Summertime is in full swing and you find many lists all over the internet for the best summer reads. But with mobile devices, netflix and shows-on-demand, it is only useful to replace the "must-read-list" with a "must-watch-list" to enjoy while lounging by the pool or at home.
We put together a list of ballet documentaries, movies and shows. Some new and some are old classics, in no particular order. Enjoy your summer!
1. A Ballerina's Tale, 2015
A Ballerina's Tale tells the story of the magnificent Misty Copeland's rise to the top. The documentary was released shortly before she was promoted to principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre. You can follow along how Misty Copeland overcomes self doubt and also injuries while at the same time she is making history as an African American ballerina. This documentary celebrates black women, because you will meet other black women who have been the firsts in their fields. A wonderful celebration of determination, hard work and success.
2. Dancer, 2016
Sergei Polunin is one of the most recognizable and versatile dancers around. Some call him the bad boy of ballet. Others call him a genius. The name may not ring a bell, but you will recall, how he danced beautifully in the music video to “Take me to Church” by Hozier and directed by David LaChapelle.
His mother saw his talent early on and send him to gymnastic classes. But young Sergei rather wanted to be a dancer. With lots of talent and even more hard work he became one of the best dancers. Unfortunately the pressure got to him and with 22 he wanted to quit is career. The documentary “Dancer” shows how Sergei Polunin questions his career, but also how he makes it back to the top.
3. Sofia, 2018
A gorgeous, poetic short film by Shervin Kermani. He made this film as a thesis project while still in film school. This film is about an elderly man who doesn't have long to live. He has a dream in his deathbed that takes him through his life and retells memories that mark his life.
The dancer in the film is Sonia Rodriguez, the principal dancer with The National Ballet of Canada. This short film is full of nostalgia and certainly worth your time.
4. Ballet Now, 2018
You really have to ask yourself how Tiler Peck, the principal of the New York City Ballet finds enough hours in the day. Last July she directed the Music Center's BalletNOW program in Los Angeles. She was in charge of curation, music and atging. She is the first woman to ever direct this program and Steven Cantor, the same Steven Cantor who directed Sergei Polunin, followed along with a camera. Ballet Now is streamed on Hulu and you really want to see this!
You will watch how a wonderful dancer and nice person (I'm assuming here, hoping to find out myself one day) take on leadership and authority to create a great music program. Women are usually the stars on stage, but men tend to be directors and choreographers, so it is wonderful to see, that a woman takes on this role. I have a feeling, there is much more directing in Tiler Peck's future. I'm here for it.
5. Leap! 2017
Grab your kids and enjoy this animated movie about a girl who wants to become a ballerina in 19th-century Paris. Yes, it is historical inaccurate. But it is about the entrainment. You'll meet two orphans, Félicie and her friend Victor, who wants to be an inventor. A former ballerina teaches Félicie the ropes of ballet and encourages her to follow her dreams. And there is a kick ass dance battle, too! Maddie Ziegler voices the devious Camille Le Haut.
6. The Red Shoes, 1948
Now, this is a classic! And if you are into the old dance movies of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers, you will enjoy this one. British Ballerina Moira Shearer gives her film debut here and portraits Vicky, a young dancer who stars in a ballet called The Red Shoes, based on the fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson. Vicky falls in love with a young composer, but her devotion to ballet and to the role that made her famous threatens to tear them apart. This movie is ranked as one of the best in British film history and even won Academy Awards for Best Original Score and Best Art Direction.
7. Ballet 422, 2014
I love me a good fly-on-the-wall documentary. And Ballet 422 by Justin Peck (no relation to Tiler Peck) is as good as they come. Justin Peck is not only a wonderful dancer in his own right, but also a choreographer. He has received many awards for his work, including a Tony Award for Carousel. This documentary follows him along (like on the subway and his home!) while he is working to stage a new dance for the New York City Ballet. The 422nd dance to be exact, hence the name.
8. Flesh & Bone, 2015
The thing with mini series is this: When they are bad, you are glad, that they are over quickly. But when you enjoy them, you want them to go on. This is what happened to Flesh & Bone, a miniseries on Starz, about the dysfunction and glamour of ballet. Paul Grayson is the artistic director of the American Ballet Company and he is determined to turn it into the leading artistic institutions. Unfortunately, he can't count on his prima ballerina, Kiira to help. So all his hopes are placed on Claire Robbins, a ballet dancer with a troubled past. I really want more!
9. Restless Creature: Wendy Whelan, 2017
“If I don’t dance, I’d rather die.” She means it! Dance is her life. She is one of the greatest ballerinas. She joined the New York City Ballet when she was 17 and spend her career of three decades here. This film portrait about Wendy Whelan sneaks up on you and hits you in the face. Hard. In 2013 Wendy Whelan at age 46 is struggling to recover from an injury. An injury, that could very well end her career. This movie is more than a comeback story. It shows how a dancer comes to terms with ageing, while she has to reinvent herself outside of ballet. The humility and honesty of Wendy Whelan in this movie made it so real and wonderful, it will leave you rooting for her and sometimes crying with her.
10. Dancer, 1987
I admit it, the trailer below is really cheesy! But the movie is entertaining. Besides Mikhail Baryshnikov and Julie Kent, former prima ballerina and now the artistic director of the Washington Ballet, play in it. This movie is about a ballet dancer who os trying to turn the ballet Giselle into a film version. There is lots and lots of dancing and also lots of love. This romance in the movies mirrors the plot of Giselle. When you know Giselle, you know what to expect.
11. On the Ropes, 2018
Technically, this has nothing to do with ballet. But if you are in the mood for an action packed movie, with sibling rivalry and lots of fighting scenes, this should be your pick. One character, Chloe, is played by Tina Pereira, a ballerina with the National Ballet.