American Ballet Theatre principal Misty Copeland is a trailblazer who is changing the game of classical ballet. And now the amazing 32-year-old is sharing her life story with the whole world in a new documentary, out this week: A Ballerina’s Tale.
Directed by Nelson George, the film gives viewers an inside look at the ups and downs Copeland faced on the path to becoming ABT's first black female principal. Confronted with challenges ranging from body shaming to injury, Copeland fought her way to the top ranks of classical ballet by believing in herself and taking chances.
The documentary hits theaters this Wednesday, October 14. And Copeland and George will be hosting a series of Q&As starting on October 14 at the IFC Center and Lincoln Center in New York. To purchase tickets for the Q&As, click here; for a list of theaters playing the film, visit aballerinastale.com.
There are few better ways to celebrate Friday than with a gorgeous, phenomenally talented ballet dude. Which is why the new trailer for Dancer—the upcoming documentary about Sergei Polunin, "the James Dean of the ballet world"—is just what you need today.
You know Sergei Polunin. He's the one who had an insanely rapid rise to fame at The Royal Ballet, where he was named the company's youngest-ever principal in 2010. He's the one who then quit the company at 21, in a fit of what seemed like self-destruction, becoming one of ballet's bad-boy rebels. He's the one who starred in that hauntingly beautiful Hozier video that exploded the internet last year. And he's the one who is now, tentatively, returning to ballet—with the support of his new girlfriend, ballerina extraordinaire Natalia Osipova.
Did we mention that he's really pretty? (via @sergeipolunin_)
Polunin is a natural documentary subject; there's a already a heck of a lot of story in his life. That makes us especially eager to see Dancer, which is produced by West End Films and directed by Oscar-nominated Steven Cantor. The film is currently slated for release sometime this summer. In the meantime, please enjoy the trailer, which has sweet (and impressive) footage of Polunin as a very young dancer, as well as some fantastic footage of his more recent performances.
Happy Friday, friends:
You probably know Sergei Polunin as the "bad boy of ballet," the guy who made the dance world raise its collective eyebrows when he peaced out of his cushy principal contract with The Royal Ballet. No? Well, you definitely know him as the gorgeous man from the Hozier video that broke the internet a few months ago.
Polunin is amazing—and fascinating. What motivates an artist who reached the highest level of the traditional ballet world, only to abandon it? Where does his restlessness come from? Where does he see himself going? He's mysterious, and that mystery captivated film producer Gabrielle Tana when she met Polunin back in 2012.
Tana, who knows a good story when she sees it (she got an Oscar nom for her work on Philomena), decided to produce a documentary about Polunin's extraordinary life. The result, Dancer, follows Polunin as he hopscotches across the U.S., Britain, Russia and his native Ukraine. And it includes clips by David LaChapelle, who also masterminded that Hozier video.
We dance fans owe this movie a lot: It was basically the defibrillator that restarted Polunin's dance career. Apparently, that Hozier video was to be his farewell to all things ballet. But "thanks to the influence of Gabby and David," he told Variety, "I realized that I loved dance. They are so cool and influential, and they love dance, so I was like: 'It might be something I should come back to.' " (The whole Variety story is definitely worth a read.)
Dancer is about to get shopped around at the Toronto Film Festival; hopefully somebody will pick it up for distribution. In the meantime, take a look at this clip, which shows Polunin flying onstage as Spartacus—and, later, sweaty and exhausted in his dressing room.
There are countless dance documentaries out there, covering everything from Elizabeth Streb's daredevilry to Justin Peck's work as a ballet choreographer to the global hip-hop community. We're lucky that there are so many filmmakers who want to capture dance—and so many dancers who take up the camera themselves!
Now, we can add another amazing film to the list: Tap World. The documentary features interviews with tap masters like Chloe Arnold (who, along with her sister Maude, is the producer. #unstoppable) and Michelle Dorrance, but it also has a special twist. In preparation, the producers asked people all over the world to share why tap is important to them—and some of their personal stories were included in the film! What an amazing way to show how tap, which is an American dance form, has become a global phenomenon. And to remind us that all dancers are connected through rhythm and music.
The film will be released in NYC on July 10, and will be rolled out nation-wide after that. Click here for the deets and watch the trailer below!
I'm sure you guys know about Jiří Kylián—the Czech choreographer who has almost single-handedly defined contemporary dance, and whose work is Nederlands Dans Theater's calling card. But do you know about Mats Ek?
Ek is a Swedish choreographer and the former director of the Cullberg Ballet (that home of all things REALLY weird). He's known for some of his masterpieces, like 2000's Apartment, as well as his adaptations of classical ballets like Giselle and Swan Lake (not to mention his iconic artistic partnership with Sylvie Guillem). Let's just say that when he's done with them, the ballets look absolutely nothing like what you'd expect.
