PBS Don't-Miss Documentaries

From left: ABT dancers Hee Seo, Cory Stearns and Joseph Gorak in rehearsal.

Bunheads and daredevils alike will enjoy television premiers of two new dance documentaries this month. On May 11, Born to Fly: Elizabeth Streb vs. Gravity on PBS details Streb's rise from experimental modern dance choreographer to ringleader of a high-risk, dance-gymnastics hybrid. Follow her and her company members—she calls them "extreme action heroes"—as they prepare for their gravity-defying performances at the 2012 Olympics in London.

And on May 15, PBS will premiere American Masters: American Ballet Theatre, charting the company though 75 years, from its early struggled to its current status as one of the top ballet companies in the world. Included is rare footage of Balanchine and Baryshnikov, rehearsal and performance shots and interviews with key figures, both past and present (artist in residence Alexei Ratmansky, soloist Misty Copeland and the late Donald Saddler, to name a few). Check your local listings—set your DVR, too!—to catch these incredible inside looks into the diverse world of dance.

Photo by George Seminara, courtesy of ABT

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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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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