Different art forms have a way of overlapping. For example, singers dance, and dancers act, writers play musical instruments, and visual artists delve in the performing arts. None of the combinations we just gave you are set in stone and each art form can pass over to another artist who may have found themselves excelling at another. What we are trying to say is that in the world of art there are no rules. That said, a crossover we don’t feel we see enough of is ballet in the movies. Sure, every now and then a ballet movie reaches critical acclaim but being the ballet buffs that we are, we would sure like to see Hollywood put out more movies that focus on the classical art of ballet dancing.
Of course, this inspired us to create yet another list. This time we’ve compiled an inventory of movies that feature ballet.
1. Center Stage (2000)
This teen movie centering around the art of ballet this film introduces us to twelve young dancer auditioning for a coveted spot with the American Ballet Academy. The best dancer, Cooper is rivals with the school’s director and choreographer Jonathan. This feud is based on the fact that Jonathan stole Kathleen, another dancer, from Cooper. Maureen who is impeccable struggles with an eating disorder. Jody is driven but has bad feet that get in the way of her dreams of stardom. The movie follows the ballet dancers through love and tough decisions. Maureen leave the ballet and settles for a quieter life at a University, Jody is offered a spot in the American Ballet Company, while Cooper starts his own dance company with the backing of a wealthy female humanitarian of the arts. Jonathan is jealous because he planned on asking the same woman for a donation.
2. First Position (2011)
Unlike the first movie about ballet to be put on our list, First Position, is a documentary and not a work of fiction. The film makers take us on a journey through the world of children’s ballet to follow six young dancers as the get ready to compete in the Youth America Grand Prix. This is a yearly contest where dancers between the ages of nine and nineteen do their best to earn a position in an influential ballet school or company. We watch as these six children, all hailing from diverse backgrounds, train to be the best. The films name First Position is from a standard position of the feet during ballet dancing.
3. Black Swan (2010)
One of the most famous movies about ballet in the last few years Black Swan has received critical acclaim. Natalie Portman plays a ballerina who dances for the New York City Ballet. Like most dancers, Nina, Portman’s character, lives for the dance and not much else. She lives with a pushy mother who also was once a ballerina. When the new season approaches Nina becomes the director’s choice to play the lead in Swan Lake, yet he meets a new dancer to the company Lily, who is played by Mila Kunis. Leroy, the ballet company director is impressed with Lily and her abilities to create the Black Swan side of the main character in Swan Lake. Here is born a rivalry and a friendship that allows Nina to investigate the darker side of herself.
PS: Speaking about swans, check out the magnificent A Swan Lake, performed by the Norwegian National Ballet – enjoy today!
4. Billy Elliot (2000)
The Elliots are a group of men living without a mother or wife during the 1984 strike against the closing of the British coal mines. Young Billy, age eleven, is forced to take boxing classes at the local community center but soon he realizes he would much rather be in the ballet class. When he is found out he is ridiculed and his sexual nature comes into question even though he is only a boy. The community center dance teacher recognizes Billy’s natural abilities and convinces his father to let him compete for a chance to attend the Royal Ballet.
This sweet film never touches on the sexual orientation of Billy even after he is a successful ballet dancer. We find this the best way to have handled the subject because ultimately ballet is beautiful – if someone can dance it well, their sexual preference is not of any concern. This classic movie inspired a musical of the same name, and you can find more information about it here.
5. The Red Shoes (1948)
Our heroine, Vicky Page, loves ballet and she is smitten with a composer rising in the world of dance Julian Craster. We also follow the life of director Boris Lermontov. Boris promises Vicky that she will dance but he will have control of the rest. So Vicky becomes a famous prima ballerina but one Lermontov finds out Vicky and Julian have been romantic he gives her an ultimatum, it is either the ballet or Julian. Vicky choses her love and they marry, much to the dismay of Lermontov. After she is married Vicky starts to miss being a dancer and is given a chance to dance “The Red Shoes” show once again. Even though Vicky tries to resist but she is eventually sways by Lermontov and this decision subsequently causes strife in her marriage with Julian.
6. Ballet Shoes (2007)
Sylvia Brown, a young orphan, is sent to her uncle Gum’s house in London with her nurse Nana to live. Her uncle isn’t pleased but he succumbs to taking care of her because she has no other family. They grow fond of each other and Sylvia grows up. She still lives with Nana and Gum. Gum decides to adopt a baby girl named Pauline who was orphaned when her parents were killed on board the Titanic. When Pauline is two Gum decides to adopt another orphan from Russia whose name is Petrova. Finally, Gum adopts his final girl Posy, who is brought to him with ballet shoes that once belonged to her now dead mother. The movie follows Petrova and Pauline audition for parts as fairies in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and Posy’s desire to attend ballet school in Czechoslovakia.
7. Mao’s Last Dancer (2009)
Set in a Chinese village, Li Cunxin is an eleven years old and selected by the Communist Party to study ballet in Beijing at Madame Mao’s Dance Academy. Li finds himself years later in Houston as part of an educational curriculum focusing on ballet and the arts. He meets ballet dancer Elizabeth Mackey and they fall in love. When the Chinese government requests Li to return he marries Elizabeth and defects to the United States. Li and Elizabeth move to Florida but their marriage falls apart. Li eventually returns to China to perform. He and his new wife visit the village where it all started for Li.
8. Save the Last Dance (2001)
When Sara Johnson’s mother dies she is required to move from the suburbs of Chicago to her father’s inner city apartment on the south side. Sara is training for the ballet and she wishes to be a professional ballerina someday. Still, in her new community she finds that making friends isn’t that easy. Until she meets Chenille and her brother Derek, who both take her to local dance clubs and teach her what hip-hop dancing is all about. Sara incorporates her new moves when auditioning for ballet school.
9. The Turning Point (1977)
Shirley MacLaine plays DeeDee, a professional dancer who is forced to quit her position at the ballet company she has been dancing for when she realizes she has become pregnant with fellow dancer Wayne’s baby, played by Tom Skerritt. The two get married and move to Oklahoma City to run a school of dance. Anne Bancroft plays Emma, who stays in New York and achieves status of prima ballerina. When the company comes to Oklahoma City DeeDee takes her children to go see the performance. Emma and DeeDee become enemies throughout this film and each struggles with life choices.
10. White Nights (1985)
Mikhail Baryshnikov plays ballet dancer Nikolai Rodchenko who has defected from the Russia to the United States. While on his way to perform in Tokyo his plane has engine trouble and he is forces to land in Siberia. Once Nikolai is recognized by the KGB as a defector of Russia, the chief officer contacts American dancer Raymond Greenwood, who is living there after he defected to the Soviet Union. The friendship between the two men takes times to develop but once it does they are thick as thieves. Raymond learns that his wife is going to have a baby and he decides he doesn’t want that child to grow up in Russia. So the trio plans to escape. The escape plan works for some but Raymond sacrifices his own freedom to give his wife hers.
11. The Company (2003)
Another movie that converges the world of ballet with the silver screen is The Company starring Neve Campbell and James Franco. Loretta, played by Campbell, hopes to become a primary ballerina with the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago. Still, being a professional dancer is a lot of work and the requirements wear on her. She begins dating Josh, played by Franco, who has no ties in the world of ballet. This dramatic film touches on other character’s lives including the director. Original members of the Joffrey Ballet dance in the numbers we see in the movie.