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

Teacher Voices
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In 2001, young Chanel, a determined, ambitious, fiery, headstrong teenager, was about to begin her sophomore year at LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, also known as the highly acclaimed "Fame" school. I was a great student, a promising young dancer and well-liked by my teachers and my peers. On paper, everything seemed in order. In reality, this picture-perfect image was fractured. There was a crack that I've attempted to hide, cover up and bury for nearly 20 years.

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Health & Body
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Though the #MeToo movement has spurred many dancers to come forward with their stories of sexual harassment and abuse, the dance world has yet to have a full reckoning on the subject. Few institutions have made true cultural changes, and many alleged predators continue to work in the industry.

As Chanel DaSilva's story shows, young dancers are particularly vulnerable to abuse because of the power differential between teacher and student. We spoke with eight experts in dance, education and psychology about steps that dance schools could take to protect their students from sexual abuse.

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Technique
Nan Melville, courtesy Genn

Not so long ago, it seemed that ballet dancers were always encouraged to pull up away from the floor. Ideas evolved, and more recently it has become common to hear teachers saying "Push down to go up," and variations on that concept.

Charla Genn, a New York City–based coach and dance rehabilitation specialist who teaches company class for Dance Theatre of Harlem, American Ballet Theatre and Ballet Hispánico, says that this causes its own problems.

"Often when we tell dancers to go down, they physically push down, or think they have to plié more," she says. These are misconceptions that keep dancers from, among other things, jumping to their full potential.

To help dancers learn to efficiently use what she calls "Mother Marley," Genn has developed these clever techniques and teaching tools.

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