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A still from Dancing Dreams. Courtesy OVID

If you're seeking an extra dash of inspiration to start the new season on the right—dare we say—foot, look no further than dance documentaries.

Starting August 23, OVID, a streaming service dedicated to docs and art-house films, is adding eight notable dance documentaries to its library. The best part? There's a free seven-day trial. (After that, subscriptions are $6.99 per month or $69.99 annually.)

From the glamour of Russian ballet stars to young dancers training in Cuba to a portrait of powerhouse couple Carmen de Lavallade and Geoffrey Holder, here's what's coming to a couch near you:

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Ballet Stars
Lopatkina and Danila Korsuntsev in Balanchine's "Symphony in C." Photo by N. Razina, Courtesy Mariinsky Theater.

Last weekend, the Mariinsky Ballet announced on its website that one of its most revered prima ballerinas, Uliana Lopatkina, has retired from the stage. A principal dancer since 1995, Lopatkina's interpretation of Odette/Odile and "The Dying Swan", among other roles, was legendary. To honor her dance career, we're re-visiting this interview from the February/March 2013 issue.


What's the toughest part of being a dancer?

More than most professions, ballet erodes the private sphere. You don't fulfill yourself in this career: You serve it; you're a slave to it.


What ballet makes you most nervous?

Swan Lake. Even if it's not the most difficult ballet to perform, it's difficult in another way, a mystical way.

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Photo Courtesy Lopatkina

The Dying Swan, choreographed by Michel Fokine for Anna Pavlova, is a short but powerful solo often reserved for the most revered ballerinas. Mariinsky Ballet principal Uliana Lopatkina shares the thought process behind her iconic interpretation.

Although The Dying Swan is a very short piece, it has tremendous depth because both the audience and dancer are facing the question of life and death. Often we don't want to think about that—we want to live forever here on earth. This miniature has special meaning for me, as it helps me overcome the fear of death; it invites us to imagine that moment of transformation into the following life, which lasts eternally. It's very scary to die, but it is just a moment that you need to go through.

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From the audience’s perspective, dancers can appear to be six feet tall. It’s a beautiful illusion, but most often not the case. Being a tall dancer can be difficult; while long limbs are a blessing, they are often hard to manage. But as this video proves, the gorgeously tall Ulyana Lopatkina, who stands at 5’ 9”, commands impeccable control.

 

Lopatkina was only two years away from being promoted to principal dancer at the Mariinsky Ballet in this recording from 1993 (and at only 20 years old, there’s no question she was destined for the “prima” title). As you watch this Act II soloist variation from Raymonda, notice how seamlessly she moves through each transition. Sometimes the most demanding work a ballet dancer can perform is slow and controlled, full of traps to stumble and waver off-balance. But Lopatkina accepts the challenge—and succeeds. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

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