Fall is in full swing; as the weather grows cooler, all we want to do is curl up with an autumnal treat (try these four pumpkin recipes) and a good movie. Luckily, Netflix has some of our favorite dance documentaries available for streaming. So next time you're settling down for a night in, look no further for what to watch; these films are sure to leave you inspired and even more in love with ballet.
Restless Creature, 2017
After limited release in theaters this summer, we're thrilled that Restless Creature has made it to Netflix. This emotional documentary follows former New York City Ballet principal Wendy Whelan as she makes the decision to retire from the company that she called home for 30 years. With plenty of dance footage (starting with her childhood training in Louisville, Kentucky), Restless Creature offers an intimate portrait of one of the world's most famous modern ballerinas.
A Ballerina's Tale, 2015
A Ballerina's Tale tells the story of Misty Copeland's rise to the top. Released just before her promotion to principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre, the film follows Copeland as she overcomes self doubt and injury while making history as an African American ballerina. Interviews with Copeland and footage of her dancing are coupled with the voices of other black women who have been the first in their fields.
Nowadays, when a ballet company wants to promote a new work, or an upcoming season, they go all-out. Rather than cutting together a bunch of performance footage, companies are creating mini-films that bring the artistic director or choreographer's vision to life. And with recording and editing equipment more widely available than ever, it makes sense.
Take, for example, two recent films produced by Dance Theatre of Harlem and San Francisco Ballet, respectively. In DTH's season trailer, we get less of a performance overview and more of a narrative, conveying the power of tradition, representation and diversity within the ballet world, and using a curious little girl as an example of how ballet can change lives. It's even set against an original song by India Arie!
SFB's trailer for corps member Myles Thatcher's upcoming premiere Ghost in the Machine takes us on a whirlwind adventure covering many behind-the-scenes aspects of a new work. We see Thatcher sketching out movement patterns in his notebook, conferring with a costume designer and taking class, plus tantalizing glimpses of the choreography.
It seems like Hollywood movie trailers become more sophisticated every year, so it's no surprise that media-savvy ballet companies aren't far behind.
There's something compelling about the pristine classicism of ballet contrasted against a gritty setting. The viral success of videos like Sergei Polunin and David LaChapelle's "Take Me to Church" doesn't lie.
Here's another video to add to the list of edgy and beautiful dance films out there: Ezra Hurwitz's latest endeavor with San Francisco Ballet. The film is a trailer for the upcoming Justin Peck premiere at SFB, In the Countenance of Kings. It showcases some of the company dancers in choreography pulled directly from the ballet. The twist? They're dancing in a stunning, abandoned train station instead of onstage at the War Memorial Opera House. The music, composed by frequent Peck collaborator Sufjan Stevens, is propulsive. The dancing is energetic and free. And, in an adorable twist, the performers are all wearing white sneakers.
We love Hurwitz's video collaborations because they give a dreamy, romantic twist to standard behind-the-scenes mini-documentaries. And, since he's a retired member of Miami City Ballet, the films are full of little details that dancers know other dancers want to see. This trailer is no different.