DanceTube: Ballet Takes Over TV!

Ballet fascination is taking over TV and film! Get your popcorn ready and check out the latest line-up:

Bunheads – ABC Family has been promoting this new series, which echoes a bit of Australia’s Dance Academy, everywhere. Dance magazine publishers got their hands on a sneak peek for the first 1500 viewers to get a clip here using code “DanceSpiritBunheads” or “DanceTeacherBunheads”.

Breaking Pointe – Intent on highlighting the intensity of pursuing professional dance, the CW is jumping on the ballet trend, adding their special brand of drama to the lens with this BBC produced series premiering May 31 and following well-respected company Ballet West.

Dance 212 – Season 6 is almost here. Follow aspiring dancers trying to make it in the Big Apple as professionals with top NYC companies and schools.

Joffrey Documentary – Learn the story of iconic ballet company Joffrey Ballet in the documentary Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance.

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BalletScoop Visits Dance Advantage for a Guest Article!

If you aren’t familiar with Dance Advantage, you are in for a treat today. I just contributed a teacher’s article to DA about my favorite ballet movies – I hope you’ll check it out!

Nichelle Strzepek makes sure to keep great dance articles coming at Dance Advantage. There’s something for everyone – teachers, choreographers, students and professionals. Click around while you’re there and you’ll find technique tips, dance history, dance news, dance games and way more for students. I always keep a link to this great site on my blogroll for you guys. Enjoy!

Ballet in Film: 15 Days of Dance – The Making of ‘Ghost Light’

If you have been choreographed on before, you are familiar with the artistic process that is undergone for ballet-making. But non-dancers and young dancers are rarely exposed to the choreographic process. In fact it is often such a private process that it is something of a mystery to many people. There certainly aren’t many films that include rehearsal footage, let alone actual choreography in action. This makes 15 Days of Dance, a film that documents Brian Reeder’s creation of Ghost Light for ABT II, an important film indeed.

I am pleased that producer/director Elliot Caplan used long shots for the majority of the film, which is in contrast to so many filmmakers’ preference to use close-up shots in dance movies that annoyingly obscure the complete choreographic picture. Given his history with Merce Cunningham, it just goes to show you what a difference is made in dance filmmaking when you have someone who really understands dance movement.

As much as I’d love to tell you to run out and purchase today’s Ballet in Film pick, at $239 for the abridged version (and more than $1000 for the complete set!) you might prefer to satisfy yourself with the free clips made available online. Priced for the art library or true balletomane, this clearly isn’t meant for the average dance enthusiast… or meagerly paid dancer!

Update: Here’s a great clip of Caplan discussing his editing choices and the backing of the University at Buffalo.

Ballet in Film: Male Voices

A new documentary is in the works from Rhee Gold of The Gold School. This six-part series, titled Male Voices will feature the stories of nine teenaged male dancers. The makers of Male Voices followed the young dancers for three months of their training and heard candid narratives about their daily life as well as issues facing male dancers today.

The Male Voices series will premier on March 18 on DanceLifeTV.com with additional episodes each Friday. Don’t miss this important new dance film!

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.

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 http://kck.st/b5LxPL, but here’s the beautiful trailer in the meantime. Check out her exquisite port de bras!