-earned respect within the industry;

* Noted efforts to adapt equally to classical technique, contemporary technique, acting technique and especially willingness to explore anything that is authentically new in the dance world;

* Audience appreciation and multiple fan reactions from all over the world;

* Critical acclaim (multiple journalist sources);

* Using their platform to support the creative youth of tomorrow while making dance more accessible to those in need.

Marianela Núñez

Photo: Maria-Helena Buckley

One of the most acclaimed ballerina in the world, Argentine dancer Marianela Nuñez is a Principal of The Royal Ballet. She joined The Royal Ballet Upper School in 1997 and joined the Company in 1998, promoted to First Soloist in 2000 and to Principal in 2002 aged 20.

  • “Now 37, she is in her prime. She excels in the big ballerina roles in the famous 19th-century classics – she’s just finished performing Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty and will be soon playing Odette/Odile in Swan Lake and Tatiana in Onegin.”

The Guardian, January 2020.

Marianela performes the main roles in Sleeping Beauty, Don Quixote, Eugene Onegin and other classical, neoclassical and modern ballets on the main stages around the world. She really is on the highest level of her shape and professional inspiration, she is an example of the passion to her work and an idol for ballet fans around the world.

  • “...I love being on stage and I just want to dance. It’s what makes me happy and my body can take it, which is a blessing. I literally love doing everything. The dramatic, the classics, abstract ballets. I am a complete bunhead! When I am not dancing, I am watching dancing. Also, I genuinely feel that ballerinas become more interesting when they become older. When you watch them, it’s not just a body doing incredible stunts, it’s something in their eyes, how they move their hands. There is so much depth there. I want to achieve that and explore it.”

Marianela Núñez for The Guardian, January 2020.

Photo: Maria-Helena Buckley

She got the Best Female Dancer at the Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards, 2005, 2012 and 2018 in the UK

The lockdown time this year was very hard for all the dance companies but we can read Marianela’s words from the interview for DanceTabs:

  • “...Ballet is my passion. It’s genuinely what keeps me going. When you have a big passion like that, it doesn’t matter where you are, even with the difficulties of being in the living room, hard floor – you have to invent, create a little ballet studio at home. You do it because you wake up and your life has meaning. I’m trying to keep in shape because I know when this is over I need to be in the best possible shape to give the audiences the best performances I can. I love what I do, and I just keep going – my body just does it."

Although her greatest source of work is in London, Marianela Núñez has gone several times to General San Martín, her hometown, to provide free ballet galas for the residents there. She is the symbol of classical dance in Argentina. In addition, she was declared an illustrious citizen of San Martín and is the godmother of the Municipal School of Dances, reopened by the Municipality. Marianela is also a patron of the emerging BalletArtsProject, a platform designed to allow students to access ballet training by some of the biggest names in ballet world such as Misty Copeland, Francesca Hayward, Evan McKie, David Hallberg and Steven McRae.

Mathieu Ganio

Photo: James Bort

Despite this season in Paris Opera Ballet was very difficult for all the company, Mathieu Ganio, the Principal, fascinated the audience by his breathtaking performance of Albrecht in Giselle on the Palais Garnier stage (you can read our review).

  • “Mathieu Ganio, too, shaped the character of Albrecht through his multiple interpretations of the role. Moving away from the stereotypes of the prince, he brings the character to life and humanity. The duplicity of Albrecht, who has fun with Giselle when he is already promised to Princess Bathilde, remains tender. His Albrecht is inconsistent, light, to be sure, but never cynical.”

ResMusica, 9 February 2020.

Photo: Yonathan Kellerman

Mathieu was born in the family of Ballet National de Marseille principal dancers Dominique Khalfouni and Denys Ganio and was growing up in the world of ballet. He began dance lessons at the age of seven and studied at the École Nationale Supérieure de Danse de Marseille from 1992 to 1999, before completing his training at the Paris Opera Ballet School. In 2001 he joined the corps de ballet of the Paris Opera Ballet and was promoted to the rank of coryphée in 2002 and sujet in 2003. On 20 May 2004, following a performance of Don Quixote, he was appointed étoile (the Principal dancer), bypassing the rank of premier danseur (first soloist).

