Ballet in Film: And We Will Dance

Thinking about North Carolina School of the Arts for your summer program? And We Will Dance is a documentary about four dancers at the school and their pursuit of dance. Check out the trailer here and the official website here.

Now headed by ABT and former NYCB principal dancer Ethan Stiefel of Center Stage fame, UNCSA is an academic and talented arts boarding high school with an excellent record for training dancers. During the school year, UNCSA also offers training for students younger than high school. Post high school, UNCSA provides a well-respected BFA program.

Update: Ethan Stiefel has accepted the position of artistic director of the Royal New Zealand Ballet and will step down from his post as UNCSA dean at the end of this academic year.

Ballet in Film: Dancing Across Borders

Dancing Across Borders is the story of a young Cambodian dancer plucked from his home in a small fishing community to be trained at SAB. If you haven’t seen it yet … go watch it right now! This film is one of my new favorites, if only for the much-deserved coverage of Black Swan set coach Olga Kostritzky, one of the best teachers I ever had (as one of my level’s main teachers at the 2001 Rock SI), and for the extensive footage of Balanchine style and choreography, since there’s isn’t a ton of the stuff on DVD.

But there is much more to this film than footage of SAB teacher-gods like Ms. Olga, Jock Soto and Peter Boal. It is the story of Sokvannara “Sy” (pronounced “See”) Sar, a young man with a remarkable spirit who is plucked from his home country and thrust into the world of pre-professional ballet training by the hand of an intentionally benevolent (though perhaps difficult to like) New York socialite Anne Bass.\

This film might as well be dedicated to honor international ballet students everywhere, as it does an excellent job of talking openly – often through Sy’s own words – about the inevitable emotional consequences of being so far from your home, your family, your language and everything you’ve known. In this case, the scarring was exacerbated by Sy’s lack of control over his fate for the first few years of his training. Unlike some international students, he did not really choose to leave his country for ballet training, ballet chose him. He knew it was a chance to support his family that he couldn’t possibly turn down, though he neither spoke English nor had seen ballet before Bass brought him a ballet film and radically suggested that he leave everything he’d ever known for this bizarre, western pursuit.

Sy’s journey is simply fascinating. He was entered into the Professional Children’s School for academics but was not instantly accepted to SAB despite the pleas of Anne Bass to Peter Martins. Instead, Sy falls into the singularly capable hands of Ms. Olga, who takes on the task of molding the 16-year old Cambodian through private classes from basically a pedestrian into a SAB-level phenom. You’ll have to watch the film to find out what happens from there, but suffice it to say his future would include a little town called Varna.

Dancing Across Borders is available streaming on Netflix and can be purchased, along with t-shirts and posters, at the official site. Proceeds from the official shop go directly towards Nginn Karet Foundation for Cambodia’s “Give a Future to a Child of Angkor”, a program that helps children fulfill their dream to follow in the footsteps of dancers and musicians seen on Angkor Wat and other ancient Khmer temples. Please consider making a purchase from the Dancing Across Borders official shop.

Spoiler Alert! I noticed that the Washington Post article that I linked above mentions rather forebodingly that Sy quit PNB recently. I didn’t want you left hangin’ on where he is now so I did some searching, and it appears from Saint Louis Ballet’s facebook page that he will be joining them for the Spring 2011 season.

Dance(212) is Back & Focused on Ballet!

A brand new series will soon be presented by Dance(212)! And this time they’ll be focusing exclusively on ballet students’ summer intensive experiences. Check out the preview here, and get ready to meet five exceptional and ambitious young dancers (including Hannah Miller, shown left) with talent and drive to spare. Tune in January 24 for the series premiere!

Ballet in Film: Masha, A Portrait of Maria Kochetkova

A new film is in the works documenting 2002 Prix de Lausanne winner Maria Kochetkova, now principal dancer with San Fransisco Ballet, in rehearsals and performances of a brand new ballet. Maria trained at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy for eight years before joining the Royal Ballet and then the English National Ballet. Kochetkova graced the cover of this year’s April/May Pointe Magazine and has been awarded four International Ballet Competition gold medals in addition to one silver, one bronze and the jury prize.

You can view her personal website here. Pre-ordering of her DVD will be available at, but here’s the beautiful trailer in the meantime. Check out her exquisite port de bras!

Ballet in Film: Only When I Dance

Only When I Dance is an award-winning documentary presented this year that follows two desperately underprivileged dance students, a girl and boy, from one of the most violent and tragic favelas in Rio. The odds of these two young people succeeding are stacked strongly against them. Find out what happens when two children dare to dream of escaping to a better life through dance.

