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La Mort Du Cygne—A young student at the Paris Royal Opera becomes angry when she thinks a new dancer is about to replace her favorite ballerina. In her anger, the young student plots revenge. How this story plays out is intense, astonishing and strangely beautiful. This black and white French movie stars Yvette Chauvire and Mia Slavenska, two famous dancers of the 30s and 40s, but the movie itself does not have that much dancing. It’s all the incredible story yet it’s also all ballet. Unfortunately, it’s not available on either DVD or VHS. It plays occasionally at art houses, colleges and museums. Watch for it.
Mao’s Last Dancer is a new movie based on the best-selling book by the same name. The movie is directed by Academy Award® nominee Bruce Beresford and is the inspiring true story of Li Cunxin and his extraordinary journey from a poor upbringing in rural China to international stardom as a world-class ballet dancer. The film captures the struggles, sacrifices and triumphs, as well as the intoxicating effects of first love and celebrity amid the pain of exile. The movie stars Chi Cao, a gifted dancer and principal at the Birmingham Royal Ballet, making his impressive screen debut as Li Cunxin and also includes Amanda Schull of Center Stage fame. To see the trailer, click below.
Red Shoes—Directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger this remarkable English film stars Moira Shearer and includes a lot of remarkable dancing, as well as an engrossing story. It’s in glorious Technicolor and is available in both VHS and DVD. Don’t worry what it’s about. It’s about the ballet. Just go see it.
Hans Christian Anderson—Danny Kaye stars as Hans Christian Andersen. While the movie has very little to do with the life of the real Hans Christian Andersen, it spins a charming tale of a writer/cobbler who falls in love with a beautiful ballerina. The movie includes wonderful songs, beautiful dance segments and ends with a seventeen minute ballet based on Hans Christian Andersen’s story, The Little Mermaid. Roland Petit both dances in and choreographs the movie. His wife, Zizi Jeanmarie, is the ballerina Kaye falls in love with. Available in VHS and DVD. A must see.
Invitation to the Dance—This is an odd but remarkable movie directed by Gene Kelly as his ode to ballet. It is not one of his usual musicals but rather a collection of three story ballets. The first two use professional ballet dancers with Kelly choreographing and taking small roles. The last story is part animation/part Kelly. If you are a fan of Gene Kelly you should check this movie out. It is definitely worth a view. At the moment, it is only available on VHS and even that is hard to find.
The Company—Robert Altman directed this movie starring Neve Campbell. It’s about a ballet company modeled after the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago. It’s done in mock documentary style with actors playing the major roles and members of the ballet company playing the rest. The dance numbers are fantastic; the movie is far less so. The commentary on the DVD with Neve Campbell and Robert Altman is more interesting than the movie but if you like modern ballet this is a good movie to see.
Center Stage—Twelve dancers want to become professional dancers. Who’s going to make it? Who isn’t? It’s fun, there’s lot’s of great dancing and the DVD is full of interesting extras, most notably the complete dance numbers and a commentary by the director, Nicholas Hytner. It’s a very popular movie and deservedly so.
Center Stage: Turn It Up – is better than you think. It’s still got Ethan Stiefel and plenty of ballet and a plot that will keep you watching. Rachele Brooke Smith and Kenny Wormald, the new leads, are good dancers and good actors. The biggest problem with the movie is that every time the story switches to the hip-hop world, the director, Steven Jacobson, decides to get very arty and hip and shoots the scenes through a blue filter and in lots of close-ups which gets really annoying, really quick. The ballet scenes, however, are shot beautifully. For those who like dance movies, Center Stage: Turn It Up is fun and definitely worth checking out. (If you want to read more about the making of the movie, see the interview with choreographer Odessa Munroe in the Ballet Interviews Section of this website.)
The Turning Point—A ballet teacher’s daughter becomes a professional dancer, reviving memories for the ballet teacher of her decision to end her dance career. The movie stars Shirley MacLaine and Anne Bancroft with Leslie Browne as the daughter and Mikhail Baryshnikov as dancer/lothario who swoops in on the lovely Leslie Browne. Good story, good acting and great dance sequences with Baryshnikov and Browne. How can it miss? It doesn’t. Available in VHS and DVD.
