Angela Bowen, an influential dancer, dance teacher and activist, passed away last week at the age of 82 from Alzheimer's disease.

Early in her career, Bowen toured with the Jazz Train, a musical revue about black American popular music and dance. Bowen later co-founded the Bowen/Peters School of Dance in New Haven with her then-husband Ken Peters, where she taught primarily poor children—including Tony-winning performer LaChanze—and often for free.

In the 1980s Bowen came out as a lesbian, and became a powerful advocate for the LGBTQ community as well as against racism and sexism, speaking at rallies and writing articles for various publications.

She eventually earned master's and doctoral degrees at Clark University and taught English and women's studies at California State University, Long Beach.

We send our condolences to Bowen's family and friends.


Bobbi Jene is another poignant film to add to this year's must-see list of dance documentaries.

After 10 years living in Israel and dancing with Ohad Naharin's Batsheva Dance, American dancer Bobbi Jene Smith decides to leave the company –and the life she's come to know–in search of finding her own path as a dancer and choreographer.

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Photo by Liz Feder, courtesy of F R E E

For the students at Destiny Arts Center, dance isn't just an after-school activity, it's a lifesaving experience. At the Oakland, California–based program, children and teens ages 3–18 learn to express themselves through dance, theater and martial arts in a safe space. And in the process they build community and self-respect.

Check out F R E E, the inspirational documentary that follows five Oakland teens through a year in the Destiny Arts Youth Performance Company. You'll see how Nee Nee, Tilly, Jamany, Omar and Alaysia confront the realities of violence, poverty, sexual abuse and illness in their own lives, as they work together to choreograph a dance.

Watch the trailer for the film.

In June of this year Misty Copeland made history by becoming the first African-American principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre. Having accomplished her dream, Copeland isn’t stopping there. With two books, a Broadway debut in On the Town and multiple commercial endorsements under her belt, her next move is to the silver screen in a documentary titled A Ballerina’s Tale.

Created and directed by filmmaker Nelson George, the film shares her remarkable Cinderella story­. From her humble beginnings with the Boys & Girls Club to becoming a professional ballerina, Copeland shares her struggles with an injury that almost ended her career and how she triumphed to become one of the most influential artists of this century.

In A Ballerina’s Tale, expect breathtaking dance sequences from La Bayadère, Swan Lake, Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux and The Firebird. Enjoy the archival footage of Copeland dancing during her pre-ABT days. Wince a bit as you see Copeland get adjusted by a particularly forceful Italian chiropractor. And finally, rejoice as she finally achieves her ultimate goal of becoming principal.

A Ballerina’s Tale comes the select theaters on October 14. For more info, see

Misty Copeland in A Ballerina's Tale

Photo courtesy of Oskar Landi. © Urban Romances, Inc. A Sundance Selects Release.

The 2014 feature documentary, Mia, a dancer’s journey, recently won a Los Angeles Area Emmy Award for the category of arts and culture/history. The film chronicles the life and legacy of Croatian-born prima ballerina Mia Slavenska. Written, produced and directed by Slavenska’s daughter Maria Ramas, it pays tribute to one of history’s most beloved ballet dancers.

Slavenska, a pioneer of American ballet, rose to international stardom while touring throughout the United States with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. She later founded her own ballet company and commissioned the first ballet translated from a modern play (Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire). Before her death in 2002, Slavenska feared being forgotten and made her daughter promise to tell her story. Mia, a dancer’s journey makes good on that promise.

Mark your calendars! The film will air on PBS SoCal, September 15 at 10 pm. For more info, visit

Photos courtesy of PBS SoCal.

From Marc Platt’s 1939 ballet “Ghost Town” for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Photo by Maurice Seymour.

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