What makes a pas de deux great? Is it the choreography, the dancers, the story, the music? To be sure, it’s a combination of all these factors, and many beautiful pas have been choreographed in the history of ballet. But taking stock of them all, seven stand out to The Boston Dance Journal as exceptionally memorable.
1. Grand Pas de Deux, The Nutcracker by Marius Petipa; music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
It’s simple, but romantic and truly grand, with that tear-jerking music. This is the quintessential pas de deux; for many, it was the first introduction to classical ballet and as a result, it remains ever near our hearts. Performed here by Anna Tsygankova and Matthew Golding with the Dutch National Ballet.
2. Lady of the Camellias by Val Caniparoli; music by Frédéric Chopin
The way Val Caniparoli orchestrates this intricate pas de deux aligns beautifully with the score of Chopin’s second piano concerto, and the effect is emotional and intimate. Performed here by Lucia Lacarra.
3. Act III Pas de Deux, Onegin by John Cranko; music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Talk about drama! John Cranko wonderfully tells a story through dance and manages to create signature moments in the wealth ballet history. Performed here by Anna Ol and Arthur Shesterikov with the Dutch National Ballet.
4. White Adagio, Swan Lake by Vladimir Burneister and Lev Ivanov; music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
This tender pas de deux feels like the purest form of ballet. It frames the story beautifully, meanwhile offering room for dancers to leave their mark on a performance. Performed here by Svetlana Zakharova and Roberto Bolle with La Scala.
5. Act V, The Third Symphony of Gustav Mahler by John Neumeier; music by Gustav Mahler
John Neumeier incredibly expresses a powerful spectrum of emotion through movement with a profoundly beautiful, dynamic and raw pas de deux. At times, the poses look like they were painted by a master. Performed here by Isabella Ciaravola and Alexandre Riabko with the Paris Opera Ballet.
6. Knave of Hearts Pas de Deux, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Christopher Wheeldon; music by Joby Talbot
This pas de deux is sweet, aesthetic and memorable. It’s a breath of fresh air both on its own, and in the hugely theatrical ballet. Besides, you’ve got to love that heart. Performed here by Sarah Lamb and Federico Bonelli with the Royal Ballet.
7. Balcony Pas de Deux, Romeo and Juliet by Kenneth MacMillan; music by Sergei Prokofiev
Dreamy and whimsical with such abandon. The lifts are so delicate, and that kneeling press lift is pure iconic ballet romance. Performed here by Alessandra Ferri and Wayne Eagling.