A new documentary directed by filmmaker Nelson George reveals the grace and graciousness of Misty Copeland. Titled A Ballerina’s Tale, it covers a difficult two years in the dancer's life, from a career-threatening injury right after her debut in Ratmansky’s Firebird up to her recovery and rise to principal at American Ballet Theatre. Inspiring and intimate, it will be released in theaters October 14 but you can catch it at film festivals starting this Saturday.
Misty Copeland in Nelson George's "A Ballerina's Tale," Courtesy of Oskar Landi. © Urban Romances, Inc. A Sundance Selects Release.
After seeing an advance screening and Q & A at Bowtie Cinemas in Chelsea last night, I would say these are the most memorable scenes.
1. Archival footage of Misty rehearsing as a slender 13-year old, probably her first year studying ballet, plus stage clips of herself as a teenager in Don Q, reveal the miracle that is Misty. After only two years of training, she was invited to join the Studio Company at ABT. In this footage you can see how completely she inhabited the ballet idiom from the start—classical arms, lifted chest, energized spine, gorgeous legs and feet, and natural musicality. The word prodigy is not uttered, but how else to describe this phenomenon?
2. To the strains of Minkus violin music, she dances Gamzatti’s solo from La Bayadère alone on a dark stage. You see how elegantly poignant she can be, even though it is clearly a made-for-camera performance.
Misty with Raven Wilkinson, photo by Nelson George
3. In her own living room, Misty meets with Raven Wilkinson, who was the one African American dancer with the Ballet Russe. Together they go over the choreography for the cynettes (“little swans”), with Raven humming the tune and the two of them marking with their feet and turning their heads in sync.
4. While performing in Rome, Misty gets a back spasm and has to resort to a local chiropractor—who manhandles her. Everyone in the audience flinches as he tackles her full on, crunches her joints, and whips her head around. But at the Q & A afterward, Nelson George told us that she went back to the same practitioner the next day.
5. Susan Fales-Hill, who has mentored Misty, talks about the guys she knows “who would rather fight in Iraq or have a root canal than go to the ballet” —and these guys are now buying tickets to the Met because they’ve seen Misty in photos or videos.
6. The moment when Misty turns a corner and sees a giant billboard of herself, she lets out a sort of groan-guffaw. By that point in the shooting, she was totally comfortable under the camera’s eye and was at ease just being herself.
7. OK, it’s not part of the film, but at the Q & A afterward, Misty showed her usual sweetness in answering questions. She wrapped up by saying “Ballet is life, pain, and beauty…If you don’t love it, it’s just not worth it.”
The film makes us realize how close Misty came, due to her debilitating leg injury, to never dancing again. If that had happened, it means we would have had to wait much longer for an African American female dancer to be named principal at ABT. And we would have been deprived of Misty’s dancing in all the roles we will now get to see her in.
"I don't cook for just one or two people," says James Whiteside, stirring a pot on his stove. "My mom taught me to cook and she had five kids. So when I do cook, I go in!"
Aside from breakfast (usually bacon, egg and cheese on an English muffin), the American Ballet Theatre principal rarely cooks for himself during ABT's seasons. He prefers to "forage" for his lunch and go out or order in for dinner, saving the real cooking for when he has friends or colleagues to feed. "I like to have a lot of people tell me my food is delicious," he quips.
We're not sure what we did to deserve the livestream generosity the dance world is giving us these days, but this weekend, it's getting even better.
PC Joe Toreno
L.A. Dance Project, Benjamin Milliepied's trendsetting contemporary troupe, has been in residence at The Chinati Foundation for the past few days. This weekend, they're showing us what they've come up with—for three days straight.
To create great work, choreographers need the freedom to tackle difficult subjects and push physical limits. But when your instruments are human beings, is there a limit to how far you should go? Five choreographers open up about where they draw the line.
Restaurants have always been a great source of survival gigs for dancers. But today's top chefs aren't just looking for waiters to carry dishes to the table. They're hiring choreographers to give the staff dance-like skills and compose a sort of choreography for the dining room.
Leslie Scott, artistic director of dance theater company BODYART, is one of those choreographers. After working in more typical food industry jobs for 10 years, she's been tapped by top restaurants in both New York City and Los Angeles to lead workshops that finesse servers' non-verbal communication and navigation of tight spaces.
Back in 2002, dancer and choreographer Jonah Bokaer founded an art space in Brooklyn called Chez Bushwick. As Manhattan and Brooklyn were quickly becoming unaffordable, and many studio spaces were closing, Bokaer seized upon "creative placemaking"—the idea that the arts can play an integral role in community-building—before it became a buzzword. "We have been sustaining and maintaining one of the most affordable dance studios in New York State since the very beginning of my career," he says.
Fifteen years later, the challenges for choreographers in expensive urban centers continue unabated, and Bokaer has found his original mission magnified. While Chez Bushwick remains a haven for the next generation, there is also a growing number of young dancemakers who have been inspired to create their own residencies, communities and, ultimately, opportunities.
The New York City premiere of Alexei Ratmansky's sugary sweet story ballet, Whipped Cream, made for one of the most exciting spring galas at American Ballet Theatre yet. While we're usually in awe of the gowns the dancers sport on the red carpet beforehand, this time around, it was all about Whipped Cream's colorful and over-the-top costumes by Mark Ryden—and, okay, a few major dress moments, too. Ahead, check out what went on behind-the-scenes.