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago's Jessica Tong and Jacqueline Burnett in Mats Ek's Casi-Casa (photo by Todd Rosenberg)
Thanks to the new documentary The Choreographer Mats Ek, you can get inside Ek's mind as he creates work. It's available to rent on Vimeo, and it provides some insight into a process that can seem hopelessly enigmatic. And now that there's also a new-ish documentary about Kylián, you can give yourself an education in contemporary European choreographers! Dance #nerdz rejoice!
Make a list of the best ballet companies in the world, and I'm going to take a wild guess you put American Ballet Theatre at, or close to, the top. And of course you did—for the last 75 years, the company has helped define what American ballet is, and where it's going. Photos of its company members line all of our childhood bedroom walls; I still gasp when I see one of its stars in real life.
(From left) ABT principals Hee Seo and Cory Stearns in rehearsal with soloist Joseph Gorak (George Seminara, courtesy PBS)
This season marks ABT's 75th anniversary, and PBS—the TV station that recently brought Mark Morris Dance Group and the School of American Ballet to our living rooms—will help commemorate the occasion with another gem on its lineup: "American Ballet Theatre: A History," part of the "American Masters" documentary series, will premiere on May 15.
Famed filmmaker Ric Burns is at the helm of the project, which actually started way back in 2006. Burns was given unprecedented access to the company's inner workings, capturing hours and hours of footage, including rehearsals, performances and interviews. The documentary captures ABT stars in action—like Julie Kent, Gillian Murphy, Misty Copeland, Marcelo Gomes, Hee Seo, Isabella Boylston, Herman Cornejo, Daniil Simkin, Joseph Gorak and Cory Stearns. There's also rare footage of Mikhail Baryshnikov, Antony Tudor, Jerome Robbins and Agnes deMille. Seriously—you don't want to miss this!
Watch the trailer below to get pumped, then check your local listings and set your DVR!
Attention ballroom dance fanatics! Get ready to set your DVRs, because we’ve got the perfect fix for your “Dancing with the Stars” withdrawal.
On Monday, July 21st, the PBS documentary series "POV" (Point of View) is featuring two young competitive ballroom dancers in a new film called Dance for Me. The episode follows teen partners Egor and Mie as they experience personal struggles, heartbreak and triumph while trying to make names for themselves in the competitive world of DanceSport. The two don’t always see eye-to-eye, but they both share the same goal: to become legends in the world of ballroom dance. Obviously that’s quite a big goal to have—but this talented pair is putting in the hard work to achieve it.
The stars of Dance for Me, Mie (left) and Egor (right)
(photo courtesy of Sophia Olsson, © klassefilm)
We caught up with Mie Funch (who is, btw, the absolute sweetest!) to chat about the film and see what she’s been up to since it wrapped.
Dance Sprit: What excites you most about the film? And what do you hope viewers take away from it?
Mie Funch: I’m very honored that this will be shown in America. As a young person from Denmark, this is quite big! I'm excited for viewers to understand what it actually takes to be a dancer. I also hope they see that even though you and your partner may be very different—you may even come from different countries, like Egor and I do (he’s from Russia)—you can find ways to communicate and work together to get along. Even if that means agreeing to disagree, it can all work out if you accept your differences.
Mie at the European Championships
(photo courtesy of Sophia Olsson, © klassefilm)
DS: What were your initial thoughts after seeing the documentary for the first time? Are you happy with how it turned out?
MF: I was quite surprised! Seeing myself on the big screen was overwhelming, but I like the film very much. It’s very real. I like that it shows all of the hard work it takes to become an athlete and a dancer at a high level.
DS: What's your training schedule like?
MF: It depends if a competition is coming up or not, but in general, I train six days a week for two to six hours every day. When I’m not in the studio, I like to go running for stamina training. Yoga and ballet are both great for ballroom dancers too!
DS: What are you working toward now?
MF: Currently, I don’t have a partner—Egor and I decided to move on to new partners after we got home from the World Championship in China. Egor is now dancing with another Danish girl and living with her family—he’s very happy. There are so many factors to having a working partnership: chemistry, style, ability and more. So my immediate goal is to find a partner and start dancing competitively again. Many top competitive dancers travel around to find partners, but I can’t relocate yet because I’m still in school. It makes finding a partner quite difficult!
Dance for Me airs Monday, July 21st at 10 pm EST on PBS (check your local listings for times). Watch the trailer here:
A still of Justin Peck in rehearsal from Ballet 422, via TribecaFilm.com.
New York City Ballet has a big spring coming up—and not only because of the new JR piece in the works. Ballet 422, the documentary about NYCB dancer and choreographer Justin Peck, will make its debut at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival in April! It's one of 12 films competing in the World Documentary Competition, and if the film is anywhere near as successful as Peck's Paz de la Jolla (the ballet-in-process in the movie), we suspect it will win big. I mean, just take a look at this Paz sneak peek from NYCB: