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Camera crew record the rehearsal of The Nutcracker by the Czech National Ballet amid the coronavirus pandemic on Dec. 21, 2020 in Prague, Czech Republic.

Gabriel Kuchta/Getty Images

If there is a silver lining to the closing of theatres, it’s the digital spring it has brought to the world of dance. Although we long for the day when live performance is again possible, in the interim, fans can stream a wealth of ballet and dance from home and abroad this winter.

Throughout January, the National Ballet of Canada is offering a balletic feast of repertoire. You won’t see an entire performance here, only excerpts, however the programs are streaming for free on YouTube and cover some of the greats, both modern and classic.

Modern Masterpieces, available from January 7, showcases the National Ballet in Alexei Ratmansky’s Piano Concerto #1 from his sublime Shostakovich Trilogy, alongside Jiri Kylian’s cheeky Petite Mort and Wayne McGregor’s boundary-pushing Chroma. For narrative drama, John Cranko’s Onegin is a favourite, and newer ballets, Anna Karenina by John Neumeier and A Winter’s Tale by Christopher Wheeldon, can be seen from January 14 as part of the Power and Passion: Great Drama collection. The month concludes with a tribute to Neumeier, whose ballets have shaped the company significantly in recent years, featuring excerpts from Nijinsky, A Streetcar Named Desire and The Seagull. Both series are available for 30 days.

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The company has also commissioned new works for its Expansive Dances program, including Guillaume Côté's Lulu, winner of best international short film at the 2020 Milan International Film Festival. In February, the company streams its Spotlight Series, featuring digital premieres by Jera Wolfe, Alysa Pires and Kevin Ormsby, as well as the film version of Robert Binet’s Dreamers Ever Leave You, based on Canadian painter Lawren Harris’s blue-hued landscapes, previously performed at the National Gallery of Ontario.

The Paris Opera has created its own streaming service, l’Opéra chez soi, and has several of its most celebrated operas and ballets available to rent. Currently streaming are Rudolf Nureyev’s “Freudian” version of the avian classic Swan Lake, a 2015 recording of Manon starring Roberto Bolle and Aurélie Dupont (she retired after this performance to become the artistic director of Paris Opera Ballet), and a rarely performed masterpiece by John Neumeier, Third Symphony of Gustav Mahler. Audiences can also view Crystal Pite’s The Seasons’ Canon on a mixed bill with work by Hofesh Shechter, Ivan Perez and James Thierrée.

The pandemic might have derailed Emily Molnar’s first season as artistic director at Nederlands Dans Theater in 2020, however the former of Ballet BC star successfully oversaw the company’s digital transformation, with NDT livestreaming a number of its programs. The company regularly schedules some of Europe’s most exciting choreographers, and its coming program Shadow’s Whispers in February is no different, featuring world premieres by Hofesh Shechter and Imre van Opstal & Marne van Opstal. Keep an eye on the company’s website for dates and time of the livestream.

Brexit notwithstanding, performances from Britain are more accessible than ever with streaming services such as Ballet on Demand from the English National Ballet. Audiences can rent one of the most popular new ballets in recent years, Akram Khan’s Giselle, as well as new short films featuring dancers of the ENB, and the Bournonville classic La Sylphide starring National Ballet of Canada principal Jurgita Dronina as the mischievous sylph.

Also worth mentioning is Marquee TV, a streaming service dedicated to the arts that boasts a wide selection of full-length ballets, mostly from companies in Britain, elsewhere in Europe and Russia. Fans of Frederick Ashton ballets can get their fix of the Royal Ballet in Rhapsody, The Two Pigeons and The Dream, the British choreographer’s one-act take on Shakespeare’s comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Where Marquee TV really shines, however, is in the repertoire from Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet and the Mariinsky Ballet in St. Petersburg. Audiences can watch in awe as the preternatural Svetlana Zakharova embodies white and black swan roles in the Bolshoi’s Swan Lake, and cheer superstars Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev in The Flames of Paris, a revolutionary firecracker of a ballet, recorded in 2010. For something a bit different and, dare we say, political, try Alexei Ratmansky’s 2007 recreation of Soviet-era ballet, The Bolt. Set to music by Shostakovich, The Bolt is about a factory malcontent jamming a bolt in the Soviet machinery, and is heralded as “great fun for communists and capitalists alike.”

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