Click here to find out how you can help the Vida Ballet Fund. This organization provides grants to young people from disadvantaged backgrounds of Rio and the surrounding favelas who would not otherwise have access to dance school or an opportunity to pursue dance as a career.

Ballet in Film: The Corella Ballet Documentary

Ok, so if you were born after 1995, you might not have had the googly-eyes for Angel Corella during his tenure as a completely adorable principal dancer of ABT and Paloma Herrera’s often partner. But you can now if you watch him and his own ridiculously gorgeous company dancers in their fab new upcoming documentary!

This film is about Corella’s revival of ballet in his home country of Spain, which went without a major company for a long time until Corella decided recently to start his own, the Corella Ballet de Castilla y Leon. Thanks once again to DanceMedia, you can enjoy the preview trailer, which includes tantalizingly long snippets of company class, rehearsals and performances, including Corella himself dancing and teaching, during their preparation for my personal favorite ballet, La Bayadére. Try not to drool!

For those of you that reside down South here with moi, Corella Ballet will be performing in New Orleans on its 2011 tour, and you can check that out here.

Choices, Choices – Plus Some Great Ballet Videos!

So now you have the basic scoop on the most popular techniques in this U.S. But there’s more! The other major methods that you should know of are:

Bournonville (pronounced BOR-non-vill) technique is a lovely iteration that evolved through the Royal Danish Ballet and is known for its quick footwork, kind expression and minimized show of effort. Bournonville ballets can be easy to spot from the pairing of busy feet and a calmly graceful port de bras. While the technique is not often taught in the U.S., the choreography is. Many Bournonville ballets are still performed regularly, including La Sylphide, Flower Festival in Genzano and Napoli.

Royal Academy of Dancing from England is an amalgam of French, Cecchetti, Vaganova and Bournonville styles and is known for its purity of line. RAD students are examined yearly and are recognizable by the strict dress code with belts and satin ribbons on girls’ soft satin ballet shoes. RAD cannot be taught by dancers not certified and schools not accredited. It is not as popular in the U.S. as some other techniques but is enormously popular in Europe and other continents.

Cuban ballet is also a blend other techniques but with a strong Vaganova influence and is noted for its joyful sensuality. Until very recently, Cuba was the only country where you could learn this technique, but a few schools have opened in the Miami area. The home of Cuban ballet is the Cuban Ballet School.

It is also worth mentioning that while not recognized widely yet, American Ballet Theatre is creating its own through the ABT National Training Curriculum. They recently settled on there own system of arabesques, which appear similar to the Cecchetti versions.

You should be prepared now, baby ballerinas, to recognized the techniques when they are named and understand some of their differences. Most good teachers are usually specialized in teaching one or two specific techniques and are educated on the existence of the others. Can you tell the differences in style? Which one is your favorite?

ABT Sample Video (Scroll to page bottom.)

Balanchine Sample Video

Bournonville Sample Video

Cecchetti Sample Video

French Sample Video

RAD Sample Video

Vaganova Sample Video

Ballet in Film: Katia & Volodia

The incredible husband and wife duo of Ekaterina Maximova and Vladimir Vasiliev are two of the very best-loved Russian ballet dancers. Katia & Volodia reveals clips of their early training, rehearsals as pros, performance snippets and clips of them coaching younger dancers.

Partnered together as small children in ballet school, the leading pair were wed in 1961. Maximova passed away last year at the age of 70 and was survived by her husband. In March of this year, a gala was given in honor of Vasiliev for his 70th birthday.

Ballet in Film: La Danse

You know I love my themes! Today is French method ballet, so it’s the perfect time to introduce La Danse, a very recent documentary about the Paris Opera Ballet.

This much anticipated film contains beautiful footage of the world-famous company, but be forewarned – it’s about two hours long and is a mix of both modern dance and ballet. Both are of the best quality, however, which makes this documentary worth the time – just have some snacks ready!

Ballet in Film: TutuMUCH


To keep with my theme today of professional track training, I thought it would be perfect to highlight the not-yet-released documentary TuTuMuch, which follows nine girls through the summer audition process of the revered Royal Winnipeg Ballet School.

Professional ballet schools can be very closed when it comes to their audition processes. For those of you who’ve never been through such an audition, TuTuMuch provides a revealing look at what happens behind the curtain. The vast majority of young dancers auditioning will not make it into the program, but those that do will be one step closer to making their dream a reality.

Ballet in Film: Ballerina

One my absolute favorite dance documentaries, Ballerina, is now available to watch instantly on Netflix. This exquisite portrait of five female ballet dancers from the legendary Kirov is a relatively recent film, which lends it a much more modern air than most dance documentaries available, particularly when it comes to the level of virtouosity of the dancing itself. If you are looking for true inspiration and to see just how elevated a level ballet can reach, I highly recommended you check it out.