4 Must-See Dance Documentaries

From feel-good to heart-wrenching, check out the latest batch of dance flicks.

Restless Creature: Wendy Whelan (2016)

This new film takes a raw look at former New York City Ballet principal Wendy Whelan's graceful, at times heart-wrenching, journey as a professional dancer. The film takes the audience through her surgery, life after her departure from NYCB and how she's dealing with the passage of time as a dancer in her late 40s.

Alive and Kicking (2017)

Directed by Susan Glatzer, this feel-good flick goes inside the current swing-dance world and how the exhilarating dance form helps dancers deal with their personal struggles in other parts of their lives. The dance footage and music will make even nondancers want to grab a partner and dance.

Step (2017)

This film documents a step-dance team of high-school senior girls in inner-city Baltimore. It shows how dance is a powerful staple in these young girls' lives and how it helps them deal with tough circumstances.

Dancer (2016)

Ukrainian ballet dancer Sergei Polunin is profiled in this film about his transition from child prodigy to star. It's an all-access journey through the highs and lows he experiences as an artist.

Teachers Trending
Photo by Yvonne M. Portra, courtesy Faulkner

It's a Wednesday in May, and 14 Stanford University advanced modern ­dance students are logged on to Zoom, each practicing a socially distanced duet with an imaginary person. "Think about the quality of their personality and the type of duet you might have," says their instructor Katie Faulkner, "but also their surface area and how you'd relate to them in space." Amid dorm rooms, living rooms, dining rooms and backyards, the dancers make do with cramped quarters and dodge furniture as they twist, curve, stretch and intertwine with their imaginary partners.

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Securing the correct music licensing for your studio is an important step in creating a financially sound business. "Music licensing is something studio owners seem to either embrace or ignore completely," says Clint Salter, CEO and founder of the Dance Studio Owners Association. While it may seem like it's a situation in which it's easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission—that is, to wait until you're approached by a music-rights organization before purchasing a license—Salter disagrees, citing Peloton, the exercise company that produces streaming at-home workouts. In February, Peloton settled a music-licensing suit with the National Music Publishers' Association out-of-court for an undisclosed amount. Originally, NMPA had sought $300 million in damages from Peloton. "It can get extremely expensive," says Salter. "It's not worth it for a studio to get caught up in that."

As you continue to explore a hybrid online/in-person version of your class schedule, it's crucial that your music licenses include coverage for livestreamed instruction—which comes with its own particular requirements. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about music licensing—in both normal times and COVID times—as well as some safe music bets that won't pose any issues.

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Teaching Tips
A 2019 Dancewave training. Photo by Effy Grey, courtesy Dancewave

By now, most dance educators hopefully understand that they have a responsibility to address racism in the studio. But knowing that you need to be actively cultivating racial equity isn't the same thing as knowing how to do so.

Of course, there's no easy answer, and no perfect approach. As social justice advocate David King emphasized at a recent interactive webinar, "Cultivating Racial Equity in the Classroom," this work is never-ending. The event, hosted by Dancewave (which just launched a new racial-equity curriculum) was a good starting point, though, and offered some helpful takeaways for dance educators committed to racial justice.

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