What are the best ballet movies available on DVD?
October 8, 2010 3:48 AM   Subscribe

What are the best ballet movies available on DVD?

I don't mean fictional accounts of ballet dancers -- don't start telling me about Billy Elliot or The Red Shoes -- but films of real ballet dancers in staged ballets. If you wanted to see the work of the best ballet dancers and choreographers of all time on film, which videos would you choose? Documentaries and biographies are fine if they have lots of real dance in them, not just blather about the offstage aspects of ballet, but I'd prefer real ballets filmed from beginning to end.
posted by pracowity to Media & Arts (18 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: A documentary, but you can't miss this:


Here's a great recent one, I love Elite Syncopations:


A good recent Giselle:


I know what you mean about documentaries not having enough dance, BTW. And The Red Shoes has got to be one of the worst movies of all time. Back when the UK had only four TV channels and no Lovefilm/Netflix or internet, it was a big deal when a classic movie like this was shown. All the middle-aged women I knew were really excited and told me not to miss it because their entire lives had been influenced by it and they wanted me to have the advantages they'd had. Afterwards, they were all stunned at how bad it was and couldn't believe they had ever been so enraptured by such appalling glurge.
posted by tel3path at 4:31 AM on October 8, 2010

Best answer: Darcey Bussell & Irek Mukhamedov in The Royal Ballet's production of "La Bayadere" is pretty essential...
posted by benzo8 at 4:51 AM on October 8, 2010

Best answer: These two are compilations of Balanchine ballets filmed for PBS in the late 70s/early 80s. I think they are a great sampling of all that is wonderful about Balanchine.
posted by JanetLand at 5:00 AM on October 8, 2010

Best answer: And this is a great way to see classic Soviet ballet at its height, with the greats Plisetskaya and Ulanova.
posted by JanetLand at 5:02 AM on October 8, 2010

If you can find any of the old PBS Great Performances dance programs; were some of the best dance filming ever. (note: they hired sports cameramen, specifically guys that shot hockey games, think about it)

The local cinema has been doing sunday morning fine art films, opera/ballet. The ballet were mostly russian/bolshoi (The Pharaoh’s Daughter, Pugni (Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow) ) I have not made it to one due to nice weather, and they are mostly obscure productions but I expect it would be great dancing. It must be digital, I can't imagine a print getting cut, so a dvd must be available somewhere.
posted by sammyo at 5:42 AM on October 8, 2010

Rudolf Nureyev made several films
posted by TWinbrook8 at 6:01 AM on October 8, 2010

Best answer: I loved this - the Royal Ballet performing The Firebird and Les Noces. I used it to write a paper about futurism in ballet and watched it OVER and OVER. It's a very good filming.

You might be interested in The Company if you haven't already seen it - while it's fictionalized to some degree, it's also a pretty accurate depiction of Joffrey Ballet and it has a lot of the performances in their entirety.
posted by ChuraChura at 7:20 AM on October 8, 2010

Best answer: There may be some ballet-things in the Contemporary Dance Video Database. Previously, a post by Joe Beese

Jean-Charles Gil - Mozart Requiem

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui - Loin

+ (see the tags)
la la la human steps (2)
le ballet de l'opéra national de paris (4)
le ballet national de marseille (1)
posted by Akeem at 7:34 AM on October 8, 2010

I realy liked the La La La Human Steps - Amelia; not sure it that is real ballet
posted by Akeem at 7:36 AM on October 8, 2010

Thanks for reminding me. I've been meaning to see Etoiles: Dancers of the Paris Opera Ballet, for a few years now. According to the somewhat mixed review in the NYT, "[t]he film observes rehearsals for "Swan Lake," "La Sylphide," and Maurice Bejart's "Ninth Symphony" (which he describes as "a march"), among other works." So maybe not enough performances for you, but I thought that I'd throw it into the mix.
posted by kaybdc at 7:42 AM on October 8, 2010

I know it is not a "real ballet", but have you ever seen White Nights? It stars Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines
posted by I am the Walrus at 8:23 AM on October 8, 2010

Best answer: In my limited knowledge (I currently own about fifteen ballet DVD's) the Russians look far superior to everybody else. The best dancing I own is in Spartacus, choreographed by Grigorovich. I don't think I will buy a non-Russian ballet DVD again any time soon.
posted by bukvich at 8:25 AM on October 8, 2010

Came here to second White Nights. Really exciting juxtaposition of ballet and tap.
posted by illenion at 8:28 AM on October 8, 2010

Best answer: Glyndebourne's production of Purcell's 'The Fairy Queen' last year was amazing - it's an opera but has lots of dancing as well. DVD available here:


Sorry for ugly link, am on phone.
posted by goo at 9:17 AM on October 8, 2010

Best answer: Édouard Lock's short modern ballet film, Amelia, is incredible; really ingenious shooting of impressively athletic and clever choreo. Here's Chapter One (7.5 min), and here's another little clip. I don't have time today to find a proper link to the whole thing online, but I bet it's available if you google a bit.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 10:39 AM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I really enjoyed a movie called "Ballerina" - it's a documentary but really has a lot of great dance scenes in it. It follows five dancers at the Kirov, but there is far more footage of rehearsals and performances than interviews. Definitely one of my favorite ballet films.
posted by tryniti at 10:41 AM on October 8, 2010

Best answer: Ballet Russes is incredible!
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:54 AM on October 8, 2010

Best answer: Swan Lake with Natalia Makarova & Anthony Dowell. Absolutely must not be missed.

Cinderella with Sofiane Sylve. For those who've never seen the amazing Ms. Sylve, here is a quick glimpse.
posted by invisible ink at 6:08 PM on October 8, 2010

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