ABT’s Extraordinary 75 Years of Dance Is Celebrated May 15 in Ric Burns’ Documentary on American Masters
By: Ellis Nassour
WNET THIRTEEN’s acclaimed Emmy winning American Masters is presenting Emmy- and Peabody Award-winning Ric Burns’ American Ballet Theatre: A History, the dazzling documentary in honor of ABT’s 75th anniversary, May 15 at 9 P.M.
Combined with intimate rehearsal footage, virtuoso performances, live performances in Paris and Havana, interviews, and hundreds of archival stills and rare footage of ballet icons and key figures pivotal to the company’s formation, such as Alicia and Frederic Franklin Alonso, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Agnes de Mille, Susan Jaffe, Nora Kaye, Julie Kent, Donald Saddler, Jerome Robbins, Antony Tudor, and current artistic director Kevin McKenzie, Burns delves into the rich history of one of the world’s preeminent ballet companies.
"It’s a tremendous honor to have Ric Burns and American Masters illuminate ABT’s history in such a meaningful way," states Rachel Moore, ABT CEO. "The expertise and care Ric and his team have devoted offers fresh perspective on our art form and serve as a fitting testament to this cultural institution."
"Indeed," says Michael Kantor, co-executive producer of American Masters, "Ric has created an entertaining film that will touch and transform both seasoned aficionados and those who’ve never seen a ballet." The documentary will be available July 14 on DVD from PBS Distribution.
"The story of ABT, and the amazing popularity of dance in the U.S. over the last three-quarters of a century, is one of the most inspiring stories in the cultural world," says Burns. "Ballet is the most poignantly ephemeral and expressive of the arts, both earthbound and transcendent. And ABT, indisputably one of the world’s greatest dance companies, has torn down incredible barriers, welcoming choreographers and artists from around the world."
American Ballet Theatre principal dancers Gillian Murphy and Marcelo Gomes rehearse a section of Pillar of Fire and describe the art of partnering.
Photo highlights of the ballet company’s dancers, past and present, including Antony Tudor, Jerome Robbins, Paloma Herrera, Xiomara Reyes, and Misty Copeland.
American Masters — American Ballet Theatre: A History chronicles the rise of the company from its earliest days as a small, financially struggling collective, to its pinnacle as one of the world’s revered dance companies. Its history is exemplified by footage of choreographer Alexei Ratmansky and past and present stars Misty Copeland, Marcelo Gomes, Gillian Murphy, and Hee Seo; dance historian Jennifer Homans; and dance critics Clive Barnes and Anna Kisselgoff.
Hundreds of hours of slow-motion footage [2,500 frames per second] shot at Kaatsbaan International Dance Center in Tivoli, NY, by cinematographer Buddy Squires [and a 30-person crew] with nine ABT dancers — Isabella Boylston, Copeland, Herman Cornejo, Gomes, Joseph Gorak, Murphy, Seo, Daniil Simkin, and Cory Stearns — illustrates ABT’s formidable training and intricate artistry.
American Masters – American Ballet Theatre: A History is a co-production of Steeplechase Films — Bonnie Lafave and Katie O’Rourke, producers; Mikaela Shwer and Emily Williams, editors.
American Ballet Theatre: A History and American Masters are made possible by support from Rosalind P. Walter; for the documentary by the National Endowment for the Arts, Lewis Turner Fund for Dance, John Arnhold, Donna and Richard Esteves, Kitty Hawks and Larry Lederman, Ruth and Harold Newman, Jody and Madeline Eckett Oden, Lewis Ranieri, and Agnes Hsu-Tang and Oscar Tang. Funding for AM is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, André and Elizabeth Kertész, Blanche and Irving Laurie, Philip and Janice Levin, and Michael and Helen Schaffer Foundations, Vital Projects Fund, Rhoda Herrick, Judith and Burton Resnick, Rolf and Elizabeth Rosenthal, Jack Rudin, and public television viewers like you.
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