American Ballet Theatre Documentary Premieres at Kennedy Center

On Monday evening, ballet fans in Washington, DC, can get a first look at a new ballet film—for free. The feature-length documentary American Masters: American Ballet Theatre premieres March 23 at 6 pm at the Kennedy Center. General admission tickets will be distributed—two per person—at the venue’s States Gallery about a half-hour prior to the screening.

Produced as part of PBS’ American Masters series, the movie follows the rise of ABT from a small, struggling ballet collective to one of the world’s preeminent companies. For nearly a decade, a film crew led by director Ric Burns has been shooting original footage during rehearsals and performances. Viewers are also promised interviews with past and present stars like Susan Jaffe, Julie Kent, Misty Copeland, Gillian Murphy and Marcelo Gomes. Burns even got to speak with the late Frederic Franklin, Donald Saddler and critic Clive Barnes before they passed away. The film’s release celebrates the company’s 75th anniversary.

For those who will miss the special screening at the Kennedy Center, American Masters: American Ballet Theatre will premiere nationwide on May 15 on PBS.

Teacher Voices
Getty Images

I often teach ballet over Zoom in the evenings, shortly after sunset. Without the natural light coming from my living room window, I drag a table lamp next to my portable barre so that the computer's camera can see me clearly enough. I prop the laptop on a chair taken from the kitchen and then spend the next few hours running back and forth between the computer screen of Zoom tiles and my makeshift dance floor.

Much of this setup is the result of my attempts to recreate the most important aspects of an in-person dance studio: I have a barre, a floor and as much space as I can reasonably give myself within a small apartment. I do not, however, have a mirror, and neither do most of my students.

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Music
Allie Burke, courtesy Lo Cascio

If you'd hear it on the radio, you won't hear it in Anthony Lo Cascio's tap classes.

"If I play a song that my kids know, I'm kind of disappointed in myself," he says. "I either want to be on the cutting edge or playing the classics."

He finds that most of today's trendy tracks lack the depth needed for tap, and that there's a disconnect between kids and popular music. "They have trouble finding the beat compared to older genres," he says.

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Teachers Trending
Courtesy Lovely Leaps

After the birth of her daughter in 2018, engineer Lisa McCabe had reservations about returning to the workforce full-time. And while she wanted to stay home with the new baby, she wasn't ready to stop contributing financially to her family (after all, she'd had a successful career designing cables for government drones). So, when she got a call that September from an area preschool to lead its dance program, she saw an opportunity.

The invitation to teach wasn't completely out of the blue. McCabe had grown up dancing in Southern California and had a great reputation from serving as her church's dance teacher and team coach the previous three years (stopping only to take a break as a new mother). She agreed to teach ballet and jazz at the preschool on Fridays and from there created an age-appropriate class based on her own training in the Cecchetti and RAD methods. It was a success: In three months, class enrollment went from six to 24 students, and just one year later, McCabe's blossoming Lovely Leaps brand had contracts with eight preschools and three additional teachers.

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