Flowers, Flowers and More Flowers: How a Star Ballerina Says Goodbye

CreditGeorge Etheredge for The New York Times

A ballerina’s farewell — especially at American Ballet Theater — is a time-honored drama. Rose petals fall like rain from the rafters, fellow dancers parade out to deliver bouquets, and audience members crowd the aisles, roaring as if at a rock concert.

Diana Vishneva’s final performance with Ballet Theater on Friday was no exception. To be clear, the 40-year-old Russian dancer, a principal with the Mariinsky in St. Petersburg, is not retiring. But, to lighten her busy and peripatetic schedule, she is saying goodbye to Ballet Theater, where she has performed as a guest artist or principal since 2003.

“At some point, you understand that this might be the time where you have to start a new page of your life,” Ms. Vishneva told The New York Times in a recent interview. “I love it here, but it’s time-consuming and energy drawing.”

Her appearances with Ballet Theater regularly sold out the 3,800-seat Metropolitan Opera House. She is the type of dancer ballet fans plan their calendars around. The theater was full on Friday for John Cranko’s “Onegin,” based on Pushkin’s novel in verse; sprinkled among the audience were dance world celebrities including Tiler Peck, of New York City Ballet, and the choreographer Alexei Ratmansky.

Ms. Vishneva performed alongside her longtime dance partner, Marcelo Gomes. After the final scene — a melodramatic, bittersweet duet based on Pushkin’s famous line “Happiness was ours … so nearly!” — Ms. Vishneva returned to the stage with a teary-eyed Mr. Gomes for a 15-minute curtain call that likely surprised few people in the theater, but satisfied the tradition of a star ballerina’s flower-filled farewell.

CreditGeorge Etheredge for The New York Times

Audience members filled the aisles of the theater within seconds of the ballet’s ending. Camera flashes came from every corner of the house, and hundreds of little Diana Vishnevas could be seen as people held up…

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