From Misty Copeland to Margot Fonteyn, from Bob Fosse to Pina—the lives of the men and women who created your favorite dance pieces are just as dramatic and riveting as anything they choreographed or performed. And whether you're a dance devotee or looking to learn more about the art form, here are 11 documentaries that take you into the lives of those who turned their passion into a career.
A Ballerina’s Tale
Ballet superstar Misty Copeland offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse of what it's like to be the American Ballet Theatre’s first African-American principal dancer. From her discovery of dance at age 13 to her impact today, this documentary explores Copeland’s effect on the classical world of dance and its growing acceptance of those who don’t fit the traditional mold.
Hulu’s documentary follows Tiler Peck as she curates a BalletNOW program from The Music Center, becoming the first woman asked to do so. Watch as, within a week, NYCB veteran Peck draws from ballet, tap, hip-hop, and clownery to produce the event.
Bob Fosse: It's Showtime!
Take an in-depth journey through the life of famed Broadway choreographer Bob Fosse. His angular, sultry, and stylish dance moves changed the world of musicals both on stage and on the screen. Now, his life and lasting impact are shared in this documentary.
The winner of Best Feature, Best Cinematography, and Best Editing from the Tribeca Film Festival’s 2017 Documentary Competition, the doc tells the story of dancer Jene, a dance superstar in Israel who decides to leave the world-renowned Batsheva Dance Company to return to the U.S. and create her own work.
The late choreographer Merce Cunningham takes center stage in this 2019 film. The Alla Kovgan-helmed documentary features never-before-seen archival footage of Cunningham interviews, as well as site-specific recreations of some of his most famous dance pieces.
At 13, Sergei Polunin joined London’s prestigious Royal Ballet. Seven years later, the dancer became the company’s youngest principal in its history—but celebrity and self-destruction almost ruined Polunin’s career. Now, the star looks back on his greatest performances and how the life of a ballerino can be so all-consuming that it threatens the love of dance itself.
Dancing Across Borders
On a trip to Cambodia, director Anne Bass met dancer Sokvannara Sar, who was brought the American stage in 2000. The documentary chronicles Sar’s development as a dancer and brings into focus the cross-cultural questions of the dance world.
Follow the journey of Margot Fonteyn, one of the greatest ballerinas of her generation. Released almost 15 years after her death, the film captures the success and tribulations of the dancer, including her marriage to Panamanian revolutionary Roberto "Tito" Arias, her late-career partnership with Rudolf Nureyev, and her retirement at the age of 60.
Wim Wenders creates this tribute to Pina Bausch, the German performer and choreographer and stalwart of modern dance. The documentary features members of Bausch’s company performing the pioneer’s works in unconventional and visually stunning locales.
Reset follows Benjamin Millepied as he prepares for his first gala as artistic director at Paris Opera Ballet (a position he held October 2014–February 2016). Prior to his stint as the leader at the French company, he was a principal dancer at New York City Ballet and worked on the film Black Swan, where he met his wife, Natalie Portman.
Wendy Whelan broke records with a 30-year tenure at New York City Ballet. In her final years with the company, she formed Restless Creature, a collaborative project with choreographers Kyle Abraham, Joshua Beamish, Brian Brooks, and Alejandro Cerrudo—who each perform a duet with her in the program. The documentary of the same name follows the formation of this piece, including sustaining and recovering from injury and hip surgery.