If I could be at the Music Center every weekend, I would. There is something irreplaceable about watching live performance, and I believe the art form cannot fully be done justice on the screen. However, for those nights when you’re still craving artistic inspiration but also craving Thai take out, these are my top three dance documentaries that will leave your heart pumping from the comfort of your couch.
#3 Restless Creature (Netflix)
With over thirty years at the New York City Ballet, Wendy Whelan is an American ballet icon. She rose to stardom directly after Balanchine’s death in 1980, filling a curious artistic void that no other ballerina could. Often an inspirational muse for superstar choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, she deepened her rich performance quality well into the 21st century. In Restless Creature, Whelan wrestles with her eventual retirement at NYCB, her illustrious career, and her inspirational evolution to life after prima ballerina.
#2 Ballet 422 (Hulu, Amazon Prime)
Justin Peck is an unlikely choreographer. In person seems young, sweet, unassuming and shy, but onstage his work explodes with quick-tempos, intricate steps and devilish-fast turns. He is also still a NYCB soloist, and among the first ever to simultaneously choreograph and perform at Lincoln Center. Ballet 422 maps his unlikely journey from dancer to creator, and especially his work on Paz de la Jolla which premiered in 2013.
#1 Mr. Gaga (Netflix)
Ask any dance scholar or enthusiast to name the most influential choreographer of our time, and some will surely say Ohad Nahrin. Based in Israel, Naharin became Artistic Director of The Batsheva Dance Company in 1990, and has changed the landscape of contemporary dance through his movement language, Gaga. I had an opportunity to take a master class with Batsheva as an undergraduate at UCSB, and it is truly life-changing, as is watching them perform. Mr. Gaga documents the life of Ohad Naharin, his pains and losses, from the Kibbutz in Israel to the army to the stage. His insight to life and the human condition is massively powerful in this film and in his work.