PBS has released the 2017–2018 schedule for their Great Performances series of special, one-off TV events, and we think you'll want to sit up and take note—Hamilton and Cabaret and Holiday Inn, oh my! To make your appointment-viewing choices a little easier, we rounded up all of the danciest picks from the coming season. PBS = Perfect Broadway Spectacular. (Okay, we wish!)
Broadway on TV alert! Broadway on TV alert! PBS is airing a new documentary this week that gets down and dirty with the team behind the current revival of Annie.
"Annie: It's the Hard-Knock Life, From Script to Stage" zooms in on the creation of a single number in the show (that'd be "It's the Hard-Knock Life," of course). There's a ton of interesting footage of both the super-talented orphans and the awesome creative team—including one of our all-time faves, choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler—at work. You'll get a look at everything from the costume and set designs to the dance rehearsals. And naturally, there's plenty of the cast of orphans just being their insanely cute selves.
The film airs this Friday, June 28 at 9 pm EST (click here to check your local listings). In the meantime, take a peek at this trailer, which features Blankenbuehler doing his not-to-be-missed "angry orphan" face:
Yes, dance is all over television these days (Hi, "SYT"! Hi, "DWTS"! Hi, J. Lo's new show! Hi, Jenna Dewan-Tatum's new show! Hi, Tricia Miranda's new show!). But world-class ballet? World-class ballet is decidedly not all over television these days. And fans of the U.S.'s top ballet companies have even been disappointed by the recent spate of ballet simulcasts in movie theaters, which have predominantly featured Russian and British companies.
That's why we're so stupid excited that a New York City Ballet performance will air on PBS this winter. The program is actually a recording of one of the performances the company gave in Paris last summer—and it's a fabulous lineup, highlighting ballets by George Balanchine set to works by French composers.
Yup, this is happening! (Inset: New York City Ballet's Sara Mearns and Ask la Cour in Walpurgisnacht Ballet. Photo by Paul Kolnik.)
So, what exactly will we be seeing? The sweeping Walpurgisnacht Ballet, with Sara Mearns and Lauren Lovette in the leading roles; Sonatine, an elegant pas de deux starring Megan Fairchild and Joaquin De Luz; the epic Symphony in C, with a showstopping cast including Tiler Peck, Teresa Reichlen and Taylor Stanley; and La Valse, an eerie, seductive ballet featuring Sterling Hyltin, Jared Angle and Amar Ramasar.
TL;DR version: It's gonna be good, guys. Set your DVRs for February 17 and February 24 at 9 pm (check your local listings to be doubly sure of air times).
There is literally no such thing as too much Hamilton. Ever. Which is why we're suuuuper-duper pumped about the new documentary Hamilton's America, a deep dive into the making of the smash Broadway musical. And when we say deep dive, we mean DEEP: The doc took three years—three years!—to put together.
Lin-Manuel Miranda backstage at Hamilton, in a scene from Hamilton's America (RadicalMedia)
Why so long? Oh, you know—because it just casually includes interviews with the likes of Stephen Sondheim, Questlove, Jimmy Fallon, Nas and a slew of politicians. Including, um, President Barack Obama. So. There's also lots of footage of the NYC production with its original cast—footage that is, for those of who have yet to score tickets to the ever-sold-out real thing, essentially priceless.
PBS is airing Hamilton's America next Friday, October 21 at 9 pm. DO NOT THROW AWAY YOUR SHOT to see this, friends. And in the meantime, a) take PBS's excellent Hamilton quiz (we got 16 out of 16, natch!) and b) enjoy the teaser:
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!
Set your DVRs, dance nerds. Mark Morris Dance Group will be featured in a new PBS "Great Performances" presentation, and you know what that means: Two hours of pure dance-viewing awesomeness, all from the comfort of your own couch. Oh, and just a little someone named Mikhail Baryshnikov(!) will be hosting it all.
Mark Morris Dance Group in L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato (Courtesy Kashvili)
The company will be performing one of Morris' most celebrated works, L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato. And when I write "celebrated," I'm not exaggerating. After a performance of L'Allegro in 2013 (commemorating the work's 25th anniversary), a characteristically tough New York Times dance critic wrote, "This is choreography that speaks to the soul." So, yeah. You might not want to miss out.
In most areas, this PBS "Great Performances" will air Friday, March 27 at 9pm. Be sure to check your local listings—some cable providers are following a different schedule, and there may be a few rebroadcasts. Can't wait another 11 days? Check out this preview:
The School of American Ballet Spring Workshop, one of the dance world's most famous end-of-year performances, is almost like a rite of passage. Each year, SAB's most talented and advanced dancers are chosen to perform. Many of them go on to join major ballet companies nationwide—including New York City Ballet.
