Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Ballet Movies: Ranked & Reviewed (Part I)

I know this is supposed to be more of a dance journal, but I was sick over the holidays and had a bunch of days off, so I had plenty of time to be in bed watching and re-watching dance movies.  Here is a list ranking my favorite ones.  My opinion is of course objectively correct.  If you disagree, you are objectively wrong.  ;)  Upcoming list of ballet movies I think are kind of meh.

1. The Red Shoes (1948).  Powell and Pressburger's film starring Moira Shearer.  It is a fantastic film in general, and the dancing is great (Shearer was a professional ballet dancer before becoming a movie star).  The main set piece of the movie is really really good, beautifully surreal.  I was fortunate enough to see a restored print in 2010 at IFC (it was done by Scorsese's Film Foundation, it is apparently one of his favorite films as well); see that version if you can!  The colors are amazing.

2.  The Turning Point (1977).  ABT (with Baryshnikov) dancing, Shirley Maclaine and Anne Bancroft acting.  Enough said.  Well, I'll add that the story line is more complex than the average dance movie, with characters struggling with their regrets in their life and career choices.  My boyfriend even got hooked on this and he is no balletomane!  And there are lots of gorgeous classic ballet scenes.

3.  First Position (2011).  Documentary following six dancers competing in YAGP.  All of the children / teens are surprisingly likable, which is not always the case with precociously talented children.  Also featuring a crazy dance mom character who is very enjoyable to watch, because it will make you glad your mom is not a crazy dance mom, unless your mom is a crazy dance mom.

4.  Center Stage (2000).  Film about students at a pre-pro school loosely based on SAB.  Rather typical teen shenanigans and girl struggling to find her voice in the ballet world narrative.  But let's be real, sometimes teen shenanigans are fun.  Top notch dancing by those who are in the company (including Ethan Steifel and Julie Kent) and the students as well (including a young Zoe Saldana).

5.  Ballerina (2006).  Documentary on five dancers of the Mariinsky.  My favorite are the segments on Diana Vishneva and Ulyana Lopatkina.  It unfortunately also reinforced my dislike of Svetlana Zakharova.  Lots of gorgeous dancing and a fascinating look at the company and Vaganova Academy.

The last four are all on Netflix streaming, so what are are you waiting for?  Go watch a ballet movie.


  1. "Dancers" is also really good. It's another Baryshnikov one... not terribly interesting plot-wise, but it's set in Italy and stars a beautiful teenaged Julie Kent (who's not about to retire from ABT after like a million years) as the young doe-eyed dancer he woos.
    It's hard to find, but I actually saw the whole thing show up on YouTube recently... our ballet school has a copy to borrow too.

    1. *NOW not NOT... I wish she was NOT about to retire.

    2. Ohhh, I'll have to add that to my list. I'm hoping to see Julie Kent this season. Bought my ABT subscription already; I won't be seeing her as a part of that, but will be buying my single tickets soon!

    3. Remembered this comment and wanted to say, JUST BOUGHT MY TICKETS TO HER FAREWELL PERFORMANCE OF R&J.

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