Great Documentaries About Dance

Films That Capture Brilliant Choreography and Performances

Great dance documentaries memorialize brilliant choreography and performances while standing as thrilling works of art in their own right. Filmmakers use their cameras not only to capture the movements of the dance but also to become a part of it. The cameras follow dancers, interacting with them, becoming instruments with which to create the complex and elaborate art of cinematic choreography. Combining archival and current cinema verite footage with insider interviews, dance documentaries chronicle the lives of dancers and development of dance companies. These films are exemplary documentaries about widely varied dance genres.

'Ballerina' (2009)

Dancers of the Russian ballet of Kirov during a performance of Swan Lake
"Ballets Russes" comes a portrait of five Russian ballerinas from the Mariinsky Theatre (also known as the Kirov). David Lefranc/Getty Images

French filmmaker Bertrand Norman follows the careers of five Russian ballerinas in their career path from the acclaimed Vaganova Academy to the stage of the famed Kirov Ballet. Using magnificent performance footage, as well as behind the scenes shots and candid interviews, Norman gives audiences an insider glimpse of the extreme discipline and dedication demanded of ballerinas.

'Bringing Balanchine Back' (2008)

Under the guidance of ballet master-in-chief Peter Martins, the New York City Ballet travels from its home base in Manhattan to perform at St. Petersburg's legendary Mariinsky Theater, where George Balanchine, a founder of the acclaimed troupe, began his own career. This engaging documentary chronicles an exciting cross-cultural experiment in dance and captures some spectacular sequences of the New York City Ballet's performances of choreography by Balanchine, Jerome ​Robbins and Peter Martins.

'Dance for Camera' (2007)

A superb collection of award-winning dance films from around the world. Each short film is an exquisite work of art in which different directors and cinematographers use their unique techniques, sensibilities, and visions to successfully capture the full dynamic flow, spatial tension and emotional depth of dance. There's also a sequel, "Dance for Camera 2."

'Jerome Robbins -- Something to Dance About' (2008)

This fascinating profile of the fabulous Jerome Robbins features excerpts from his personal journals, archival performance footage and never-before-seen rehearsal recordings, as well as interviews with Robbins himself and more than 40 of his colleagues and admirers, including Mikhail Baryshnikov, Jacques d’Amboise, Suzanne Farrell, Arthur Laurents, Peter Martins, Frank Rich, Chita Rivera and Stephen Sondheim. This film is a true tribute to one of America's most creative and influential contemporary choreographers.

'Mitzi Gaynor: Razzle Dazzle! The Special Years' (2008)

Mitzi Gaynor, Hollywood's razzle dazzle showgirl, is a dancing dynamo in this profile, which compiles footage from her spectacular television specials spanning the years from 1968 to 1978. This film was released on the 40th anniversary of Gaynor's first TV special and the 50th anniversary of her iconic and Golden Globe-nominated performance in the film version of Rodgers & Hammerstein's "South Pacific."

'Planet B-Boy' (2007)

Extraordinarily accomplished and athletic breakdancers from around the world show their stuff in the high-voltage competition known as "Battle of the Year," held annually in Braunschweig, Germany. This film gives context with a history of breakdancing and follows its current rise.