Top 10 dance films & documentaries you need to know

Center Stage. Copyright.

Our wonderful dance historian Caroline Hamilton shares her top dance films and documentaries that you must see:

As you have probably gathered by now, I am a big ballet history nerd – so this week I thought I would share my top 10 ballet films and documentaries.

These are just my favourites and mostly relate to early twentieth century ballet, although you will find some more recent things too. Some are easier to find than others, which may take a bit of searching for!

Caroline’s favourite dance films and documentaries:

Documentaries

Diaghilev: The Years Abroad and The Years in Exile

These two Omnibus programs were created in 1968 and contain interviews with surviving company members. If you are in the UK part one is currently available on BBC iPlayer (both parts can be viewed at the British Film Institute (BFI) and other libraries and archives).

Diaghilev: A Portrait, 1979

A great documentary on Diaghilev told through the eyes of eleven people who knew and worked with him. Can be viewed at the BFI and other libraries and archives.

Ballets Russes, 2005

A wonderful documentary chronicling the story of the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo and Original Ballet Russes Companies. A must-see for every dance student! Available on Amazon.

Ballets Russes, 2005. Copyright.
Ballets Russes, 2005. Copyright.

A Thousand Encores: The Ballets Russes in Australia, 2009

A fantastic documentary examining the tours and influence of the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo in Australia. Available as a feature on the DVD The Australian Ballet. Firebird and other legends.

The Australian Ballet Firebird and Other Legends. Copyright ABC
The Australian Ballet Firebird and other legends. Copyright ABC

40 Years of One Night Stands: The Story of Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet

An interesting documentary on the founding of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. Available on Amazon.

40 Years of One Night Stands. Copyright.
40 Years of One Night Stands. Copyright.

First Position, 2011

Not very historical (yet) but still a great documentary chronicling the process of the Youth America Grand Prix. Available to buy and on Netflix.

Never Stand Still: Dancing at Jacob’s Pillow, 2012

A great film on the history and current festival at Jacob’s Pillow, USA. Available on Amazon.

Films

The Turning Point, 1977

A must-see ballet film featuring Mikhail Baryshnikov, Shirley MacLaine and Anne Bancroft as well as the legendary Alexandra Danilova – who had danced with the Ballets Russes. Available on Amazon.

White Nights, 1985

Another great film featuring Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines. Available on Amazon.

Center Stage, 2000

A really fun ballet movie featuring Ethan Stiefel – I still love to watch this! Available on Amazon.

Next week Caroline’s favourite dance books…

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