  • “I’m dancing a Prince on stage in a beautiful costume, surrounding by an incredible environment and I don’t feel like I am really helping improving our society. And what is happening nowadays is sometimes scaring. We need to be committed. But when I hear the feedbacks from the public, about their evening, what they felt, how they got away from their everyday life that sometimes is full of anxiety, I tell myself that, somehow, we help, we contribute to this world.

  • Art creates art. I like this idea that all kinds of arts are joined together. Going to an exhibition, going to the movies, listening to an inspiring concert, seeing a play… Art enriches my imagination, my personality. It helps me bring out new emotions.”

Mathieu Ganio for Opéra national de Paris: Parcours d’Étoile, February 2020.

He regularly takes part in the contemporary creations in Paris Opera, last years the audience could see him in Grand Miroir by Saburo Teshigawara (2017), The Male Dancer by Ivan Pérez (2018), Dogs Sleep by Marco Goecke (2019).

With his ideal technique and acting talent Mathieu impresses spectators by his noble and romantic performances in classical, modern and contemporary repertoire, but he as well is interested in drama theatre, he tried himself as an actor in Le Rappel des oiseaux, according to Gogol's Journal of a Madman few years ago.

Mathieu also regularly participates in the international ballet community events and charity, for example in Hope n'Down association run by volunteers (parents of people with Down's syndrome or carriers of another particularity, people with Down's syndrome and professionals who revolve around them) convinced that we can live All Different, All Together.

Misty Copeland

Photo: Nisian Hughes

Misty Copeland is the first African American Female Principal Dancer with the American Ballet Theatre. She was considered a prodigy who rose to stardom despite not starting ballet until the age of 13. In 1997, Copeland won the Los Angeles Music Center Spotlight Award as the best dancer in Southern California. After two summer workshops with ABT, she became a member of ABT's Studio Company in 2000 and its corps de ballet in 2001, and became an ABT soloist in 2007. She became a star as a soloist from 2007 to mid-2015 (when she was promoted to the rank of Principal dancer), being considered a good classical and contemporary sophisticated dancer.

  • “... Copeland’s arms, especially, are magnificent — winglike and seemingly boneless. The arms are so important in this ballet about avian imagery and thwarted flight, and Copeland used them beautifully to underscore the complicated vulnerability of her character. With her floating arms and supple shoulders, her tapered, deeply arched feet and her legs of steel, Copeland’s Odette was soft at the extremes, yet underpinned by remarkable strength.”

Washington Post about Misty’s performance in Swan Lake.

She is known tot only by her performances in classical ballets like The Sleeping Beauty, La Bayadere, Giselle, Le Corsaire, Don Quixote, Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet etc., but also for amazing created roles: the Spanish Dance in Ratmansky’s The Nutcracker, the Fairy Fleur de farine in Ratmansky’s The Sleeping Beauty, His Loss in AfterEffect, and roles in AFTERITE, C. to C. (Close to Chuck), Dumbarton, Glow – Stop, Her Notes and others.

Photo: Marty Sohl

  • “Throughout the dance, Ms. Copeland keeps shifting shape, her sinuous arms suggesting a ballet swan one moment and a street dancer the next. More than once, she looks over her shoulder anxiously. Yet all during the rehearsal, even as she grew frustrated with a section and they had to work out a solution together, they were making each other laugh almost continuously.”

The New York Times about Misty's work with Kyle Abraham, 1 October, 2019.

She is always ready for dancing experiments and social activities. In addition to her dance career, Copeland has become a public speaker, celebrity spokesperson and stage performer. She has worked with many charitable organizations and is dedicated to giving of her time to work with and mentor young girls and boys. In 2014, President Obama appointed Misty to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition. In 2015, she was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine, appearing on its cover. In 2020 she is actively supporting people during the new virus pandemy and the Black Lives Matter movement, being one of the most important influencers in the United States.

