List: 5 Dance Documentaries to Inspire Your Students

Dancers know that even the most thrilling fictional dance films (Black Swan, we mean you!) can’t compete with the blood, sweat, tears and drama of real-life dance. Give your students a burst of inspiration for the new year by recommending one of these always exciting—and true-to-life—dance documentaries.

First Position MPI Home Video; 95 minutes Six young dancers enter one of the world’s most renowned ballet competitions, the Youth America Grand Prix. Expect amazing talent, insane work ethics and last-minute injury drama.

 

 

Pina The Criterion Collection; 103 minutes The late Pina Bausch’s dancers and friends muse on her legacy as a pioneer in German dance theater and perform several of her visually stunning works.

 

 

Paul Taylor: Dancemaker Docurama; 98 minutes It’s an oldie (1998) but a goodie: Get a rare glimpse into notoriously shy choreographer Paul Taylor’s process as he creates a new piece for his company (the tango-inspired Piazzolla Caldera).

 

 

Every Little Step Sony Pictures Home Entertainment; 93 minutes A 5, 6, 7, 8! Find out what really goes on during auditions for a dance-heavy Broadway show as A Chorus Line’s creative team mounts the 2006 revival of the 1970s smash hit.

 

 

Jig Screen Media; 93 minutes Wigs. Fake tans. Tiaras. Welcome to the 40th Irish Dancing World Championships, where thousands gather in Glasgow for one exciting—and heartbreaking—week of competition.

 

 

 

 

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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Courtesy Shake the Ground

Dance competitions were among the first events to be shut down when the COVID-19 pandemic exploded in the U.S. in mid-March, and they've been among the last able to restart.

So much of the traditional structure of the competition—large groups of dancers and parents from dozens of different studios; a new city every week—simply won't work in our new pandemic world.

How, then, have competitions been getting by, and what does the future look like?

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Getty Images

Despite worldwide theater closures, the Universal Ballet Competition is keeping The Nutcracker tradition alive in 2020 with an online international competition. The event culminates in a streamed, full-length video of The Virtual Nutcracker consisting of winning entries on December 19. The competition is calling on studios, as well as dancers of all ages and levels, to submit videos by November 29 to be considered.

"Nutcracker is a tradition that is ingrained in our hearts," says UBC co-founder Lissette Salgado-Lucas, a former dancer with Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Joffrey Ballet. "We danced it for so long as professionals, we can't wait to pass it along to dancers through this competition."

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