In need of a dose of encouragement before your next big performance? Then you've come to the right place! Read on as we bring you a collection of inspiring pearls of wisdom from some of the most iconic dancers in history. This bunch of ballet, tap and contemporary stars paved the way for us all.
"I do not try to dance better than anyone else. I only try to dance better than myself." Mikhail Baryshnikov
One of the greatest male dancers the world has ever seen, Baryshnikov’s career reached unparalleled heights. He danced professionally with American Ballet Theatre beginning in the 1970s, later becoming the company’s artistic director for ten years.
He went on to choreograph, direct and act on the stage, with star turns in memorable films such as The Turning Point with Shirley MacLaine, and White Nights with Gregory Hines. He even made a notable cameo as one of Carrie Bradshaw's boyfriends in Sex and the City. Baryshnikov is currently the artistic director of the Baryshnikov Arts Centre in New York City.
"Take your work seriously, but never yourself." Margot Fonteyn
Born in England in 1919, Fonteyn began her training at the Vic-Wells Ballet School, which would later go on to become The Royal Ballet School. She went on to dance with the school’s official company, The Royal Ballet, performing principal roles in Giselle, Cinderella and The Sleeping Beauty, among others.Fonteyn was later appointed to Prima Ballerina by the Queen Elizabeth II. Aged 42, she famously defied industry norms when, instead of retiring, formed an artistic partnership with Rudolf Nureyev, who was 24 years old.
“Great dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion." Martha Graham
Renowned as a pioneer of modern dance, Graham didn’t start dancing until 1911 when she was aged 22. She created her own technique that produced 181 works, and trained notable dance legends including Paul Taylor, Twyla Tharp, Alvin Ailey, and Merce Cunningham. Her eponymous company the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance in New York City, continues to influence generations today.
"What success I achieved in the theatre is due to the fact that I have always worked just as hard when there were ten people in the house as when there were thousands. Just as hard in Springfield, Illinois as on Broadway." Bill "Bojangles" Robinson
Born in 1878, this master hoofer broke down racial barriers with his innovative moves from vaudeville to Broadway stages. He performed his famous "stair dance" on film with child movie star Shirley Temple, as well as legendary tap duo The Nicholas Brothers. He transformed flat-footed shuffle tapping with his up-on-your-toes tapping style that presented a more swing type of rhythm.
"You live as long as you dance." Rudolf Nureyev
Soviet-born ballet dancer, director and choreographer Nureyev is acclaimed for inspiring male artists in ballet and modern dance the world over – and for good reason. After training at the Vaganova Choreographic Institute in Leningrad at 17 years old, the star joined Kirov Ballet in 1958.
His career highlights include a long stint as Guest Artist with The Royal Ballet from 1962 until the mid-1970s, as well as famed performances with stars such as Margot Fonteyn — both of which garnered him international acclaim.
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