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Dance Theatre of Harlem's Derek Brockington and Da'Von Doane in Claudia Schreier's Passage. Photo by Brian Callan, courtesy of DTH

Back to your routine after the holidays, but still looking for something to watch? Then this new PBS documentary titled Dancing on the Shoulders of Giants is for you. The hour-long film tracks the creation of two dance pieces: Claudia Schreier's Passage for Dance Theatre of Harlem, and Sir Richard Alston's Arrived featuring students of Norfolk's Governor's School for the Arts. Both works were co-commissioned by the American Evolution 2019 Commemoration and the Virginia Arts Festival last May, in recognition of the 400th anniversary of the first arrival of Africans to English North America and the history of slavery that followed.

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I'm pretty sure I just found my Friday night plans. (Lucky for me, it doesn't involve leaving my couch.) And for no good reason other than that great dance shouldn't go unappreciated or unseen (and that I also happen to be a generous person), I'm here to convince you to adopt my plan as your own: Watch the narrative dance film Young Men, streaming now on PBS, about a group of young men who experience the brutality of war. Here's why:

  1. The dancers are amazing. It's performed by members of BalletBoyz, the London-based contemporary ballet company with a thing for dance film founded by former Royal Ballet dancers Michael Nunn and William Trevitt. The dancers look like this:

Who's objectifying? Not meeeee...

And dance like THIS:

2. Young Men was choreographed by Iván Pérez, a former Nederlands Dans Theater member who created one of my absolute favorite dances in the history of contemporary dance (I do not say this lightly)—Flesh, which he choreographed for NDT II. The partnering in this piece alone is SICK. I seriously watch videos of this dance once every couple of months:

3. It's only streaming on PBS until May 5. That's roughly a little over two weeks left. Watch this trailer, and I'm positive you'll be ready to commit to this as your Friday Night Plan.

Elliott Hanna stars as Billy Elliot in Billy Elliot the Musical Live.

A boy from a mining town in northern England trades in his boxing gloves for ballet shoes. With the help of his brassy teacher, he discovers his passion for dance and, despite all odds, makes his dreams come true.

Billy Elliot the Musical Live is airing tonight on PBS as part of THIRTEEN’s "Great Performances" and the PBS Arts Fall Festival. Based on the 2000 feature film Billy Elliot, starring Jamie Bell, the musical premiered in London in 2005 and ran on Broadway from 2008 to 2012, earning 10 Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Choreography. For this special performance, 25 current and former Billy Elliots will come together onstage for a spectacular finale.

Billy Elliot the Musical Live screens tonight at 9 pm on PBS. Check your local listings.

Ruthie Henshall, Elliott Hanna and fellow cast members in Billy Elliot the Musical Live at the Victoria Palace Theatre

Photos by Adam Sorenson, courtesy of THIRTEEN

Don’t miss a single issue of Dance Teacher.

Ballroom fans, get ready to rumba! Filmed at the Ohio Star Ball last November, PBS’ three-part “American Ballroom Challenge” series premieres this Friday, April 24. And it’s already gotten a stamp of tentative approval from notoriously tough dance critic Alastair Macaulay, who says while most TV ballroom performances cause him to react with horror, these couples get it right, particularly those who make it to the final rounds.

Hosted by Mary Murphy and Tony Meredith, the first episode features the American Smooth and American Rhythm divisions, where couples compete in the waltz, tango, cha-cha and mambo. In episode two, viewers will see International Standard and International Latin, followed by a best-in-show finale competition across all styles. We’ll also see some teacher/student pro/am pairs and of course behind-the-scenes peaks at the intriguing and—to many classical dancers—mysterious world of competitive ballroom dancing.

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.

If you missed Dancing at Jacob’s Pillow: Never Stand Still in theaters in May 2012, now is your chance to catch it on the small screen. The award-winning documentary will air on PBS this Friday, July 26, at 9:00pm (check local listings) as part of Thirteen/WNET New York’s Great Performances.

Bill T. Jones’ deep voice narrates 74 minutes of Pillow tribute. Suzanne Farrell, Paul Taylor, Merce Cunningham, Judith Jamison, Mark Morris and other dance world heavy-hitters discuss the Pillow's role in the study, creation, and celebration of dance. These conversations are set against the backdrop of the tranquil festival grounds, interspersed with other stunning visuals: priceless black-and-white historical footage and vibrant clips of recent live Pillow performances.

Experiencing Jacob’s Pillow's idyllic scenery and dance diversity firsthand is, of course, a dream come true, but Never Stand Still comes pretty close! Plus, the film chronicles decades of the festival’s history, so you can catch up big-time on recent highlights. So get cozy at home this Friday night in front of your TV—and don’t forget your Pillow!

Photo by Christopher Duggan

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