  • “I feel like most people from the outside don't realize how much of a family we are, no matter what company you're in, that it's not as competitive as it's depicted in film and media, but that we really are a union," she adds. "It's such a niche world and art form that I feel like we need each other, we need to support each other.”

Copeland says about her Swans for Relief to People.Com

Evan McKie

Photo: E. Günther

Evan McKie is celebrated around the world for his artistry, adaptability and physical intelligence in an unusually large spectrum of roles. If there was an Oscar for ballet dancers, he’d surely be nominated for roles in "Onegin", "The Winter’s Tale”, "Hamlet", "Nijinsky" , "Apollo" , "The Sleeping Beauty" and more. A Principal dancer with the National Ballet of Canada, McKie performs as a guest dancer with the Paris Opera Ballet (2011, 2012, 2014), Bolshoi Ballet (2013), Mariinsky Ballet (2016) and The Tokyo Ballet. McKie is part of only a handful of dancers in the world today to guest-star with the much celebrated trio of the Mariinsky Ballet, the Bolshoi Ballet and the Paris Opera Ballet. He is likely the very first Canadian to do so. McKie says that he grew up in Canada for the first half of his life and Stuttgart for the other half. Among Stuttgart fans and journalists, he is remembered with great excitement for his thought-provoking tour-de-force performances and role as a muse to many choreographers spanning over a decade. His "Onegin” is "within the realm of best in the world” ,wrote Deborah Weiss for Dance Europe Magazine.

McKie, like one of our other Dancers of Year, Marianela Núñez, is in his prime at 37 years old and, and even though he’s danced the work of almost every major choreographer today, he is visibly seeking so much more time with them and also their younger counterparts.

  • "It’s very important to me to make sure choreographers at any age, dancers and audiences are cultivated at every point of their connection to the theatre...way beyond just the initial first steps and first hits of excitement here and there. I’ve seen directors build lasting and sustainable legacies based on really listening to their artists and getting the absolute most out of their acquired range of talent. That’s a tough marker to pass for a leader but some do it and have companies full of happy, busy and creative artists whose voices matter! I’ve seen it and felt it and I will keep it with me always.”

Photo: Michel Lidvac

Unique in this list of Top Five dancers is that McKie, perhaps already thinking ahead, made the choice to work with both a European company and a North American Ballet Company to see how much they differed. He has now lived in Canada for 6 years dancing a list of iconic roles. Just recently he was championed by a Canadian dance journalist as one of the best performances of 2019 for his rendition of Balanchine’s "Apollo." McKie studied at Canada's National Ballet School, The Kirov Academy of Ballet and was scouted by legendary teacher Pyotr Pestov to join Germany's John Cranko School, where he was given his first professional job as a dancer by the Stuttgart Ballet's Artistic Director, Reid Anderson. Just before becoming professional, McKie suffered a severe knee-ligament injury and was told by doctors that he may never be able to be a ballet dancer. However, after two years of work with Pyotr Pestov, Doctors called his unusual recovery a "miraculous story of grit and adaptability ". His career began...

Currently, as an experienced dancer of highest class, Evan seems open and ready for new challenges. He appears to be an optimal candidate for the role of an Artistic Director for the future though he has said that he has other things he must do first.

  • "I haven’t made any inquiries or accepted anything coming my way because at the moment, the psycho-social tensions around that subject are too high and some people treat me differently because they assume that I’m on that wavelength and that I’m clawing my way into some illusion of a director’s chair. But really, I just want to work with them dancer-to-dancer. People instinctively want power, I get it, and all that’s meant to be will be, for all of us, but I think the people I spend time with and want to spend more time with are really looking for strength, balance and daily morale: actual dreams being achieved, you know? I’m still exercising how to find those three points in my own daily practice bit by bit, little by little and taking care of what my new dreams are. But, I have to say all of the patience does pay off!".

