Why Ballet Still Matters

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The next generation goes well beyond "The Nutcracker."

Ballet has suddenly migrated from the doldrums of the arts section to the front page, due to the horrific acid assault on Bolshoi Ballet director Sergei Filin—like some bizarre combination of a Russian novel and The Turning Point—and (milder but still momentarily stunning) choreographer and celebrity spouse Benjamin Millepied’s appointment as the next dance director of the Paris Opera Ballet. Alone, neither signified a sea change for the art form. But together they should serve to make those who have shunned ballet take note: It’s been quite a while since tutus and hackneyed narratives were the norm at American ballet companies.

Choreographic workshops, now de rigueur at lots of companies (most significantly at New York City Ballet), have given dancers, like Millepied, the wherewithal to train their sights beyond the slipper. And thanks to new boundary-pushing directors, such as Peter Boal at Pacific Northwest Ballet and Miami City Ballet’s Lourdes Lopez (see “Ballet’s New Queen: Lourdes Lopez”), these dancemakers’ works are becoming as prevalent as the storied ballets of old.

So yes, go to The Nutcracker. But banish visions of sugarplums for the rest of the year and give the next generation of ballet a chance: These days, it’s anything but boring.