Addie Tapp, now in Boston Ballet, and Preston Chamblee, now an NYCB apprentice, in George Balanchine's Serenade at SAB's 2014 Workshop Performance (Paul Kolnik, courtesy Live From Lincoln Center)
Attending SAB's workshop is pretty darn cool, too. It's like witnessing a little slice of history—you're seeing prima ballerinas in the making, the stars before they become stars. Yet for those who don't live in NYC, chances to see the workshop performance are pretty rare.
Thankfully, that all changes next Friday, December 12*, when PBS' "Live From Lincoln Center" presents “Curtain Up: The School of American Ballet Workshop Performances.”
Taped this past spring, the TV special will show the entirety of the most recent SAB Workshop performance, which featured George Balanchine's Serenade and excerpts from his Coppélia, Swan Lake and Western Symphony. The program will also include rehearsal footage and interviews with dancers. And if this preview is any indication of what the whole 90 minutes will be like...I suggest you set your DVR now:
*Be sure to check your local listings for air dates and times, because not all PBS stations will be showing the special on the 12th. NYC's PBS station, for instance, won't air it until that Sunday, and Philadelphia's station isn't slated to show it until Thursday, December 18 at 3:30 pm. To find your local schedule, click here.
You guys. Remember when I told you the greatest musical of all time (imo) is coming back? Well, in honor of Cats' upcoming West End revival this December, PBS re-aired it's glorious 1998 film of Andrew Lloyd Webber's best work (also imo) on Friday night. (If you missed it, consider adding the DVD to your winter wishlist.)
Don't you just want to be Victoria, the white cat (played by Phyllida Crowley Smith)? She's so purrrdy—and she gets that big lyrical solo to show off her extension. I for one, though, was always partial to Demeter (Aeva May), who, along with Bombalurina (Rosemarie Ford), does all kinds of Fosse-infused choreography while singing about the villainous Macavity:
Well, the fine folks at PBS understand that we all have Jellicle alter-egos, because they created a super-fun quiz: What Kind of Cat Are You?
I asked my fellow DS-ers to take the quiz, and we were all pretty amused by the results:
Me: Mr. Mistoffelees. PBS says: I keep a low profile—that is, until I reveal my magic powers. People find me clever, and never know what to expect from me, but they do look forward to my playful tricks. I'm pretty slick, in a good way. I'll take it—he does get a pretty solid dance break with stellar '90s–style special effects.
Editor in chief, Margaret Fuhrer: Grizabella. PBS says: I've lived the glamorous life. I may be a bit worn at the edges, but, oh, the memories. Some of us stray from our roots to see what lies beyond the horizon. If you're lucky—like me—you can always come home to your tribe again. Spoiler alert: Have fun in the Heaviside Layer...whatever that is.
Art director, Josephine Daño: Rum Tum Tugger. PBS says: Yes, I'm a rebel—or maybe just unpredictable. I'm considered quite alluring. I have fun toying with my many admirers and keeping them on their toes. I respect my equals. Not gonna lie, I'm a little bit jealous I didn't get the rock ‘n’ roll cat.
Assistant editor, Nicole Loeffler-Gladstone: Old Deuteronomy. PBS says: I’m a wise cat who people look up to. I have a way with words, I’m a comforting presence and I can often predict how a situation will turn out. Sometimes, it seems like I’ve lived more than one life. Everybody sing together now: "I believe it is old Deuteronomy."
Assistant editor, Maggie McNamara: A Gumbie Cat. PBS says: I get things done. Some people think I just sit around all day alone, staring out the window being lazy. But I do my best work when the sun goes down. I love organizing, planning and working with groups—but they have to be night owls, too. Um, excuse me, PBS? Did you forget that this "Gumbie Cat" has a name? It's Jennyanydots. Plus, she's also the mommy cat to all the mice—and she tap dances. SO CUTE.
Fashion editor, Meggie Hermanson: Munkustrap. PBS says: I’m a history buff and natural storyteller. I know all the players and keep tabs on their lives. I’m the keeper of traditions and serve as a guide to the uninitiated. Well, someone has to tell us what the heck a Jellicle cat is:
Which cat are you? Take the quiz to find out—and let us know in the comments!
I'm pretty sure my very own Sammy Meowkins would qualify as Jellicle. amirite?