Dancers [VHS] is a movie that is directed by Herbert Ross who also directed The Turning Point. Dancers stars Mikhail Baryshnikov, Alessandra Ferri, Julie Kent, Leslie Browne and Tommy Rall. If that’s not reason enough to watch this movie, nothing is. The movie’s about a ballet company in Italy making a film of Giselle. While in real life, Mikhail Baryshnikov is echoing the plot of the ballet by toying with the affections of the young Julie Kent. Some people complain that the plot drags but the cinematography is fantastic as well as the dancing. Only available on VHS but worth making the effort to see.
Princess Tutu: Complete Collection – For those who like ballet and anime, this is for you. A dark, exciting, and funny series about a duck who magically turns into a ballerina and who throughout the episodes experiences a mix of passion, romance and adventure. For girls twelve and up.
Ballet Shoes Emma Watson (Hermione from Harry Potter) stars in Ballet Shoes, a heartwarming and uplifting film based on the beloved, best-selling novel by Noel Streatfeild and featuring an award-winning cast that includes Emilia Fox, Victoria Wood, Richard Griffiths and Eileen Atkins. It’s not a whole lot of ballet but the movie is sweet and well-made and since it’s a BBC production, it’s pretty faithful to the book.
White Nights – This movie stars Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines and like All That Jazz is more a drama about dancers than a dance movie, however, it does have some good dance sequences in it and the movie is pretty well done–it takes place in the days of the iron curtain when Mikhail Baryshnikov plays a Russian dancer who wants to escape from the Soviet Union. For Baryshnikov fans, it’s a must see.
Billy Elliot – A boy in England realizes he wants to be a ballet dancer and suffers through hazing from friends and family. Naturally, the kid triumphs in the end and everyone learns something about tolerance and being yourself. Still, it’s a nice movie and worth seeing, if the plot appeals. Not a lot of dancing but some.
Shall We Dance? – This Japanese movie is a brilliant movie about a shy Japanese businessman who takes ballroom lessons when he observes the pretty dance instructor through the window. The movie develops slowly but it’s an emotional ringer as you follow the lives of the students in the dance class. Not much dancing but a great movie. Don’t bother with the Richard Gere Hollywood remake and definitely see the movie they borrowed the title from, Fred Astaire’s Shall We Dance which is a completely different movie but is one of the greatest dance movies ever made.
Bootmen – A bunch of Australian steelworkers also happen to tap dance, fight, drink a lot of beer, drive fast motorcycles and, of course, chase women. It’s not your usual dance movie but it works. Worth watching.
Take the Lead – Antonio Banderas stars as dance teacher who takes on a class of delinquents, and through dance, helps them become better citizens. It’s a hokey but heartwarming movie and it does have a couple of great dance sequences, however, it is very loosely based on a real dance teacher who has worked to incorporate dance instruction in New York City public schools with great results.
Shag: The Movie – Phoebe Cates, Bridget Fonda and Annabeth Gish star in this movie which makes it worth watching without having to say more. The three play high school friends in circa 1963 who want to spend a final weekend together before they go off their separate ways. They head to Myrtle Beach and then the fun begins. The “shag” referred to in the title is a style of dance. Not a lot of dancing in this movie but the little there is is good and the dance band is absolutely amazing. A not to miss fun movie.
Dirty Dancing – OK. Girls love this movie. Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey have touched something very deep in the female psyche, so if you happen to be a woman of any age and for some reason you haven’t seen this movie yet, don’t ask why, just watch it.
Step Up – A ballet dancer and a street kid join forces together in a plot you can see all the way from the popcorn stand but this movie does have a lot of good dancing and it has proved its popularity among the teen set.