McKie has been awarded certificates through Oxford University Saïd Business school and École des hautes études commerciales de Paris within the last five years and has shadowed Mikko Nissinen, Artistic Director of the Boston Ballet. He also says he’s been "creating opportunities, casting ballets in my head, teaching, commissioning work, fighting for race and gender-related equality and promoting young talent aggressively” since he was a teenager. "My friends through the years can attest to that." "I’ve got notebooks filled with incompleted ideas but right now, I must dance and study and live my life !” he said in an early-quarantine Instagram interview.

McKie won the inaugural Kirov Academy Achievement Award in 2016 for his humanitarian work in the field of mental health and addiction and for having an outstanding dance career so far. At the ceremony, in Washington D.C., filled with two-hundred students, McKie stated :

  • "...this award is for you: anybody who is being bullied because you don’t fit in due to your orientations, expressions and what methods you seek to inspire you to keep growing...But please be true to yourself, be smart and enjoy being generous. Never leave anybody behind, not even those who’ve laughed at you, hurt you or tried to hold you back in any way...this award is for them too."

McKie is a member of the international advisory council for Dance Magazine and for Dance Collection Danse, Canada’s Dance archive.

Viktoria Tereshkina

Photo: Julia Sumzina

Viktoria Tereshkina, the Principal of Mariinsky ballet, is one of the dancers considered the symbols of the company. “An iron lady” of Mariinsky is equally perfect in classical or contemporary ballets. Her charisma makes her one of the most famous Russian ballerinas of nowadays.

  • “Bright, sparkling, absolutely technical, artistic and infinitely hard working, Viktoria Tereshkina is one of the symbols of our generation. She is appreciated by partners on stage for her ideal balancing and immaculate professionalism, by choreographers for her desire to try new pieces, participate in the creative process and bring any idea to perfection, by critics for her flawless technique, by spectators for the aesthetic pleasure and emotional charge that they receive from her.”

Dance Open about Viktoria.

Following her graduation from Vaganova Ballet Academy in 2001, Tereshkina immediately joined the Mariinsky Ballet where she became a soloist in 2005 and a principal in 2008. She debuted as Odette/Odile in Swan Lake in 2002, at the age of 19; it was her first principal role.

Her repertoire includes Giselle, Aurora, Nikia, Gamzatti, Raimonda, Odette-Odile, Kitri, Fire Bird, Juliet and many other parties. She was the first to perform the Queen of the See (Ondine by Pierre Lacotte, 2006), Phrygia (Spartacus by Leonid Yakobson, 2010) and Tsar Maiden (the Little Humpbacked Horse by Alexei Ratmansky, 2009) and a lot of contemporary pieces. Viktoria always works with young choreographers with great pleasure and regularly participates in The Young Choreographers Workshop in Mariinsky.

  • “The lead role at the premiere was performed by Viktoria Tereshkina, a ballerina who has the ability to transform herself with rare ease in accordance with the tasks faced, while her stunning plastique responsiveness to the smallest dance nuances and shading make Ms Tereshkina a premium-class virtuoso.”


She is a Principal dancer for more than 10 years but Viktoria's responsibility becomes higher and higher:

  • “The more talented the ballerina, the higher the demand from her. Of course, this is also psychological stress, because you are presented as the face of the Mariinsky Theater. You dance premieres, and you open tours abroad, after which critical articles are immediately published. When I was studying, I didn't even think about it. I had no idea that I would become a soloist.”

Viktoria for La Personne, December 2018.

Photo: Julia Sumzina

Her amazing performances in The Swan Lake, La Bayadere, Don Quixote and the pieces of XX century attracted the spectators from around the world last season. Being one of the leaders of Russian ballet of XXI century, Viktoria Tereshkina is a role model and idol for the plenty of young ballet dancers.


You can vote for category for September by e-mail by choosing from the list:

  • The masters of ballet

  • Classical Idols

  • Contemporary Stars

  • Young and Bright

  • Newcomers 2020

Just send your name and the category you've chosen.

Photos: Maria-Helena Buckley, James Bort, Yonathan Kellerman, Nisian Hughes, Marty Sohl, E. Günther, Michel Lidvac, Julia Sumzina

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