Inside the Ballet World

By Gail on

On an average week I will teach and take about 25 hours of dance classes. You would think that would be enough for one person. But even during my downtime, I love to read and watch films about dance. I still prefer to watch a live performance, but that’s not always possible.

I wanted to share with you what I’ve watched recently on my local PBS channel and one that I streamed from Amazon.

After reading an article about Sergei Pulonin in Dance Magazine, I was interested in watching Dancer, a documentary about him. This film covers Sergei from his early training in Ukraine to him becoming the youngest principal dancer with the Royal Ballet. Sounds like a fairy tale but the truth is the sacrifices that he and his family made, so that he could accomplish all he did, didn’t lead him to happiness. He struggled with substance abuse and finally left the world of dance for a while. Some of you may have seen the YouTube video, Take Me to Church, directed by David LaChapelle that went viral last year. Fortunately creating that video helped him to find his love of dance.

He is a once in a lifetime performer and we are all lucky that he is continuing to dance. And if you want to see a live performance, he’ll be at City Center the end of this week!

One night while my husband was channel surfing, he found two other interesting dance documentaries for me. (One of the many reasons I keep him around!)  WMHT Educational Communications recently aired A Perfect Balance on their Create channel. The film combined interviews with contemporary dancers from American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, and Berlin Ballet along with stunning video of those artists performing.

I loved seeing the performances, but found the interviews with the dancers the most compelling part of the film. We gain a glimpse into their life backstage, their thoughts about those performances and their lives as dancers. I’m not sure if this is going to air again on the Create channel, but we were able to see the part we missed by streaming it with the PBS app. Visit your local PBS web site,  and look for a link to their videos. If you can’t find it, try calling or writing the folks at the station.

The last documentary is called Black Ballerina, which raises the question of diversity in the ballet world. This was a thought provoking film which raised many serious questions about discrimination in the world of ballet. The film interviewed contemporary and historical black dancers, who speak frankly about the challenges they faced in becoming accepted as dancers. The issues involved are complex and the solutions are not very straight forward. The major companies are starting to become more diverse, but it’s a slow process.

I hope that you will get a chance to watch some or all of these documentaries. If you do, please let me know what you think about them. Either leave a comment below or let’s chat before or after class!

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