Step Up 2 The Streets – When rebellious street dancer Andie lands at the elite Maryland School of the Arts, she finds herself fighting to fit in while also trying to hold onto her old life. When she joins forces with the schools hottest dancer, Chase, to form a crew of classmate outcasts to compete in Baltimores underground dance battle The Streets, she ultimately finds a way to live her dream while building a bridge between her two separate worlds.
Save The Last Dance – The ballet dancer and the street kid meet again only this time with Julia Stiles as the ballet dancer. If you liked Step Up, here’s your chance to see it again slightly differently (or vice versa).
The Forbidden Dance Is Lambada – The Forbidden Dance is the story of Nisa (Laura Herring), a beautiful princess from Brazil, who comes to America to halt the destruction of the rain forests by a giant multinational corporation. In America, she falls in love with Jason (Jeff James) and teaches him the passionate and erotic dance of her home—Lambada. They decide the way to deliver their ecological message to the American people is to enter a Lambada dance contest. Al Gore should watch this.
Dirty Dancing – Havana Nights – On the eve of Cuba’s revolution, a young American woman discovers a passion for dance and for her sultry Cuban partner Javier. Dance! Politics! Revolution!. The DVD includes some great dance features and good music videos.
Girls Just Want to Have Fun – Sarah Jessica Parker and Helen Hunt star in this high school teen movie. The two friends scheme to get on television’s biggest after-school dance show. Lot’s of 80’s style dancing and typical teen movie fun. A really good cast which includes Shannon Doherty and Jonathan Silverman makes this movie very watchable.
Honey – Jessica Alba stars in the hip-hop dance flick Honey. Honey Daniels (Alba) dances in nightclubs. She accidentally is videotaped and a hip-hop video director spots her and hires her first as a dancer, then as a choreographer. No surprise, he wants her body as much as her dance talent. What will Honey do? What will happen to her dream of creating a dance studio for the local street kids? Honey is standard Hollywood fare but it’s fun to watch if you like beautiful bodies and hip-hop.
You Got Served – Another hip-hop movie with great dancing and a terrible plot. There is a romance, but mostly the movie’s about a showdown between B2K (as Orange County white boys) and their black L.A. competitors, including members of the hip-hop group IMx.
Stomp the Yard – DJ (Columbus Short) is a troubled teen from Los Angeles who is accepted by Atlanta’s Truth University. DJ thinks he’s escaped gang life, but in school finds himself in the middle of a “battle” between two fraternities where stepping (a popular dance form) is how they compete. Complicating matters, DJ falls for the girlfriend of the school’s champion stepper. This movie has great dancing and the acting isn’t bad either. The romance generates some onscreen sparks which makes the whole movie fun.
Dance With Me – Robby Rosa, former lead singer of the super group Menudo, stars in this story of romance and dance-floor fireworks. It includes performances by Salsa legends Celia Cruzand and Tito Puente. Another movie with great dancing mixed into an OK plot.
Flash Dance – A hit movie that stars Jennifer Beals as Alex Owens, a determined 18-year-old with one all-consuming dream: to study at the Pittsburgh Conservatory of Dance. T make her dream come true, she works during the day as a welder and at night as an exotic dancer. The movie features the Oscar winning song “Flashdance—What a Feeling,”
Footloose – Director Herbert Ross (The Turning Point) pulled a winning movie out of this trite tale of teenage rock rebellion. Kevin Bacon stars as a hip city kid who ends up in a Bible-belt town where rock is frowned upon and dancing is forbidden, Bacon’s character rallies the kids and takes on the establishment with the help of Kenny Loggins’s hit song, “Footloose.”
Strictly Ballroom – Baz Lurhrmann, the director of the award-winning ROMEO & JULIET and MOULIN ROUGE!, also directed STRICTLY BALLROOM. It’s the story of a championship ballroom dancer who takes on an ugly duckling dancing partner. Together they make their dreams come true! There’s a surprise. But it’s a good movie.
Stomp Out Loud – Michael Bove, Raquel Horsford – A rhythmic, musical extravaganza. “It’s comedy, it’s theater, it’s very physical, it’s energetic, it’s occasionally quite terrifying,” says one performer.