The ballet performance below would be considered exceptional in any circumstances, with otherworldly bodily movements that resemble that of an ailing, alien bird more than a dancer carrying out choreography.
What really blows us away, however, is that this heart-wrenching rendition of "The Dying Swan" was performed by Bolshoi ballerina Maya Plisetskaya at 61 years old.
Born in 1925 in Moscow, Plisetskaya was the daughter of a silent film actress and a diplomat. She began dancing at nine years old, performed at the Bolshoi for the first time at 11, and joined the company at 18. In 1960 she was crowned prima ballerina, and continued to dance in the company until the 1980s, well into her 60s. In the words of Vadim Gayevsky, a dance historian and critic, the dancer "began by creating her own style and ended up creating her own theater."
After suffering a heart attack, Plisetskaya passed away May 2, 2015, at the age of 89. Yet her talent and creative spirit live on through her enchanting performances, such as this 1986 role in "The Dying Swan" in Tokyo during the Soviet Stars tour.
As Elisa Wouk Almino wrote in Hyperallergic: "Her rubbery arms ripple out like waves, as if boneless. Her legs sharply pick up off the floor, her neck gracefully elongating in place, as the light, nimble creature she’s embodied finds its way in the dark. Tchaikovsky’s wavering low notes build gracefully and painfully to a shrill before gradually descending again."